Solid State Drives and Reinstalling Windows

Here’s a tip for those of you out there with solid state drives in your computers.

If you’re looking to reinstall Windows at some stage (particularly with Windows 8 nearing its release) then you might want to consider a little bit of spring cleaning before starting afresh.

Now, you might think that by formatting a solid state drive you are freeing up all of its space and scrubbing it clean but this is only half true. The solid state drive  will appear empty however there will still be data left on the drive that has yet to be properly removed by the TRIM capability of the drive (this is a delayed garbage collection process to properly clear storage blocks of their data). As such, your SSD could be running a bit slow as it will need to manually clear these blocks as they are consumed instead of being able to write into them straight away.

So how do you address this issue?

Most of the good SSD manufacturers will supply or recommend a utility to “secure erase” the drive which will empty it out completely. This does also mean your drive ends up with zero data so you shouldn’t use this if you’re trying to improve the performance of your SSD if it is still in use (normal TRIM activities will keep things in check for you). You’ll need to use the utility from a bootdisk as you won’t be able to run it from the drive itself or if the drive contains Windows and it is operational.

The bottom line is that it certainly can’t hurt to do a little extra spring cleaning if you’re going to the trouble of reinstalling Windows so factor in some time to do a secure erase of your drive to reap the benefits.

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