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Fragging wonderful: The truth about defragging your SSD


Brink

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#1
With smarter file systems and faster disks and PCs, file fragmentation isn’t the performance suck it once was. Older computers had a habit of splitting files and spreading the parts all over your hard drives, but modern ones don’t do this as much. Not even close. That said, a bimonthly pass with a capable defragger can help you maintain peak performance on a heavily used hard drive.

However, solid-state drives, which use flash memory instead of a hard-drive platter to store data, are another story: My tests showed little or no benefit from running a number of disk defragmenters on a heavily used SSD.

Conventional logic dictates that you should never defrag an SSD, because the SSD controller writes data in a scattershot-fashion to multiple NAND chips and locations, using algorithms that only the controller understands. The operating system sees it as a hard drive with sectors, but the data is spread all over the drive by the controller. Defragging these “sectors” is like trying to assemble a jigsaw puzzle blindfolded: You can feel parts of the pattern, but you can’t see the whole picture. In addition, NAND is good for only a few thousand write cycles, so defragging can reduce the SSD’s lifespan by unnecessarily writing data to it.

Despite those arguments, at least four defragging utilities purport to increase SSD performance through optimization: Auslogic’s Disk Defrag Pro, Condusiv’s Diskeeper, Raxco’s PerfectDisk, and SlimCleaner Intelligent Defrag. To understand how these might be of benefit, let’s review a few facts.

Used NAND cells (the parts of flash memory that holds the data) must be erased before they can be written to.

Early SSDs put off erasures, simply marking cells as no longer used when you deleted a file. When fresh cells ran out, having to erase the marked/used cells before rewriting to them slowed performance.

The advent of the TRIM command, which invokes a drive’s built-in garbage collection routines (including erasing unused, previously written cells), solved the problem.

Windows 7 and Windows 8 support the TRIM command.

If you read the documentation used to support most SSD optimization claims, you’ll notice that much of it predates Windows 7 and the TRIM command. Before that, free-space optimization could force an SSD into garbage collection and thereby regain lost performance. But on a modern SSD running with a modern operating system, many of these optimizations are no longer needed.

The issue: When I investigated, no SSD vendor would state unequivocally that the defragging programs would or wouldn’t benefit a modern SSD running on a modern TRIM-supporting operating system. I could find no hard evidence anywhere I looked, so I decided to gather my own....

Read more at: Fragging wonderful: The truth about defragging your SSD | PCWorld


See also: How to Use "Optimize Drives" to Defrag HDD and TRIM SSD in Windows 8 and 8.1
 

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alphanumeric

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#2
This should be an interesting thread to watch. :D
 

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LittleJay

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#3
Thanks Brink. That was an interesting read. Since installing SSDs in both my PC and Laptop, I have followed "conventional wisdom" and never defragged either of them. So far, after two years or so, I haven't noticed any real life performance difference.
 

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phrozen ghost

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#4
the trim feature in windows 8 and 8.1 works well too might i add. the optimization in 8.1 not a defrag but a triming so to speak right click on the drive icon (ssd) and select tools and no defrag listed. use optimize.
 
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labeeman

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#5
[h=2]Defrag your hard drive, but leave the SSD alone[/h] From my limited tests, I’m firmly convinced that the tiny difference that even the best SSD defragger makes is not worth reducing the life span of your SSD. Add another voice to the chorus that’s singing “Don’t defrag your SSD.” If you’re truly convinced there are performance problems with your SSD due to file or cell fragmentation, get a utility that will issue a TRIM command. Or copy your data off, do a secure erase (using hdparm or Parted Magic), and copy it back again.
Yep save your money and your SSD.
 

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alphanumeric

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#6
There was a time when this subject would have started a lengthly yes no debate on defragging an SSD. It's nice to see that conventional wisdom has caught up with the times. :thumb:
 

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CountMike

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#7
Since there is no "Fragging" on SSDs I really did not expect that any defragging is needed. I'd rather see a way to force GC on them. In Win8 there is a way to force Trim but that does not do anything that Win has not already done and does not help any. On the other hand Win8 does not fragment HDDs almost at all. With XP I had to optimize HDDs quite often, with Win7, far less, Just other day I decided to defragg My 2 HDDs after a year of heavy use and both were fragmented less than 3%. So I guess, even defraggmenter programs are gone the way of "Scareware" or limited to older systems. It seams that putting extra stress on them (and defraggmenting makes them work extra hard) just does not justify that and yes i have "killed" Autodefrag completely wih no noticeable performance loss. Even much maligned WD "green" HDDs do not have any deterioration whatsoever after almost 2 years of heavy use.
 

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DooRules

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#8
Of course they say they work, they want you to buy it, lol.

There is absolutely no reason to defrag an ssd any time. The built in trim feature for w8 is only really needed for first gen ssd's that did not natively support trim. Any modern ssd has trim and now most oems also have bios's that allow installing R0 arrays with irst roms with trim enabled.
 

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jimbo45

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#9
Hi there
IMO the performance of SSD's - especially the latest crop - is so far superior to spinners that I doubt if anybody would even NOTICE a small drop off in SSD performance even if it DID occur which is unlikely anyway.

I'd just leave well alone -- in any case an image backup and restore will optimise the file chains if you are using a decent backup / restore program.

Even with Spinners I probably only defragged a drive about ONCE in 7 years and I can't say if it improved performance much at all -- the BIGGEST bottleneck on spinners is a SMALL CACHE -- if the CACHE size is decent the disk I/O is overlapped with processing and the Prefetch routines will already have the data in the cache before your application actually needs it so the defrag performance is actually a moot point anyway.

Cheers
jimbo
 

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mikeytg

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#10
The reason fragmentation slows a disk is the fact that the rotation of the disk adds long delays when scattered pieces of a file must be assembled. An SSD does not have these physical delays, so fragmentation should not materially affect performance.

If you still want, you can do an "old school" defrag -

1. backup all files.
2. erase all files.
3. restore all files one by one.
 

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jimbo45

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#11
The reason fragmentation slows a disk is the fact that the rotation of the disk adds long delays when scattered pieces of a file must be assembled. An SSD does not have these physical delays, so fragmentation should not materially affect performance.

If you still want, you can do an "old school" defrag -

1. backup all files.
2. erase all files.
3. restore all files one by one.

Hi there
Quicker

Back image up
Restore -- NOT sector by Sector -- A sector by sector restore will preserve the original disc geometry and won't re-organise the files.

Any decent backup program will do this.


Actually if you read my previous post on Spinners -- If they have a large cache it doesn't matter too much if the computer has to pick up fragments from different parts of a spinner -- this I/O is done while you are working on OTHER tasks and is overlapped with the processing.

Decent I/O algorithms also include a decent "pre-fetch" -- this is based on a history of the sort of tasks you do on your computer so the system "guesses" what pieces of data you will read next - these algorithms are basic to good OS design and work reasonably well - so that by the time you actually want to USE the data it's already available in the cache.

If you are buying Spinners -- this is the SINGLE most important factor in decent performance - especially on laptops where the actual spinning RPM is slower than on desktops or large external USB drives. To save power laptop spinner speeds are often the low 5400 rpm one's so a decent cache is essential.

Cheers
jimbo
 

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Mustang

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#12
I purchased my first Corsair SATA3 SSD in October 2011, and 4 more in March 2012 ... two for flagship and ditto for backup machine. I discussed this defrag issue extensively with Corsair Tech support. They informed me by email that their SSDs were designed to write/rewrite 20GB per day for up to 20 years. The guarantee was only for 3 years.

They went on to say that with Trim enabled, combined with the inbuilt garbage collection in Corsair SSDs, that there was no need for any third party defragging apps.

Even so for the purposes of hands on tests in July 2012 I purchased Condusiv Diskeeper 12, defragger for SSDs. It seemed to work for awhile but then data started to become corrupt or missing. Condusiv issued an update a few months later stating that they had received feedback similar to the issues I was having and stated that the defrag level had been too severe. Despite the update I still kept getting the same issues.

At that point I stopped using Condusiv and have had no problems ever since. I have used all 5 SSDs continuously and frequently and they are all still running fine, with no noticeable difference in speed.

Since the last 4 were purchased over a year and a half ago, there have been releases of later versions that are faster then my originals, but mine are so fast I haven't bothered to upgrade. Combine them with plenty of RAM, top end graphics cards, CPU and Mobos, and you won't look back.

In every new machine I've built for other persons, installing SSD is standard issue.

If anyone wants the latest info on endurance for SSDs this is a thread from a forum with 220 pages and 5,547 posts on the topic: SSD Write Endurance
 

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Mystere

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#13
Since there is no "Fragging" on SSDs I really did not expect that any defragging is needed. I'd rather see a way to force GC on them. In Win8 there is a way to force Trim but that does not do anything that Win has not already done and does not help any.
TRIM does do something. TRIM is a command that initiates garbage collection of the drive, which will clean up sectors marked as deleted, but that the SSD has not yet "freed". So TRIM is precisely what you're looking for. TRIM is enabled by default in Windows 8, and runs once a week. It's part of the Windows Defrag tool, which does not defrag SSD's but instead it says "Optimize". This is basically just running TRIM.

On the other hand Win8 does not fragment HDDs almost at all.
Yes, It does. But Windows 8 runs a defrag job automatically once a week by default. You can turn this off of course, and you will see that your drives will start becoming fragmented. Although I agree that Win8 does fragment less than XP did.

Regarding SSD's, defragging is not generally needed. The vast majority of benefit from defragging is moving sectors closer together so they benefit from being read in the same order that the disk spins, without having to move the head around much. This is completely irrelevant with SSD's.

However, Defragging does do a few things that are not specifically related to sector location. For instance, most advanced defraggers (ie, not what comes with the OS) can optimize the MFT, and shrink it if needed. It can also defragment unused space to reduce the size of directory trees. This helps to reduce the amount of work the computer has to do to sort the directory entries and find things.

However, having said that, given the speed of SSD's in general, and the speed of CPU's in modern computers, and the amount of excess memory most of us have.. these benefits are probably so miniscule you won't even notice them on fast computers. On slow computers, with minimal memory, you *might* notice a small amount of benefit, but again, it's probably not worth it. It would be more cost effective to just add more memory to your computer.

Despite the fact I *technically* say you can still get some benefit from defragging an SSD, I do not recommend doing so. And if you do, I'd only do it once a year at most.
 

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Mustang

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#14
Hi Mystere. Am I reading you correctly that turning on the Optimize function in Win8 will only run the Trim function, and NOT do a conventional defrag? And if correct, how often would you recommend running it?

When I run the command: fsutil behavior query DisableDeleteNotify

It shows as: DisableDeleteNotify = 0

Which means it's already enabled. Is this separate to running Optimze on a schedule?
 

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Brink

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#15
Hi Mystere. Am I reading you correctly that turning on the Optimize function in Win8 will only run the Trim function, and NOT do a conventional defrag? And if correct, how often would you recommend running it?
.
Windows 8 will automatically only defrag HDD's and TRIM SSD's. No worries. :)

http://www.eightforums.com/tutorials/8615-optimize-drives-defrag-hdd-trim-ssd-windows-8-a.html

http://www.eightforums.com/tutorials/8616-optimize-drives-schedule-change-windows-8-a.html
 

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Mustang

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#16
Thanks Brink! :D
 

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HerrKaLeun

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#17
Why is this still being discussed and reported on? When SSD became maisntream a few years ago everyone was in consneus that SSD don't need (and even suffer from) defragging. Everyone knew that W7+ have trim support built in taking care of maintenance (+what the SSD manufacturer builds in and provides with its own software)..and that was several years ago.

what is the next news story, that the world is not flat?

As for spinners: I'm someone who used Defraggler and other tools under XP because I was convinced that the XP drefragmentation wasn't as good (not sure if there actual is a difference). But starting with W7, I only use the OS defragmentation (default once per week).

We are now one year into W8 and still discuss this topic and claim it to be news?
 

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lehnerus2000

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#18
Interesting

It was interesting that one of the programs did apparently improve the performance of his SSD.
I can't see how that could happen though. :confused:

As for HDDs, my OS partition [DEL]only[/DEL] usually exhibits 2% - 3% after a couple of weeks of use (in W7).
I did expect this, since I didn't create a separate partition for my Programs (unlike my previous installs over the last 12 years).
AV updates seem to be the main offender.

I defragged it last night and it was at 11%, after only ~ 1 week of use (since my previous defrag). :shock:

I'm supposed to be receiving a "surplus" SSD in the next couple of weeks, so defragging my OS partition will be "a thing of the past".
 
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Coram Daes

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#19
Why is this still being discussed and reported on? When SSD became maisntream a few years ago everyone was in consneus that SSD don't need (and even suffer from) defragging.
Because SSD are not mainstream yet. To me, SSD is still a new technology, emerging in usage as prices for the drives goes down. There is still too much of a price difference for server drives and desktop drives with higher storage volumes in order to start yelling about mainstream.

Sure, lower capacity SSD drives 128GB and 256GB are rapidly decreasing in price, but for 0,5 TB drives and above you are still sweating it at around and above 4 times the price compared to a SATA HDD.

A 500GB HDD will cost you about $60 at Amazon

A 500GB SSD will cost you about $300 or above...

1TB SSD above $500

That is not comparable prices.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

All in all, what this thread is basically about, is optimizing storage. Now, defragmentation as such is a way to optimize storage that may not be relevant for SSD drives, however, other technologies, like TRIM mentioned above, is. And we will see this coming. As OLD tech becomes obsolete (defrag), we will see NEW tech rise to claim it can optimize storage. This is in no way a bad thing. I bet lots of people are thinking about whether SSD drives can have their storage logic enhanced. This will eventually lead to commercial products with that as focus. Now, if that is a mere theoretical gain in milliseconds or not, remains to be seen.
 
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jimbo45

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#20
Why is this still being discussed and reported on? When SSD became maisntream a few years ago everyone was in consneus that SSD don't need (and even suffer from) defragging.
Because SSD are not mainstream yet. To me, SSD is still a new technology, emerging in usage as prices for the drives goes down. There is still too much of a price difference for server drives and desktop drives with higher storage volumes in order to start yelling about mainstream.

Sure, lower capacity SSD drives 128GB and 256GB are rapidly decreasing in price, but for 0,5 TB drives and above you are still sweating it at around and above 4 times the price compared to a SATA HDD.

A 500GB HDD will cost you about $60 at Amazon

A 500GB SSD will cost you about $300 or above...

1TB SSD above $500

That is not comparable prices.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

All in all, what this thread is basically about, is optimizing storage. Now, defragmentation as such is a way to optimize storage that may not be relevant for SSD drives, however, other technologies, like TRIM mentioned above, is. And we will see this coming. As OLD tech becomes obsolete (defrag), we will see NEW tech rise to claim it can optimize storage. This is in no way a bad thing. I bet lots of people are thinking about whether SSD drives can have their storage logic enhanced. This will eventually lead to commercial products with that as focus. Now, if that is a mere theoretical gain in milliseconds or not, remains to be seen.
Hi there.

In actual practice with cheap RAM available there's a lot to be said for actually having the MAIN OS bootable in ROM (or "Flashable ROM" when you install products / applications) and merely have things like Disks (whether SSD's or Spinners) just to hold Non persistent data such as scratch files, work areas, paging areas.

People are already getting used to "Custom Roms" when they mess around with their phones etc -- .

It would be a while before this type of technology becomes mainstream but it would mean that Disk storage would only be used for User data (Music etc), Backup / Archive / scratch / temporary OS files like paging -- None of these would need ANY SORT of optimisation that the user would actually benefit from -- paging etc is re-created as required anyway and things like Music don't change much and are essentially READ ONLY and don't need super fast access in the first place.

Cheers
jimbo
 

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