Windows tip: Extend the life of SSD and USB flash drives

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In a tip a few weeks ago I suggested that if you have Windows Vista installed on a laptop that has a solid state disk (SSD) drive you should disable Vista's automatically scheduled defragmentation task and just manually defrag your drive once a month. Actually, as reader Tim Jahns pointed out to me, you don't need to defrag SSD drives at all since the speed of data retrieval is the same whether your disk is fragmented or not. On traditional hard drives, the speed of data retrieval is dependent on the mechanical movement of the read/write head, but with SSDs there's no head to move around so seek time is constant.

After researching this issue, it seems that this is the general consensus of the tech community—don't defrag your SSDs. One dissenting voice I've found is Diskeeper however, which suggests in this blog post that it may be better to defrag your drive every few months to reduce the performance hit caused by free space (not file) fragmentation. Diskeeper has also established a technology alliance with NAND Flash hardware leader Apacer Technology to develop a solution called HyperFast that maximizes and maintains the performance of SSDs over time. See here for a brief description of this technology and this white paper for more details. I'd be interested in hearing from any readers who have experience using this technology before and after on their SSD laptops.

Another reader who contacted me was Fred Stluka, who says that another related problem is that  "XCOPY /M burns out USB flash drives. I've used XCOPY /M from the Windows command line for years, as a way to do incremental backups.  However, it is extraordinarily inefficient and was regularly burning out USB flash drives until I made a change." Fred maintains his own Tip Of The Day service for several mailing lists he maintains, and he provides details concerning this particular problem and his solution here on his Web site.

Thanks again to both of these readers and keep that feedback coming everyone!

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