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Hard Drive Optimization Tips and Tricks

Hard Drive Optimization Tips and Tricks
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Intro

The magnetic hard disk is now a venerable storage medium but it still delivers the best storage space bang for your buck. While not as fast as new-fangled SSDs, there are many simple ways to improve the performance and reliability of the classic hard disk. Even, if you're already running a solid state drive in your machine, there are still a few optimization tweaks to improve the reliability of your zippy new storage device. Read on for tips, tricks, and utilities to get the best out of your HDD or SSD!

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  • 3 Hide
    nukemaster , October 8, 2012 4:14 PM
    While I have seem many of theses partitioning tweaks. I have never gone that overboard.

    For single drive systems

    c:\
    d:\

    For multi drive

    Drive1(fastest) Windows
    Drive2(Slower) Files
    Drive3(depends on work load) Image/Video editing input (output if smaller can do to drive 2 or add another drive if you need more speed)

    With SSD's

    SSD1 Windows
    SSD2 Games :) 
    SSD3 Win8
    HDD (Slow) Files+Docs+Cache+any other constant writes.

    As always

    External slow drive. Backup.
  • 0 Hide
    silverblue , October 8, 2012 4:55 PM
    As an addendum to the pagefile tips, it not only benefits having one on a separate HD, but I've heard that putting it right at the start of said drive maximises access speed.
  • 0 Hide
    CaedenV , October 8, 2012 5:56 PM
    With Win8's 'shut down' option really being hibernate in disguise I kinda wonder if you can turn off the hibernate feature at all, or if it would make shutdown act like a traditional shutdown option. Personally I only ever sleep or reset during day-to-day use, and only shutdown when making hardware changes.

    @article
    Modern versions of windows already have many of these parts you have partitioned sandboxed in the registry so that if they fail then it is fine and Windows will simply over-write the file. Making a separate partition for everything just makes a mess, it does not add to performance or reliability. Also, having a ton of partitions (each with it's own free space at the end because Windows freaks out of you fill a partition or drive) wastes premium edge platter space by forcing information to be written in the middle of the drive where things run slower. It is a lot of work and headache for something that will help very little at best, or make things slower at worst.

    @nukemaster:
    For single drive systems:
    Agreed, one contiguous partition is generally best. If anything maybe a separate hidden partition with a system image on it, but most likely if the drive is toast it won't do much good anyways.

    For 2 drive systems:
    SSD: Windows, program, and small files (office documents, pictures, possibly music collection, etc., this is purely so the HDD can go into sleep mode more often, not for performance)

    HDD part1: program overflow (if needed). Guarantees that programs get the edge of the drive where they will perform best.
    HDD part2: user files (documents, videos, and other bulk files)
    HDD part3: system image and file backups

    For many-drive systems:
    SSD RAID0 part1: drive with OS, Programs, documets, music etc.
    SSD RAID0 part2: 60GB Intel RST SSD cache for HDDs (read cache only)
    (For content creators) SSD RAID0 part3, or seperate SSD: Render drive, or active project space

    HDD RAID1/5 part1: Bulk files such as multimedia, CD/DVD images, network shares, etc.
    HDD RAID1/5 part2: system image and file backups

    Gives extra space and peak performance to the SSDs on the system drive, while allowing protection of personal files in the event of a virus requiring a system wipe, SSD failure, or a single HDD failure. If done correctly the RAID1 or 5 will also give the HDDs a performance boost to the file storage, but this is not a guarantee, especially if using dissimilar drives.
  • 0 Hide
    omnimodis78 , October 8, 2012 6:04 PM
    SSD Tip 4: Disable Prefetch & SuperFetch: this is absolutely a terrible advice, and has been demonstrated to be a misguided and incorrect "optimization". Firstly, the rationale is that turning these off will save writes on the SSD. The fact of the matter is that the writes used for these are so minimal as to be insignificant (practically and mathematically), but the benefits are so measurable that it makes no sense at all to disable them. Firstly, having "fetching" technology enabled means that programs/services load faster and more efficiently into RAM. Windows knows what it needs to "fetch" into RAM even before you trigger the event to open said program/service. Meaning that when you do double-click on that porno link, things are already fetched in RAM to open everything that is needed to make the process as fast and responsive as it can be (very basic example, but that's the essence) Turn these off, and it has to do it crudely each and every time...
  • 8 Hide
    techcurious , October 8, 2012 6:37 PM
    All these "disable this.. disable that" tips that are meant to "increase lifespan of SSD drives" are so incredibly pointless! Forfeit the benefits of System Restore just to presumably increase the lifespan of an SSD?? For what? My 120GB SSD boot drive is now almost 5 months old and it's SMART status still reports that 100% Life Left, after total writes of 1585GB! So even if we round that up to 1% worn out, I want to keep using this same SSD for how long, 41 Years!?? (5months x 100=500, 500/12months). Even if the circuit board doesn't fail long before that, neither the capacity, nor the speed of this SSD will be very useful after 5 years, let alone 10 years.
  • 5 Hide
    techcurious , October 8, 2012 6:51 PM
    Oh, and I forgot to add that I have both my pagefile and hibernate file enabled on the same SSD.
    I prefer not having a Pagefile as I have enough RAM, but some programs/games don't like to run without a Pagefile no matter how much RAM you have... pity.
    But since when is hibernating just about shutting down and starting up quickly? No matter how fast you can boot up with an SSD, only Hibernate can preserve and restore the state your PC was in, with the same open programs, files, games, etc! (Fortunately, new browsers can restore their previous session/tabs anyway). So, I still use my Hibernate sometimes, so I wont have to remember and reopen all the different PDF, Word, Excel, etc files that are open and I am not finished with before having to leave my PC for an extended period.
  • 5 Hide
    omnimodis78 , October 8, 2012 7:09 PM
    @techcurious - you are 100% correct! I used to be one of those people who spent hours upon hours of "optimizing" my SSD after a Windows installation. But the more I looked into it, and the more I experimented, the more I realized that a lot, too many in-fact, of those so called optimizations were coming from people who were merely stuck in the old Windows XP days when some things were worthwhile tweaking. Firstly, most of the optimizations today are actually counter-intuitive, and some are downright wrong to even suggest! Not to mention, this idea of actually disabling very advanced and practical things in order to add a theoretical amount of time (nobody has ever stated how much) to the 3,000,000 hours (that's over two centuries...228.1591052 years to be exact) of life expectancy (G.Skill FM-25S2S-60GBP2) is laughable! How many people would ever dare to go outside to their cars and say "unplug this, and this, and this" in order to add a few minutesworth of life to their engines. That's what these inaccurate optimizations are actually doing. Yes, I have disabled some stuff but not for the misguided reason to save SSD life, but because I don't need, or use some (file indexing is one, windows back-up is another).
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , October 8, 2012 7:47 PM
    Agree that almost all of these "optimizations" are pointless. It might have made sense if it was an older SSD, but today's SSDs handle write cycle conservations well enough for average consumer, and by the time those SSDs wear out, you'll probably be getting a new computer anyways. Did I mention that Windows 7/8 already performs these optimizations when SSD is detected? Just re-run the Windows Experience Index Assessment from Control Panel -> System.

    Don't waste your time with these "optimizations" and enjoy your SSD.
  • 0 Hide
    Flyfisherman , October 8, 2012 9:04 PM
    The Microsoft Pagefile should of course be on the SSD, preferable use two of them and put second pagefile on the HDD, since Windows will automatically read/write from the disk that is not used at the moment. The SSD/HDD cannot read/write on the same disk at the same time.

    Microsoft http://blogs.msdn.com/b/e7/archive [...] s-and.aspx
    Quote:
    Should the pagefile be placed on SSDs? Yes. Most pagefile operations are small random reads or larger sequential writes, both of which are types of operations that SSDs handle well.

    In looking at telemetry data from thousands of traces and focusing on pagefile reads and writes, we find that Pagefile.sys reads outnumber pagefile.sys writes by about 40 to 1,
    Pagefile.sys read sizes are typically quite small, with 67% less than or equal to 4 KB, and 88% less than 16 KB.
    Pagefile.sys writes are relatively large, with 62% greater than or equal to 128 KB and 45% being exactly 1 MB in size.

    In fact, given typical pagefile reference patterns and the favorable performance characteristics SSDs have on those patterns, there are few files better than the pagefile to place on an SSD.
    End quote.

    This article on Tom's should be re-written, since it has some wrong suggestions about what is best to do.
    http://www.computing.net/howtos/sh [...] 7/552.html
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , October 8, 2012 9:25 PM
    Seriously - BAD ADVICE with regards to putting swapfile on seperate partition!!!! Different drive, yes, but different partition (ala Unix/Linux), stupid. You force your head to move between distant cilinders (Head travel time) and then to seek again for every swap IO that follows or before normal access IO. This not only slows it down, but wears it out. It's best to keep regularly accessed disk locations, such as system files, temp files, cache files etc. in close proximity therefore minimizing head travel and seek times. Yes, most are going to complain that your swap can then also become fragmented which will be even worse, unless you set your swap size a static, fat provisioned size (Min 1.5x RAM to max 2x RAM).
    PS: Also, read up on thin and thick stroking. Thin stroking means that you use only the outside tracks of your disk as the linear speed (Opposed to rotational speed), or the percieved speed of the passing by under the head, would be the highest obviousy tracks (The first tracks): Ideally for performance, this is exactly where you want your swap. Partitioning your drive for swap, means that you force your swap to be further from your highest performance tracks.
    Also, Unix actual intend is that your swap be on an entirely seperate disk (If possible).
  • 0 Hide
    EvanConway , October 8, 2012 10:23 PM
    Nice, thanks for the tip. Makes sense, just never thought of it.

    silverblueAs an addendum to the pagefile tips, it not only benefits having one on a separate HD, but I've heard that putting it right at the start of said drive maximises access speed.

  • 1 Hide
    raytseng , October 9, 2012 12:22 AM
    agree with above points.
    Remove all the "fear"-based advice on SSDs wearing out. Then your only good tips are

    1) turn off hibernation,
    2) set page file to small amount, or static amount (esp. if you have a lot of ram),
    3) maybe limit or tweak system restore space.

    Since ssds are typically small and recovering that ~20gb of SSD space is useful.

    Everything else is either a boost, or Windows will take care of it automatically for you, and only advice to avoid the 'fear" of wearing out your ssd
  • 1 Hide
    merikafyeah , October 9, 2012 4:08 AM
    I can't believe Tom's is spreading the same misinformation FUD that's been around for years.
    Especially regarding drive indexing as well as prefetch and superfetch.

    First, indexing does NOT affect ACCESS TIME. It only improves SEARCH time. If a file you're looking for is already indexed, it will appear much faster since the system does not have to go scanning the entire drive. This is true for both SSD and HDD, though the gains for HDDs are more apparent which all the more reason why disabling it is a BAD IDEA.

    Second, prefetch and superfetch have nothing to do with HDDs and SSDs and everything to do with caches, RAM, program startup, and booting time. The caches are stored in RAM which is exponentially faster then even the best SSDs. It operates in memory and never touches your mass storage. Superfetch and prefetch improve performance over time whether you're using an SSD or HDD so there is virtually no valid reason why it should ever be disabled, unless you DON'T want your system to be faster than it is after a fresh install, because you're stuck in the 90s and actually believe that a system is operating at its fastest directly after a fresh install and could never be any better.
  • 0 Hide
    Flyfisherman , October 9, 2012 9:59 AM
    I agree with the "Remove all the "fear"-based advice on SSDs wearing out."

    When it comes to facts and understanding about MLC/TLC Nand flash SSDs perhaps Anand Lal Shimpi on AnandTech is one of the best to listening on.


    Quote:
    We've mentioned time and time again that NAND endurance is a non-issue for desktop (and even some enterprise) workloads.



    The only important tip on Tom's SSD tips is actually missing:
    Make sure that you don't fill the SSD with more than 80% data, especially if it is a SandForce SSD controller. If you are running close to fill the SSD it will suffer in performance. In that case it is better to remove some programs from the SSD and install them on a second drive.

    You can also put all pictures and videos on a HDD if possible.

    But that aside, I suggest that articles and tips on Tom's should be based on facts, reliable sources and tests. As I said before, this article should be rewritten because of it's misleading information:
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/ssd-performance-tweak,2911.html

    Best Regards
  • 0 Hide
    daglesj , October 9, 2012 1:12 PM
    On a good old mech HDD I still like to short stroke the OS and apps to the first 100GB or so of a drive. Usually I like to keep the first 25% of a HDD a separate partition to make sure stuff doesn't migrate to the far side of the HDD.

    Plus on some older HDDs its worth checking if the old acoustic noise management isn't set to a low/quiet setting. HDTune PRO will set it right for you.
  • 0 Hide
    Pherule , October 9, 2012 2:36 PM
    merikafyeahindexing does NOT affect ACCESS TIME.

    Wrong. I've done very hard drive intensive operations on a slow drive, and disabling indexing made things a lot smoother.
  • 0 Hide
    djscribbles , October 9, 2012 2:47 PM
    techcuriousAll these "disable this.. disable that" tips that are meant to "increase lifespan of SSD drives" are so incredibly pointless! Forfeit the benefits of System Restore just to presumably increase the lifespan of an SSD??


    DIsabling system restore also nets you a ton of space. As does disabling hibernation and moving your page file. They may not have emphasized it in the article, but these things will free up a lot of space on your SSD.

    I agree though that lifespan concerns are overblown on SSDs.

    @caedenv - Windows 8 shutdown is only somewhat a hibernate. They end the user session, so all running apps are shutdown, they then hibernate the windows kernel session (I believe this includes drivers). The difference is a full hibernate requires a chunk of disk space the size of your ram. The windows kernel likely has a fairly controlled memory footprint (100's of MB maybe?), so it's much less of a burden.
  • -1 Hide
    lanceton , October 10, 2012 12:39 AM
    I had been doing these 'tricks' for more than 10 years until maybe 2 years back when I stopped doing them.

    The reason being - I feel the practical benefits for me are pretty much neglectable.
    I still remember long time ago on other people's messy PCs it was possible to improve performance tremendously after a big clean up / tune up, but I found nowadays that's no longer the case. Windows are by default scheduled to auto-defrag the computer, and finishes the task rather quickly.

    So why bother? Partitions, page files, I figure my time is better spent on other stuffs than doing these 'geeky tweaks' which don't make much practical difference....

    Just one C drive, fast, simple and easy.

    SSDs might have other considerations, but as far as HDDs' concern, don't think these 'optimizations' make sense anymore.

    > Advice on whether to turn the pagefile on or off varies wildly online but, odds are, you should leave it on unless you know exactly what you're doing.

    I think even the cheapest PC today comes with a minimum of 4G ram, there's no reason to suggest not turning pagefile off. That's where you'll get some REAL 'performance undecrease'.
  • -2 Hide
    ProDigit10 , October 10, 2012 2:11 AM
    SSD: No pagefile, or less than 128MB. Pagefile to ram, with any 64 bit system with more than 4GB ram (6 or 8GB).
    Any computer over 2GB should not need a pagefile for standard windows procedures.
    Most computers have 3GB (2x2gb with video drivers). So pagefile is not necessary.

    HD: Defrag operating system files by name, on the outward ring of the HDD for faster OS response. Put the "program files" directory under it. And store my documents, large data files like ISO's, large compressed archives, and movies, and music files (like MP3, OGG, WMA) store those on the inner circle of the HD, as they generally don't need fast access/fast data rates. If you're concerned about battery life, then put them on the outter rim, as netbooks harddrives go slower on the outter rim, than on the inner
  • -2 Hide
    ProDigit10 , October 10, 2012 2:11 AM
    SSD: No pagefile, or less than 128MB. Pagefile to ram, with any 64 bit system with more than 4GB ram (6 or 8GB).
    Any computer over 2GB should not need a pagefile for standard windows procedures.
    Most computers have 3GB (2x2gb with video drivers). So pagefile is not necessary.

    HD: Defrag operating system files by name, on the outward ring of the HDD for faster OS response. Put the "program files" directory under it. And store my documents, large data files like ISO's, large compressed archives, and movies, and music files (like MP3, OGG, WMA) store those on the inner circle of the HD, as they generally don't need fast access/fast data rates. If you're concerned about battery life, then put them on the outter rim, as netbooks harddrives go slower on the outter rim, than on the inner
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