Intel Releases Updated SSD Toolbox
Intel recently updated it's SSD Toolbox software to version 3.0. The new version has a few under the hood changes; however, the most obvious change is an overhauled interface. If you're not familiar with the Intel SSD Toolbox, it is a small application provided by Intel to manage and diagnose the company's solid state drive lineup. The software includes tools to optimize the SSD using TRIM functionality, estimate drive health, and provide diagnostic scans to verify data integrity. According to the changelog, version 3 builds upon the previous version by adding:
- A new graphical interface
- An integrated help and support system
- Support for additional languages
- The ability to update firmware on supported Intel SSDs (SSDs in IDE mode and older 50nm drives need not apply). Users of older SSDs and those running their solid state drives in IDE mode can update their drive firmware by using this Intel Firmware Update tool.
- Viewing drive health
- Displaying estimated remaining drive life
- Viewing and exporting system information
As mentioned above, the first thing you are likely to notice upon starting the software is the new interface. Intel has kept the blue and white color scheme of the older versions; however, that is where the similarities end. Fortunately, Intel has not downsized the tools and you are able to do the same actions as the previous iterations; they are just easier to access. The interface is now made of two panes split horizontally. On the left are tabs that users click on to navigate to the various tools while the right side of the window is where the action takes place with the selected tool's output being displayed therein.
The new Intel SSD Toolbox's home page
For a full breakdown of the new interface in the SSD Toolbox including screenshots and a video, follow this link to the full story!!
For reference, here is the old version's interface:
The new home page lists all the attached system drives in the upper right corner and displays information about them in the right pane. For Intel SSDs, the information provided will include a (shiny) pie chart detailing the solid state drive's total capacity and available free space. Below that, Intel provides two graphs showing drive health and an estimatation of the drive's remaining lifespan. Non-Intel SSDs will show the capacity chart; however, they do not get the drive health and life charts.
Moving beyond the home page, the tabs along the left of the window provide access to the standard fair of Intel SSD tools including the SSD Optimizer, diagnostic scans, secure erase and firmware update tools, and information on the system in question. The SSD Optimizer uses TRIM functionality to keep the drive in top shape, and Intel recommends running this tool at least once a week.
In addition to optimizing the drive, Intel also provides tools to verify the data integrity and state of the flash with two diagnostic tools, both of which have received their own tabs. They are essentially the same tools as those in the previous iterations, just with a shinier progress bar. Further, once the scan has completed, the program overlays a green check mark (if the drive passes) or exclamation mark on the tabs themselves for an at-a-glance look at status while using the program.
The secure erase and firmware update tools are not aspects that will be used often; however, they are certainly handy to have. The secure erase functionality works like a full format would for a mechanical hard drive, and is a good tool to use to start fresh and/or when preparing to sell or donate the drive to someone else (to ensure your personal information is not recoverable). Further, the firmware updater is used to update the logic inside the SSD controller. Intel will often issue updates for various solid state drives to fix bugs and improve performance, and traditionally a separate update tool was necessary. However, with the new version the firmware updating is baked into the software. Intel currently supports updating the firmware via the SSD Toolbox with the following drives:
- Intel 710 SSD Series
- Intel 320 SSD Series
- Intel 311 SSD Series
- Intel 310 Solid State Drives
- Intel X18-M and X25-M SSD Series (34nm only)
- Intel X25-V Solid State Drive
The Intel 510 series, and 50nm versions of the X18-M, X25-M and X25-E solid state drives will have to use the earlier mentioned Intel Firmware Updater instead of the SSD Toolbox as they are not currently supported.
Last up are the system information tabs located in the lower left of the SSD Toolbox window. These tabs replace the Intel SSD Management Tools option in the older versions of the program. The System Tuner tab displays information on the status of Superfetch/Prefetch, ReadyBoost, DIPM (Device Initiated Power Management), and Defragmenter. The first two options simply report whether or not the caching options have been enabled on the Windows system in question. The DIPM option is a power saving feature where the SATA interface’s power management is controlled by the device such that it is able to power down or sleep based on various algorithms. This option is useful for mobile and battery powered systems while desktop systems will normally fore-go this option in favor of performance. Finally, the defragmenter reports the status of defragmentation applications for any mechanical hard drives. (It likely reports on the status of the Windows Defragmenter service.) The System Information tab on the other hand, displays the computer's specifications including installed hardware and the driver versions for the various hardware installed on the system.
The last new feature that some users might find useful is an integrated help system. Users can click the help icon in the upper right (the question mark), and then click on any of the interface elements or text to get help results on aspects they are unsure of. It works fairly well from the brief informal testing I performed.
All in all, the new SSD Toolbox is a worthy update for the interface improvements and increased support for updating firmware. For a look at the program in action, see the embedded video below. Released today, the new SSD Toolbox weighs in at 48 MB download that is available here.
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