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Step 4 : Use The GPT Partition Style

As advanced as the solid state drive is, it is still a storage drive to the operating system. With the exception of a few SSD-specific optimizations, it will be treated like any other drive, which means it can be partitioned and formatted like a hard disk drive. Herein lies the problem - Microsoft is extraordinarily worried about backward compatibility, which means Windows will attempt to offer you the older, outdated option even if there is a newer, better option.

When you first initialize your SSD, Windows will ask you to choose between the MBR (Master Boot Record) and the GPT (GUID Partition Table) standards for partitioning the drive. Needless to say, it defaults to MBR, so that's what most people will choose if they are not careful. To top it off, there's a note that the GPT partition style is not recognized by all previous versions of Windows. This virtually scares all but the techies who know the difference into selecting MBR.

Time to choose GPT over MBR!

As we wrote in our article "Should You Select MBR Or GPT When You Install A New Drive", there are only two reasons why you should ever use the decades-old MBR partitioning style :

  1. you intend to use the drive (now or in the future) in a system that runs Windows XP or older operating systems.
  2. you intend to use it as a boot drive for a 32-bit version of Microsoft Windows.
  3. you intend to use it as a boot drive for a 64-bit version of Microsoft Windows, but your system does not support (or has not enabled) UEFI.

For a clearer picture of what's required to support GPT in various operating systems, please take a look at the table below, or read our article "Should You Select MBR Or GPT When You Install A New Drive".

Operating Systems

Read / Write

Boot Support

64-bit versions of Microsoft Windows

Windows 8
Windows Server 2012
Windows Server 2008 R2
Windows 7
Wndows Server 2008
Windows Vista


with UEFI support

Windows XP Professional x64 Edition
Windows Server 2003



32-bit versions of Microsoft Windows

Windows 8
Windows 7
Windows Server 2008
Windows Vista
Windows Server 2003 SP1



Windows Server 2003
Windows XP



UNIX-based Operating Systems

FreeBSD 7.0 (or better)



Fedora 8 (or better)
Ubuntu 8.04 (or better)



OS X 10.4.0 (or better)



MidnightBSD 0.4 (or better)


with BIOS support

Solaris 10 (or better)



HP-UX 11.20 (or better)



GPT comes with several advantages over MBR, but the most important are its more robust design. It not only uses CRC32 to ensure the integrity of the GPT header and partition tables, it has two redundant partition tables which can "self-heal" if either one gets corrupted. Unless your system or operating system does not support GPT, we highly recommend you select GPT instead of MBR.

Tech Explainer

GPT was developed by Intel to overcome the limitations of MBR, which amongst other things limits the largest partition you can create to just 2 TB. Here is a list of its key benefits :

  • GPT uses 64-bit addresses, which increases the maximum partition size from 2 TB to 9.4 ZB with 512-byte sectors, or 75.2 ZB with 4K sectors (see Advanced Format Technology). A zettabyte (ZB) is a billion terabytes (TB), so GPT is future-proofed for the next 40-50 years.

  • GPT supports unlimited number of partitions, but most operating systems impose a limit of 128 partitions per drive. MBR, on the other hand, supports only 3 primary partitions and 1 extended partition, although the extended partition can be further divided into multiple logical partitions.

  • GPT has two partition tables which allows it to "self-heal" if one of them becomes corrupt. MBR only has a single partition table, so if that table gets corrupted, the entire drive will be rendered unreadable.

  • GPT uses CRC32 (32-bit cyclic redundancy check) to ensure the integrity of the GPT header and partition tables. MBR has no such integrity checks.

So it is very clear - GPT is far superior to MBR, and should be chosen whenever possible.

For more information on GPT vs. MBR, please click here.

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Step 5 : Align Your Partitions Properly

Contest iconProper partition alignment is critical for optimal SSD performance and lifespan. If SSD partitions are not aligned properly, it will result in greatly reduced performance and lifespan.

Operating systems that are SSD-aware will automatically create properly aligned partitions in a solid state drive, so if you are using an SSD-aware operating system to partition and format your SSD, then you are safe.

However, if you are using an older operating system or third-party software that is not SSD-aware, like Windows XP to create and format the partitions in your SSD, then those partitions will be misaligned. Note that they will remain misaligned even if you transfer the SSD to an SSD-aware operating system like Windows 8, or install an SSD-aware operating system on it.

There are two ways to check for partition misalignment in Microsoft Windows :

  1. Download and run AS SSD. This benchmark will show you if your SSD partition was misaligned with a BAD warning, as seen below.

SSD Drive Map
BAD = misaligned partition!

  1. Use Microsoft Windows' built-in System Information utility.

    • Run msinfo32 (either by searching for it, or going to drive:\Windows\System32).

    • Go to Components -> Storage -> Disks and look for Partition Starting Offset for your SSD.

SSD partition starting offset

    • Use a calculator to divide each partition starting offset by 4096. If you get a whole number (no fractions!), then the partition is aligned properly.

If your SSD partitions are misaligned, you will need to redo the partitions. That means backing up your data, deleting the partitions and then creating them using an SSD-aware operating system, before formatting them and restoring your data back. Simply moving them to an SSD-aware system, or installing an SSD-aware operating system into the SSD will not work.

If you need to use your SSD with older operating systems that are not SSD-aware, you can try using third-party utilities like the WD Align utility to align the partitions for optimal performance on those operating systems.

Tech Explainer

Hard disk drives have been using physical 512-byte sectors for decades, so operating systems were built around this "standard". When Windows creates the first partition in the drive, it's usually created with an offset of 63 sectors for the MBR (Master Boot Record). This does not have any alignment issues since the partition and offset were created according to 512-byte sectors.

However, hard disk drives are starting to switch to the new Advanced Format technology, which uses 4 KB (4,096-byte) physical sectors to improve efficiency and increase performance. Solid state drives do not have physical sectors like hard disk drives. Instead, they have pages that are usually 4 KB in size. This new 4 KB sector or page size is exactly the same size as eight of the traditional 512-byte sectors.

When these newer Advanced Format hard disk drives and SSDs are used with older Windowss operating systems that only understand the 512-byte sector, they are often partitioned with the wrong amount of offset - 63 x 512-byte sectors, which is one sector shy of 64 x 512-byte sectors, which would have allowed for perfect alignment with the new 4 KB sector / page :

64 x 512-byte sectors is exactly equivalent to 8 x 4,096-byte sectors

Because of this misalignment of the initial partition's offset, all logical sectors thereafter are therefore misaligned, forcing a read-modify-write cycle for every write operation. This greatly reduces the drive's performance because the drive now has to read the contents of two 4 KB sectors before writing them back. That's twice the work for the same result.

This problem is amplified in SSDs because they don't read and write in 4 KB pages, but in large blocks of multiple pages - usually 512 KB blocks (128 x 4 KB). So partition misalignment could result in the read-modify-write cycle for two 512 KB blocks if the desired data straddles across two blocks. This would result in the read, erasure and writing of 256 pages, greatly reducing the performance and lifespan of the flash memory cells.

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How To Optimize Your Solid State Drive


Step 1 : Enable AHCI / RAID Mode
Step 2 : Update Your SSD Firmware
Step 3 : Upgrade Your Operating System


Step 4 : Use The GPT Partition Style
Step 5 : Align Your Partitions Properly


Step 6 : Let Windows Boot Faster
Step 7 : Verify That Trim Is Enabled


Step 8 : Turn Off Prefetcher & Superfetch
Step 9 : Use A RAM Disk


Step 10 : Turn Off Search Indexing
Step 11 : Move The Search Index Database


Step 12 : Keep Your SSD Clean
Step 13 : Don't Ever Defragment The SSD!
Step 14 : Don't Enable ClearPageFileAtShutdown


Step 15 : Disable NTFS Short Filenames
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