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Looking for advice from those willing to give it...

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March 26, 2012 1:36:03 AM

First off I'd like to say thank you for taking the time to read my post. I found this website about a week ago as it was linked in a game forum I was reading. The forum post was on Ramdisks, SSDs, and speeding up game performance which was a little over my head. So that brings me here to ask ya'll for some advice.

I'm an avid gamer and my computer is used almost exclusively for this purpose. I recently started playing SW:TOR and noticed that the load times are extreme, upwards of 3-5 minutes sometimes. Most of this is poor optimization of the game, I'm sure, but I cant help but think that I could do some upgrading. I have an older Dell XPS running Win7 with 2 GTX450s in SLI which handles almost all my graphical needs just fine. As I said, the computer is older but I have not had a problem playing any of the newer games until now. I understand that SSDs will not help improve graphics and that's fine, Im ok in that regard. My problem lies in load times and over all sluggishness I cant help but feeling when I play SW:TOR and other games.

So, my questions are these; Will purchasing a moderate sized SSD in the $150-$250 range improve my game and application load times? Also, what is the best way to use these SSDs? Load Windows and the games on them, or just load my games on there? I really dont have a problem with windows, I couldn't care less about the 30 seconds to a minute it takes to load on boot up but if loading Win7 on an SSD gives an overall performance boost then Im in.

I'm an above average computer user and have been able to solve every problem that has come my way thus far. Although I cant help but feel a little out of my league on this topic. Im open to any and all advice you are willing to give as Im looking to improve my knowledge on the subject and not just have someone do it for me.

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March 26, 2012 1:48:03 AM

I think you could benefit from using a 120gb SSD for your OS and a few of your favorite games. I does cut down the load times in some games tremendously. But you're computer could be bottlenecked in the CPU and RAM area, give us a list of your computers components please.
a b G Storage
March 26, 2012 1:49:10 AM

While an SSD will definitely improve performance, i wonder also which cpu and motherboard you are running. The OEM motherboards in most Dell products leave a lot to be desired in my experience.

But back to your original question. I run Windows and my most-played games on my SSD, and it works great that way. I've never seen it with the games on the ssd and the os on a mechanical so i really can't vouch for the performance of that setup.
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March 26, 2012 2:11:36 AM

Thanks for the quick replies. Unfortunately though, Im still at work and dont have the exact specs off hand. I too was wondering if I needed to upgrade my mobo and cpu or add some additional ram. Like I said in the OP, I can solve and do-it-myself on most computer related things but Im feeling overwhelmed atm and dont wanted to make some rash decisions.

Off the top of my head, the computer is from 2009 and I believe has 4gb of ram. I opted for the higher end CPU at the time which I think was a intel quad core if Im not mistaken. Could not give you the exacts until I get home in some 2 hours or so. Going to do some research here and see if I can find my model online.

As its tax season I feel its my patriotic duty to spend some of my re-earned tax refund money on upgrading my gaming rig. You know, for God and Country and all that...

I'll get that info for you guys and see what you suggest. In the mean time, if I were to get a SSD you think running windows and most data intense games from there would be the way to go? Or could I get by without doing a re-install of windows and just re-install or move my game files over to the SSD?
March 26, 2012 2:20:21 AM

I think it's best to have the OS and favorite games on the SSD and using the hdd for storage. As far as upgrading CPU and mobo Ive tried that before with a dell and they use this system in their cases in which the board is on a removable tray and most regular sized boards do not fit. And they are typically riveted to the tray quick also can put a damper on things. But before we go crazy on a computer overhaul get back to us with your specs.
March 26, 2012 2:49:15 AM

After slogging through the Dell website all this time, I think I found my CPU at least. It appears I have an Intel Core 2 Quad Q9550, Clock Speed 2.83 GHz, Bus Speed 1333 MHz.

The computer Im running is an old Dell XPS 630i with the graphic cards upgraded and better ram but still still just 4gb. Hope that's what ya'll were looking for.
a b G Storage
March 26, 2012 3:00:58 AM

In that case you have a 775 socket motherboard. This should be OK for gaming, but it's several generations old (1366, 1155, 2011 sockets), you might consider looking at upgrades to this when you can afford them. I also know from a few that have come into my shop that the stock psu's in these were not phenominal either.

honestly, if i were you, i'd get the SSD and load windows and your games on it, then look at the cpu/motherboard/psu upgrades. Unless you have a ton of games, the 120gb ssd would be enough for this.
March 26, 2012 3:01:20 AM

I can vouch for upgrading to an SSD, you will see much better load times.

If you have a few games that won't fit on an SSD, I would recommend a RAID 0 setup for games. I currently have win 7 on my SSD and games on 2 samsung 1TB drives and the load times are fantastic. But I'm going to assume you can't raid stuff on a dell machine or it will give alot of hassle trying it.

I would also say there's no point re-installing windows now if you are going to upgrade later this year or early next year? Having the SSD as a games drive for now might be the best option (as a re-install takes alot of time and preparation)
March 26, 2012 3:23:43 AM

These are all great suggestions and are much appreciated!

As Im sitting here doing more online research, Im getting that little twinkle in my eye thinking about going all out and rebuilding from the ground up. I honestly can't say anything bad about my Dell as it has served me very well through the years. Ive given it the needed TLC and upgrades when it asked for it, but I think it might be time to move on. Although I have the urge and willingness to build my own computer, I feel my skills will be tested when it comes to the mobo, cpu and messing with the bios.

@pezonator
I probably will be upgrading soon as it might be time to put him(da Dell) out to pasture. I specifically keep my computer running lean with almost nothing important on them, minus personal settings and so forth.

@Kelthic
If your shop was in the Atlanta area Id throw some business your way for sure. Save me the time for chasing down a decent shop to have to have this work done.

So I guess Ill do some more checking around for a SSD and at the same time start considering a total overhaul. But in the mean time, what technical level does it require to install one of these? Im going to do some checking on my own but still dont want to get in over my head.
March 26, 2012 3:34:27 AM

It will be more difficult if you want to put the OS on it. However, if you are just putting games on it, since it's a Dell case, you may not have room for another drive. Buy some industrial adhesive-backed velcro, stick it to the SSD and a plastic part of the inside of your system, put it in and plug it in, boot Windows, format the drive, put games on it, and boom. Done. If you do end up buying one, shoot me a PM and I can give you a step-by-step walkthrough. :) 
a c 172 G Storage
March 26, 2012 4:24:21 AM

1) No doubt, a SSD for the os and a handful of games will help. Such a SSD can be carried forward when you rebuild. Sequential i/o will be 2-3x faster, and random i/o will be 50x faster.

2) 4gb may not really be 4gb if you are running a 32 bit os. In that case, you can only use about 3.3gb. With a 64 bit os, and 8gb of ram, you will find that your game code stays in ram, available for immediate reuse. If you sleep to S3 state instead of shutting down, restart takes only moments.

3) But... I wonder if part of your problem is with the hard drive itself.
If your pc is that old, it probably has older tech hard drives, perhaps even IDE drives. They are SLOW...
It is possible that the drive needs defragging, and the access arm has to move all over the place to find your code.
It is also possible that your drive is failing, and going through many retry cycles. Your hard drive vendor will have some specific drive utilities that might identify such a problem.
March 26, 2012 11:24:19 AM

Warped_One said:
These are all great suggestions and are much appreciated!

As Im sitting here doing more online research, Im getting that little twinkle in my eye thinking about going all out and rebuilding from the ground up. I honestly can't say anything bad about my Dell as it has served me very well through the years. Ive given it the needed TLC and upgrades when it asked for it, but I think it might be time to move on. Although I have the urge and willingness to build my own computer, I feel my skills will be tested when it comes to the mobo, cpu and messing with the bios.


Its easy, if you can plug in a wire, tighten a clamp, and use a screw driver you can build your own easily. If you get stuck we can help ya out. You know how to do a fresh install of windows right? The only thing you might have to change in BIOS is your boot sequence to your dvd drive for the windows CD and set your hard drive priority to your SSD drive. After that easy as pie.
March 26, 2012 12:48:54 PM

There are also tons of walkthroughs on how to migrate your OS over to a new drive. Google's your friend.
a b G Storage
March 26, 2012 7:09:05 PM

Quote:
@Kelthic
If your shop was in the Atlanta area Id throw some business your way for sure. Save me the time for chasing down a decent shop to have to have this work done.


Sadly, no, i'm not in Georgia.


Your CPU/Motherboard should still have some life on it, especially if you consider a little overclocking. This would be a free performance boost for you. If i remember correctly, your system should have either an nForce 630 or nForce 650 motherboard in it. I also remember doing an overclock on one of these for a customer, and I remember it wasn't the prettiest BIOS to work with, but it also wasn't terrible either. Nvidea motherboards should have profile adjustments avaiable in the Nvidea Control Panel in windows, though i prefer the traditional overclock through BIOS itself. If this is something you are interested in, there are several guides available online that will help you along.
March 26, 2012 8:50:54 PM

kelthic said:
Quote:
@Kelthic
If your shop was in the Atlanta area Id throw some business your way for sure. Save me the time for chasing down a decent shop to have to have this work done.


Sadly, no, i'm not in Georgia.


Your CPU/Motherboard should still have some life on it, especially if you consider a little overclocking. This would be a free performance boost for you. If i remember correctly, your system should have either an nForce 630 or nForce 650 motherboard in it. I also remember doing an overclock on one of these for a customer, and I remember it wasn't the prettiest BIOS to work with, but it also wasn't terrible either. Nvidea motherboards should have profile adjustments avaiable in the Nvidea Control Panel in windows, though i prefer the traditional overclock through BIOS itself. If this is something you are interested in, there are several guides available online that will help you along.


Dell locks the bios don't they?
March 26, 2012 8:58:40 PM

Bones2525 said:
There are also tons of walkthroughs on how to migrate your OS over to a new drive. Google's your friend.


Indeed! When in doubt, Google it out...

Quote:
2) 4gb may not really be 4gb if you are running a 32 bit os. In that case, you can only use about 3.3gb. With a 64 bit os, and 8gb of ram, you will find that your game code stays in ram, available for immediate reuse. If you sleep to S3 state instead of shutting down, restart takes only moments.


You know, this is one of those things I completely overlooked and starting reading up on last night. I figured I bought the 64 bit version when Win7 came out but it would seem I only have the 32 bit. As you can't upgrade to 64 bit, I may just purchase a new copy if you guys think that would give me a solid performance boost. Also, if I was to do this would you suggest purchasing a new set of 8gig of ram in addition to a new SSD?

Once again, some great ideas here. All of them much appreciated.
a b G Storage
March 26, 2012 9:00:29 PM

The XPS 630i and the XPS 720i were not the same as other dell models. these were performance machines that came out prior to Dell purchasing Alienware. Here is a resource on overclocking the 630i. http://www.my630i.com/resources/overclocking.html
March 26, 2012 9:18:02 PM

I am no expert but purchasing an SSD may require an OS reinstall if your current install didn't occur while in AHCI mode? I'm not entirely sure as I've never bought an SSD yet but this is what I hear.

Make sure your motherboard has the appropriate SATA connector and beware that regardless of which type of SATA connector you have you will see a performance improvement however you will see the largest improvement and get the most out of your SSD if the motherboad has the latest and greatest SATA interface which is 6Gbps.
March 26, 2012 9:28:37 PM

Warped_One said:
Indeed! When in doubt, Google it out...

Quote:
2) 4gb may not really be 4gb if you are running a 32 bit os. In that case, you can only use about 3.3gb. With a 64 bit os, and 8gb of ram, you will find that your game code stays in ram, available for immediate reuse. If you sleep to S3 state instead of shutting down, restart takes only moments.


You know, this is one of those things I completely overlooked and starting reading up on last night. I figured I bought the 64 bit version when Win7 came out but it would seem I only have the 32 bit. As you can't upgrade to 64 bit, I may just purchase a new copy if you guys think that would give me a solid performance boost. Also, if I was to do this would you suggest purchasing a new set of 8gig of ram in addition to a new SSD?

Once again, some great ideas here. All of them much appreciated.


About the RAM, if you get 64 bit win7 i would recommend getting 8gb of ram. While some will argue that you'll never use more than 4, I think its a good idea to have 8, especially when you can get some really nice 8gb dual channel kits for under $50, why not? Oh and check into what type of ram your motherboard supports. If you cant find out then turn off the computer and pull a stick out it should have a sticker with all the info on it!
a c 115 G Storage
March 26, 2012 9:29:28 PM

Referring to generic SSD and generic HD and comparing the two can be very misleading. Replacing a 3 year old HD with brand spankin' new SSD is bound to wow ya. However, here's my test measurements on a new 2600k build w/ WS Revolution 8 GB CAS 7 DDR3-1600, twin 560 Ti's at 1020 MHz:

Boot to Windows off Vertex 3 Max IOPS 120 GB SSD - 15.6 seconds
Boot to Windows off Barracuda XT 2 TB HD - 21.2 seconds
Boot to Windows off Momentus 750 GB Hybrid - 16.4 seconds

Wiping the HD and tarting with a new Windows install can bring as much as a 2X speed improvement depending uon how much bloat you have built up over the years.

a c 172 G Storage
March 27, 2012 12:49:00 AM

Warped_One said:
Indeed! When in doubt, Google it out...

Quote:
2) 4gb may not really be 4gb if you are running a 32 bit os. In that case, you can only use about 3.3gb. With a 64 bit os, and 8gb of ram, you will find that your game code stays in ram, available for immediate reuse. If you sleep to S3 state instead of shutting down, restart takes only moments.


You know, this is one of those things I completely overlooked and starting reading up on last night. I figured I bought the 64 bit version when Win7 came out but it would seem I only have the 32 bit. As you can't upgrade to 64 bit, I may just purchase a new copy if you guys think that would give me a solid performance boost. Also, if I was to do this would you suggest purchasing a new set of 8gig of ram in addition to a new SSD?

Once again, some great ideas here. All of them much appreciated.


If you have a retail or upgrade version of windows 7 32 bit, you can use your current activation code to activate a 64 bit version of the same os. You just have to find a 64 bit dvd to do the install with.
!