Proper guide for SSD management

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.

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

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. 

Use the mklink command in a Command Prompt window to create a symbolic link. (Search for cmd.exe in Windows' Run tool to bring up the Command Prompt.) If you want to create a link outside your user folder, you’ll need to open a Command Prompt window as Administrator. To move C:\Example to D:\Example, you’d move the C:\Example folder to D:\Example using Windows Explorer. Next, you’d run the following command: mklink /d C:\Example D:\Example

Arrange Windows system folders

Your main user data folders can be moved easily. To move your Videos folder from your main system drive, an SSD, to a mechanical hard drive, just locate the Videos folder—you’ll find it in your user folder at C:\Users\NAME. Right-click it and select Properties, then open the Location tab and select a new location for it. The Videos folder will still appear at C:\Users\NAME\Videos and be part of your Videos library, but its contents will be stored on the other drive. This also works for your Music, Pictures, Documents, and Downloads folders. 

You can also choose the drive in which Windows itself is installed—you'll want it on your SSD for lightning-fast system performance. If you’re setting the PC up from scratch and installing Windows yourself, click the Custom option in the installer and choose your SSD as the destination.

Keep some space free

SSDs slow down as you fill them up because the drive will have a lot of partially filled blocks, which are slower to write to than empty blocks. It’s tempting to fill up an SSD to the brim, but you should leave some free space on your SSD—plan on using a maximum of 75 percent of the drive’s capacity for the best performance.

With space at a premium, you’ll want to regularly free up space and avoid wasting those precious flash memory cells on junk. For example, NVIDIA’s graphics driver updates leave an unnecessary folder under C:\NVIDIA after you install them. This folder contains the installer files, which you’ll need only for reinstalling or repairing the driver. They take nearly 500MB of space that you could put to better use. 

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