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Could An SSD Be The Best Upgrade For Your Old PC?

Test System Details

Samsung's PM810 (470 series in retail) is our 2011 reference SSD, in part because it facilitates the balanced performance needed for testing processors, graphics, and motherboards, and also because we were able to get our hands on enough drives to distribute to our offices in France, Germany, Italy, and the U.S. This is the 256 GB flagship equipped with firmware version 0701.

Any discussion about picking the right SSD can quickly become heated. Some folks will tell you to spend as little as possible on a small boot drive, particularly if you're upgrading an older machine. That'd mean going with a 60 or 64 GB drive, and those generally aren't the best performers. Other folks look specifically for the latest features, like SATA 6 Gb/s support. Of course, that's not really a relevant qualification in our comparison, since most older boards lack 6 Gb/s controllers. While we could certainly use any other drive in this one's place, we really wouldn't see much of a difference between various SSDs on older platforms. It's much more significant to measure performance moving from a hard drive to an SSD and simply generalize about solid-state performance, rather than talk about this specific model.

System I (2005)
Motherboard (LGA 775)Gigabyte EP45-UD3P, Rev. 1.0, Chipset: Intel P45 Express, BIOS: F10
ProcessorIntel Pentium 4 660 (90 nm Prescott), 1C/2T, 3.6 GHz, 2 MB L2 Cache, 115 W TDP
Discrete GraphicsNvidia GeForce 6800 GT, GPU: NV45 (350 MHz), Graphics RAM: 256 MB GDDR3 (800 MHz)
RAM2 x 1 GB DDR2-800, Corsair CM2X1024-6400C4
HDDSamsung Spinpoint T133, HD300LJ, 300 GB, 7200 RPM, SATA 3 Gb/s, 8 MB Cache
System II (2006)
Motherboard (LGA 775)Gigabyte EP45-UD3P, Rev. 1.0, Chipset: Intel P45 Express, BIOS: F10
ProcessorIntel Core 2 Duo E6700 (65 nm Conroe), 2C/2T, 2.66 GHz, 4 MB L2 Cache, 65 W TDP
Discrete GraphicsGigabyte GeForce 7900 GTX, GPU: G71 (650 MHz), Graphics RAM: 512 MB GDDR3 (800 MHz)
RAM2 x 1 GB DDR2-800, Corsair CM2X1024-6400C4
HDDSamsung Spinpoint T133, HD400LJ, 400 GB, 7200 RPM, SATA 3 Gb/s, 8 MB Cache
System III (2008)
Motherboard (LGA 775)Gigabyte EP45-UD3P, Rev. 1.0, Chipset: Intel P45 Express, BIOS: F10
ProcessorIntel Core 2 Duo E8600 (45 nm Wolfdale), 2C/2T, 3.33 GHz, 6 MB L2 Cache, 65 W TDP
Discrete GraphicsMSI GeForce N9800GTX-T2D512, GPU: G92 (700 MHz), Graphics RAM: 1024 MB GDDR3 (1100 MHz)
RAM2 x 2 GB DDR2-800, Walton Chaintech Apogee AU2G732-12GH001
HDDSamsung Spinpoint F1, HD103UJ, 1 TB, 7200 RPM, SATA 3 Gb/s, 32 MB Cache
System IV (2010)
ProcessorIntel Core i5-750 (45 nm Lynnfield, B1), 4C/4T, 2.66 GHz, 4 x 256 KB L2 Cache, 8 MB L3 Cache, 95 W TDP, 3.2 GHz max. Turbo
Motherboard (LGA 1156)MSI P55-GD65, Rev. 1.0, Chipset: Intel P55 Express, BIOS: V1.10
GraphicsMSI N280GTX, GPU: GT200 (602 MHz), Graphics RAM: 1 GB GDDR3 (1107 MHz)
RAM2 x 4 GB DDR3-1333, Kingston HyperX KHX1600C9D3K2/8GX
HDDSamsung Spinpoint F3R, HE103SJ, 1 TB, 7200 RPM, SATA 3 Gb/s, 32 MB Cache
Common Hardware
SDDSamsung PM810 (470 series), 256 GB, Firmware 0701, SATA 3 Gb/s
Power SupplySeasonic X-760 760 W, SS-760KM Active PFC F3
Benchmarks
Performance MeasurementsPCMark 7 1.0.4 Boot Timer
System Software & Drivers
DriverDetails
Operating SystemWindows 7 x64 Ultimate SP1
Intel Chipset DriversChipset Installation Utility
Nvidia GraphicsVer. 270.61
  • MAGPC
    SSD is just too exaggerated, yes it is faster than HDD and may be more reliable but that doesn't justify its price.

    Waiting until it is price gets reasonable.
    Reply
  • mayankleoboy1
    The conclusions we're drawing relate to the mainstream folks trying to get more life from an already-aging box

    since its for mainstream, i would have liked a subjective test where some 'average' folks, doing 'average' tasks, would use the machines with/without SSD's, and rate the perceived speed on a scale of 1=10.
    those should have been included as well. most people "feel" the speed, rather than benchmark it.
    Reply
  • Can you run gaming/photoshop/actual applications instead of benchmarks?
    Reply
  • Please do a test with a Pentium 3 + KingSpec PATA SSD.
    I'm very curious about the results. My Dell Lat C400 is chugging along just fine on Windows 7 but I believe a SSD would greatly improve performance.
    Reply
  • I recently bought a Transcend 32GB SSD to be my Boot Drive in my 5+yr old system- Athlon64 3200+ (Venice) S939 , Gigabyte GA-K8N51PVMT-9 ( Geforce 6150), 2 Gb DDR400, WIN7 SP1.
    I do not see that the SATA controller mentions AHCI in the device manager tab, however when I run the TRIM check commnand through CMD, it returns a "enabled" reply. Also,have made the necessary registry changes to ensure that AHCI is enabled. There is however no option in the MB bios to set AHCI.

    So is my drive configured with TRIM enabled or not?
    Reply
  • buxx I wish I knew the answer to your question too. I have a Dell Dimension XPS600 which I would love to put an SSD into, just as this article suggests. However I can't find any mention of AHCI in the BIOS, manuals or anywhere on the web. Hard to say if it's present, but you would guess not, if they don't mention it... right?
    Reply
  • compton
    I think that if you're trying to get more legs out of an older system, a SSD is definitely a great way to do that. Especially with laptops from the past four years -- a Core 2 Duo processor in a laptop still isn't fast, but a decent SSD will make it feel like a new system (at least in my experience) and then some. I think trying to make your Pentium 4 system better with some solid state storage is a lost cause however.

    MAGPCSSD is just too exaggerated, yes it is faster than HDD and may be more reliable but that doesn't justify its price.Waiting until it is price gets reasonable.
    How much is reasonable? A 64GB Crucial M4 is $105... that's pretty damn reasonable to me. For that kind of money you could get a low-end mobo, an Athlon X4, or 16GB of DDR3. Upgrades don't get much more reasonable than that. But if you already have a decent, if older system, installing an SSD will make it feel like a brand new system should for the least amount of money.
    Reply
  • jsrudd
    I installed an SSD in my netbook with an 1.6ghz atom processor and it really sped things up. The computer went from unusable to fine for casual usage.
    Reply
  • SpadeM
    Predictable outcome but informative article non the less. My only concern is that since you talked about mainstream pc, i didn't see any amd equipped system. This is not about AMD vs. Intel it's about storage controller performance. Thinking back, most builds I did back in the 2004 - 2006 time frame where based off nvidia + amd. This article would have painted a more complete picture if it had taken into consideration the other half of the pc landscape. In theory i guess you can argue that yes, if it is AHCI enabled then it "should" be the same outcome as the ICH scenario ... but is it for a fact?
    Reply
  • echdskech
    Maybe Tom's can do double blind subjective tests like they do in Mythbusters.

    Spend 10 mins doing office/internet stuff on each config without knowing which is which and rank them by speed subjectively.
    Reply