Update 2: Intel has given us an updated timeframe on a fixed version of its TRIM firmware. Intel will release the new firmware by the end of November 2009. More info here.

Update: Some users have had issues with Intel's TRIM firmware bricking their drives, Intel has since pulled the firmware while they figure out what's going on. If you've downloaded it but haven't updated, do so at your own risk. While we haven't had any issues on the three drives we've updated here others have had problems. We'll keep you posted. Intel's official statement is below:

“Yes, we have been contacted by users with issues with the firmware upgrade and are investigating. We take all sightings and issues seriously and are working toward resolution. We have temporarily taken down the firmware link while we investigate.”

Welcome to the anti-climax. After a year of talking about it, Windows 7 and TRIM are here. How does it feel to be a TRIMionaire?

Indilinx, as usual, was first. After a couple of false starts, the two tier 1 Indilinx partners (SuperTalent and OCZ) enabled TRIM on their Barefoot SSDs (OCZ Vertex, SuperTalent UltraDrive). OCZ calls its TRIM firmware 1.40 while SuperTalent calls it 1819. Update:As many of you have correctly pointed out, Crucial also has an 1819 update available for its SSDs. You can get the firmware for your drive from the links here:

  TRIM Firmware Download
Crucial M225 1819
SuperTalent UltraDrive GX 1819
OCZ Vertex /Agility 1.40

 

Intel held off to align with the release of Windows 7. Last week Windows 7 officially went on sale, and today Intel is delivering on its promise: this bootable iso will enable TRIM on X25-M G2 drives.


Only the X25-M G2 gets TRIM, the G1 (right) is left in the dust. The G1 is more resilient than the G2 when it comes to performance degradation over time since it doesn't have TRIM.

Alongside TRIM there’s one more surprise. If you own a 160GB X25-M G2, Intel boosted sequential write speeds from 80MB/s to 100MB/s:

The 80GB drives remain unchanged unfortunately. Intel still won’t tell us why write speeds are so low to begin with.

What TRIM Does

Before we get much further, and without diving into a complete rehash of how SSDs work (which I’ve done here, here and here again), I want to do a quick refresher on TRIM.

SSDs are made up of millions of NAND flash cells. They can be written to in groups called pages (generally 4KB in size) but can only be erased in larger groups called blocks (generally 128 pages or 512KB). These stipulations are partially the source of many SSD performance issues.

The whole ordeal gets more complicated when you realize that an SSD has no way of knowing when a file is deleted. Until an address gets used again, the SSD has to keep track of every last bit of data that’s written to it. The ATA-TRIM instruction tilts the balance in favor of the SSD.

In a supported OS (e.g. Windows 7), whenever you permanently delete a file or format your drive, the addresses that are erased are sent along with the TRIM command to the SSD’s controller. The TRIM instruction tells the SSD that those locations don’t contain valid data and that it no longer has to track them.


Simplified version of how a SSD controller works. TRIM helps the SSD clean blocks and add them to the free block pool

Again, I won’t go into great detail here but TRIM addresses a major part of the performance degradation over time issue that plague all SSDs. A TRIM enabled drive running an OS with TRIM support will stay closer to its peak performance over time.

Testing TRIM
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  • Celeus - Monday, November 9, 2009 - link

    No comment regarding Anand, but the quote of $85 seems to be based on a press release from kingston.

    http://www.kingston.com/press/2009/flash/10c.asp">http://www.kingston.com/press/2009/flash/10c.asp

    Now, I've been trying to find these for that price at Newegg, and can't. The drive now shows up (just the 2.5" one, not the one including the bracket) but for $124.99 before rebate $104.99 AR.

    I bet this is an error they will fix, as $104.99 Before Rebate would make $84.99 AR, which is what Kingston mentions in their press release.

    Rebate looks good for 2 per person, so I plan on buying two for a new Windows 7 box.
    Reply
  • virtualgeek - Saturday, October 31, 2009 - link

    Disclosure, I work for EMC (an enterprise information infrastructure - which includes all sorts of storage arrays).

    Looking at some of the comments, I'm not sure if people understand the impact of the x-25 getting down to the prices they are (both via kingston OEM and the 80/160GB drives).

    Flash will rapidly replace all high-performance disk use cases. There will only be room for very large SATA and SAS disks, and all high performance use cases will be dominated by Flash.

    Some people don't understand that even at TODAY's prices, for some (many) use cases (just not consumer focused ones), they are more economical. For example, the kingston drive, measured in IOPs/dollar is 37x **cheaper** than a 15K SAS drive. That's the acquisition cost. When you think that it would take 37 15K SAS disks, consuming more power, space and cooling - you can immediately imagine the impact this has on the enterprise storage market.

    The rapid price decline we've all seen over the last year (a 40GB MLC drive cost ~$900 at the beginning of the year) means that in the next year or so, we'll have SSD with the $/GB of a large, fast rotating magnetic media disk, but still 100x better random IOps/$

    While perhaps PCM non-volatile storage will eventually replace flash, that will happen well after flash replaces spinning media.

    Great article Anand!

    I did a post on it here...

    http://virtualgeek.typepad.com/virtual_geek/2009/1...">http://virtualgeek.typepad.com/virtual_...ill-chan...
    Reply
  • iwodo - Friday, October 30, 2009 - link

    If V Series stays at $85, then making a Raid with 2 40GB V will be an VERY attractive option.

    So may be do a review on 2 40GB V series with Intel Software Raid? as well as other raid card?
    Reply
  • excalibur3 - Thursday, October 29, 2009 - link

    Thanks for the great article! I am just curious if the Kingston UltraDrives can use the same firmware update as intel and can be considered the same drive or if it is something like with OCZ and Super Talent in that they have separate firmware updates. Would the Kinston be a cheaper alternative to the Intel? Reply
  • Saturn1 - Thursday, October 29, 2009 - link

    Is there a way to get the manual trim to run from the toolbox if you do not have that last firmware update? Reply
  • linster - Thursday, October 29, 2009 - link

    Apparently Intel pulled the iso. Here's what you get after you click on the link,

    "02HA Firmware Upgrade for Windows 7* Systems - Unavailable

    Intel has been contacted by users with issues with the 02HA firmware upgrade on Windows 7* systems and are investigating. We take all sightings and issues seriously and are working toward resolution. We have temporarily taken down the firmware update while we investigate.

    Thank you for your patience."
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, October 29, 2009 - link

    Can you guys do some testing on the Runcore Pro IV 16GB PATA SSD? It supposedly uses the indilinx controller. Reply
  • coconutboy - Thursday, October 29, 2009 - link

    Good article Anand, and I like the new tests you guys came up with. I have a request for a new type of test and I know others in the various hardware forums have these same questions.

    SSDs are too small for many of us to use as the lone drive in our system, and we thus have to combine an SSD as an OS/app drive w/ a traditional hdd for our file storage. Given that this is a reality for many of us eager to jump into SSDs, it'd be great if we could see a test that demonstrates a real-world scenario of users loading DBs/pictures/videos etc from our storage drive while still running our apps/OS from the ssd.

    I know it's probably not something you guys could do regularly because the amount of testing would be a huge burden, but perhaps you fellas could do a one-off article just to highlight the differences? Maybe show a couple different usage scenarios such as:

    ~ a budget/midrange P55 setup w/ OS/apps on a small Indilinx ssd and a single 1TB drive for storage

    ~ an older Core 2/AMD system with the new Kingston offering used for OS/apps and the storage drives being pair of 640GBs in RAID 1.


    I think this kind of article would be very useful to your readers and I know there's lots of us in various forums who are hesitant to jump into a hybrid ssd/hdd setup because we're unsure of exactly how it will affect us.
    Reply
  • coconutboy - Thursday, October 29, 2009 - link

    Still not a lot of info out there showing real-world usage scenarios w/ an ssd as the os/app drive and a regular 7200rpm or two as storage, but perhaps for others interested in this kinda testing something like this will suffice. From the MSI p55-gd65 review-

    http://www.anandtech.com/mb/showdoc.aspx?i=3655&am...">http://www.anandtech.com/mb/showdoc.aspx?i=3655&am...
    Reply
  • krumme - Wednesday, October 28, 2009 - link

    How about this collection:
    http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=34...">http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=34...
    It measures where the speed matters most (sorry can not get link to work)

    Is the world that different today than 2009?

    We need to se results balanced like this

    I do get a feeling that the 2009 test suite is heavely favoring the g2 drives

    It is plain and simple what takes time. Not iops, we need seconds. And seconds where you can feel it; fx. seconds for diferent types of filecopying, handling large files, working while making backup, working while having virus scan.

    The g2 is way overhyped, the samsung way underrated
    Reading the results you can have the impression the velociraptor doesnt work for desktop use
    The need for trim is overhyped and having severe consequenses
    And the results from defective and bad bios updates from indilinx and espec. Intel, was to be seen in advance.

    Are we going to se some new benchmark suite when gfx lrb arives??

    The end results. Ordinary desktop people having hdd for servers and gfx for research.

    It doesnt make sense.

    Some bad thought creap into my mind. Help me. Is the Intel marketing a problem, if you dont behave? :) - or did they just give you the random 4k engineering hammer?

    Anand - we need another ssd article !!! :)

    Take care
    Reply

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