Whilst doing some upgrades and maintenance on a workstation recently, one of our team ran a Defrag on the system drive.
Once completed he rebooted the machine to continue with the upgrades, only to find the system would no longer boot. After the usual round of startup repair processes, the machine still wouldn’t boot.
To cut a long story short (too late), what my colleague didn’t know was that the system drive was in fact a Solid State Drive rather than a conventional hard drive. It would seem that the defrag process had inadvertently corrupted some of the operating system files, and obviously to the extent where a repair was not possible. Fortunately a clean install of the OS and applications got the machine back online fairly quickly, but it made us think about our policies on defragging, and what effect it might have in the lifespan of the drive
The default settings for the most recent Windows versions have scheduled defragmentation processes turned on, even if the OS is aware of the SSD being present.
Having recently swapped my own hard drive for an SSD I thought I’d check out the health of it after 12 months of wear, and was surprised to find 2% wear already. I do occasionally have to handle large files which are apparently the bane of SSD longevity, but I wasn’t expecting this amount of wear in such a short time. Although at my current wear rate and assuming I don’t file my disk any more than it is currently I should expect another 7 or 8 years out of the drive.
There is a good deal of debate on the web about SSD lifespan and whether to defrag them or not, but the overriding message does seem to be “don’t defrag”. My colleague’s experience above would seem to concur with that.
SSD’s utilise a disk cleaning process called TRIM, which clears sectors when files are deleted rather than just removing the header information or marking the sector as available. If TRIM is not used then the write performance can be impacted quite significantly as the sector has to be cleared before it can be written to.
The speed of SSD’s and the way they write files pretty much negates the need for defragging, despite some defrag tools claiming to improve performance even on SSD’s. The tools that come with SSD’s usually provide TRIM controls, provide useful information on the status of the drive, and should be installed as a matter of course.