With some minor tweaks, both prior to and after you install a new solid state drive (SSD), you can gain performance boosts from your system above and beyond those from just the SSD upgrade itself. Keep in mind these adjustments are optional, and with only a couple of exceptions, the gains are so minor that most users may never see a difference and never bother to make them a priority. If you are unfamiliar with what is being discussed around a given variable feel free to disregard its contents rather than risk incorrectly adjusting a setting and introducing instability in your system. Where possible, links to documentation supporting these changes are included.
Some sections of this will focus on Windows settings and best practices. Equivalents are usually present in non-Windows operating systems, but slight variations in how another operating system (OS) or even different versions of Windows manage these mean check support or documentation from your OS vendor to ensure ideal settings and stability.
This post will also focus on variables around your SSD's physical installation and your BIOS/UEFI. The screenshots featuring examples will most likely differ from your specific system configuration. Always refer to your manufacturer documentation for the most applicable information for your hardware.
High-speed SATA ports and controllers: Familiarize yourself with the speeds of your individual SATA ports for your motherboard or system with the documentation your system or board manufacturer provides. In some cases, they may be running on the same SATA controller, meaning there's no difference in performance. Other times, however, you may find a mix of SATA 3 (6.0Gb/sec) and SATA 2 (3.0Gb/sec) or slower. Ensuring you have your SSD connected through the fastest ports in your system will help you get as close as possible to maximum potential speeds with your SSD.
An ASUS P9X79 Deluxe motherboard, featuring multiple SATA controllers with ports of varying speeds.
BIOS SATA Mode: This is set prior to SSD installation and can be difficult to change after an OS is installed because drivers within your OS will be configured around this setting during installation. We recommend AHCI mode for our drives. This mode offers high performance and easy setup and takes best advantage of an SSD's features. This is usually the default configuration on an OEM-preinstalled OS or factory-new motherboard. IDE mode may be required in legacy hardware or may be the only available option in older systems, but often has reduced performance and can impact TRIM support on an SSD, contributing to a loss of performance above and beyond what is already lost from employing an older standard. RAID modes using multiple SSDs can provide best-in-class performance and/or added protection against data loss, but in many cases block TRIM entirely depending on the RAID controller or motherboard chipset the drives are running under. RAID is also a more involved configuration than a single drive setup, and may not provide noticeable benefits under some types of usage. Some systems also allow this to be set on predefined port ranges, for example one mode for ports 1-4 and another for 5 and 6. Keep this in mind when physically installing your drive onto your system's motherboard, if applicable.
The ASUS M5A97 motherboard allows multiple SATA mode options, as well as setting them separately on select port ranges.
SATA Drivers: Once your OS is running, you'll want to update to your most recent Serial ATA controller drivers from either your system manufacturer's website or the controller manufacturer's website. On older SATA controllers running in AHCI mode in systems running Windows 7 or later, we occasionally see faster performance, better stability, and better TRIM functionality by uninstalling manufacturer drivers and allowing your OS to install generic drivers instead. There's no hard rule on when this is the case, so your own testing and preferences may make a stronger case for manufacturer drivers instead.
SSD Firmware: Crucial SSDs feature user-upgradeable firmware which can provide improvements to drive stability and performance. If not already current on the drive when you receive it, a quick update can improve your SSD or prevent possible future malfunctions. With most Crucial SSDs, this can also be done after installation, as most of our SSD assortment allows for non-destructive updates to firmware which will leave your data untouched.
Cloning and recovery software: If using cloning or manufacturer recovery software, you may need to contact your system manufacturer for details on how to boot from alternate media to run such software for best results from your cloning process. This is usually done by either adjusting a boot order menu within your BIOS or entering a boot manager to select your cloning/recovery media.
Sample boot sequence configuration menu in the ASUS M5A97 UEFI.
Defragmentation moves pieces of files closer together on a disk's physical surface, allowing a hard drive to more efficiently load all the portions of a given file when it needs to do so. We recommend disabling defragmentation on any SSDs present in your system, assuming your OS doesn't by default during installation of the SSD. Due to the lack of moving parts in an SSD, which improves seek times drastically across the physical space of the SSD, performance losses from fragmentation on an SSD are negligible. Meanwhile, the act of defragmentation wears on an SSD heavily, performing an enormous number of small write operations to the SSD, which is the most important factor in an SSD's lifespan. While a single defragment cycle isn't anything to worry about, frequently doing this can cut months or even years from your SSD's lifespan in extreme cases.
Later versions of Windows will acknowledge that you are running an SSD in this screen, and will change defragment options to "Optimize" which will run a TRIM command on an SSD, which is perfectly fine.
Indexing is a process by which your OS maintains a record of your files and their contents, to speed up disk searches and similar operations. Early SSD users saw better read and write performance and drive lifespans disabling indexing services in their OS, both to reduce SSD activity and lower write wear to the drive. Modern SSDs feature better performing controllers, so visible performance gains from disabling indexing have been reduced. Also, with improvements in NAND and SSD lifespans in general, reducing Indexing write wear makes a much smaller difference overall to your drive longevity. Indexing services are also required for many OS file and content search functions to run as intended. We have no official recommendation for this, but a majority of SSD users today do not make any changes to this (which is enabled by default in Windows) and never experience any problems with letting it operate it as opposed to turning it off.
4k alignment, put very simply, is the process by which the data on a drive is aligned to the physical space on a disk to allow the most efficient processing of data. If the data is not aligned properly, the SSD has to access twice as many physical sections of the SSD for any file operations. While this sounds similar to file fragmentation as discussed above, it's on a lower level and impacts SSD performance by cutting your read and write speeds by 20-50% if not properly aligned. On a clean installation of a modern OS (using Windows Vista Service Pack 1 or later, or Snow Leopard on a Mac) this will be done during the installation. Current versions of most cloning software will also do this automatically, but older revisions may not support it or may require manually setting it using features of that software. If not done during installation, you can manually align your drive using 3rd party software, but for the most hassle-free experience install a modern OS on your SSD.
SSDs can react poorly to an abrupt loss of power, which can lead to data corruption or your Crucial SSD's controller locking rendering the SSD inaccessible until reset with an SSD power cycle. Sleep modes, while helpful for some users, can cause such problems when they power down the SSD completely. While firmware improvements and power loss protection built into newer drive models reduce risks associated with this, further steps can be taken to prevent potential issues. Besides disabling sleep in your system (not desirable for some users) changing your operating system's power settings to keep the SSD powered but in an otherwise idle state during sleep will minimize this risk. A less serious malfunction seen from this is your system crashing when resuming from sleep, but the same power management adjustment will eliminate the SSD as a potential source of such crash behavior.
Page file/Virtual Memory
Understanding your page file, how it works, and how best to manage it can both help your performance and maximize space available to you on your SSD. Details of this function, how to manage it, and best practices are here.
Windows System Restore creates restore points allowing you to roll back to an earlier state in the event of a catastrophic system event or an unintended malfunction introduced by system changes. While more convenient and typically faster than manually repairing OS problems or starting from scratch with a full reinstall, restore points in some cases simply revert to an earlier state of a problem (for example a time when a virus leading to data loss was just less noticeable) leaving the user vulnerable to future failures. Also, System Restore uses some space on your drive, typically 3-5% of its total size, which some users prefer to keep available for their own use, leading to them disabling it.
Crucial SSD Support, including firmware and documentation
Cloning using Acronis True Image HD 2015
Cloning the Mac OS using Disk Utility:
Standard notebook SSD installation
Standard desktop SSD installation
Mac SSD install guides
Microsoft guide for changing SATA modes after your OS is installed (Windows Vista/7 only)