Solved compatability of HDD for Dell desktop

November 8, 2011 at 17:30:27
Specs: Windows XP 32 bit
I am looking at a new internal replacement SATA harddrive for my system and am wondering if a WD caviar black w/ 6gb/s will work with my LGA775 motherboard interface or do I have to go with 3gb/s? Is it compatible or is this an issue. New drive has a 64 MB cache and up to 6gb/s. My current one is 3gb/s. System is Dell Dimension xps Gen.4 U7084 is model # on Mb W/ integrated controller,no card present. Tag G3Z4R61. Thanks for response!

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November 8, 2011 at 18:16:56
✔ Best Answer
Only recent main chipsets on mboards, and recent SATA drive controller cards or adapters, support 6 gb/sec SATA drive speeds at the full speed.

You need to tell us which SPECIFIC mboard model you have, or which SPECIFIC brand name system you have,
or if you have a SATA drive controller card installed in a slot on the computer, or a SATA adapter that plugs into the computer, which SPECIFIC card or adapter it is.

(Any device built into the mboard IS NOT A CARD !)

The model, sometimes the make, of a mboard in a generic desktop system is usually printed on the mboard's surface in obvious larger characters, often between the slots.

The specific model of a brand name system is often shown on a label on the outside of the case somewhere, or it can often be determined by going to the brand name's web site and loading a program they have available, if Windows is still working, on the subject computer.

If it's a Dell computer...
Go here for how to find the Service tag "number":

Tell us what it is.

If it's a HP or Compaq computer.....
Go here:
Scroll down a bit.
Look for the similar label on the outside of your computer.
Quote the specific model number - that's at the end of the first line.
Quote the Product number - that's on the third line.

If it's a Lenovo computer
Find your specific Product number and tell us what it is:

Finding my product number


The newest fastest hard drives are backward compatible with older standards in any case. A drive that can run faster than the drive controllers on the system can support will run in any case, at up to and including whatever max speed the drive controllers allow them to run at.

SATA drives can only reach their max speed if the mboard's bios has the SATA controllers running in a SATA mode of some sort, and the drivers for the SATA drive controllers the drives are connected to have been installed in the operating system

You MUST install the main chipset drivers for the mboard after Setup has finished when you install Windows from scratch in order for the drives on the computer to be able to run at their max speeds.

The 3 gb/sec and 6 gb/sec rating are the max BURST data transfer speeds - they can only be used for short periods of time, e.g. no more than, say, 2 minutes in one continuous go, and how long that is depends on the amount of ram installed on the drive's board for it's cache.

Most of the time the drive is NOT running at that speed. If the drive continues to be accessed in one continuous go, the max the drive can run after the cache ram has exhausted it's contents is the max sustained or continuous data transfer rate of the drive, which is much slower, e.g. no more than about 100 mb/sec for a non solid state drive, faster for a solid state drive.

SATA hard drives transfer data at 10 bits per byte, not 8 bits per byte that previous hard drive standards do
Their (BURST) data transfer speeds are often rated in gb/sec to make their specs look better, but in that case it's gbits/sec not gbytes/sec
Since SATA hard drives transfer data at 10 bits per byte.....
3 gbits/sec = 300 mbytes/sec;
6 gbits/sec = 600 mbytes/sec

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November 8, 2011 at 19:14:28
In other words, it is a good drive, you can use it, there is not reason not to, so just get it. Your speed may be less if your board does not support the max speed, but the larger cache is good anyway.

You have to be a little bit crazy to keep you from going insane.

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November 8, 2011 at 20:10:31
My system is Dell dimension xps gen.4. The service tag is G3Z4R61. # on m.board is u7084 and there is no card present ,it has an integrated controller. I have 4gb of memory four 1gb sticks DDR2 at 800mhz. It sounds like a waste of $ to go w/ the black version over the green etc. on the Western Dig. drive. I just want to utilize the fastest one I can.
On a seperate note it still has the pentium 4 prescott 3.8ghz two cpu's. Would it be worth it to update the mother board and cpu or take the leap and purchase a new system. My single core is maxed out quite often

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November 8, 2011 at 23:55:28
Thanks for providing the Service Tag number. Using that on the Dell side finds the right model for sure.

Product Support for XPS/Dimension XPS Gen 4 - Service tag G3Z4R61

System configuration - Service tag G3Z4R61

Manuals, English

- your system was made - Ship Date: 1/27/2005

- the mboard has the original SATA controllers - you have a SATA drive.
Max burst data transfer speed for both - 1.5 gbits/sec = 150 mbytes/sec
Not much faster than the fastest IDE drives - 133 mbytes/sec

- you have a graphics card installed in your PCI-E X16 slot - good !

Much better than the onboard graphics and your ram performs better when it isn't sharing ram with the onboard video.
(installing a PCI-E X16 video card in that slot disables the onboard video automatically and stops sharing the ram installed in the mboard with it.)

- up to 4gb of ram can be installed,

However, your mboard DOES NOT benefit from DDR2 ram that's faster than 533mhz.

Your DDR2 800mhz ram can't run any faster than 533mhz on this mboard.

You installed the max 4gb of ram. That's NOT a good idea when you're using a 32 bit operating system. Your system will probably perform a little better if you remove one 1gb module.
How do I know ? Mine runs better with 3 gb rather than 4 gb. So does a friend's.

Dell's info in your Service Manual:

"Addressing Memory With 4-GB Configurations
Your computer supports a maximum of 4 GB of memory when you use four 1-GB DIMMs. Current operating systems, such as Microsoft® Windows® XP, can only use a maximum of 4 GB of address space; however, the amount of memory available to the operating system is less than 4 GB. Certain components within the computer require address space in the 4-GB range. Any address space reserved for these components cannot be used by computer memory."

The 4gb virtual memory address limit for 32 bit operating systems.
An example of 3gb working better than 4gb in a 32 bit operating system.

See Response 6:
A better explanation I've seen.

If you have a 32 bit operating system and you have installed 4gb in the mboard, the amount of that ram available to Windows and the user is
4gb minus the amount of ram your devices require or have.
E.g. 4 gb
- minus the amount of ram shared with onboard video if you're using that
- and/or - minus the amount of ram your dedicated video card installed in a slot has.
If you have more than one video card installed in a slot,it would be minus the ram for all of them.
(and = Some mboard main chipsets have Hybrid video capability. If you have a PCI-E X16 video card installed in a mboard slot that is supported by that feature, it's often the default for both the onboard video and the video on the card to work at the same time, unless you change default bios Setup settings. In that case it would be minus the ram for both of them.)
- minus the amount of ram your sound adapter has, if that applies - e.g. sound cards installed in a mboard slot often have ram
- minus the amount of ram any other devices have,other than hard drives and optical drives,if that applies.

A relatively inexpensive solution...

Your mboard has four PCI slots, one PCI-E X1 slot.

If you buy yourself a SATA II or SATA III drive controller card ( $20 and up ), PCI or PCI-E X1, and install it in a slot, you can use SATA II or SATA III drives on your computer and have them be able to run at their full burst speed.

SATA II = SATA 2 - - 3.0 gbits / sec = 300 mbytes / sec
SATA III = SATA 3 - 6.0 gbits/sec = 600mbytes /sec

If you buy a PCI controller card, they're usually cheaper, but don't install it in the last PCI slot closest to the center of the mboard - usually only PCI video cards will work 100% properly in that slot.

If you want to be able to boot Windows from a SATA drive installed on the card, you MUST be able to select SCSI in the bios in your Boot Order or similar settings in the bios Setup, and have SCSI BEFORE hard drive in that list.

Floppy drive
CD drive
Hard drive.

If you can't select SCSI,
- the hard drives connected to the card can only be used for data - you can't boot from a partition on a hard drive connected to the card.
- you also won't be able to boot from a bookable CD or DVD in an optical drive connected to the card.

When you want to install XP on a SATA hard drive connected to the card, you have to either
- Press F6 near the beginning of loading files from the CD, then provide the drivers for the SATA controller chip on floppy disk in a conventional (built in) floppy drive
(your case has two external 3.5" bays - I assume one of them has a floppy drive in it).

- or - make yourself a "slipstreamed" CD - a CD-R works in all optical drives - that has the drivers for your mboard's SATA controller drivers and the card's SATA controller drivers integrated into the original contents of your XP CD. If you do that, if your XP CD does not have SP3 Windows updates integrated into it, you might as well integrate those into your "slipstreamed" CD at the same time. instructions are plentiful on the wen - the freeware nLite program can do both things. You use that "slipstreamed" CD to install XP along with your original Product Key.

Most Dell computers I've come across that had XP on them originally came with a Dell labeled XP Re-installation CD or similar - if you have that, that can be used the same way as a regular CD, but probably ONLY with the computer model it came
If you don't have that,
- you could try buying a Recovery disk set from the Dell site for your model,
- or if it's no longer available, look here to see if they have that
- or you can use a regular OEM Microsoft XP CD that is for the same version - Home or Pro - as on the official Microsoft label on the outside of your computer case. - it has the Microsoft holograms, and "For distribution with a new PC only." printed on it.

The XP CD must have SP1 or later updates integrated into it on order for XP to have the built in support to recgnioe hard drives larger than 137gb hard drive manufacturer's size as their full size.

If it doesn't have that,
- they'll be recognized as max 128 gb binary size by Setup on the CD.
- make yourself a "slipstreamed " CD-R that has the SP3 updates integrated into it - use that to install XP. .

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November 9, 2011 at 05:07:14
All above is very good advice, but if you feel you are maxing out the CPU all of the time, it may be time for a new PC.

You have to be a little bit crazy to keep you from going insane.

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November 9, 2011 at 05:12:47
"It sounds like a waste of $ to go w/ the black version over the green etc. on the Western Dig. drive. I just want to utilize the fastest one I can"

Your system is 7 yrs old, in other words, it's outdated. Luckily HDDs are relatively cheap. Are you locked in on WDC or would you consider Samsung? Their drives have consistantly ranked at the top of price/performance/reliabilty charts. If you prefer WDC, the green drive is slow, the black is fast - split the difference & get the blue. Just don't expect any modern HDD to perform at it's full potential due to your outdated motherboard/SATA controller. If you decide to add a SATA controller card, understand that the drive will NOT perform any better because it's it's still limited by the system bus (PCI or PCIe) that the card uses.

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November 9, 2011 at 05:51:51
There's PCIe x4 sata card, i don't think it will limit hard drive speed.

You know the real meaning of peace only if you have been through the war.

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November 9, 2011 at 07:03:44
"If you decide to add a SATA controller card, understand that the drive will NOT perform any better because it's it's still limited by the system bus (PCI or PCIe) that the card uses"

It WILL perform better..
- at the very least, the ram cache on the drive would be much larger than on his present SATA drive
- the max sustained (continuous) data transfer rate of a newer drive than he has is probably higher
- the BURST data transfer speed of the PCI and PCI-E Xl slot is much higher than the nominal speed of 33mhz, whatever. His mboard may have enhanced regular PCI slots that have a higher burst speed than legacy PCI slots do.

I don't have the figures on hand for what the max burst speeds of PCI and PCI-E X1 are, but for AGP 2X, it's 533 mb/sec, despite the nominal max speed being 133mhz @ 2X, at least that's what was stated in the specs for a Super Socket 7 mboard I have.

In the case of really old main chipsets with no UDMA33 or higher capabilty, I've seen that the PCI card can't run the drive any faster than the main chipset will let it (the max speed the main chipset can run drives connected to it's own drive controllers) when I ran benchmarks, but his main chipset is new enough that probably doesn't apply. Even with mboards with that limitation, the improved burst speed of a newer drive when it has a larger ram cache was obvious.

I have a combo SATA/IDE PCI-E X1 card on my M3A78 Pro mboard and it appears it runs SATA II drives at their full speed fine, although I haven't run benchmarks to confirm that.

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