High Performance Windows Settings and Drivers
After setting up our BIOS for maximum performance, we need to do the same in Windows. As I said before, delivering constant full power to your system is the key to high performance. Streamlining your Windows installation is also in order. The first step after installing Windows is to adjust power settings. Windows auto defaults to a balanced power setting, which is fine for your laptop, but it's not what we are looking for on our enthusiast class computers.
The first thing we want to do is to enable the high performance power plan in Windows. This prevents your computer from bouncing in and out of low power states, which is a major drag on performance, especially your SSD's performance. Browse to your control panels' Power Options, and select the High performance power setting from the drop down list.
Then hit "Change plan settings" on your high performance selection, expand the "Turn off hard disk after" tab.
Enter an amount of minutes that are sufficient to keep your hard disk from turning off during a computing session.
Next, we want to let Windows know that we are running a solid state drive. Once Windows knows there is solid state storage on board, Windows will make some internal adjustments such as automatically issuing TRIM commands. Open an administrative command prompt, and type "winsat disk."
Press "enter," and Windows will run an assessment of your disk's performance.
Now Windows recognizes that it is running on solid state storage, as shown here in the "Optimize Drives" console. This console allows you to manually execute TRIM commands on your solid state devices, including Intel IRST based arrays.
Optimizations and Drivers for Single SSDs
Utilizing the correct storage driver has a large impact on how well your SSD performs on your Intel based system. For a single drive, this is an evolving metric; generally, you will get the best performance from the latest IRST (Intel Rapid Storage Technology) driver. Currently, we are using Intel's 12.9 series driver, and it delivers great performance; in fact, it's slightly better than the most current 13 series driver.
For your convenience, you can download the IRST driver we are using at the moment by clicking HERE. After installing IRST driver, there are two settings that we need to disable; the first is Windows buffer flushing.
This is an old setting that was relevant to HDDs, and is no longer relevant to SSDs. Here's why it is not relevant to SSDs: When write caching is enabled, data is cached and held in volatile memory until your slow spinning HDD has time to write it. SSDs are so speedy that data is basically immediately written to non-volatile memory, so there is nothing buffered to flush. Disabling Windows buffer flushing results in a nice bump in performance.
The next thing we want to do is disable Link Power Management in the IRST control panel. Link power management increases I/O latency, resulting in lower performance, which is why we want to disable this feature. Link Power Management is found by clicking the performance tab in IRST control panel.
After disabling, you must restart your system for the change to take effect.
Optimizations and Drivers for Intel RST RAID 0 Arrays
The driver you choose to utilize for your Intel motherboard based array has a huge impact on array performance. For maximum array performance, one driver shines above the rest. Intel's 11.2 IRST driver provides such superior RAID 0 performance in comparison to newer drivers that it's all we use. This driver is compatible with all versions of Windows from XP to Windows 10 technical preview. It will work with P67, Z68, Z77, Z87, Z97, and X99 chipsets.
For your convenience, you can download the IRST 11.2 driver by clicking HERE. It should be noted that .NET Framework 3.5 should be installed prior to installing IRST 11.2. The easiest way to get what you need is to go to "Turn Windows features on or off," and select ".NET Framework 3.5 (includes .NET 2.0 and 3.0)."
Hit "OK," and allow the files to download from Windows update. After .NET 3.5 finishes installing, you will need to restart your computer to apply the changes.
In addition to disabling Windows buffer flushing, the most important setting for maximum performance is to enable write caching in IRST control panel. This is different than Windows write caching. To enable write caching on your array, open up your IRST control panel, and hit the manage tab as shown here:
Click "Advanced," and you will have the option to enable write-back cache.
Note: Optimal stripe size is 64 KB for two and three drive arrays; 32 KB for four to six drive arrays. This is different than the suggested stripe size given by 12 and 13 series drivers.
If you choose to utilize 12 or 13 series drivers for your array, Windows buffer flushing must be disabled before you will have the option to enable the write-back caching policy.
I highly recommend you run RAID 0 for your OS Volume; the performance RAID 0 delivers is really second to none. As with any setup, keeping a current image of your OS volume is a good practice. Personally, I have never once experienced a system failure with a RAID volume; however, there is technically a higher chance of failure when you run RAID 0, but SSDs are so reliable that the likelihood of a failure is very, very low.
The drivers and settings given above are mandatory if you desire maximum performance. There are additional settings that do not have as huge of an impact on system performance, but nevertheless, do contribute to overall system performance and streamlining of your Operating System. Let's take a look at some of them.
So, you turned off your hibernation file, because why would you use one? The thing is, it's still there taking up as much space as you have RAM. To streamline your OS and reclaim that space, open an Administrator command prompt and type "powercfg -h off".
Press "enter," and when you restart, you will have reclaimed all that dead space on your SSD.
If you have 8GB or more of DRAM, you can turn off your paging file. This will allow for faster startup, shut down, and it will reclaim some unused space on your SSD.
As you can see, 5GB of my SSDs space is used for a paging file.
To turn off the paging file, uncheck the automatic management box and select "no paging file," then hit "yes," and "okay."
After a restart, there will be no paging file.
When you take system images, there is no reason to have System Restore enabled. It does not provide much in the way of protection; a system image provides real protection.
This is the actual size of a streamlined Windows install with all drivers installed:
You need a little more? Let's take a look at some advanced power settings in the next section.
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