Many people do not know that in order for an SSD to work properly and at full speed there are two primary conditions, amongst many, that must be in place for your solid state drive to operate properly. In this guide I will do my best to give the proper advice and links necessary to assist everyone in making sure they are properly using this new technology. SSDs have probably been the most significant hardware improvement in computing technology in the last decade by removing the bottleneck of I/O speed from the hard drive to the processors. If a solid state drive (SSD) is not properly configured it you can not only lack the full benefits from the drive, but also decrease the life span of the drive, and potentially cause problems for applications.

First, an SSD can be operated in IDE mode, AHCI mode, or in a RAID configuration. The first mode listed, IDE, lacks the SATA benefits that an SSD needs to operate at full speeds. Also, while using the IDE driver certain commands such as TRIM that re-optimize write speeds on the drive are not automatically passed along to the drive. AHCI does contain the commands necessary for the drive to operate at full speed and also utilize the correct drivers to pass along TRIM commands to the drive automatically. RAID, the last drive configuration does optimize the drive configuration, but TRIM commands cannot be passed onto the drives to re-optimize their write speeds.

If you are using a single SSD as your boot drive and standard rotational hard drives for storage, the best configuration to use is AHCI mode, which can be changed in the BIOS on your machine. When installing Windows XP on a machine configured for AHCI it is necessary to have a floppy drive in the machine or on USB so you can preload the AHCI F6 driver during operating system installation. When installing Windows 7 , the operating system disc contains the AHCI drivers preloaded into the operating system so during installation you will not need to take any additional steps to be operating correctly. If you have already installed Windows 7 in IDE mode, you can change one registry key [HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetservicesmsahci] subkey: Start - from a 3 to a 0 and reboot the machine you can change to AHCI in the BIOS and Windows 7 will automatically switch drivers over to AHCI. For Windows XP this is more complicated, but several good tutorials can be found by simply googling "XP switch to AHCI" and researching the topic. Be careful as there are only a few easy tutorials that work for switching XP over to AHCI.

The next important optimization to insure that your SSD is operating at full efficiency is to insure that the partitions are correctly aligned. Partition alignment can be very complex to understand, yet very easy to identify and diagnose. If you installed Windows 7 fresh from the disc, you do not need to worry about partition alignment.. Windows 7 does that for you automatically! If you are running XP, this is a different story, you will more than likely need to align the partitions manually after installation.

The easiest way to confirm that your partitions have been aligned is by downloading a small SSD benchmarking utility called "AS SSD" from this link: Download AS SSD. (I will insert some images shortly). In the upper left corner of the program after starting it you will either see a set of numbers followed by a -OK or -BAD in either green or red respectively. If you have the green OK you are good to go, if you have the red -BAD you will need to re-align your partitions. There are a few ways you can re-align the partitions, but the easiest way is to use a program by Paragon Software called the Paragon Alignment Tool that will do all of the work for you in a very easy interface. The alignment tool does unfortunately cost $30, but if you have been using your OS for a while and do not want to re-install it is the easiest and least risky method to re-align the partitions.

These two changes alone will result in the most significant changes in speed increases and drive longevity. There are several tweaks you can implement on the software level to improve drive speed on minor levels, but those will come up in later posts.

I hope this helps anybody that may be confused about this topic.. if you have any questions, please feel free to post back and I will try my best to answer.

Things You Will Need

Drivers, and possibly a Windows XP or Windows 7 disc.

Tips & Warnings

Warning: You will see huge improvements in your SSD with these changes if you do not have them configured correctly.