Can you imagine how speedy a solid state hard drive can be? It is incredibly fast to the extent that you will consider the traditional spinning hard drive just a baby in comparison to this speed beast, especially in random reads, which is what makes the most profound difference in everyday operation. But you might not able to get the top performance out of the SSD without tweaking your operating system properly to welcome this new type of storage drives, because the operating systems have evolved over many years with features that specifically target the behavior of traditional platter-based hard disk drives, and in this article we will go through tweaking the settings of Microsoft Windows 7 Operating System to operate best with an SSD.
Windows 7 has some built-in features to speed up the file access-time by learning from user’s behavior with files. These features such as: ReadyBoot, Superfetch, and Prefetch are designed to monitor files you access at startup and when you launch programs, and then arrange them on the disk for optimal access. Because SSDs don’t have motors, spindles, platters and magnetic heads, they don’t benefit from those features and need to be handled differently.
In fact, there are a series of steps that must be performed before an SSD can perform to its full potential on a Windows PC. Skip any of those steps and the results can be disappointing.
1. Make sure you have the latest firmware. Because firmware updates wipe out all data on the drive, you must do this operation as the first step; make sure to back up all existing data first. You’ll need to check with the drive manufacturer or the OEM, depending on whether you purchased the drive as a retail upgrade or as part of an OEM PC. Follow the instructions to complete the firmware update; this typically requires booting from removable media such as a USB flash drive.
2. Set the disk controller to AHCI mode. In the system BIOS, set the SATA controller for Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI) operation before installing Windows. This step is crucial. Using the legacy IDE or ATA mode prevents you from installing the proper disk controller driver later and will result in reduced performance.
3. Install the latest storage driver. Most of SSD manufacturers release a supporting software bundle with their SSD products for maintenance purpose. Always make sure to have the latest version of this software while using the SSD. Examples of these software bundles: Intel Solid State Drive Toolbox for Intel SSDs or Samsung Magician Software for Samsung SSD.
4. Boot from the Windows media and begin the clean install. Use the Windows Setup utility to create the partition. If you have a partition created using any other tool, delete it and use the Windows 7 disk tools to create a new one. This ensures that the partition is properly aligned.
5. Consider using a Secure Erase utility to reset the drive to its original, out-of-the-box state. This step isn’t essential but can be helpful, especially on a well-used drive. Do not perform a full format using Windows disk management tools, but rather use the erase feature that comes with the SSD software utility.
To verify that all the features of the SSD are working properly, install the free CrystalDiskInfo utility.
When Windows 7 detects that you have a properly configured, fast SSD drive, it disables several unnecessary features, including Superfetch, Prefetch, and ReadyBoot. It also disables scheduled defragmentation operations for the SSD, which isn’t necessary, and can reduce the usable life of the drive.