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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  • EasterEEL - Monday, October 26, 2009 - link

    Once the Intel firmware is updated to v1.4 with trim support does Windows 7 start using trim? i.e I have already installed Windows 7 before dong the firmware update.

    Does ghosting an image back to the SSD have any impact on trim??
    Reply
  • magreen - Monday, October 26, 2009 - link

    That Kingston for $85 is looking tempting for sprucing up a circa-2004 laptop of mine that I use daily. But the laptop is ide. I know of others in the same boat.
    Have you heard of anyone producing an inexpensive quality ssd for ide? The Kingston seems like the perfect candidate since it's anyways not as fast as the regular Intels.
    Reply
  • Zoomer - Monday, October 26, 2009 - link

    Make sure that the drive interfaces match. If it's from 2004, it might still be PATA. I'd imagine this is SATA only.

    That said, it'll be interesting to see if soldering more flash chips on = upgrade in space. Shouldn't be too hard to find the flash chips (2 * Kingstons < Intel), but I'll need to find a good soldering jock.
    Reply
  • magreen - Thursday, October 29, 2009 - link

    Ummmm... maybe I wasn't making myself clear.
    I wasn't referring to upgrading the drive's capacity.
    I was referring to Kingston producing a PATA drive that would work with my PATA laptop. I know PATA doesn't work with SATA. (I loosely referred to PATA as IDE, which people often do...)
    thanx
    Reply
  • IMFTbestFab - Monday, October 26, 2009 - link

    You can't upgrade capacity like this. The drive has a maximum LBA associated with it, presumably set at the factory. Reply
  • Eeqmcsq - Monday, October 26, 2009 - link

    Another great SSD article, Anand. Found a problem: Page 3, "Wipe When You Can’t TRIM", when you said "I went into a deep explanation of the relationship between free space and the performance of some SSDs here.", it sounds like there should be a link to a previously written article, but there is no link. Reply
  • ekbond - Monday, October 26, 2009 - link

    Any thoughts on TRIM support in OS X?

    The download page for Intel's SSD utility specifies that it's OS independent, while the user guide says Windows is required.

    Apart from formatting the drive, are there any other ways to restore performance (via TRIM or otherwise) currently available to OS X users?
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, October 26, 2009 - link

    OS X doesn't have TRIM support yet unfortunately. I'm trying to get Apple to at least acknowledge that they will be supporting the feature but haven't had any luck yet. I haven't tried some of the erase options in Disk Utility to see if they do the equivalent of a secure erase. I'll try barking up that tree shortly.

    Take care,
    Anand
    Reply
  • chizow - Monday, October 26, 2009 - link

    Newegg will just gouge the crap out of prices regardless. $100-130 will be more like $150-180. Remember when you said Intel would be dropping SSD prices with the G2 to $230 and $450 for the 80g and 160g respectively?

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductList.aspx?Sub...">http://www.newegg.com/Product/ProductLi...scriptio...

    They were sub $250 for about 12 hours total since Newegg got them in stock 2 months ago after the initial "recall".

    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, October 27, 2009 - link

    I picked up my 80GB G2 a couple weeks ago from Newegg for $239 shipped, for the retail boxed one; the deal also included a Icy Dock 2.5" to 3.5" adapter and a ThermalTake Element S case for $30 with a $30 MIR. Reply

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