Solved Feasibility of fitting SSD to a really old PC

February 2, 2013 at 18:34:48
Specs: Windows XP, P4 3.8 GHz, 4 GB of RAM
I want to ask about upgrading my really old PC with SSD.

I don’t want to buy a new PC yet, because I’m able to perform all the tasks I need with my old one. Anyway, I feel that for many tasks the bottleneck is my HDD. I’ve read other users experiences with SSDs on their old systems and I was impressed by the results, therefore I’m considering upgrading with SSD too. I’m thinking of buying SATA3 SSD that I would be able to use with my new machine, which I will buy in the future. However, I would like to use SATA3 SSD on my old machine like for a year or so before buying a new computer.

Here is the specifications of my current old PC:

CPU: P4 3.8 GHz (x64 capable)
RAM: 4 GB DDR1
GPU: 256 MB
MB: Intel D915PGN. SATA1. 2 x PCI Express x1 connectors. 1 x PCI Express x16 connector.

As far as I know, in order for a SSD to work properly (not to slow down and accumulate garbage) TRIM command (windows 7 and newer supports TRIM) and AHCI are needed. My motherboard doesn’t have AHCI. Would it be possible to add a controller that supports AHCI and SATA3 to my motherboard PCI-e slot? By reading Wikipedia about TRIM I’ve found this information: "Windows 7 only supports TRIM for ordinary (AHCI) drives and does not support this command for PCI-Express SSDs that are different type of device, even if the device itself would accept the command." Does that mean that I will not be able to use a controller in order to upgrade my motherboard for using SSD?

To sum up, I would like to buy a SSD and use it on my current old PC for a year or more (it depends how well it will perform) before buying a completely new PC. Could you please tell me if it’s possible to upgrade my old PC with SATA3 SSD? What controller would be needed? What to do in order not to get my SSD slowed down?

I appreciate your input and help. Thank you.


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#1
February 2, 2013 at 19:40:11
It's doubtful your system will run Win7. According to Intel, no Win7 drivers are available for your board:

http://downloadcenter.intel.com/Det...

Save your money & stick with XP (or try Linux).


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#2
February 2, 2013 at 20:11:45
it shouldn't really matter if intel doesn't have the offical drivers for it i installed windows 7 on a pentuim 4 socket 478 motherboard 2 weeks ago and everything worked fine. So if the socket 478 pc, installed and ran fine, then his pc will run fine on windows 7, because windows 7 will use generic drivers aka Microsoft driver software.

since your board doesn't support native SATA 3 or even native SATA 2 even you will be bottlenecking the SSD drive's throughput. Even if you were to buy a pci v1 x1 sata II or III adaptor you will still be bottlenecking the SSD due to the fact that the avg throughput of pci v1 x1will be 192MB's So you really aren't going to see the performance gains you are looking for with an SSD on that board over an traditional HDD. you are better off getting a good 7200rpm HDD instead.

Iron Sharpens Iron.


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#3
February 2, 2013 at 22:27:15
✔ Best Answer
I use a 120GB SSD as the boot drive for my i915 based HTPC. Didn't even bother finding a PCIe card for it; I just plugged it into the integrated SATA controller. Runs just fine, and is much faster than a standard HDD, despite the SATA-1 bottleneck. Now, my board has the ICH6R southbridge, which supports AHCI. Your board may use the original ICH6 southbridge, which doesn't support AHCI. I couldn't find that info on your board's product page, but CPU-Z should tell you exactly what southbridge your board uses.

"It's doubtful your system will run Win7. According to Intel, no Win7 drivers are available for your board"
i915 based machines are the easiest to upgrade to Win7. Audio, storage, and LAN drivers are included with the OS.

HTPC/file server | Pentium M 780 @ 2.82GHz | 4GB | Radeon HD5750
120GB SSD + 2TB/3TB/4TB | Blu-Ray/HD-DVD combo drive | Win8 Pro


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#4
February 3, 2013 at 10:48:27
Thank you for your answers. I really appreciate the information you all gave!

My motherboard’s southbridge is ICH6 (without R), therefore it doesn’t support AHCI. I’ve read that without AHCI and NCQ support an SSD would start to slow down and accumulate garbage. Is it true?

Slowing down and premature aging of an SSD is what I’m trying to avoid. Therefore, I’m thinking about using a controller. Theoretically it should help to get more speed from an SSD too, because maximum transfer rate of SATA 1 is 150 MB/s while PCI Express 1.0 offers maximum per-lane data rate of 250 MB/s. Is it really so? Would I get that maximum speed of 250 MB/s when using PCI-Express x1 to SATA 3 controller? My GPU is on AGP port, therefore PCI-e would be used by the SATA controller only.

By the way, in my case does it matter which controller PCI-e to SATA 2 or SATA 3 I would use? I think it doesn’t, because in the case of SATA 2 or SATA 3 the bottleneck would be the PCI-e port itself which limits the maximum speed to 250 MB/s.
I’ve found these two controllers:Controller 1 and Controller 2. Both of them support NCQ, but how do I know that these controllers support AHCI?

If I understand correctly, those controllers should have their own chipsets and BIOS that would upgrade my old system with capabilities of SATA 3 and AHCI. But is it possible? My motherboard’s southbridge is ICH6 which has an integrated SATA 1 controller that supports data transfer rates up to 150 MB / s. Am I able to increase this rate by using an expansion card controller? Won’t the southbridge be the bottleneck? I understand that otherwise the bottleneck would be my PCI-e 1.0 interface at theoretical speed of 250 MB/ s.


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#5
February 3, 2013 at 14:13:18
"I’ve read that without AHCI and NCQ support an SSD would start to slow down and accumulate garbage. Is it true?"

Not sure about AHCI, but I've read that SSDs really take a hit in performance without NCQ.

"PCI Express 1.0 offers maximum per-lane data rate of 250 MB/s. Is it really so? Would I get that maximum speed of 250 MB/s when using PCI-Express x1 to SATA 3 controller?"

Your max transfer rate will be somewhere between 200 and 250MB/s. While this is nowhere near the speed of SATA3, you'll still get a significant boost in speed over a mechanical hard drive. Standard hard drives absolutely suck at random access and will often dip below 30MB/s.

"By the way, in my case does it matter which controller PCI-e to SATA 2 or SATA 3 I would use?"

You'll want to make sure that the card you choose allows you to boot off the attached SSD. From what I've read, some PCIe SATA controllers don't.

"Both of them support NCQ, but how do I know that these controllers support AHCI?"

AFAIK, if a controller supports NCQ, then it supports AHCI.

"My motherboard’s southbridge is ICH6 which has an integrated SATA 1 controller that supports data transfer rates up to 150 MB / s. Am I able to increase this rate by using an expansion card controller?"

The BIOS/firmware on the card will not upgrade your board's integrated controller in any way. All of your ICH6 ports will continue to run at 150MB/s without AHCI.

I know this has nothing to do with the topic at hand, but are you sure your video card is in an AGP slot? The i915 (and your board) only support PCI-E.

HTPC/file server | Pentium M 780 @ 2.82GHz | 4GB | Radeon HD5750
120GB SSD + 2TB/3TB/4TB | Blu-Ray/HD-DVD combo drive | Win8 Pro


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#6
February 12, 2013 at 08:50:57
Jackbomb, you’re definitely right about AGP slot not being present in Intel 915P Chipset motherboards. I made a mistake. My video card uses PCI-e x16 slot. Anyway, I still have two empty revision 1 PCI-e x1 slots that I could use for controller card.

Will adding a controller card to this slot reduce the total bandwidth of PCI-express bus and the bandwidth available to GPU? Will both components (SSD attached to controller card and GPU) share the speed of PCI-e bus?

As far as I know, both the motherboard and the controller must have a specific feature in order to boot from a device attached to controller. Is there a way to know that it will be possible to boot from SSD attached to PCI-e to SATA controller other than using trial and error method?


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