What programs should I put on a solid state drive?


So my client’s kid got a new PC for his birthday. The next day I got a call from him asking ‘What programs should I put on a solid state drive?’

This is THE perfect guide to a perfect SSD management.

Do you need all of your programs on the SSD? Or only the games and other specific programs? Do you know how to sort them out? Here are some tips to make the management easier!

Let’s start from the beginning.

What are SSDs?

They can work in two modes. The first one is called SRT (or “TRIM Supported”) while the second one is called AHCI (or “Non-TRIM Supported”). Each one has its own characteristics. For example, if you choose SRT mode then Windows will trim free space automatically for you, but that means no other OS than Windows will be able to use it. And if you choose AHCI mode, everything will work normally, but you will have to do the trimming manually. If your SSD is compatible with both modes and you want to use the best one for your HDD, then choose AHCI mode.

Also, you need to note what SATA port you used for the SSD to get maximum performance.


But what about compatibility? You need to know that Windows XP or Linux distros don’t support TRIM for this moment. So if you plan to upgrade your PC from an old operating system or from a distro without TRIM support, don’t forget that it can decrease performance in case of SRT mode up to 20%. In addition, if an update becomes available later, Windows XP won’t be able to use it because it’s not supported by its kernel. To sum up: What programs should i put on a solid state drive? The answer is: All of them.

A couple of years ago, SSDs could only offer a fraction of their today’s performance due to controllers that were unable to access all available flash memory cells simultaneously (a technique called paging). The read speed was capped at 128kB chunks and every write operation slowed down the drive significantly. Modern controllers have overcome these difficulties and can write an entire page in one go. This means that there is no real need to perform “read-modify-write” operations when updating an entry in the file system tables – Windows could simply overwrite it in place provided that fragmentation is not a problem for the particular file system used.

If you want to reclaim your SSD’s performance, you should remove any unnecessary files and defragment your drive. The performance of SSDs drops exponentially as the number of write accesses increases. The more files you have on your drive, the more fragmentation will occur – every new file written to a heavily fragmented table causes even more fragmentation thus degrading performance further.

If your SSD is small in size, it’s best plan what programs you should put on a solid state drive.

Web Browser

In case of Google Chrome, the entire user data will be on your SSD as well as cache thanks to its fast startup feature called “prerendering”. This includes your bookmarks and even those from other people. Firefox is doing this since version 17th which is supposed to use less battery life. If you’re using Internet Explorer 8 or 9, then installing a new IE8/IE9 plugin “Pinned Sites” does the job for better speed and usability too.

Programs & Games

Highly-used programs and games should be moved to an SSD as they provide extremely fast read times compared to HDD. This allows for faster loading screens, saving of user’s time and saves wear on the traditional hard drive. Moving these files to an SSD does not reduce performance drastically as they do not need much data transfer like slow I/O files. Using an SSD reduces game load times by up to 200% according to some tests.

You’d probably want to install all your games on an SSD. Games are known to be the biggest consumer of disk access so they are among the first to go on an SSD. Also, since most games have a high start up time, it’d be good to have them on your SSD for faster load times.

The next thing you might want to put on your SSD is anything that loads fast or has a preset number of files or folders like Google Earth which has all its data compressed into one file, Microsoft Office (.docx), Adobe Photoshop (.psd).

Media Libraries

Of course are the stuffs related to your photo and video editing tools. Adobe Lightroom 3 supports caching all image metadata onto an external drive but still works without it too. If you use Vegas Pro 11, then similar with Adobe Premiere Elements 11, you can put your source files and render files on an external drive.

As for general purpose media programs like Windows Media Player and VLC, it’s not very important where you put them as they access the HDD more than the SSD. But if you have a lot of ripped CDs or something else that loads fasts, feel free to stick them there.

System Related Programs

Programs related to system configuration are rather good candidates for your SSD too since they are tiny in size but loaded often. Such program includes Adobe Acrobat Reader DC and also Spotify which has all its caches on its folders .

Anti Virus Related Programs

Virus Scanning and Malware Removal programs don’t require large space to install, However they do take up a lot of space when in use. Slower loading and scanning times will be the impact of all these in addition to system crashes and freezes. For this reason it is recommended that you keep such programs on your SSD instead.

In addition to that, common programs which need high I/O access can be installed here – Dropbox , Skype , Steam client.

You should also update all these applications more frequently than others so they can benefit from multiple optimizations performed by their developers.

SSDs are especially good for graphic design programs such as Photoshop or 3D rendering software such as Cinema 4D because of super-fast responsiveness compared with conventional disks, resulting in less lag during use.

It’s always worth of checking the Windows Task Manager for more programs using high I/O. You can lower down their priority or stop them completely if you don’t need them at the moment. Most of the PC manufacturers are already doing this with included software, which is also one of reasons why new PCs are faster than older ones – they get rid of unnecessary applications running in background all the time.

What’s best left on your hard drive?


Data such as documents and other slow I/O files can be left on the traditional HDD. Document files such as .docx and .xlsx files do not need super fast access times as they are mostly opened once and left open for a long time.


Big files

Files which take up a lot of space such as movies and video editing files can be left on a hard drive as they do not need to be accessed all the time.

Temporary Files

Temporary files are used as working space for your system, and can be found in Temp folders (e.g., C:\Users\<USER>\)

Unnecessary Downloads

Some file downloads such as Windows updates, service packs and device drivers should not be applied to the SSD. These files change frequently and they will take up storage space on your drive if you don’t uninstall them after they’ve been applied. Uninstalling them ensures that old versions of these files won’t interfere with new installations and deletes unnecessary bytes from the drive. If they’re downloaded to an SSD however, Windows has to write tens of gigabytes of redundant data just because Microsoft does not offer an option to download only the changed bits but rather entire updated packages. Most users would never notice the difference, but it matters a lot on drives with limited storage space.

What programs should i put on a solid state drive To answer the question posed in the title: it depends . There is no “one size fits all” solution. If you are just surfing the web, editing text documents or listening to music then most likely there will be no difference between installing your favorite program onto an SSD or onto a traditional hard drive. However, if you edit video or photos then having extra space

One final tip

Don’t go too crazy when choosing your SSD size and think twice before splurging over 1TB model – if may not be worth getting a large one, if you only use your PC for basic tasks such as browsing the internet!

I am a computer engineer holding a bachelor's degree in Computer Science, complemented by a Master's in Business Administration from University of Strathclyde, Scotland. I currently work as a Senior IT Consultant in Melbourne, Australia. With over 15 years of...