Don’t Miss Out On These Important Steps!
What is the best way to experience the performance benefits of an SSD upgrade without overspending?
With a notebook, you usually only have a single drive option. But with desktop PCs and large notebooks that allow a second hard drive, you can use a fast SSD as a primary Windows 7 system drive and a second conventional mechanical hard disk as a dedicated data storage drive.
Affordable Ways to Update to a Solid State Drive
This configuration allows you to use a smaller amount of space on a smaller, more expensive system drive. That does not mean you should use the smallest available solid state hard drive and delete system files that you may need in the future. Instead, you can consider the total amount of space available on the system drive and then make case-by-case decisions as to where to store different kinds of files.
The first thing to consider is: How big should your system drive be?
The correct decision depends on your needs and your budget. In general, it is recommended that a system drive have at least 20% of the total disk space free at all times.
Call Us if You Have Questions on Trying to Decide
There are many things to consider when you are upgrading to an SSD, especially if you are on a budget. We can help you find the most efficient and affordable solution for your computer needs.
Here are some general size recommendations by PC type:
Netbooks: 30 GB minimum, 60 GB (or more) recommended
If you are using a small notebook or netbook mostly for web-based applications and you do not need to install more than a handful of lightweight Windows programs or download and save large data files. You can probably get away with a 30 GB SSD, but you will spend less time and energy monitoring disk space if you can upgrade to a 60 GB solid state hard drive instead.
Workhorse desktop PC: 60 GB minimum, 120 GB (or more) recommended
In this class of PCs you are able to install and use multiple applications, including large programs like Microsoft Office. Windows 7 uses less disk space than you might think in a default installation. If you can afford a larger drive, less time can be spent managing the free disk space.
Business-class notebook: 120 GB minimum, 256 GB recommended
For a high-end, single-drive notebook that you use as your primary PC, do not skimp on storage space. Especially if you use your computer to store, convert, and play back digital media files, disk space is essential. HD video and high-resolution digital photos can use a lot of disk space, so you want to make sure you have enough space for them.
There are also some configuration steps you can follow for resizing files and possibly, relocating data to allow for maximum performance from your SSD.
Windows 7 has features such as Superfetch, Prefetch and ReadyBoot that monitor the files the computer accesses on start up and, when programs are launched. These features arrange the files on the hard drive for optimal access. SSDs do not have motors, spindles, platters and magnetic heads, so they do not benefit from these features. Because of the structural differences in mechanical hard drives and solid state hard drives the following specifications are important in the set up process to improve the performance of the solid state hard drive.
Six Steps To Get The Top Performance From Your SSD:
- Install the latest firmware updates.
- Caution! Firmware updates wipe all the data on hard drives so make sure to back up all your existing data first.
- Make sure the disk controller has been set to AHCI mode.
- Before installing Windows you will want to set the SATA controller for Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI) operation in the system BIOS. This step is extremely important. If you skip this step the IDE or ATA mode will prevent you from installing the proper disk controller driver and can compromise performance of your system.
- If you are reusing an SSD from another computer or external hard drive consider using a Secure Erase utility. This step resets the hard drive to its original, out-of-the-box state.
This step is not essential but can be helpful, especially on a hard drive that has a lot of previous wear. However make sure not to perform a full format using Windows disk management tools. There are a variety of ways to apply the Secure Erase, for Intel drives, you can use the Intel Solid State Drive Toolbox. If you have a Lenovo computer, this feature is available as part of a BIOS Menu Setup Extension. For OCZ drives, see this discussion thread for links to a Secure Erase utility. The HDDErase tool also works with many different drives.
- Boot from the Windows media and begin the clean install.
- Use the Windows Setup utility to create the partition on your hard drive. If you have created a partition using any other tool, delete it and use the Windows 7 disk tools to create the partition. This ensures a properly aligned partition on the hard drive.
- Make sure to install the latest storage driver.
- If your system includes an Intel SATA controller, you should use the most recent version of the Intel Rapid Storage Technology driver.
- After completing setup, check the Windows Experience Index.
Click Start, click Computer then, click System Properties. On the System page, click Windows Experience Index, which takes you to the Performance Information and Tools page. The Primary hard disk score for a properly configured SSD should be over 7.0. You can click Re-run on The Assessment to refresh the numbers.
7. To verify that all the features of the SSD are working properly, install the free CrystalDiskInfo utility.
This step confirms that Native Command Queuing (NCQ) and TRIM are enabled.
The CrystalDiskInfo feature also allows you to examine the health of your hard drive. When Windows 7 detects that you have a properly configured SSD drive, it disables several unnecessary features, such as the previously mentioned Superfetch, Prefetch, and ReadyBoot. It also disables scheduled defragmentation operations for the SSD, which are not necessary, and can reduce the life of the hard drive.
On a desktop PC or a larger PC laptop that can accommodate a second, dedicated data drive, the most important change you can make is to get your everyday data files off your system drive and keep them on the second data storage drive. The difference in performance will be minor, and the savings in disk space can be huge, especially if you have a large collection of digital media files.
The data files are located in subfolders of the Users folder. Each folder in this location is used for a different type of data. To open your User folder to access these different subfolders, click Start and then click your user name, at the top of the right column.
Each of the folders in your user profile is associated with a physical destination. When you move one or more of those data subfolders to your dedicated data storage drive, you also inform Windows of the new location for that subfolder. Once that is done, Windows will automatically find the correct locations for opening and saving these files. Windows Explorers allows you to open these locations by double-clicking the specific folder icon in your profile.
It is possible to move every folder from your user profile to the second storage drive, but that is not usually necessary. The majority of the space savings come from moving folders with larger files such as, the Downloads, Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos folders. Here are instructions to complete this step:
1. Open your data drive in Windows Explorer and create a new folder for each of the data folders you plan to move.
2. Open your user profile in Windows Explorer, right-click the folder you want to move, and click Properties.
3. Click the Location tab, and then click the Move button. Then find the appropriate folder you created in step 1 that corresponds to the folder you want to move, and select it.
4. Click Apply or OK. You will want to move all the files from the current folder to the new folder you created in Step 1 and delete the existing location.
You can repeat steps 2-4 for all the other folders you want to move.
After you make these changes, there is one last setting that should be changed. Windows keeps files you delete in the Recycle Bin, where you can recover them in the event of an accidental deletion. Windows reserves space on each drive for the Recycle Bin. You can specify the maximum amount of space that Windows is allowed to use by right-clicking the Recycle Bin and choosing Properties.
If you have a single drive, you will have to decide how much space you want to allocate for the deleted files. If you have two drives, you will want to set a smaller space in the Recycle Bin for the system drive and a relatively larger space for the data drive. You can base these settings on your usage patterns and comfort level.
After properly setting up your user data there are a few changes that should be made to Windows itself. Windows 7 has many housekeeping features that help your system to respond more smoothly when launching a program or opening a file. These features can consume large amounts of disk space. Many settings that can manage these features use the System Properties dialog box. You can access it from Control Panel, or click Start, then click Computer, and then finally click System Properties. The sidebar on the left will show Advanced System Settings, and this is where the changes need to be made.
Windows creates a paging file on the system drive. The initial size of the paging file is determined by the amount of memory you have installed. The paging file is a file, called Pagefile.sys, stored the root of the system drive.
You can move the paging file to your second data drive, or you can resize the existing paging file on your system drive.
To change these settings click on the Advanced tab of the System Properties dialog box, under Performance, click Settings. That opens the Performance Options dialog box, where you will find another Advanced tab and Under Virtual Memory, click Change. The first thing you need to do is uncheck the Automatically Manage box at the top. This step unlocks the remaining options.
If the desktop system has plenty of RAM (4 GBs or more), set the initial size to 1024 MB, and the maximum size 4 GB. After making any changes, be sure to click Set.
To move the paging file to a different drive, first select the system drive, click No Paging File, and click Set. Then select the secondary drive and choose either System Managed Size or Custom Size enter the appropriate values; then click Set.
Hibernation is a very important function for notebooks, but not as much for desktops, especially those that have a reliable uninterruptable power supply. Hibernation uses space in a hidden file called hiberfil.sys, which is stored in the root of the system drive. By default, this file uses 75% of your total installed memory.
You can reclaim this space on a desktop PC that has a small system drive by disabling hibernation. To make this happen you need to follow these steps:
Click Start, type cmd, then press Alt+Shift+Enter. Then in the command window, enter powercfg –h off and press Enter. (To re-enable hibernation, use the same command, but change off back to on.) From here you can also verify the size of both your paging file and your hibernation file: use the command dir c: /as.
The System Restore feature allows you to reverse system configuration changes. It does this by keeping track and storing previous versions of files that you change. System Restore saves snapshots of the current system configuration and saves them as restore points. You can change the amount of space set aside for restore points to allow for more usable space on a small system SSD.
To do this open the System Properties dialog box and click System Protection. From the list of drives, click the system drive (C:) and then click Configure. At this window you will be able to adjust the amount of reserved space System Restore uses to only 3% or whatever amount of space of the total disk that is appropriate for your purposes.
Windows Search is a beneficial feature of Windows 7, but it comes at a price of large amounts of disk space usage. Windows Search works by saving every file you save in user data folders so that it is indexed in order for you to find it based on its contents or properties. It works in the same fashion for e-mails as well. This index is stored as a group of files in a hidden folder on the system drive, and the size of the index can get very large.
However you can move the index so that it is stored on your data drive.
Here is how:
1. On your data drive, create a new, empty folder called Index to hold your index files.
2. Click Start and type index in the search box. Click Indexing Options from the results list to open the Indexing Options dialog box, then click Advanced.
3. In the Index Location section, you can see the current location of the Index (by default, this usually in C:ProgramDataMicrosoft). Click Select New and pick the folder you created in step 1.
Then click OK, Windows will move the index files off your system drive and onto the location you specified. This step will allow you to recover a potentially large amount of disk space on the system drive without compromising your ability to search quickly.
If you have followed all of these steps you will experience the solid state hard drive in your computer the way it is supposed to be experienced. It will be multiple times faster than a mechanical drive and you will have ample space on the drive to use it for whatever purposes you may need. Please call iComputer if you need help with any of these steps.