16 December 2010


Last year, after commuting for more than ten years I got tired of reading on the train. I wanted to make better use of the time and got myself one of these small sub-notebooks. I chose an ASUS Eee PC S101. Although it's not very powerful it is able to handle small Eclipse projects. It's a slick device and I love it.

The Problem with SSDs
It contains a ridiculously small SSD hard drive, an "ASUS-JM S41 SSD". Recently after the drive was full for the first time, disc performance degraded catastrophic. Whenever the disc was accessed the computer would freeze one or two seconds. The whole device got totally unusable. I was already fearing the worst.

Backing Up MusumeTRIM to the Rescue?
When searching the web I learned that all SSD share the same problem of free space management which is fixed by the TRIM command. TRIM is a standard command defined by the (S)ATA specification. Unfortunately Windows 7 is the first version to make use of TRIM and there are no plans to port it back to earlier versions. (I also found references to WIPE but I don't know if it's a command some drives implement or just another name for the process of trimming.)

Vendor Tools
Some SSD vendors have noticed the need for SSD TRIM and provide tools of their own. Some vendors provide firmware upgrades like OCZ. Others offer special tools. For example there is a tool called wiper.exe provided for the G.SKILL Falcon drives and maybe some other drives by G.SKILL. Unfortunately wiper crashes when run on the Eee PC. Intel offers its own Intel SSD Toolbox but the TRIM option is not available when run on the Eee PC. These two were the only tools supporting TRIM that I could find. Bad luck here too.

I could not believe it. I didn't own the first SSD on this planet. How was I going to fix it? Format the SSD and install the OS all over? Not if I could help it. Probably I had not searched the web long enough...

Trim CastleFrom 0x00 to 0xFF
One entry in a forum suggested that Piriform CCleaner's Secure Wipe trims the disc. Well it doesn't but it seems that some SSDs reclaim a block when it's filled with some data and that's what Secure Wipe is doing. It overwrites all empty blocks. Someone has written a little program to do exactly that: "AS FreeSpaceCleaner with FF" (aka "AS Cleaner 0.5") is meant to work around not having TRIM and is like a generic wiper that works on any drive. It creates a big file and uses it to write zeros in all empty blocks. It has one option, to use 0xFF instead of 0x00 to fill these blocks. Some forum entries suggested that people have successfully used the 0xFF option to trim their SSDs.

Finally Whole Again
The short story is that I managed to restore performance of the SSD in my Eee PC using FreeSpaceCleaner.exe. The long story is as follows:
  • First I did a BIOS upgrade. Disc access might benefit from a newer BIOS. I'm not sure if it's part of the solution but now that it's done it's done.

  • Then I reduced disc writes as much as possible. I turned off the index service, removed the swap file and disabled the recording of the last file access. This is not related to restoring SSD performance, but it's supposed to keep it performing a bit longer.

  • After that I uninstalled all programs which I didn't need and used CCleaner to remove all temporary crap. I think it's vital to have as much free space as possible so the SSD doesn't run out of "clean" blocks too soon. Some forum entries suggested that it's beneficial to have at least 50% of the disc free.

  • In the end I used FreeSpaceCleaner with the FF option to wipe the SSD and it worked! At least it did something as SSD performance definitely improved after using it but I doubt it was able to do a full TRIM on the disc because I have to use it quite often.
So thanks to FreeSpaceCleaner the problem was solved. (Download FreeSpaceCleaner with FF)


Rob Wijnhoven said...

Super! Thanks a LOT! I have been searching a long time to find this solution. Works like a charm for me.
The FF writing did the trick!

Luca said...

This is soooo great! I have an Asus EEEPC 901go with the jm s41 SSD... The netbook become unusable due to the insanely slow writes and I was thinking about throwing it away...then I tried FreeSpaceCleaner with FF...WOW, IT'S FAST EXACTLY LIKE IT WAS WHEN IT WAS NEW!!!
I can't thank you enough, you're great!!!
Luca from Italy

PS = If you have some strange windows errors trying to load FreeSpaceCleaner, please install .net framework via windows update (version > 2)

bcarr1122 said...

Hello! I'm encountering the same problem on my EEE 1000, except I run Linux. (I believe it's kernel 2.6.35.)

I've tried searching for a program equivalent to FreeSpaceCleaner, but I've had no luck. Do you have any suggestions?


Peter Kofler said...

sorry I have no experience with Linux and SSD. But for Linux I suspect that you might find an updated driver that supports TRIM command. Besides that maybe you find something interesting in the Solid State Drives wiki.