Windows versions since way back when have offered a feature known as Write Caching. What this does, if enabled, is send disk write-requests to computer memory (RAM) instead of directly to the much slower hard disk drive (HDD). This frees up applications from having to wait for the drive to finish its work before moving on to other tasks. This added speed makes the whole experience for the User both more fluid and, of course, apparently much faster.
This is a wonderful idea and it works well, but as with many things in life, when you gain something in one area, you may lose something in another. For reasons explained further along in this post, there might be times when you would like to disable write-caching and this week’s Quick Tips article will show you how.
Caching – To Enable Or Not
RAM is volatile. This means when the power is gone, then everything stored in RAM is gone, too. This is fine when you’re powering down your computer, but how about power outages when there’s a bunch of disk writes waiting in there. Then those “writes” don’t finish and you can end up with a garbled mess on your drive(s). This is the gamble you make when enabling write-caching on your system.
Windows, by default, enables write-caching on internal drives and disables it on external devices such as thumb drives. This makes sense in that thumb drives gain very little benefit from caching (they are generally pretty slow, to begin with) so why take a risk of mucking up their contests. Internal drives, on the other hand, are pretty fast and most of the data will probably be written in short order (“probably” is the key word, here). There is always a risk of data loss during a sudden power outage.
So, the question you have to ask yourself is do you want a safer (and much slower) experience:? Or do you want a more responsive system at the risk of losing some data during those times when electricity is no longer your friend…
Note: My own choice is to leave internal devices cached and external devices uncached.
Changing the caching status of a drive is dead-simple. Here’s how:
- Use the Windows key + X to open the WinX Menu
- Choose Device Manager
That should bring you to a window similar to this one:
Expand the Disk drives list and double-click on the drive whose policies you want to see:
Once the Policies sheet opens, this is where you can decide if you want to enable or disable write-caching. Read and understand the indicated notifications, check or uncheck the appropriate boxes, click OK, then restart your computer for the changes to take effect.
A Word About Solid State Drives (SSD)
There is always a lot of controversy when it comes to enabling an SSD write cache. All you have to think about is that write-caching is a Windows function, not a drive function. The drive doesn’t care how fast the data flows; it either comes, or it doesn’t. Enabling write-caching on an SSD carries the same recommendations and caveats as any other internal disk drive. It is no different in that regard.
As always, if you have any helpful suggestions, comments or questions, please share them with us,