Got all that? Good. Here's how to restore your SSD to top performance, step by step.
How to restore your SSD to peak performance
First things first: If you have data on the SSD you'd like to retain, back it up. If you're worried only about backing up files, simply drag and drop them onto a flash drive or external hard drive, or use your favorite backup program.
If you have a working operating system that you'd like to keep, however, use an imaging program such as Acronis True Image or R-Drive Image that copies everything. Do not use Windows System Recovery unless you're restoring the data to the same drive. It won't restore to a smaller drive and it sometimes hiccups even with a similar-size drive that has plenty of room.
Next, download the drive utility provided by your SSD vendor, or snag Parted Magic.
Before you get down to brass tacks, disconnect all other drives and boot from a flash drive to perform the erase procedure, to avoid accidentally overwriting the wrong drive. Parted Magic is a great option for this, since it works as a bootable flash drive. If disconnecting your other hard drives is too much hassle, make darn sure you've selected the correct drive to erase throughout this procedure. Secure erase is irrevocable.
Now run the secure-erase function. The exact method varies by program. PCWorld's guide to securely erasing your hard drive explains how to activate secure erase in Parted Magic, which runs on a bootable flash drive. Some SSDs implement the enhanced version of secure erase by default--which also deletes the drive's housekeeping data--but if an enhanced erase option is available, you might want to use it. Definitely use it if you've been doing work for the CIA.
The secure-erase process should take just a few minutes on a modern SSD. (Traditional hard drives can take hours, by comparison.)
Once the process is done, repartition and format the drive if you intend to copy data back to it. Parted Magic handily provides a full partition editor for this purpose, but you can use Windows' own Drive Management utility (Control Panel > System and Security > Administrative Tools > Create and format hard disk partitions) to do the same task. Most commonly, you'll want to use the full capacity of the SSD in a single partition and format it as NTFS.
Once that's done, you're good to go. Dump any data you may have saved back onto the drive and bask in the super-speeds of your good-as-new SSD. Check out PCWorld's guide to prolonging the life of your SSD to keep your drive humming along for years to come.
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