Certain settings in your BIOS can have a dramatic effect on your SSD's performance. Not all BIOS have the same settings, so we will just cover a few of the basics that will be available to most of you that have a modern motherboard.
Typically, the idea is to supply full power to your storage and CPU to achieve the best performance. As a power user/enthusiast, this should be your goal for any scenario. Things like CPU throttling, speed stepping, and reduced power consumption, are for people running their OEM store bought computers.
Those of us that pay the premium for high performance components typically try to squeeze all the performance we can get from our computers. With this in mind, it's absolutely counter intuitive to buy a 3.5GHZ processor, overclock it to 4.5GHZ, and then bump around in Windows at 1.6GHZ most of the time to save 50 cents worth of power per month.
This statement is likely to raise a few eyebrows from a whole host of timid so-called "experts" in the review community; however, this is TweakTown and as the name implies, this is not your grandmother's review site. We believe in extracting the all performance your computer is capable of delivering.
When it comes to storage performance, delivering full power at all times is the only way to fly. High performance storage is all about random performance, but what we typically see is an emphasis on sequential performance. This is very misleading, and would lead you to believe that all SSDs are created equal when, in fact, they are not.
The most important metric to overall system performance is great 4k QD1 performance with incompressible data. The prevailing theory is that there is an 80/20 or a 70/30 read to write ratio. However, when we closely examine what is actually happening, we find that over 50% of the time, small random 4k data is being written to your storage device. What this means is the most important metric you should be looking at is 4k QD1 write performance.
Achieving the best 4k QD1 performance, both read and write, is the avenue to superior overall system performance. SSDs that have superior 4k QD1 incompressible write performance tend to deliver the best all-around system performance.
Settings in your BIOS have a dramatic effect on every SSD's 4k QD1 random write performance. Here is a good example:
This is a Vertex 450 256GB SSD, running on a system with power saving features enabled. Notice the 4k QD1 write performance of 79.54 MB/s. (This image was publicly available, and taken from the internet). Here is an identical Vertex 450 256GB SSD, benched utilizing the settings in this guide:
We are able to achieve a 4k QD1 write speed of 165.25 MB/s with the very same hardware. This is an example of how much of a difference proper settings can make on the same piece of hardware. Settings available in most BIOS are responsible for the majority of the difference you see. There are settings in in Windows, as well as a choice of the proper driver, that also contribute in a lesser fashion to the massive difference in performance illustrated by these examples. We will cover those settings further along in this guide.
Let's examine a few basic BIOS settings that will not only contribute to superior storage performance, but superior overall system performance as well. There are two main settings that affect SSD performance. The first and most important setting we need to disable is CPU C State Support.
Disabling C States provides a dramatic increase in random 4k QD1 performance; increasing 4k QD1 random performance has a dramatic impact on overall system performance. The second most important setting we need to disable is Intel SpeedStep Technology, also known as EIST.
Disabling these two settings allows your CPU to run at full speed, and allows for full power delivery to your SSD. Next on the list is disabling SATA Aggressive Link Power Management.
Disabling keeps your SSD from going in and out of low power states. This is important for consistently high performance at all times.
There is also a setting that, as far as I know, is only found on ASRock motherboards. This setting is accessed by double-clicking on individual SATA ports in the list. I am showing you this because it is a setting that is not easy to find if you do not know it's there. Personally, I use and recommend ASRock motherboards, and if you own one, this becomes a very important setting that has a very significant impact on SSD performance. The Default setting is set at HDD.
Change the setting to Solid-State Drive for maximum performance on your ASRock based system. At the same time, you can enable Hot Plugging, which allows you to plug in SATA drives, and have them immediately detected by your running system, instead of having to restart your system before they are detected.
SATA Mode Selection should be set to AHCI, or RAID mode, prior to installing Windows.
AHCI mode is most commonly utilized, and like most common practices, it is the wrong way of doing things in the enthusiast world. Most people think that RAID mode is only used for multiple drive arrays. RAID mode can be utilized with a single drive, or multiple drives striped into an array. Installing Windows in RAID mode, even with a single drive, gives you all the features and performance of AHCI, but with the flexibility to easily add drives to your OS Volume if you desire higher storage performance and larger capacity.
In addition, you can image back and forth from a single drive to an array without issue. It should be noted that caching software like RAPID or PlexTurbo will not work in RAID mode; it's AHCI only. IMO caching software is completely useless, and nothing more than a mirage anyway, so it is something that I do not use, or advise using. Install in RAID mode for the best performance, and the most flexibility.
The following settings don't have much of a direct impact on SSD performance, but they do allow you to overclock better, and better allocate system resources where they are needed. Some of these settings are particular to current Intel based motherboards, and some are available to all motherboards. Disable Spread Spectrum:
This will allow for better overclocking capabilities, which will result in higher storage performance. Enable High BCLK Mode:
This will allow for better overclocking capabilities, which will result in higher storage performance. Set CPU Load-Line Calibration to the highest performance mode, which is typically Level 1:
This will allow for better overclocking capabilities, which will result in higher storage performance. To save system resources, it is a good idea to disable features that you are not utilizing.
Enabling your System, and SSD's, to deliver every bit of performance available begins with your motherboards BIOS. BIOS settings are only part of the picture, so we also need to compliment these settings by implementing settings in Windows, which we will cover in the next section.
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