Windows 8.1 will add native support for Solid State Hybrid Disks (SSHD) and Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe). SSHD drives come in two forms, self learning where the drive itself manages the caching and driver based, where the host operating system deals with deciding what goes in the cache. The cache is a small amount of fast and expensive NAND memory while the rest of the capacity is made up of traditional, cheap but slower magnetic storage.
OS driven caching is early stage and it’s expected that when the technology matures it will get better and the first drivers are now added to Windows 8.1.
Microsoft seems to have been skeptical about SSHDs. Previously SSHD drives with 12 GB of NAND could only receive a certification for Windows, Microsoft will now also certify drives with 8 GB of NAND. The company previously had concerns regarding user experience, as well as flash lifetime of the drives with less NAND.
However Microsoft writes that their latest tests have shown that SSHDs with 8 GB of NAND function well and Microsoft has decided to support these drives for predetermined period of time.
With Windows 8.1 also comes native support for NVMe. This standard is specifically designed for working with non-volatile memory like NAND, the memory used in SSDs. NVMe reduces latency and provides faster performance, with support for security and end-to-end data protection.
Drives using this technology are expected to become very popular as they bypass the bottleneck called SATA which currently limits the speeds of some SSDs. NVMe drives connect to the PCI Express interface but in a standardized way which doesn’t require specific drivers. We’ve seen PCIe SSDs on the market but they all required development to make them work on each system.
With the NVMe standard it’s possible to use one driver for all SSDs using this standard. This means every manufacturer no longer has to use their resources for developing their own drivers. Windows 8.1 now has this NVMe driver natively built in. This means that all NVMe drives will work on the latest Windows version, to be released on October 18th.
To see the speed difference in booting a Seagate HDD versus a Seagate SSHD then check out our video. Also check out our review on the latest Toshiba hybrid drives. Discuss this topic in our SSD Forum.