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Upgrading on the Cheap

darkcircuitdarkcircuit Member Posts: 211

Hey all,

I'm not using my pc to play anything too demanding (WoW atm) and therefore I'm not looking for the latest and greatest graphics card, but I am looking at improving the start up time for my current setup:

Case:  Antec P180

Monitor: Samsung 24" running at 1600x1200

PSU: Hypex (SP?) 850 watt Modular

MB: ASUS P5W DH Deluxe (no longer supported)

Memory: Corsair 4GB (2x2GB) DDR2 800MHz/PC2-6400 XMS2

HD:  Seagate 750GB Hard Drive SATAII 7200rpm 32MB Cache

CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo E8400

Cooler: Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro

Graphics: XFX HD 4870 1GB DDR5

OS: Windows 7 Home Premium

A friend of mine has brought it to my attention that my most likely drag on performance is because of my old and heavily outdated MB. We both have very similar setups (only differences are that he's running an Asus P5QL Pro MB, a Nvidia graphics card and a Intel 2nd gen x25 80GB SSD as his bootup drive). Now I obviously understand that the SSD is going to make an impact on why his pc starts up in about 30 seconds and mine takes about 3-4 mins, but is my MB also going to be a contributing factor to this speed issue? If so, would his motherboard give me a good upgrade or should I be looking at a different MB? (I don't want to have to buy any 'major' components just to run a new motherboard). Maybe also thinking of getting a OCZ 120gb Vertex 2E SSD but Im not sure of its compatibility with my existing MB.

Thanks for any help :)


  • QuizzicalQuizzical Member LegendaryPosts: 23,226

    SATA 2 will bottleneck some SSDs in sequential reads or, less commonly, sequential writes, but if they're up against a SATA 2 bottleneck, that's very fast.

    Your motherboard could slow down your boot times if it takes a long time to POST before Windows is able to start loading.  Apart from that, it shouldn't meaningfully slow down your computer.

    I'm not sure what your power supply is.  Hynix?  Hipro?  HyperX?  Actually, HyperX is a marketing name for some Kingston memory, and Hynix is a memory company, so it probably isn't either of those.  It could be Hipro or Hiper, though, as those are power supply companies.  I hadn't heard of Hiper before checking the list on Ecos Consulting's site.

    You've got Windows 7, so an SSD should work properly.  If you want to buy from that site, I'd try one of these instead:

    The difference between a Vertex 2 and an Agility 2 is that the Agility 2 artificially caps random write IOPS at 10000.  That's still incredibly fast, and for consumer use, the cap will likely never kick in unless you're running a synthetic benchmark.

    The Crucial RealSSD C300 is a little more expensive than the SandForce drives.  But the difference between 107 GB of usable capacity (for the Vertex 2 and Agility 2) and 119 GB of usable capacity (for the RealSSD C300) is significant.  The Crucial SSD is faster at reads than the OCZ ones, while the OCZ ones are faster at writes--but they're both very fast at everything.

  • RidelynnRidelynn Member EpicPosts: 7,234

    Your motherboard is a little dated, but it's a huge bottleneck. Upgrading your motherboard would also mean upgrading your CPU and RAM, so it would basically entail an entire new computer, and honestly, you wouldn't see a whole lot more speed out of it (especially not boot times). Boot time is almost totally dependant on the hard drive, so you have the right idea on going with an SSD. The 4870 is still a pretty good video card, on par with the lower end nVidia 550 and ATI 6790's.

    SSD's work off either PCI (the very expensive ones), or most commonly, SATA (which your computer has). There are only a couple of SATA3 SSD's out there, the vast majority are SATA2. Your motherboard can support either one (but any SATA3 drive you buy will just run in the slower SATA2 mode). OCZ Vertex 2 (SATA 2 drive) and the Crucial C300 (SATA 3) are the two that I most commonly see recommended.

    As Quiz said, both are very fast drives, and either one will work just fine with your motherboard. The hardest part of the entire thing: Making sure you have a 2.5" to 3.5" (or 2.5" to 5.25" if you install it in a drive bay) adapter plate (these are like $5), and then deciding to transfer or reinstall windows (transfering is a huge pain, especially if you need to split out the Program Files folder, but if you have a lot of customization done it may be worth the hassle)

    Your motherboard should support something called AHCI (probably under hard drive options somewhere). If you enable this, it can drastically speed up your hard drive, and may even speed up your existing hard drive some. The problem is, when you enable it in the Bios, Windows goes nuts, so you have to do some teaking in Windows before you enable AHCI in the BIOS, or do a fresh install. If you do decide to go with an SSD, you most defintely want to enable AHCI support. I recommend doing a fresh Windows Install on the SSD with AHCI enabled from the get go, then you don't need to fool with any registry edits, but you can try it on your current hard drive and see if you get any performance out of it before you go spending money on a hardware upgrade.

    I have used the information in this thread to update Windows 7 installations for AHCI before (just a registry edit, and then making sure Windows can find the drivers when it boots back up in AHCI mode):

  • RidelynnRidelynn Member EpicPosts: 7,234

    Also, in the interest of going "cheap"

    With SSDs, you pay more for capacity than you do anything else. You can drop down to as low as 40G on a single SSD drive if all you are concerned with is boot time and general Windows performance. A 40G drive is just enough room to install Windows 7, have room for the swap file and cache space, maybe install a few small utilities, and keep about 5G free after all is said and done. You probably won't really have any room to install any games or large applications on a 40G though, so you won't see any benefit in game zoning/loading times. If you are on a really tight budget, you can squeeze Windows 7 onto 30G drive, but you really need to trim out some fat, put your swap file someplace else, and watch what gets cached where (browser temp files, temp download directies, etc), and I've heard of people doing it on 20G but I really can't recommend that. 40G is as low as I typically recommend for Windows 7, and then scale up from there depending on the number and size of any additional applications you want to store on the SSD.

    Also to note, that each SSD has an internal controller that has a certain number of channels (these are kinda like multicore CPU's, with each channel being totally parallel and accessing a number of memory chips). You ideally want to size up the size of the drive with a multiple of the number of channels, so that each channel has the same number of memory chips for balanced and even performance. In the real world, it's hardly noticable because the SSD is going to be so fast in the first place, that a single digit percent slowdown is going to translate into a 30.0 second boot time versus a 29.6 second boot time... but if your interested in maximum performance, it's something else to take note of (40G is probably not an even multiple of any SSD channel number).

  • QuizzicalQuizzical Member LegendaryPosts: 23,226

    intel's SSD controller has 10 channels, so 40 GB is a multiple of it.  The problem is that the way that they do a 40 GB SSD is to leave half of the channels vacant.  The other SSD controllers typically have eight channels, or perhaps four or sixteen, but usually a power of two.  120 GB SSDs really have 128 GB of physical NAND flash, so that's still a power of 2.  60 GB or 240 GB SSDs similarly scale it up.  Different controllers need to keep different amounts of physical NAND flash in reserve for various reasons.

  • inflatable71inflatable71 Member Posts: 2

    Originally posted by Ridelynn
    [b]Your motherboard is a little dated, but it's a huge bottleneck. Upgrading your motherboard would also mean upgrading your CPU and RAM, so it would basically entail an entire new computer, and honestly, you wouldn't see a whole lot more speed out of it (especially not boot times). [/quote]

    The mainboard he's quoting is the same socket as the one he already has with same the memory slots. His memory, cpu and other components will fit on the P5QL Pro.

    Originally posted by Ridelynn
    [b]...and either one will work just fine with your motherboard.[/quote]

    I had the mainboard darkcircuit now has when I bought my SSD, 80GB Intel x-25 postville 2nd gen. I had major issues with data corruption, blue screens, application crashes and just random issues. As I am not quite the computer disliterate, after extensive troubleshooting this issue and posting on the official Asus forums, it eventually boiled down to an incompatibility in AHCI mode on this board. In regular IDE mode it worked fine - but a lot slower and also required the use of the Intel Toolbox due to TRIM not working in IDE mode.
    I upgraded to the P5QL Pro. The SSD works 100 times better on that board.

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