This is my first post here. I already own a 240GB SanDisk Extreme and I’m waiting for a second one to arrive tomorrow!
I wanted to provide some tips for novice users who may worry about the poor performance of their drives.
When SSDs are advertised, the figures that you see are usually based on synthetic benchmarks using 0-fill/1-fill data, not Random. 0-fill/1-fill gives higher numbers so the companies use those to entice customers into choosing their products. You can easily see the difference between 0-fill/1-fill and Random benchmarks by using CrystalDiskMark. I’d recommend for you to download the portable version as it needs no installation, just run the executable. Click File - Test Data and choose 0-fill or 1-fill. Do a run, then choose Random (which is the default) and you’ll see the difference in numbers. Latest version is 3.0.1c, it’s free, get it from here:
Another good free benchmark which is made specificaly for SSDs is AS SSD Benchmark. It provides more realistic results than CrystalDiskMark and it uses incompressible data for its test; so don’t expect high numbers out of SandForce drives like the Extreme (which work faster with compressible data). It’s a german project, but the software also has english support (select it under the Language menu of the program). Get it here:
The top performance that you see on various reviews online is based on brand new out-of-the-box drives. Out of the box all SSDs are fast but the performance will deteriorate over time, especially when the drive is almost full. This is even more evident on drives with SandForce controllers (like our SanDisk Extreme).
Most modern SSDs will perform wear leveling and automatically recover at least some of their performance over time. This is done by the SSD’s internal Garbage Collection which is is built-in in the SSD’s controller and kicks in automatically when the drive is idle - it cannot be initiated by the user. Performance recovery also takes place by the issuing of the TRIM command in Windows. TRIM is initiated automatically by the OS after files have been deleted (Vista SP2 and Win7 only, WinXP doesn’t support TRIM).
There are some software which allow you to manually induce the TRIM command. SSD Tweaker Pro and Tweak-SSD both have such a function but only on their paid versions. Personally I use a free program (ForceTrim) which was made available at the OCZ forums in the past. It forces TRIM on the drive, but it is currently hard to find. Remember, it is not supported for RAID configurations. I managed to find a copy after a lot of searching, and I have uploaded it here:
Here’s a test I performed today that proves that this little program does work:
Don’t forget to save screenies of your PRE-TRIM and POST-TRIM results for later comparisons.
The great thing about the Extreme for me is its great out-of-the-box performance, which is at least on a par with other more expensive brands. It also sports an unusual quality. Have a look here for a comprehensive review that showcases its equally strong 4K IOPS results for both read and write testing - which is something of a rarity:
Of course the degree of the performance you will be able to get back by TRIM and Garbage Collection, depends on how full is the SSD, and how optimized is its firmware. The efficiency of TRIM and GC varies between manufacturers. Currently the SanDisk Extreme suffers from poor firmware as you can see from the Degradation and Steady-State Performance tests here (this is the most recent test for the SanDisk Extreme):
I hope that SanDisk will produce a properly tweaked firmware soon with optimized algorithms for garbage collection, and with a TRIM that gives back the performance. Don’t expect miracles, like the Vertex 4 recovery figures on the above link, that model uses an Indilinx controller, not SandForce. Still, if SanDisk puts some effort into it they can produce a tweaked firmware that does the job at least adequately. SanDisk, we are waiting!
At the end of the day, the only way to get the full performance back out of a modern SSD is to secure-erase it. This will bring a used-and-abused SSD back to its new out-of-the-box state. Some manufacturers provide tools for secure-erasing but SanDisk doesn’t - and I hope this changes in future SanDisk releases, an included tool to secure-erase would be great. You can still do it using a bootable USB stick containing Parted Magic. You will also need unetbootin to convert the Parted Magic iso into a bootable USB stick. They are both free. Secure-erasing the SSD is a very fast process, upon issuing the command it is done in less than a second. It is straight-forward provided you are experienced enough. If you are a beginner, then please leave it well alone.
Here are some pointers:
You need to have a recent, verified backup of your Windows partition before trying any of this. Secure-erasing will delete all partitions on your SSD and will revert it to its out-of-the-box state. You should also have a bootable media that contains your favorite backup program; so after secure-erasing you will be able to boot into your backup application and restore your backup on the clean drive.
If you get an error message about your drive being frozen when trying to secure erase, this means that your drive is in ‘panic mode’. This is not as bad as it sounds, your SSD is OK. At this point ignore Parted Magic’s advice to put the system to sleep in order to unfreeze the drive. All you need to do at this point is to unplug the SSD’s power cable, wait a few seconds, then plug it back in. You will then be able to secure erase the drive. IMPORTANT: IF YOU HAVE MORE THAN ONE SSD IN YOUR SYSTEM, MAKE SURE YOU ARE SECURE-ERASING THE RIGHT ONE. It may sound self-explanatory, but there have been cases where users picked the wrong SSD for secure-erasing and lost all their data in a second! This mistake is very easy to make, especially if you have two or more identical SSD models connected.
- After secure-erasing your SSD it may need to be re-initialized in order to be recognized by your backup program. You may have to connect it to a different computer first in order to initialize it using the Windows Disk Management applet. Or you can initialize it using the bootable partition manager of your choice.
- Also note that secure-erasing the SSD frequently is NOT recommended. Only do it rarely, when you are 100% sure that your drive needs it. You will be doing this at your own risk and obviously I accept no responsibility.
Get Parted Magic and unetbootin here (there are instructions on how to use them on those sites, but most seasoned SSD ab-users will already know what to do):
The storage driver used is another factor that can influence SSD performance. I recently tested my OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS in order to find out the performance difference between the Intel Chipset Utility driver versus two versions of the Intel Rapid Storage Technology enterprise (RSTe) driver. The Intel RSTe drivers are quite hit and miss and results vary between different versions as you can see on my benchmarks, starting on the following post and onwards:
Future tests I plan to do:
Benchmarking the SanDisk Extreme with the two previous RSTe drivers plus the latest v220.127.116.116, versus the latest Intel Chipset Utility driver.
Comparative benchmarking of the Extreme in stages: From completely empty out-of-the-box all the way to 95% full, in order to showcase the drop of perfomance that can be experienced as the drive progressively fills up with data.
Testing the efficiency of TRIM and GC for future SanDisk Extreme firmwares, again at different stages of drive fill.
Follow the SSDReview forum link above for those updates.
Thank you for reading this. Take care all, and lets hope that SanDisk will provide us with a truly optimized firmware soon!