raydabruce

Formatting the SSD to 64k cluster sizes

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@StamatisX: This may be a bit off-topic -- I believe it was you who mentioned somewhere that formatting the SSD to 64k cluster sizes provided a significant performance boost. I'll have a new X25-M soon and wondered if this can be done during the clean-install of Windows 7 or will I need to boot from a USB (I have no ODD) and manually create partition and format parameters? If the latter method is the only one available to me I'm worried about alignment, since it will not be the Win7 install creating the partition.

Any thoughts?

Edited by raydabruce

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@StamatisX: This may be a bit off-topic -- I believe it was you who mentioned somewhere that formatting the SSD to 64k cluster sizes provided a significant performance boost. I'll have a new X25-M soon and wondered if this can be done during the clean-install of Windows 7 or will I need to boot from a USB (I have no ODD) and manually create partition and format parameters? If the latter method is the only one available to me I'm worried about alignment, since it will not be the Win7 install creating the partition.

Any thoughts?

Hello raydabruce, it is better for you to change the cluster size during a clean installation of Windows. I am not on the computer right now so give me some time to find the steps for you. If you want you can create a new thread and I will post the step by step guide there.

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In addition, when starting with a new SSD, and this only works when it's "fresh", I strongly suggest making a single partition, leaving an extra 10% or so unused. You'll see much more life.

Reference this thread for more info -

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Looks like this is that thread now... thanks.

@StamatisX: Yes, I read where Windows 7 will automatically create the alignment properly during install but I haven't figured out how to get it to give me the 64k clusters. I don't know why it defaults to 4k clusters -- perhaps the OS itself creates a lot of tiny files and this is their way of saving space in the partition.

@Brian: I understand that increased space allows a longer lifespan due to extra space for erasure block operations but it was never clear to me if that is to be unallocated (unpartitioned) space or merely unused space on the partition(s). On an 80GB X25-M (G2) I understand that around 6-7.5% of the drive is reserved for this. So I'm assuming it's best to give it a bit more to bring it up to 10%?

Edited by raydabruce

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These are the steps to change the cluster size to 64K

Step 1

imag0142wv.th.jpg

If you have one partition (it's not the default) for windows like me (the other partitions that you see are form the external drive) click drive options (advanced) and delete the partition. If you have two (the default for windows installations), delete first the big partition and then the small 100MB System reserved one.

Step 2

imag0145q.th.jpg

After delete the partitions you will have one big Unallocated Space on Disk 0

Click new and apply

You will have something like this

imag0147e.th.jpg

Step 3

Press Shift - F10 to open the console and type: diskpart

imag0152g.th.jpg

Then type: select disk 0

imag0154x.th.jpg

Then type: select partition 1

imag0155z.th.jpg

Then type: active

imag0156.th.jpg

Then type: select partition 2

imag0157b.th.jpg

Then type: format fs=ntfs quick unit=64k

imag0158m.th.jpg

Then type: exit and again exit

imag0161z.th.jpg

Step 4

Click Refresh and then click on the Disk 0 partition 2 and press next

Step 5

After you finish with windows installation open a command promt as administrator and type: fsutil fsinfo ntfsinfo C:

If it says Bytes per cluster: 65536 then your installation was successful and your cluster size (or else allocation unit size) is 64K instead of 4K.

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@StamatisX: Thanks! I'll report back if it worked okay when I get the drive in a day or two.

I'm already thinking I should have ordered the 160GB, but the Gen3 drives will be out (supposedly) in early 2011 and there is speculation that you might get double the capacity for the same price due to them being 25nm... but some say that the Gen3 drives won't be noticeably faster or offer greater write-longevity.

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@Brian: I understand that increased space allows a longer lifespan due to extra space for erasure block operations but it was never clear to me if that is to be unallocated (unpartitioned) space or merely unused space on the partition(s). On an 80GB X25-M (G2) I understand that around 6-7.5% of the drive is reserved for this. So I'm assuming it's best to give it a bit more to bring it up to 10%?

If you watch the 2-15 minute segment of that IDF session it dives a little deeper, by my recollection is that it needs to be unused, unpartitioned space. It's worth the 10 minutes of your day...could expand the endurance of your drive by 2-3x.

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After using your method for partitioning, formating & adjusting cluster size did your benchmarks show the expected (or better) performance results for your drive? (I'm assuming this method also provides proper alignment just as the default (4k) GUI method would.)

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@Brian: Sorry, I'm not familiar with that (IDF Session) video. Could you please provide a link? I would very much like to watch it.

Thanks.

EDIT: Nevermind, I found it, Here

From that video I gather that excluding (upon initial use) around 12GB (15%) of the 80GB drive from partitioning will triple it's write endurance... from about 15TB (conservative estimate) to 45TB (probably much more). What a deal! [image below from the video] That leaves me around 68GB for OS and programs. I can work with that because all data (large files, anyway) will go onto an external USB 500GB platter drive. (My SSD is going into a laptop.)

Endurance.jpg

Edited by raydabruce

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@StamatisX:

Since your method does not allow for setting partition size via Diskpart, I might do that manually with a Linux LiveCD (PartEdMagic on USB flash drive) and then start the Windows install. I'm sure it can be done with diskpart but I'm not familiar with the commands.

The Linux method will allow me (via a GUI) to set partion size, format to NTFS with designated cluster size and set flags such as boot, active, primary, system, etc. My concern is the 100MB "Sytem Reserved" partition that Windows 7 creates. I have seen Win7 installs where this partition does not exist... so I'm assuming it is not actually required but is just the "Windows way" of doing things.

I have, on past systems, installed Windows 7 to a single, pre-created partition and it did not create that smaller 100MB partition. This whole post is about making sure that a certain percentage of the drive is NOT partitioned but left free for the SSD's "scratchpad" for "read-move-erase-write" operations to extend longevity of the drive. The bigger the unallocated area, the longer the drive will last. This issue is, I believe, unique to Intel SSDs, but I could be wrong about that.

Edited by raydabruce

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@StamatisX:

Since your method does not allow for setting partition size via Diskpart, I might do that manually with a Linux LiveCD (PartEdMagic on USB flash drive) and then start the Windows install. I'm sure it can be done with diskpart but I'm not familiar with the commands.

The Linux method will allow me (via a GUI) to set partion size, format to NTFS with designated cluster size and set flags such as boot, active, primary, system, etc. My concern is the 100MB "Sytem Reserved" partition that Windows 7 creates. I have seen Win7 installs where this partition does not exist... so I'm assuming it is not actually required but is just the "Windows way" of doing things.

I have, on past systems, installed Windows 7 to a single, pre-created partition and it did not create that smaller 100MB partition. This whole post is about making sure that a certain percentage of the drive is NOT partitioned but left free for the SSD's "scratchpad" for "read-move-erase-write" operations to extend longevity of the drive. The bigger the unallocated area, the longer the drive will last. This issue is, I believe, unique to Intel SSDs, but I could be wrong about that.

This method allows you to create as many partitions as you want and set the size of partition according to your preference using the GUI, check step2. You can use linux as well, the same result, different tools. This way is just quicker.

If you plan to use the 64K cluster size for your OS partition you need the 100MB System Reserved partition which is 4K and required by the system, otherwise you won't be able to boot, Windows won't let you proceed with the installation for this reason.

You can get rid of the 100MB partition which won't be necessary if you plan to use the default 4k cluster size. Those Windows installations on the pre created partitions you mentioned must logically have a cluster size of 4K and that's why Windows allowed the installation.

About the unallocated space and the longevity of the SSD, I am not aware if this a unique way to increase the over-provisioning and applies only to the Intel SSDs or in general, but in order for this to work, you need first to secure erase the disk and then create a partition with some unallocated space after it, otherwise you won't have the expected results.

Edited by StamatisX

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About the unallocated space and the longevity of the SSD, I am not aware if this a unique way to increase the over-provisioning and applies only to the Intel SSDs or in general, but in order for this to work, you need first to secure erase the disk and then create a partition with some unallocated space after it, otherwise you won't have the expected results.

According to Intel's website and the IDF video, secure erasing isn't necessary on a brand new drive. Only if the drive has been used. On a new drive on which nothing has been written it is only necessary to, as you said, leave some unallocated space at the "end" of the drive, or, "after" the main Windows partition. I wasn't aware that I could adjust the partition sizes during installation with the Windows GUI. That makes it all a lot simpler and there's no need for the Linux method. The only advantage of the Linux method is the ease of cluster size adjustment via it's GUI -- no command-line (terminal) commands are necessary.

Thanks.

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Thanks for the help and hopefully it will help others with Intel SSDs.

I tested mine with CDM after booting into safe mode (image below).

Could be better, I suppose, but I'm really happy with it's performance. What a difference!

I haven't yet applied any registry tweaks. Just turned off the usual services and features recommended.

CDM3_SafeMode.png

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MrSpadge' date='16 September 2010 - 02:13 PM' timestamp='1284664402' post='264140']

I don't have a Win 7 setup DVD here but I remember being able to choose the cluster size in the GUI when creating new partitions.

MrS

I haven't seen any option like that on the GUI during Windows installation.

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I am glad I found this forum thread, as the subject of 64KB clusters on SSD is not really treated elsewhere.

I know, and agree with, the technicalities: Windows needs a 100MB boot partition with 4KB clusters, only then the system partition can be created with NTFS 64KB clusters.

To my knowledge, only a clean install can get you there.

Data partitions can be easily formatted to NTFS 64KB clusters if the data are saved first and restored thereafter.

Partitioning tools can do that too, but you should save your data anyway.

Now the real question: why go to 64KB clusters?

The inconveniences are known: you waste some space.

A couple of people on other forums claim that there would be no performance improvement.

I run my data partitions with NTFS 64KB clusters, and CrystalDiskMark does show only very minor improvements.

Copying a large folder to a Ramdisk shows however an almost 10% improvement.

Copying a large folder to the same partition shows very variable result, but also around 5%.

The reason why on the next clean install I will go to 64KB clusters for the system partition is that I want to favor loading of large exe's and dll's, as small ones will load fast anyway.

My usage of my laptop does not require sustained high SDD performance.

I want to improve "snappiness" as they said about W7 when comparing it to Vista, that is I want to improve program and data file load times.

Any comments?

Any performance measurements?

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These are the steps to change the cluster size to 64K

Step 1

imag0142wv.th.jpg

If you have one partition (it's not the default) for windows like me (the other partitions that you see are form the external drive) click drive options (advanced) and delete the partition. If you have two (the default for windows installations), delete first the big partition and then the small 100MB System reserved one.

Step 2

imag0145q.th.jpg

After delete the partitions you will have one big Unallocated Space on Disk 0

Click new and apply

You will have something like this

imag0147e.th.jpg

Step 3

Press Shift - F10 to open the console and type: diskpart

imag0152g.th.jpg

Then type: select disk 0

imag0154x.th.jpg

Then type: select partition 1

imag0155z.th.jpg

Then type: active

imag0156.th.jpg

Then type: select partition 2

imag0157b.th.jpg

Then type: format fs=ntfs quick unit=64k

imag0158m.th.jpg

Then type: exit and again exit

imag0161z.th.jpg

Step 4

Click Refresh and then click on the Disk 0 partition 2 and press next

Step 5

After you finish with windows installation open a command promt as administrator and type: fsutil fsinfo ntfsinfo C:

If it says Bytes per cluster: 65536 then your installation was successful and your cluster size (or else allocation unit size) is 64K instead of 4K.

I have verifed this and still does not work. The Windows 7 installation process simply will not allow NTFS partitions to be installed on cluster sizes over 4k. Windows 7 formats over the installation partition again with 4k clusters regardless of the commands used to format the partition to whatever cluster size. Here is an image I captured using CHKDSK to veryify this...

http://img535.imageshack.us/img535/7904/win7clustersize.jpg

Edit: Ok, my apoligies I went through these steps like 90 times. I finally figured out and verified this does work. My problem is I was not clicking REFRESH before clicking next to begin the installation.

Edited by aeval-

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I would love to hear more and especially see some benchmarks / measurements of improvement of doing this.

Fortunately or not 4096 bytes still has a lot of legacy in the software and even new hardware is optimised to deal with that, so I'm sticking to 4k for now.

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Many years ago I used the 64K cluster size as a performance improving workaround on logical drives with >4K effective sector sizes, but since SSDs have a native physical sector/page size of 4K (IIRC) I don't see why there should be any big improvement. There are a few disadvantages to it, and since Win7 (and Win8) already has optimizations for SSDs yet retains 4K default sector sizes, I'd leave it that way. I'd say Microsoft has far more expertise in these things than most of us, I'd leave it up to them to decide the optimal defaults unless you have very specific special requirements.

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