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Intel X25-M *G1* extremely high Disk Queue Length

jkjkjk Community Member
Currently Being Moderated

I purchased an Intel X25-M (G1) 80GB SSD in October 2009 when I built my computer - so a little over a year ago. Initially it was beautiful, very fast and reliable. Expensive, at $240 from Newegg, but I figured I was paying for quick boot times, snappy OS, fast core applications and web browsing.

 

Unfortunately in the last 3-4 months, performance has been degrading gradually, frmo noticeable, to bad, to outright terrible. It seems to manifest most often as insanely high disk queues in Windows 7 Resource Monitor. When I look in the Disk tab, I see the following, without fail, every time my system does its periodic lock-ups:

 

Example 1

Example 2

 

Both shots are literally from the last few minutes as I was typing this message. Response time column in Resource Monitor skyrockets (sometimes 6,000+), Disk Queue Length soars to over 1.00, CPU usage drops to 0, and the system is unresponsive for 5-30 seconds at a time.

 

It's always the SSD. Usually the responsible processes are related to my browser (Firefox) but thats because it's my most used application.

 

That blue line going up indicates "% Highest Active Time" according to the Resource Monitor. This happens even under light load - I could be loading a webpage or opening a speadsheet or what have you.

 

Here's the pretty sorry-looking specs I get from AS SSD.

 

The performance degradation of the Intel X25-M G1 SSDs seem to be pretty well documented online, although I don't know if Intel has ever acknowledged it.  The most useful article I've come across is this: http://www.pcper.com/article.php?aid=669&type=expert&pid=1

 

I was hoping I maybe just had to update firmware, but Intel's tool says I have the latest (8820) so no hope for a quick fix there. System also tells me I have TRIM on but I don't know if Intel ever updated the G1s to make use of trim.

 

Other information:

Windows 7 64 bit

8GB RAM

Intel Core 2 Duo CPU (E8500 @ 3.16 Ghz)

 

And no, I don't try to defrag this drive, I know better than that. It seems to me like the extensive writes to the firefox profile files and maybe my images folder (which I recently moved off the SSD because of all this) wore the drive out - but in only a year! I still have mechanical HDDs from 5 years ago that run indistinguishably from when they were new.

 

What are my options, besides "wipe with secure erase and reinstall windows", or "buy a G2" - because I'm honestly wary of Intel SSDs now, and maybe SSDs in general. I'm willing to spend money on my PC but dropping $240 ($3/GB!) for less than a year of solid  performance from my storage is not worth it. I could have bumped up to a quad core CPU and picked up a fast mechanical HDD for about the price the SSD cost me.

  • 1. Re: Intel X25-M *G1* extremely high Disk Queue Length
    DuckieHo Community Member
    Currently Being Moderated

    Your issue is exactly what you suspect.... dirty blocks.  Since there are no more clean blocks, the SSD has to do a read-modify-write every single time and this causes disk latency.  As you already know, the G1 does not process the TRIM command even though the OS is sending it.  TRIM was specifically developed to reduce this issue.              

     

     

    Your best solution really is to image, secure erase, and re-image.  Intel does provide the Data Migration Tool free of charge:http://downloadcenter.intel.com/Detail_Desc.aspx?agr=Y&DwnldID=19324

     

    I assume your SSD has been in use for over 2 years without a reformat?  Intel SSDs are known too be very robust against dirty pages and it shows.... that long without TRIM and you only know are seeing any major performance degradation.  If so, the next time you will have to perform this process.... SSDs will be less than $1/GB.          

  • 2. Re: Intel X25-M *G1* extremely high Disk Queue Length
    redux Community Member
    Currently Being Moderated

    If you look at your AS SSD benchmark it states 31K BAD. That means your drives is incorrectly aligned, which is very strange considering you are using Win 7, which should auto align the drive when the OS is installed.

     

    Next up AS SSD is showing your controller as pciide. Not good. What controller are you using? If you have an onboard ICH chipset try using the Intel SATA port and set the bios to AHCI mode.

     

    Bad alignment and IDE mode = poor performance and accelerated degradation. As the drive cannot be restored with TRIM you will need to run a secure erase, however once restored if you use AHCI mode and correctly alight the drive you should find long term performance is improved.   

  • 3. Re: Intel X25-M *G1* extremely high Disk Queue Length
    mistermokkori Community Member
    Currently Being Moderated

    jkjkjk wrote:

     

    The performance degradation of the Intel X25-M G1 SSDs seem to be pretty well documented online, although I don't know if Intel has ever acknowledged it.  The most useful article I've come across is this: http://www.pcper.com/article.php?aid=669&type=expert&pid=1

     

    intel acknowledged it with new firmware.  pcper then retested the drive: http://www.pcper.com/article.php?aid=691

     

    And no, I don't try to defrag this drive, I know better than that. It seems to me like the extensive writes to the firefox profile files and maybe my images folder (which I recently moved off the SSD because of all this) wore the drive out - but in only a year! I still have mechanical HDDs from 5 years ago that run indistinguishably from when they were new.

     

    at this point you will need to secure erase the drive and reinstall the os.  use the ssd for the os and applications, and put large files (like videos and pictures) on a hard drive.

     

    how exactly did you originally install windows 7?  as others have mentioned, the partition alignment is wrong.

  • 4. Re: Intel X25-M *G1* extremely high Disk Queue Length
    mistermokkori Community Member
    Currently Being Moderated

    redux wrote:

     

    If you look at your AS SSD benchmark it states 31K BAD. That means your drives is incorrectly aligned, which is very strange considering you are using Win 7, which should auto align the drive when the OS is installed.

     

    setup only aligns when it creates the partition.  on a blank drive, not a problem, but if a partition already existed (say, from a previous windows xp installation), and he simply formatted it instead of deleting and recreating, then alignment would be off.  or, perhaps he restored a misaligned image.

  • 5. Re: Intel X25-M *G1* extremely high Disk Queue Length
    jkjkjk Community Member
    Currently Being Moderated

    DuckieHo wrote:

     


    Your best solution really is to image, secure erase, and re-image.  Intel does provide the Data Migration Tool free of charge:http://downloadcenter.intel.com/Detail_Desc.aspx?agr=Y&DwnldID=19324        

    Which is what I feared. It seems like a lot of SSD users have just come to accept that having to periodically wipe everything because of drives not working correctly is normal, but to me it's a pretty onerous burden, and not something I have needed to do in the past with other drives. I'l try the migration tool, but that means I also have to spend hours moving around files to free HDD space.

     

    Plus, doesn't reimaging like that just speed up the degradation process, because it thinks you're writing every part of the drive? I thought I'd read a few specific warnings about that. Then again it seems like the only solution anyone has for this besides "throw it out", which I admit feels tempting if I'm expected to erase the drive repeatedly.    

    DuckieHo wrote:

     

    I assume your SSD has been in use for over 2 years without a reformat?

    I noted that I bought it in October 2009... that's only a little over a year, and noticeable degradation began upwards of four months ago and rapidly accelerated. Only getting 11-12 months of decent performance out of a $3/GB drive may sound okay to others, but it's pretty clearly unacceptable to me.

  • 6. Re: Intel X25-M *G1* extremely high Disk Queue Length
    jkjkjk Community Member
    Currently Being Moderated

    mistermokkori wrote:

    intel acknowledged it with new firmware.  pcper then retested the drive: http://www.pcper.com/article.php?aid=691

    But I have the 8820 firmware already, according to Intel's firmware update tool. So unfortunately this fix does not help me.

     

    mistermokkori wrote:

    how exactly did you originally install windows 7?  as others have mentioned, the partition alignment is wrong.

    Regular install on a fresh SSD. No partitions. No messing around. Just a one and done straight install. I have never formatted or imaged the drive before.

  • 7. Re: Intel X25-M *G1* extremely high Disk Queue Length
    redux Community Member
    Currently Being Moderated

    As mistermokkori points out, if you image the drive you not get rid of the alignment issue. I believe it is possible to realign the drive once the OS is installed, but I haven’t done it myself.

     

    What controller are you using? Do you have an ICH chipset?

     

    You also really need to be in AHCI mode.

     

    From an Intel rep post:

     

    “Why enable AHCI mode? The answer isn't simple, but one of the bigger advantages is NCQ, or native command queuing.

     

    NCQ is a technology that allows hard drives to internally optimize the order of the commands they receive in order to increase their performance. In an SSD everything is different. There is no need to optimize the command queue, but the result of enabling NCQ is the same – there is a performance increase. In brief, NCQ in an Intel SSD enables concurrency in the drive so that up to 32 commands can be executed in parallel”.

     

    It sounds like it's going to be a real pain, but if you do a fresh instal in AHCI mode on the ICH controller and have a correctly aligned drive you will have much better performance that will last a lot longer.

  • 8. Re: Intel X25-M *G1* extremely high Disk Queue Length
    redux Community Member
    Currently Being Moderated

    Hi DuckieHo, with the G1 drives if you write a large file would this help to get performance back? If I’m reading the pc perspective article correctly this is what they seem to imply that the new f/w introduced.

     

    “It turns out the 8820 firmware was so aggressive that any fragmentation caused by the smaller combined writes was immediately cleaned up by a subsequent larger write covering that same area”.

     

    Is that what you mean when you say Intel drives have no GC, but good resistance to dirty pages?

  • 9. Re: Intel X25-M *G1* extremely high Disk Queue Length
    mistermokkori Community Member
    Currently Being Moderated

    jkjkjk wrote:

     

     

    Example 1

    Example 2

     

    Both shots are literally from the last few minutes as I was typing this message. Response time column in Resource Monitor skyrockets (sometimes 6,000+), Disk Queue Length soars to over 1.00, CPU usage drops to 0, and the system is unresponsive for 5-30 seconds at a time.

     

    when it happened as you were typing the post, what else were you doing?  did you have anything running in the background?  what size is your firefox cache?  how much free space is on the drive (both before and after you moved your pictures to a spinner)?  what is your usage pattern (what do you typically do on the pc)?

     

    also, what is the total amount of data that has been written to the ssd?  (the intel ssd toolbox or crystaldiskinfo will give you this info).

  • 10. Re: Intel X25-M *G1* extremely high Disk Queue Length
    mistermokkori Community Member
    Currently Being Moderated

    p.s. your disk queue lengths are not high at all.  in fact they're negligible.  look at the y-axis scale on the right, the maximum is 0.5.  this means the ssd is easily able to service all requests.  the blue line is the queue length, the green is data transfer rate.

     

    this is not to say that you don't have a problem, just to point out that you're not reading the graph correctly.

  • 11. Re: Intel X25-M *G1* extremely high Disk Queue Length
    jkjkjk Community Member
    Currently Being Moderated

    mistermokkori wrote:

     

    p.s. your disk queue lengths are not high at all.  in fact they're negligible.  look at the y-axis scale on the right, the maximum is 0.5.  this means the ssd is easily able to service all requests.  the blue line is the queue length, the green is data transfer rate.

     

    this is not to say that you don't have a problem, just to point out that you're not reading the graph correctly.

    Well, I have frequently seen the actual Disk Queue Length column under storage surpass 10.00 and Response Time pass 5,000. And when that blue line hits the top (regardless of the number), everything grinds to a halt until it goes back down. So even if the numbers in the examples weren't good illustrations, it's the exact sort of visual I get on the graph every time it dies on me.

     

    This is all generally doing nothing particularly noteworthy. I'm not editing HD video or rendering massive 3D art in photoshop or anything like that. I browse the iternet, listen to mp3s in winamp, chat on IRC, watch streaming video, etc. In short, nothing that should choke a HDD, let alone an expensive SSD.

     

    More importantly, I think, is that I'm doing all the same things I've done for as long as I have owned the drive, and only in the last ~4 months has it caused issues.

  • 12. Re: Intel X25-M *G1* extremely high Disk Queue Length
    mistermokkori Community Member
    Currently Being Moderated

    jkjkjk wrote:

     

    This is all generally doing nothing particularly noteworthy. I'm not editing HD video or rendering massive 3D art in photoshop or anything like that. I browse the iternet, listen to mp3s in winamp, chat on IRC, watch streaming video, etc. In short, nothing that should choke a HDD, let alone an expensive SSD.

     

    More importantly, I think, is that I'm doing all the same things I've done for as long as I have owned the drive, and only in the last ~4 months has it caused issues.

     

    i agree, the drive should definitely not be acting that way based on your usage pattern.  it takes some serious and intentional hammering to get them to the degraded state you're seeing.  earlier today i tested a g1 that's about two years old and has had over 3 terabytes of data written to it, it scored around 400 in the as-ssd benchmark.

     

    check the system event log for errors relating to the disk.  i would also try swapping out the sata cable.  an iffy cable could produce those exact symptoms you've described - long random freezes even during periods of little disk activity.  i've seen cheap cables that were merely jostled cause problems.  with a conventional hard drive, you'd see these as 'ultradma crc errors' in the smart attributes, but intel ssd's don't keep track of these.  but you may still see errors show up in the system event log.

     

    try running the intel ssd toolbox and see what it says about the drive.  if you have another pc handy, plug the ssd into it as a secondary and see if it performs any better.

  • 13. Re: Intel X25-M *G1* extremely high Disk Queue Length
    jkjkjk Community Member
    Currently Being Moderated

    Regarding free space: I think the lowest it ever got was around 7GB (of the 74.5 visible in Windows), and currently it has 28.7 GB free.

     

    mistermokkori wrote:


    also, what is the total amount of data that has been written to the ssd?  (the intel ssd toolbox or crystaldiskinfo will give you this info).

    Is that Host Writes under Check SMART Attributes? It says 5.55TB. Seemed like a lot at first but I saw one of my mechanical HDDs was reporting over 100PB so...

    redux wrote:

    It sounds like it's going to be a real pain, but if you do a fresh instal in AHCI mode on the ICH controller and have a correctly aligned drive you will have much better performance that will last a lot longer.

    Sigh... I'm just not willing to go through the pain of doing a totally fresh install.

     

    In years of owning many computers and many many parts this is definitely the one piece of computer hardware with the poorest $/value over time ratio. The idea of having to go through convoluted (for me, at least) refreshes like this, which won't even fix the underlying problems, simply because the technology is fundamentally faulty, is really unappealing to me.

     

    Rather than stick witha drive that's basically a high mainenance time bomb, I think I'd rather cut my losses and shell out for a decent 15,000 RPM HDD, or ask around to see if there are more reliable SSD makers out there.

     

    I do thank everyone for their help, as I know it's not forum posters' fault that this is bad technology - it's just incredibly frustrating that something so basically flawed was allowed on the market in the first place. And more importantly, that I lost $240 on it.

     

    Edit: Regarding SSD toolbox, I'd already run the various diagnostics on that and it reported all green.

  • 14. Re: Intel X25-M *G1* extremely high Disk Queue Length
    parsec Community Member
    Currently Being Moderated

    We do understand your frustration with your situation.  The maintenance issues with the G1 SSDs are more than some people care to deal with.  Another issue is the necessary OS tweaks needed to prolong an SSDs life, given that all OSs are not truly designed for use with SSDs.  That is also with, forgive me for saying, less than optimal initial setup, meaning the alignment situation and not using AHCI mode, both of which are very important in getting optimal performance from any SSD.  Not that I am blaming you for the former, but from what we can see from your AS SSD data, that is a problem.  Our resident G1 SSD expert, mistermokkori, uses them and is quite pleased with them, I would heed his advice if I were you.  But it can also be truthfully said that first/early generation SSDs from all manufactures were not simply plug-n-play devices that could be ignored once installed, they were more so an enthusiast product.

     

    I'd like to say that becoming wary of SSDs given your experience is somewhat reasonable, but from the maintenance and long term performance side of things, the Intel G2 SSDs are completely different.  With TRIM support and the extra optimization provided by the Intel Toolbox, the issues of the G1 SSDs are nonexistent.  We all should keep in mind that all current OSs are not optimized for use with SSDs, the Logical Block Address (LBA) of a NTFS file system must be translated into the actual location within an SSD and vice versa, all SSD controllers must do this.  They do this just fine but this operation is still overhead that a true SSD oriented file system would not require SSDs to perform.  I am not aware of any development along these lines, but I imagine that will happen in the future.

     

    The realities and solutions regarding your problems have been presented and it is up to you how you proceed.  If you don't care to use your valuable time to perform the tasks, that is perfectly understandable.  But there is no simple solution beyond what has already been stated here, sorry to say.

     

    Also, regarding the SMART values you've seen for one of your HDD's, at 100PB (100 Peta-Bytes, 1PB = 1000 Tera-Bytes.)  I have also seen that, on HDDs that are six months old with very light usage and a couple barely needed defrag's performed on them.  IMO, those figures are erroneous and frankly rather crazy, they can't be correct.  The 5.55 TB figure on you SSD, if correctly reported to you, shows some fairly heavy usage and is likely a contributing factor to your problem.  Regarding throwing away your G1 SSD, I'm sure there are plenty of people out there that would say, "please throw it in my direction".

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