SSD test tools play an important role in monitoring the health and performance of today’s solid state drives.
- Types of SSD Health Check Tools
- Importance of Monitoring SSD Health
- 9 Best Health And Performance Monitoring Tools
- Function of SSD Tools
Solid state drives offer blisteringly fast disk performance compared to conventional hard disk drives (HDDs), especially when they are new. However, over time, as they fill up, the performance of SSDs can decrease dramatically. This is particularly true when the data stored on them reaches about 70% of the total capacity.
Read More: Best & Fastest SSDs of 2021
The good news is that there is plenty that you can do to minimize this performance slowdown, using SSD health monitoring and optimization tools. The most effective software is often the free tools provided by the SSD manufacturers themselves: Samsung, Intel, and Toshiba’s OCZ offer effective tools for their SSD products.
There are also additional SSD tools that can be used with solid state drives from any manufacturer. Here is a list of software tools you can use now.
Not every piece of SSD health check software has all of the following features included. Before you buy, read the software’s description carefully to see if the features you need are included. Be aware that different vendors may have slightly different terminology for these tools.
SSD tools enable users to vary when the SSD controller carries out garbage collection and other parameters. This can have a marked effect on the drive’s performance.Many tools allow users to optimize or tune their SSD for different requirements, so that, for example, they can increase performance while losing some storage capacity, or maximizing storage capacity at the cost of performance and reliability.
SSD Health Tools
During garbage collection, data can be transferred to new areas of the SSD to ensure that the individual NAND cells are all used as evenly as possible. This is called “wear leveling,” and is carried out to prevent some cells being used so frequently that they wear out and become unusable early in the life of the SSD.
SSD health tools can monitor the amount of wear that the NAND cells are experiencing and the amount of error correction that needs to be applied. Health tools monitor the overall health of the SSD and predict when it is nearing the end of its life.
SSD Overprovisioning Tools
Since data stored on an SSD is frequently moved around for wear leveling and garbage collection purposed, the SSD itself is “overprovisioned.” This means that there is actually more storage space available than is advertised by the SSD.This extra space is used as a staging area so that the process of moving data around can be carried out more quickly and efficiently.
The amount of overprovisioning in an SSD is usually set at the factory, but SSD overprovisioning tools allow this to be changed. By reducing the amount of overprovisioning that is set, you increase the storage amount available on the drive but decrease its performance. Conversely, the space taken up by garbage collection and other performance-related features means less storage on the SSD, but it also means improved performance and longer drive life.
SSD Secure Erase Tools
If an SSD contains sensitive information and needs to be disposed of or reused, it is sensible to erase the data on it first.The problem is that many HDD software tools that delete data by overwriting a drive multiple times cannot access all the storage areas on an SSD, such as blocks that have been marked as bad, or overprovisioning and wear-leveling blocks.
SSD secure erase tools provide access to a hardware-based Secure Erase routine during which the SSD’s controller ensures that all the storage, including the areas not normally directly accessible, can be wiped clean.
To understand the need for SSD analysis tools, it’s useful to understand the underlying difference in terms of SSDs vs HDDs. Because HDDs store data on rotating magnetic platters, the speed that they can begin to read or write data depends on:
- how quickly the drive’s read/write head can be moved to the required position
- how quickly the data passes under the read/write head.
This speed, in turn, depends on the rotation speed of the platters.
With an SSD, these variables do not apply. Instead, data is read or written to NAND cells, and access speeds for cells are the same. But SSD read and write speeds are asymmetric: data reads are very rapid, while SSD write speeds are somewhat slower. That’s because SSD storage is made up of individual NAND cells, which can store up to a few bits of data. Groups of cells are organized into pages. Groups of pages are organized into blocks.
The problem is that data cannot be written to a cell unless it is first erased, removing any existing information. And while data can be written one page at a time, it can only be erased in entire blocks at a time. That means that to write a single bit of data to a cell it is necessary to copy all the pages in the block containing that cell to a holding area, erase the entire block, and then write all the pages and the new bit of data back to the erased block.
Finally the holding area needs to be marked as free, as the data it contains is no longer needed. This process is known as garbage collection.
Read More: SSD Lifespan: How Long Will Your SSD Work?
Many data storage professionals have their favorite tools, which they have used over years. To be sure, an SSD health check – a true look at your SSD status – can save major headaches. Below are a list of some of these best top SSD health tools.
This tool works with many Samsung SSDs, including the 980 Pro, 970 Pro, 970 Evo Plus, 870 EVO, and 870 QVO. It offers:
- Firmware update notification and installation
- Performance benchmarking
- Drive health and Total Bytes Written count
- Access to a “rapid mode,” which offers a speed boost through intelligent DRAM caching of data for read acceleration and write optimization
- Overprovisioning control
- Secure erase
This software for Intel SSDs and Intel Optane Memory devices has two interfaces: a GUI for owners and customers to manage their SSD and a Command Line Interface (CLI) for professionals and system administrators to update and configure the drive. Intel Memory and Storage Tool offers:
- Drive health checks
- Estimated drive life remaining
- SMART (Self-Monitoring and Reporting Technology) logs and attributes
- Firmware updates
- Optimizing drive performance with the SSD Optimizer
- Quick or complete diagnostic scans
3. OCZ SSD Utility
This utility works with many OCZ SSDs, although not all features are available for all products. Its features include:
- SSD tuning, with three modes: reliability, performance, or capacity
- Operating system tuner
- Control over device activity LEDs
- Namespace management for NVM Express products
- Health monitoring
- Firmware updating
- Dashboard for viewing drive health, updates, and capacity
This free software tool can be used to monitor and manage Crucial MX-series, BX-series, M550, and M500 SSDs. Crucial Storage Executive has a Momentum Cache feature for increasing SSD speed in drive operations. The software the ability to:
- Update the SSD to the latest firmware
- View current available storage in GB
- Monitor usage
- Monitor the SSD’s operating temperature and overall health
- Reset the drive’s encryption password
- Clear all data stored on the drive
This works with any Kingston Technology SSD and is available for Windows. Kingston SSD Manager offers the ability to:
- Monitor drive health, status, and disk usage
- View drive identification data including model name, serial number, firmware version, and other relevant information
- View and export detailed drive health and status reports
- Update drive firmware
- Secure erase
- Overprovisioning control with Host Protected Area (HPA) (DC400 series only)
These two tools work with SSDs made by the majority of manufacturers. They monitor SSD read and write patterns and analyze error rates and other parameters. They then use this data to predict when the SSD is likely to reach its wear limit and requires replacement. This can be particularly useful if you are installing a used SSD into a machine to ensure that it is not already at the point of failure.
This is a commercial SSD tool with a free version, designed to work with most SSDs. The software promises to:
- Optimize and tweak your Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10 for better performance of your SSD drive.
- Optimize the SSD to increase performance and reduce read and write access though caching.
- Optimize TRIM performance (TRIM is an OS function that tells the SSD which storage blocks are no longer in use and can therefore be erased to improve performance).
The first of these tools is a well-respected benchmarking tool that provides a record of an SSD’s performance under differing conditions. This can be useful for monitoring the SSD’s performance over time. It also helps you decide when to carry out some form of optimization to restore performance to previous levels.
This tool monitors the SSD’s health, notifying when firmware updates are available and providing a prediction of the time left until the drive fails. On the main panel, pictured below, users can glance at their drive’s information in one place as well as check the temperature, speed, errors, and overall health estimate.
SSD utility tools typically offer several basic areas of functionality:
- Performance monitoring and benchmarking so you can see how performance varies over time.
- SSD firmware updating to ensure the SSD controller works as efficiently as possible.
- Drive health monitoring to provide a warning of impending failure.
- Performance tuning or optimization for different usage scenarios.
- Control over the level of overprovisioning offered (see below for an explanation of this).
- A Secure Erase feature, which removes all data from the SSD, so that it can be disposed of safely.
This article was updated April 2021 by Jenna Phipps.