SOURCE: Bruce Boyers Marketing Services

December 22, 2008 20:45 ET

Don't Let Fragmentation Rob Your Flash Drive Speed

BURBANK, CA--(Marketwire - December 22, 2008) - Since the inception of computers, developers and users alike have demanded new levels of speed. The first models, big as the floor of a building and filled with vacuum tubes, left hand calculations and even adding machines in the dust. Implementation of transistors meant many times more work could be performed in much less space. The integrated circuit sped things up by numerous more levels and reduced the footprint even more. Now the elimination of material barriers is on the horizon with chips doing away with circuitry altogether and performing functions within magnetic fields.

Storage of data has evolved similarly. Data was originally -- and tentatively -- held in special electronic tubes. Punch cards were also an early contender, and were still in use into the 1970s. Other methods have come along and remained with us, such as magnetic tape and compact disks. The first hard drives were invented and found their way into use in the mid-1950s, and hence have been around in successive generations for over 50 years -- a long time in the computer industry.

As processing speed begins bumping up against material barriers, new solutions for storage have been forced into being. The old reliable mechanical hard drive has struggled hard to even come near the speed of electronic circuitry of memory and CPU, and fortunately is now being replaced with drives of the same composition. Flash drives, otherwise known as solid state drives or SSDs, come much closer to their memory and CPU cousins and hence can provide data at much higher speeds.

At first glance, it would appear that flash drives would not suffer from the disease familiar to hard drive users -- fragmentation. But unfortunately, this is not the case.

Files are saved to SSDs by the same file system -- NTFS -- that saves data to hard drives. Common to all Microsoft Windows operating systems, NTFS is optimized for hard drives but not for SSDs. Because of this, NTFS saves data to flash drives in such a way that free space is rapidly fragmented. Write performance degrades by as much as 80 percent, and begins to manifest within a month or so of normal use.

Flash rives also have a limited number of erase-write cycles, and increasing the occurrence of erases and writes wears out the SSD faster. The fragmentation of free space causes a greater number of erase-write cycles, thereby shortening the life of the drive.

This problem is corrected by employing a solution that optimizes an SSD's free space. Utilizing such a solution, write performance is brought back to a high-speed level and kept there, and once the solution has been in operation a short time, the normal-use write-erase activity becomes substantially reduced. Performance is maximized, and the life of the drive is lengthened.

As we move into the higher-speed future, make sure the fragmentation isn't slowing you down.

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