These area few useful tech points I've accumulated and thought I'd post them in case they help anyone else.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Managing an SSD on your desktop PC

There is one technique for managing SSD's with Vista or Windows 7 that just kicks ass - anyone that doesn't know this method has just received a major critical freebie piece of advice here:

1) Install the SSD as your BOOT drive (i.e. C:) - say min 60GB - now you have a fast boot but have already used 25GB. FYI turning hibernate off (see web) saves at least the amount of mem you have, e.g. 8GB so it's worth considering.

2) Install a decent sized hard drive - e.g. 1TB (e.g. E:)

3) Create a folder on your hard drive e.g. E:\Documents

4) Install applications as per normal to the C: drive - e.g. this makes things easy with Steam

5) When some data is less performance-critical e.g. My Videos
5.1) COPY the C:\..\My Videos folder to E:\Documents
5.2) RENAME the C:\..\My Videos folder to C:\..\My Videos_backup (just in case you screw up)
5.3) Open a "CMD" window as administrator in the C:\.. folder that has My Videos
5.4) Use the command mklink /d "C:\..\My Videos" "E:\Documents\My Videos" i.e. create a symlink pointing to the new E: folder with the exact same name the folder used to have.
5.5) test your software and it should be unaffected. If so, delete the C:\..\My Videos_backup folder.

See? This method simply moves whole folders from your SSD to your hard drive, and then creates a 'symlink' back on the SSD where the folder used to be so that PC software still thinks it's on C:. It's easy to check in Windows Explorer - you just click through the C: folders as normal and you'll move onto E: as you click on the folder that still appears to be on C:. I.e. to software the PC behaves 100% as if the "C:\..\My Videos\Disneyland\Hamburger" folder still exists on the C: drive. The move is so seamless even Windows Explorer will give you folder-size stats for the documents folder that include the stuff that's actually been moved (confusing, given the point of all this) but the *disk* stats correctly show the saved space on C:.

Major plusses of this approach are
  •  it's actually pretty simple
  •  you can move huge chunks of the filesystem over to the hard drive using the same technique, e.g. My Music, My Pictures, My Videos, without applications noticing you've done it
  •  the 'default' install of all software to C: is unchanged - Steam in particular installs to C: always so if you want an SSD boot drive you need to know how to do this
  •  it's not a 'sudden death' cutover - you can leave the C: folders in place (renamed) for a while until you're 100% confident you haven't screwed up - delete the link and rename the folder back reverses out the move.
  •  the 'default' for a game install is to have all files on the SSD for fast access, and you then move big chunks that you know are large volume, low performance. This is easier that starting with the game on E: (hard drive) and trying to find the bits that turn out to be important for performance and moving them to C:.
  •  there's a subtle benefit - moving some stuff that was in C:\Program Files to E:\ actually moves it out of the UAC controls, so pre-Vista software (like FSX) that clashes with UAC actually work better if you move their executable folders (i.e. Modules in FSX) over to E:\. In my case all the FSX scenery is still on the SSD so the app runs fast. The 'SimObjects\Airplanes' folder is huge but doesn't affect flight framerates (only aircraft load times) so that's moved to the hard drive. If/When I get bored with FSX I'll move all of it to the hard drive, not uninstall it.