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The ultimate guide to proper SSD management

Chris Hoffman | March 26, 2014
From file management to housecleaning, these tips and tricks will help you get the most out of your supercharged storage.

There's no understating it: Solid-state drives are awesome. If you're still using a mechanical hard drive on your computer, the biggest real speed boost you'll see comes from upgrading to a solid-state drive (SSD). A solid-state drive will speed up everything that requires disk access, from boot times and application launches to in-game load screens. Upgrading to a SSD provides a more noticeable speed boost than a $1000 Nvidia Titan graphics card when doing most things.

But SSDs aren't the perfect replacement for a mechanical hard drive just yet, thanks to their far higher per-gigabyte costs compared to traditional drives and a few unique quirks. Read on for tips and tricks on how to put that rip-roaring SSD speed to best use.

Plan what goes where

Boiled down, an SSD is (usually) a faster-but-smaller drive, while a mechanical hard drive is a larger-but-slower drive. Your SSD should hold your Windows system files, installed programs, and any games you're currently playing.

If you have a mechanical hard drive playing wingman in your PC, it should store your large media files, productivity files, and any files you access infrequently. Hard drives are an ideal location for your MP3 library, Documents folder, and all those video files you've ripped over the years, as they don't really benefit from an SSD's blinding speed.

Move programs and games

You'll probably want most of your programs on the SSD so they'll load lickety-split, although large programs you rarely use are well-suited to a slower mechanical hard drive.

When installing a program, choosing the destination drive for it is easy: Just select an install location on another drive. 

Moving programs after the fact is often more difficult. Some programs can be moved easily — for example, you can just move your entire Steam folder to a new drive and run the Steam.exe file to launch it. However, most programs will display errors if you attempt to drag and drop their folder to a new location. You'll either need to uninstall and reinstall the program to the new location, or use symbolic links.

Symbolic links (or "symlinks") will allow you to move a directory while "tricking" Windows into thinking it's at its original location. This sort of trick allows you to move your installed programs and games without much trouble. Say you have a game installed at C:\Game. You could move the game folder to D:\Game and create a symlink that points from C:\Game to D:\Game. Whenever a shortcut, registry entry, or anything else looks up C:\Game, the system will transparently redirect it to D:\Game. The symlink is just a pointer that says "hey, look over there," so the program won't take up any space on your SSD.

 

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