Optimizing Windows 10 for SSDs

Ready for Takeoff

AS SSD Benchmark

AS SSD Benchmark [2] freeware is very helpful when determining SSD performance. Well-known comparison websites, such as Tom's Hardware [3], use the tool to compare disks. An installation is not necessary; you can start immediately. In addition to measuring speed, the tool tells you whether the first logical sector of the partition is stored appropriately for SSD disks, which is one of the most important performance indicators for SSD drives but is unimportant for traditional hard drives. A page is the smallest unit of an SSD. Windows uses clusters, also known as allocation units, to manage storage. You define them when formatting a disk. If the operating system's allocation unit is larger than the page of the SSD, Windows has to address several pages when saving and distribute changes across two pages, causing a major performance hit – but more on that later.

After downloading and launching AS SSD Benchmark, click Start to test the disk performance. The tool uses various tests and copying actions to check the SSD, without using operating system cache. The tool writes a 1GB file on the disk and then reads it back. In another test, the tool checks the read and write performance with random 4K blocks (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Measuring the performance of hard drives with AS SSD Benchmark shows the performance advantages SSDs offer.

After the tests, results of the compression test are displayed as a graphic. The x -axis reflects the compressibility of the data and the y -axis the data rate of the SSD. From the results, in megabytes per second (MBps), you can compute the I/O rate in operations per second (IOPS). The developer specifies the following formulas:

Total result = 0.15(Seq-write_rate)+0.1(Seq-read_rate)+2(4k-read_rate)+4k-write_rate+4-64thrd-write_rate+1.5(4-64thrd-read_rate)

Read result = 0.1(Seq-read_rate)+4k_read_rate+4_64thrd_read_rate

Write result = 0.1(Seq-write_rate)+4k write_rate+4-64thrd_write_rate

To start various copy tests, go to the Tools menu. The tool then creates several folders on your hard drive and begins to copy data – with the operating system cache enabled. The results are, thus, dependent to a great extent on performance aspects of the operating system, which is why the performance of the installed Windows system can be tested at the same time. In practice, many components play a role in the performance of the computer.

Data Mirroring

It seems logical to clone the operating system from the previous hard disk after buying an SSD; however, one problem when mirroring Windows 10 to an SSD is the relationship between the start of the boot partition and the storage blocks of the hard drive (alignment). This problem occurs whenever you move the operating system from a magnetic hard drive to an SSD instead of installing from scratch. If the start of the boot partition and storage blocks do not match, SSD performance is compromised and its lifespan shortened: The boot partition, rather than starting at the beginning of a sector, begins in the middle, because the filesystem clusters do not match the SSD pages. To check, call for the StartingOffset data on the command line:

wmic partition get name, startingoffset

Then, call the filesystem data of the corresponding hard disk:

fsutil fsinfo ntfsinfo c:

Check the Bytes Per Cluster value: You have to divide the StartingOffset value by the Bytes Per Cluster. The result has to be a whole number. If this is not the case, you should consider reinstalling Windows 10 on the SSD.

The alignment specification in the AS SSD Benchmark displays whether the allocation of the operating system optimally matches the pages of an SSD. The tool reports that no allocation unit of the filesystem is simultaneously stored in two blocks on the SSD. However, the tool does not detect whether the boot partition itself is set up optimally.

Although you can make subsequent changes by downloading various additional tools, the results are not perfect. You can avoid such problems by re-installing Windows 10 on an SSD.

CrystalDiskInfo

CrystalDiskInfo is another interesting tool for measuring the performance of SSDs and conventional hard disks [4]. The software is available as an installable version and is also portable for USB sticks. Additionally, CrystalDiskInfo can check the state of your SSD. In the Features line, you can see which technologies the hard disk supports (Figure 3). In addition to alignment and the optimum ratio between boot partitions and flash cells, TRIM also plays an important role in the use of SSDs. If you delete data in Windows, it remains on the hard disk and is only deleted from the file allocation table. The actual file data is still stored on the hard drive. Windows overwrites this data when the operating system needs the space.

Figure 3: CrystalDiskInfo uses SMART data to detect the health of hard disks.

However, data deletion does not work the same way on SSDs. The storage blocks must be completely deleted first before they can be rewritten. Windows 10 supports the TRIM technology and tells the SSD which storage blocks it can delete. However, many current SSDs come with technologies that internally delete storage blocks via the controller and the internal firmware.

SSDs that do not support any kind of TRIM suffer from decreasing performance as more data is saved on the system. In this case, the hard disk needs to monitor data deletion. With TRIM, Windows 10 can help delete data and thus take the load off the disk. You can check TRIM support in Windows 10 by entering

fsutil behavior query DisableDeleteNotify

If you see DisableDeleteNotify=0, then TRIM is supported, whereas DisableDeleteNotify=1 indicates deactivation. With the command

fsutil behavior set disablenotify 0

you can enable TRIM in Windows 10.

As soon as CrystalDiskInfo has launched, you will see the temperature of the hard disk. This important indicator lets you know whether the PC is keeping the hard drive cool. If the hard disk is too hot when used, it can be destroyed. The tools also list the SMART messages of the installed disk and output warnings if a disk is not working properly.

When using SSDs, it is interesting to note that CrystalDiskInfo can read the existing functions as well as the status of the firmware. In particular, the firmware is responsible for the SSD's performance and should always be as up to date as possible. You can graphically display the different data and the state of the disk by clicking Option | Diagram .

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