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Will swapping in a new harddrive improve performance on old computer?

Last response: in Storage
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August 11, 2009 3:32:32 PM

I have an old Pentium 4 system (2.0GHz 512MB Geforce4 MX440) that ran very slowly until I swapped in a new harddrive. Now it boots up even more quickly than one of my newer computers (AMD Athlon 64 3800 processor).

Is replacing an old computer's HD with a new one the best/cheapest solution to improving the performance of the computer?

The current problem I'm faced with is a pair of computers which are running very slowly. My boss would like me to find a cheap solution to making these computers faster so they are efficient enough to use.

Dimension 2100
1.10 GHz
128 MB
integrated graphics

Dimension 8100 (unsure of exact specs)
1.30-2.0 GHz
256 or 512 MB
dedicated video

(IDE & EIDE respectively)

As well as upgrading memory to help run more apps, would replacing the HDs make the systems run faster?
a c 415 G Storage
August 11, 2009 6:29:55 PM

Without knowing the specs for the old and new hard drives, it's a little difficult to say. But it's highly likely that at least some of the performance benefit came simply because the reinstall of the operating system or migration of the data to the new drive resulted in a disk with much less fragmentation.

You might want to try running the defragger on the drive before doing anything else to see if you get enough of a performance boost. Use:

- right-click on "My Computer" -> Manage
- look for Disk Defragementer in the right-hand pane

You can do an "analyze" first to see if defragmentation is recommended.
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August 11, 2009 7:11:48 PM

Thanks for the reply!

I have tried defragmenting with little improvement in performance. The HDs on the computers are

Dimension 8100:

Seagate ST320014A 20GB ATA-100 5400rpm 2MB

Dimension 2100:

Maxtor 4D040H2 40GB ATA-100 7200rpm 8MB

I can see how replacing the HD on the 8100 will definitely be an improvement. Is the Dimension 2100 worth touching? Since it's only a 1.1GHz system, would switching out the HD and installing XP fresh help a great deal?
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a c 415 G Storage
August 12, 2009 4:32:51 AM

Those are pretty old hard drives - a newer hard drive probably would help. Hard drives still take about about a million times longer to access data than even a 1GHz CPU, so an improvement in hard drive speed will still help.

To get the best performance, you should go for the largest hard drive you can afford even if you don't need the space. The reason for this is that a big factor in hard drive speed is having to move the access arm back and forth to get data from different parts of the drive. If you have, say 20GB of data on a 200GB drive then the access arm has to move across 10% of the disk, but if you have the same data on a 1TB (1000GB) drive then the arm only has to move across 2% of the disk. This means that you'll get 5X less arm movement on the larger drive, and therefore 5X less delays due to arm movement.

Rotational delay also plays a big part in access time, so that wouldn't translate into 5X better overall performance by a long shot, but it will help.
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a b G Storage
August 12, 2009 5:25:35 AM

Max out the RAM to whatever the motherboard and BIOS will handle.

New hard drive will help some. So will rebuilding the OS. Strip out everything you do not need.

But why are you spending money on old business systems? You are planning on spending more money than the systems are worth. The loss in productivity alone ...

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August 12, 2009 6:02:59 AM

Performance gain is higher when you upgrade ram over hdd. both upgrades would give your system more headroom but those are really old ones. You might want to advice your boss to do an overall upgrade for long term benefits.
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August 12, 2009 6:31:27 AM

+1 for ram upgrade (specially if those pcs have 128-512mb ram). Then re-install windows as well, will clear out all the crap gathered over the years.
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August 12, 2009 6:57:36 AM

Hey thanks a lot for all your help guys. I will definitely upgrade both memory and HD.

The reason why I am upgrading is that I work in a research lab of sorts, and the boss doesn't really care to buy new computers, just spend maybe like 70$ on each and get it over with. We will get new systems when the university decides to I guess. Thanks again!
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a b G Storage
August 12, 2009 1:05:58 PM

$70 each will just about buy either hard drive or memory.
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August 13, 2009 12:40:26 AM

I suppose the ram might be the old DDR. It is usually pricier than DDR2. Plus IDE hdds are old too. Good luck shopping for those.
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!