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Best plan for giving an old "family workstation" PC an SSD boost?

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November 13, 2011 10:53:55 PM

I've got an older PC serving as a "family workstation", doing just fine for browsing and homework. But the boot time drives them crazy, and I thought an SSD might be the simplest and cheapest answer, though I've never installed one. 1st problem is the Chaintech 7NIF2 board doesn't have SATA. So I guess I can buy a PCI sata card along with the SSD, or I can swap out the M-board for a retired P4M800 board with a Celeron D CPU and sata that's just about the same speed as the Sempron 2400+ in the current one.

Main thing confusing me is references I've found in articles here to SSD's needing "AHCI support". It appears the P4M800 can be upgraded to AHCI with the VIA V-RAID Software Package V6.10a. What about the cards? Shopping was confusing as AHCI is not always referenced in new cards, is it a pricepoint thing or is it assumed even a new $10 SATA card would have it? If MB vs card is equally good, I'd do the $10 card, as it's more timesaving than swapping the MB's.

Can I just run a image of the boot partition into the SSD, or do I need to do a clean install?

Another answer to fast boot would be a way to suspend or sleep (but not hibernate) that turned off the PSU fan as well as everything else, but I haven't discovered how to do that. Any other ideas for fast booting would be welcome.
November 14, 2011 12:51:19 AM

First off, SSD installs the same as hard drives. Power cable and data cable. That's it. No jumpers or nothing.

The motherboard needs to have SATA socket equal to the specific SSD you install. For example SATA 3.0 (aka. SATA 2) needs SATA 3.0 SSD's like the Intel X25 (Which will be a good reliable one for you to start)

A clean install on just the SSD is best. Your windows 7 (If that is what you are using) WILL slap a 100 meg partition on any other drives it "Sees" You would want to just disconnect all the original hard drives and just clean install onto the SSD.

Don't reconnect the old drive with a existing windows OS on it.

Control Panel - Power options can generate a plan for no hibernate and no sleep. SSD's want to be up all the time when the machine is on. Also disable any sort of Euro Trash Power saving schemes. Your SSD will not be pulling that much power compared to the old hard drives.

Forget the Raid for now. Crawl Walk and run. One X25 SSD to start will do you well. It WILL speed your boot time. Mine spends more time initializing post, two separate controllers than it does actually booting windows.

One SSD will out run two or three raptors in Raid.

I recognize the P4M800 as a old Asus motherboard correct?

Get a basic gigabyte or MSI for 50 to 100 dollars and build a new system in the old box. Forget the ribbon cables, PCI and other obselete technology. Computers are rapidly approaching a event horizon where it literally will just be a brick with everything contained within it.
November 14, 2011 1:44:09 AM

Thanks, x heavy,

Yeah, my recent HTPC build was that integrated brick you refer to, an Asus E35M1-I DELUXE. But this time I'm just looking to goose that old machine to make the family, who have low needs, happy. By the time I buy a new integrated MB/cpu and memory I'll be well over the cost of the SSD and still have a slower boot time.

I've even considered running one of those stripped down versions of W7 floating around or a light Linux. But my impression is neither will boot as fast as an SSD nor give it as much extra perkiness. I guess I always try to get as much as I can out of my equipment so as to skip as many generations as possible when I do upgrade. That P4M800, which by the way is a Mach Speed board with Via chipsets, was my last HTPC, and it held up pretty well from early 2005 to last spring. Good value there.

So, looking closer at the Via update, it looks like the chipset I have doesn't support the AHCI. It also looks like they don't make PCI sata 3.0 cards. Shouldn't a sata 3.0 drive still work with a sata 1 card? That Intel x25 seems pricier than many of the others I've seen. My procrastination cost me a good rebate deal on a Corsair 64g for $70.
November 14, 2011 1:57:21 AM

I had a similar issue to yours with suspend not shutting down the fans and power supply, I had to disable APM in the bios to fix that and leave only ACPI to make suspend work as expected. I then switched the default behavior of my power button to suspend instead of shutdown.

So now I can go from suspend to working state in less than 10 seconds

This is probably the best way to go if you don't want to spend any money on a new SSD, I'm not sure if it applies to your setup or not but it's worth a shot.

a b G Storage
November 14, 2011 2:00:41 AM

Yes, SATA is backwards compatible. You can put a SATA 1 drive on a SATA3 port or vice versa. The drive speed will just be limited to the lowest spec, not a huge issue for a low end SSD since SATA 1 is still decent, but try and find a SATA 2 one at least.

Also AHCI is NOT required for SSDs. They may.perform a little better but its not necessary.

I get what your looking for and a small cheap SSD and SATA card should do fine for you. I'd probably try win 7 on it after the install too just to see
a c 171 G Storage
November 14, 2011 2:09:34 AM

If you can not boot from a sata drive, a ssd is probably impractical, even with a pci-sata card. They may not have boot capability.

Using the P4M800 motherboard might be ok.

AHCI is Advanced Host Controller Interface. The old was IDE. It enabled such functions as hot swap, ordered disk queuing and such. What AHCI does for a SSD is allow the "trim" command to be passed to the ssd. Normally when a data block is deleted, a SSD will have to read and rewrite the nand chip. With the "trim" command, the ssd only needs to note that the area is available. This can have an impact on write speeds, particularly as the drive gets filled and no space is available.

But, a ssd will work very well without trim. Some like the Intel X25-gen1 drives had firmware to compensate.

Still, I think sleep to the S3 state would accomplish what you want. In the OS, you need to disable hibernation. In the bios, you may have to enable s3 sleep. It may be called something else. Even with a SSD, that is what I do. It only takes three seconds or so to sleep or wake.

Another option might be to buy a hybrid drive instead. That is a hard drive with a generous solid state cache. The seagate momentus XT comes to mind. But... they will be sata.

Do not worry about sata 1/2/3. They are forward and backwards compatible. Not much difference in performance either.
November 14, 2011 2:15:32 AM

dalaran said:
I had a similar issue to yours with suspend not shutting down the fans and power supply, I had to disable APM in the bios to fix that and leave only ACPI to make suspend work as expected. I then switched the default behavior of my power button to suspend instead of shutdown.

So now I can go from suspend to working state in less than 10 seconds

This is probably the best way to go if you don't want to spend any money on a new SSD, I'm not sure if it applies to your setup or not but it's worth a shot.



Huh. Maybe I need to pursue the suspend issue more, I've never really learned much about power management since my workstation and HTPC stay on 24/7. (one reason I just built a super low power & quiet HTPC) I wasn't even sure it was possible for the PSU fan to stop short of hibernating. Does it depend on the PSU?

Unksol, thanks, that backward compatibility is kinda what I would expect.
a b G Storage
November 14, 2011 2:18:12 AM

TRIM does work in IDE mode in windows 7. Also you shouldbe able to boot to a drive on an add in card without a problem, but since windows wont have the card drivers present when you do the install you may have to mess with it a little there
a b G Storage
November 14, 2011 2:22:05 AM

Sleep should always shut down everything, all its supposed to power is the memory. If you lose power you lose what's in.memory and.it has to reboot.. It works great in windows 7 for me and I.never had issues in XP either. But I know some people who had issues with drivers and other things so as dalaran said you may need to finagle it a little
a c 171 G Storage
November 14, 2011 2:28:16 AM

The psu is never really off. It still needs to power the ram, and to be able to recognize the power on button. But the drain is really low, and the fan should not spin.
Some of the gold rated efficient psu's do not spin their fans even under normal load.
a b G Storage
November 14, 2011 2:45:37 AM

I think xheavy misunderstood your first post, and thinks you are going to raid several SSDs through a raid card, when all you want is a SATA controller that your SSD would plug into.

While the SSD would not be entirely wasted on your machine, there is a point where your core system should take the priority, and this may be one of those times, and adding the cost of a decent controller card to the cost of an appropriately sized SSD, you would be most of the way to a new mobo, proc, and ram.
Thankfully you do not need a SATA3 control card to run an SSD, a SATA2 will do just fine (you may have issues with a SATA1 card), but be aware that those control cards tend to have a 10-30sec timeout (depends on the card) when booting up, and Windows can get picky about booting off of one, so you may have better luck with a new platform in the end anyways.

64GB isnt a whole lot of space. I put a 60GB in my wife's computer and with just her basic slavo of office, sibalious, chrome, win7, and a few other small programs it is up to 50GB. Thankfully I have it set up so everything saved to 'my documents' automatically goes to a 500GB HDD, so hopefully there wont be a long term space issue. For my own use I was up to 180GB in software (on an HDD, no SSD for me yet) before I reformatted last week for my new build, and that is all software and keeping all save files on other drives.

I would suggest going for a new Pentium Gxxx processor (with HD2000 graphics), or a new AMD APU. Then load up on 4 (1stick)-8GB(2sticks) of ram. The intel will have a better processor, while the AMD will have better integrated graphics, but either would be a good upgrade for you.

AMD APU/mobo itx and 4GB ram (fanless!): $112 (including shipping)
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

AMD APU, and mobo: $136
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Intel CPU and mobo: $135
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

for either of the last 2 builds I would go with:
$20 4GB (single dimm) http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
or
$40 8GB (2 dimms) http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

With any of these 3 builds you will need a cheap PATA to SATA adapter $5 to reuse your current HDD. Then, instead of turning the computer off at night, put it to sleep (not hibernate), and it will turn back on very quickly relieving you of the slow boot times until you can afford to add a more modern HDD, or SSD (the fastest mainstream PATA HDDs only hit a sustained 60-70MB/s, while newer ones like mine will sustain 120mb/s). Modern sleep mode takes nearly no power, we are talking just a few dollars a year to leave it asleep for a whole year, which will be made up for in much lower active power usage as these are much more efficient than the current setup.


Again, you are right, the SSD with a controller card will do the trick, but these options will bring things up to a level where you can better take advantage of an SSD in the future without having to macguiver it into working.
November 14, 2011 1:45:05 PM

Thanks, Caeden for the extensive post. As I said, my last build was similar to your 1st recommendation, and I think you're right, if I need to spend much over $100 I should do a new system. But I'm thinking I've been barking up the wrong tree, and should follow the suspend trail.

I know at this point this isn't a thread about power management, but I might as well ask, does XP not support the PSU fan shutdown? I got it to work on my W7 workstation last night, but not on the topic machine running XP. I found I couldn't install 7 successfully on it because there was no drivers for it's integrated video, nor for the fx5200 card I had. At the time I didn't see that much a downside to staying with XP, but if 7 gives the suspend that I want, maybe my best play might be to pick up a cheap used video card that's supported and then install 7. That way I can kick the real upgrade can down the road a while longer! No doubt my 12 year old son will eventually decide he wants to play PC games heavier than the E35M1-I HTPC will support.
a c 171 G Storage
November 14, 2011 2:01:15 PM

gellfex said:
Thanks, Caeden for the extensive post. As I said, my last build was similar to your 1st recommendation, and I think you're right, if I need to spend much over $100 I should do a new system. But I'm thinking I've been barking up the wrong tree, and should follow the suspend trail.

I know at this point this isn't a thread about power management, but I might as well ask, does XP not support the PSU fan shutdown? I got it to work on my W7 workstation last night, but not on the topic machine running XP. I found I couldn't install 7 successfully on it because there was no drivers for it's integrated video, nor for the fx5200 card I had. At the time I didn't see that much a downside to staying with XP, but if 7 gives the suspend that I want, maybe my best play might be to pick up a cheap used video card that's supported and then install 7. That way I can kick the real upgrade can down the road a while longer! No doubt my 12 year old son will eventually decide he wants to play PC games heavier than the E35M1-I HTPC will support.


If you will be upgrading to W7, look into the w7 family pack. You get a 32 and 64 bit dvd, and a activation key good for three pc's. A4 $135 or so, it is a great deal. Check amazon.

I have seen some combo deals on newegg for a basic sandy/mobo/ram for not much.
November 14, 2011 3:55:18 PM

gellfex said:
...does XP not support the PSU fan shutdown? ...


Yes it does, that's what I'm using, but as I said previously in my case I had to disable APM in the bios since having both APM and ACPI active just didn't work.

After some googling here is a more detailed explanation of why it might be behaving this way that explains the situation a little better than I could:

"There are two types of power management: ACPI and APM. APM utilizes power states
that are somewhat limited, e.g. during standby only the monitor and HD are shut down,
but CPU fans, etc keep running. ACPI, however, utilizes more effective power states,
using either the S3 state (suspend to RAM) or the S4 state (suspend to disk, or "hibernate")."

It seems that for some reason windows XP on your setup (as well as mine) is using APM instead of ACPI, disabling APM in the BIOS seems to fix the issue (for me at least)

Check to see if you can do the same I can't give you any specifics since it pretty much depends on your mothearboard.
But the goal here is to try and force windows to use ACPI instead of APM.


November 14, 2011 4:01:58 PM

Well, that's a wrap! I changed the bios from s1 to s3 and it sleeps like a baby. Thanks all.
!