It’s safe to assume that at this point, most tech-savvy (and those with bigger wallets) Windows users have switched from SATA hard drives to SSDs, whether they’ve gotten a relatively new computer or upgraded themselves.
Windows has tons of features to help SSDs work to their full potential, but it doesn’t always enable them by default. Additionally, many of the must-do rules from the early days of SSDs no longer apply. What exactly it is about and what you should do on your Windows computers if you use SSDs, read the rest of the article!
Disable fast startup or Fast Startup
Yes, this might sound counter-intuitive, given that Fast Startup is pretty much designed to make the boot process faster for PCs with SSDs. But at this point, the time gained from fastboot is negligible if you have an SSD, and disabling fastboot means your computer will get a nice clean, full reboot every time you shut it down. There are also various niche issues that a fast startup can cause as well.
For example, if you’re dual-booting, you might not be able to access your Windows drive because it’s locked. Disabling fast startup isn’t essential, but it might be useful. To disable fast startup, go to “Control Panel -> Power Options -> Choose what the power buttons do”. Next, click “Change settings that are currently unavailable” if the “fast startup” box is grayed out, then uncheck the “Turn on fast startup” box.
Your hardware should be SSD ready
One of the easiest mistakes to make when getting a new SSD is to assume that it will come with a cable and that everything will fit perfectly into the computer you have. With laptops with expandable 2.5-inch storage slots, that’s the case. Just pop it into the spare space and you’re good to go. However, on a desktop computer, if you’re getting a SATA SSD drive, you’ll need to make sure your power supply has enough spare slots or cables to accommodate the SATA cable connector.
If not, you can always get a Y-splitter that allows you to connect two SSDs to one molex power slot in your PSU. SSDs don’t use a lot of power, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Of course, you also need to have free SATA slots on the motherboard, but that shouldn’t be a problem unless you already have a lot of hard drives. Then there are the newer M.2 SSDs that plug into the M.2 connectors on your motherboard.
As a rule, only newer generations of motherboards have this connector, so if you have an older computer, you’re out of luck. Or look up your motherboard online to make sure it has an M.2 connector. Moreover, you need to know if your M.2 connector is PCI-E (NVME) or SATA and check if your M.2 SSD is in the correct format.
Update the Firmware of your SSD
To make sure your SSD is performing at its best, it’s worth keeping an eye on firmware updates for it. Unfortunately, they are not automated; the process is irreversible and a little more complex than, say, a software update. Each SSD manufacturer has its own method for upgrading the SSD firmware, so you will need to go to the official websites of your SSD manufacturers and follow their guides from there.
The Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI) is the main feature that ensures Windows will support all the features that come with running an SSD on your computer, especially the TRIM feature, which allows Windows to help the SSD perform routine garbage collection. The term “garbage collection” is used to describe the phenomenon that occurs when a drive gets rid of information that is no longer considered to be in use.
To enable AHCI, you’ll need to go into your computer’s BIOS and enable it somewhere within its settings. I can’t tell you exactly where the setting is, because every BIOS works differently. You’ll have to do some hunting. Chances are newer computers will have this enabled by default. It is recommended that you enable this feature before installing the operating system, although you may be able to get away with enabling it after Windows is already installed.
TRIM is key to extending the life of your SSD by keeping it clean under the hood. Windows should enable this by default, but it’s worth double-checking that it’s enabled. To make sure TRIM is enabled, open a command prompt and enter the following:
fsutil behavior set disabledeletenotify 0
What you want to see now (counterintuitively) is a notification that says “Disabled” or “Denied”.
Enable System Restore or “System Restore”
In the early days of SSDs, when they were much less durable and more prone to failure than they are today, many people recommended turning off System Restore to improve performance and drive longevity.
Today, that advice is quite redundant. System Restore is an extremely useful feature that we recommend you keep an eye on, so it’s worth going into the System Restore settings to confirm that your SSD hasn’t secretly disabled it. Click Start, type “restore,” and then click “Create a restore point.” Next, right-click your SSD drive in the list -> Configure in a new window, then click “Turn on system protection”.
Keep Windows system defragmentation turned on
Another relic of the early days of SSDs: defragmenting SSDs was not only unnecessary, but potentially harmful to SSDs, as defragmentation reduced the number of read/write cycles left in the drive. That’s kind of true, but Windows 10 and Windows 11 already know this, and if you’ve enabled scheduled defragmentation, Windows will identify your SSD and actually defrag it (because contrary to popular belief, SSDs do fragment, albeit much less).
That said, it’s better to think of today’s defrag option in Windows as more of an all-in-one disk health tool. (Even Windows now calls this process “Optimization” rather than “defragmenting”.) The process will also “re-trim” your SSD which runs the nice TRIM feature we talked about earlier.
Configuring write caching capabilities
On many SSDs, the user-level write cache can have a detrimental effect on the drive. To figure this out, you’ll need to disable the option in Windows and see how the drive works after that. If your drive is performing worse, re-enable it. To get to the configuration window, right-click “Computer” on the Start menu and click “Properties”. Click “Device Manager”, expand “Disk Drives”, right-click your SSD and click “Properties”. Select the “Rules” tab. On this tab, you will see an option labeled “Enable write cache on device”.
Set in battery options to “high performance”
When your SSD is constantly turning on and off, you’ll notice a slight lag whenever you use your computer after it’s been idle for a while. To change power options, access Control Panel, then click “Power Options”. Select “High Performance” from the list.
You may need to click “Show Additional Plans” to find it. On a Windows 11 laptop, you can click the battery icon in the notification area, then click the battery icon in the window that appears, then click “Power Mode” and “Best Performance” or “Power Mode- Best Performance”.
Written by: Ivan Hečimović