DISCLAIMER: What I’ve provided here is a result of a lot of experimentation on my part and referencing trusted sources. These are my opinions, and not to be taken as gospel. Others are welcome to have different opinions and to point out flaws in my reasoning.
This post is to sum up advice I give regarding the above topic, as it often comes up. I’m going to break this up into sections and edit it as needed for accuracy.
DO I NEED AN SSD, AND IF SO WHICH ONE?
YES! An SSD is essential for smooth gameplay in Star Citizen. As for which one, recommendations can change monthly depending on price and availability. In general I stick with historically dependable brands (Samsung, Crucial, Intel). For more detailed suggestions, I recommend posting in the #tech-talk channel of the ADI Discord.
DO I NEED AN m.2 SSD, OR IS A SATA DRIVE OK?
Either should be fine, provided they aren’t one of the DRAMless (or cachless) cheapo SSDs. If you have both m.2 and sata SSDs and installing to the m.2 will eat up your remaining freespace, you are better off using the sata drive for the game. See my next post on free drive space.
SSDs AND FREE DRIVE SPACE
Due to the way Solid State Drives work, they suffer significant performance hits when approaching full capacity. https://www.howtogeek.com/165542/why-solid-state-drives-slow-down-as-you-fill-them-up/ . Where this “hit” starts varies between models, but a good rule to stick to is never go beyond 75% full if you can in any way avoid it.
This is especially problematic when a relatively low capacity drive is used as the “C” drive. Due to the way SSDs work smaller SSDs have lower performance and lifespans versus the larger versions in the same model line. Filling to capacity only makes this MUCH worse. However, there are a few things you can move or remove to help mitigate this.
- Add another SSD. Simply put, if you are already pushing the limits of your current drive, you can save a lot of stress and effort by adding another SSD to your PC. If you have no open m.2 slots, a sata SSD is perfectly suitable for installing Star Citizen to. Even a $50-100 SSD can go a long way toward avoiding these issues.
- Move the Page File to another drive. Also referred to as the “swap” file or virtual memory, many people will tell you to disable it or set it to a fixed size. For multiple reasons, this is bad advice. What you need to know is that you only need a Page File on one drive. It could even be a non-SSD and not “significantly” affect performance in most cases. Some even do this intentionally to minimize wear on the SSD as they have a finite lifespan.
This article explains what is going on and where you can go to change these settings. Disabling the Page File on the SSD and enabling on another drive can potentially save 20 or so gigabytes of space taken when Star Citizen is running.
- Disable the Hibernate File. Note this will only save a couple gigabytes normally. This is the mode where your PC saves it state so that even if powered down completely (not just asleep) when it powers up again it restores the desktop as it was prior, with applications open and everything. For a gaming system, this feature is largely unused. If you are sure you want to do this, it can be disabled system-wide by opening a command prompt “as admin” and entering the following: “powercfg -h off”.
- On the system or “C” drive, cleanup previous Windows updates. Note that doing this will prevent you from rolling back to the previous version if a problem arises with the latest update. Files from past Windows 10 updates can easily take up 20-40GB of drive space. In the Windows Search box type “cleanmgr.exe” and run it “as admin”. Look for a checkbox labeled “Previous Windows installation(s)”. Check it and other items you are OK with deleting permanently. Note that “Downloads” will delete ANY files in your Downloads folder. Select “OK” and confirm when prompted.
- Search your drive for junk files (left over temp files, etc). One application I find useful is Space Sniffer, available here SpaceSniffer, find lost disk space the easy way. . It is a good app to visually see what is taking up your drive space. Once downloaded, run it “as admin”, select the drive to scan, and give it time. It will take a while. Assess what it shows and decide from there. Note that there are folders you’ll find that you should never edit or delete manually. Examples are C:\Windows\WinSxS and C:\Windows\Installer. These can build up over time as Windows updates, and the only safe way to deal with them is step 4 above or a clean Windows installation.
- Separate LIVE and PTU on different drives. LIVE and PTU currently can take 85GB of space each. The SC Launcher only allows setting one “library” location for both. However, it is still possible to separate them by using a feature known as Symbolic Links. For details read here https://www.howtogeek.com/howto/16226/complete-guide-to-symbolic-links-symlinks-on-windows-or-linux/
For our purposes, we will assume that Star Citizen is installed to the default location “C:\Program Files\Roberts Space Industries\StarCitizen”, and the target location is “D:\Games\Star Citizen”. With that assumption, we shutdown the launcher and move the PTU folder (if present) in the default location and copy/create it in the target location. From an elevated (i.e. run as admin) command prompt, enter the following command.
mklink /D "C:\Program Files\Roberts Space Industries\StarCitizen\PTU" "D:\Games\Star Citizen\PTU"