Is it a good idea to upgrade my laptop with an SSD?

Chris_Hunter April 11, 2012
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I’m wanting to breathe new life into an older Dell 1200 series laptop that I’ve had for a long time. I like the laptop and it’s great for the kids to use, but it’s gotten slower and slower and it seems that no amount of maintenance to it helps with performance. It also runs Windows XP, which I don’t have any problems with, but I’m wanting to upgrade it to Windows 7.

The Dell laptop has a 1.3ghz Intel Celeron processor and a max memory capacity of 1GB and I have a 30GB 7200 RPM hard drive in it.

I’m wanting to see if a new Solid State Drive would be an effective way to make the laptop as “like new” as possible and if I’ll be able to run Windows 7 on it, even with 1GB of memory.

 

  1. Chris_Hunter
    July 30, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    Thanks, Cat!

    This has now been resolved. Thanks to everyone for the advice!

    Chris

  2. Cat Tilley
    July 30, 2012 at 7:14 am

    Of course a SSD will breathe new life into your older laptop, as long as it runs a SATA hard drive. Though currently, most are of the SSD's are of the SATA3 type, these are backwards compatible with SATA 1 & 2.

    Meaning that you won't get SATA3 speeds, but will get the most out of what you have. Exceptional speed, less heat, longer battery life. The SSD will pay for itself over time. Plus, if the laptop were to go bad on you, the SSD could be placed into another (preferably new) laptop.

    If you're running XP or Vista, then make sure to download Mini Tool Partition Wizard Home Edition, & make sure to align the partitions. This provides for the best speed possible & a longer life span.

    Of course, if possible, add as much RAM as the laptop will hold. The more you have, the better, especially with older models.

    Best of Luck,
    Cat

    Cat

  3. Oron Joffe
    April 13, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Chris, just to sharpen up some of the points already made by others, the real question is not if it's possible but rather whether it is *worth it*. To use Windows 7 effectively, you should really have 2GB RAM or more. Then there's the cost of Win7 itself and the SSD (which is expensive). 
    Having invested in all this, you will find yourself with a machine which is still limited by a relatively slow CPU, graphic processor, memory and the PATA bottleneck mentioned by others, so I would suggest that no, it is not worth the investment. Better to buy a new cheap laptop and, if necessary, replace the drive with an SSD (or Seagate's hybrid drive, which is much better value for money, esp. on a laptop).

    • Chris_Hunter
      April 18, 2012 at 11:53 am

      Thanks everyone for all of your input!

      Looks like I just may switch the OS to one that's less resource intensive, like Ubuntu, or get a new 7200 rpm hard drive and reinstall the OS (WinXP) on it. It still has some life in it.

  4. ha14
    April 13, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    hard drive and memory are two separate hardware, hard drive stocks the info whereas memory flash it and never keeps it. SSD will make read and write faster and will not help the memory, you can use windows 7 with 1GB adding SSD well small improvement perhaps.
    Before adding adapters or changing any hardware configuration not specified by the manufacturer (perhaps laptop will not like it), take the laptop with you and ask there they should be able to help you better and provide you other perhaps better solutions.

  5. Acrobamia
    April 13, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Why don't you switch to Ubuntu Linux? It does not slow down with time, it's great with any computer (especially an old slug) and a great learning tool for your kids and yourself. It's free and you can find a few guides about on Make Use Of

  6. Bruce Epper
    April 13, 2012 at 7:50 am

    In the previous comment regarding using a PATA/SATA adapter with an SSD in a laptop, it really does not need to be that much of a consideration since companies like Transcend make PATA SSDs as a single unit.  This ensures that fit is not an issue.  Cost would be a different matter as a 32GB PATA SSD runs about $110 and a 64GB drive is about $160.

    As Mike stated, the PATA interface will be your bottleneck with regards to iops, so you may not end up seeing that much of a speed improvement with the SSD upgrade.

    The big issue with Win7 will be the limited amount of memory.  One GB really is not much on a Win7 system which loves to use all memory possible (in most cases, it really does make the entire system more responsive as long as you have an adequate amount of RAM).  From my experience, anything under 2GB will make the system run slower than it is really capable of.  Granted, I am not running Win7 on a laptop here, but on my desktop system in my bare-bones recovery environment, the system uses just under 1GB after booting to the desktop and only loading a few small gadgets to monitor memory, CPU, GPU, disk, and network usage.  Fire up a web browser on a system with 1GB of RAM and it woud start paging upon loading the home page.

  7. Indronil Mondal
    April 13, 2012 at 6:13 am

    you can use windows 7 but it would lag and you cannot upgrade to ssd

  8. Smayonak
    April 13, 2012 at 2:43 am

    That's a tough question. My weak kneed answer: what are your primary computing needs? File sharing? Music? Streaming movies? I see purchasing decisions in terms of their value. Sometimes a desktop is a better choice in terms of price. For example, a Core i3 desktop can be had for $300. You can build your own AMD for $200 if you get a great deal. $80 in those terms is a lot of money (although I think it's awesome how long you've maintained the 1200!).
    As Mike wisely mentioned, W7 will barely squeeze into the 1200, primarily because of the RAM limitation + the transfer bottleneck of IDE (as Mike pointed out). Also, some of your drivers won't work properly - typically, hotkeys and external monitors oftentimes fail to work on older machines upgraded to W7.My old Thinkpad T30 Pentium 4 ran W7 fine, except for many of its components didn't work, like the function keys. But it wasn't a big deal. The guy who bought it liked the performance.The Crucial M4 is a great drive, by the way. Tom's Hardware rated it (at one point) best in class. The reviews are nothing short of amazing - and it occasionally pops up on sale for $65. I think Mike is probably correct in saying that an SSD might be a good idea because when you do upgrade, the SSD can just be switched into the new computer.Keeping XP wouldn't really effect the performance of the drive very much, provided you let the computer idle semi-frequently. Here's an old deal on the M4, just so you get an idea of how much its price fluctuates:http://dealnews.com/Crucial-128-GB-M4-2.5-SATA-6-Gbps-SSD-for-130-free-shipping-64-GB-for-65/553718.html 

  9. Mike
    April 12, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    While an SATA adapter should not effect the speed you will always be limited to the maximum bandwidth of the slower interface ~ which in your case is PATA with theoretical 133MB/s (or slower, depending on the implementation).

    You will certainly see some improvement simply because the seek and access time is one tenth (or less) that of an mechanical drive. As for actual transfer speeds they won't really differ from a 7200rpm drive.

    I think the biggest culprit will in fact be the memory. Having only 1GB means that Windows 7 will have to do a lot of paging just for loading the Desktop. Yes, the fast access time of an SSD compliments paging but again the low bandwidth of PATA will limit the benefits.

    Moving on from theory to the real world: I'm not sure you can fit in an 2.5" SSD and an SATA adapter inplace for an 2.5" hard drive. Notebooks are build dense.

    I suggest to open up the Dell and get a picture of the available space. You may need to go for an 1.8" SSD to fit in both.

    Finally, I would actually go for a 128GB or more SSD.
    (1) If you find your laptop indeed "revived and fast" you may use it to a point where you need more space.
    (2) If things don't work out a 128GB (or more) SSD can always be used as system drive on a newer system.

  10. Chris_Hunter
    April 12, 2012 at 11:23 am

    "Judging from its specs, I would guess that it has PATA ports (about 90% sure)."

       Yeah, it has the older style IDE connection inside, so if I upgrade it at all, I'll have to use an adapter regardless. Looks like I'll just upgrade it to a regular 7200rpm HDD.

       I also have another, newer laptop that is a SATA laptop that I upgraded the hard drive to a 320GB 7200rpm but it uses an adapter for the connection as well. Does the adapter affect speeds a lot with the SSD??

       Thanks for the great answer and references!!

    • Smayonak
      April 12, 2012 at 2:59 pm

      Thanks for the kind words.

      That's a great question, by the way - in theory, an adapter shouldn't get in the way of TRIM passthrough commands, since it's just an intermediary between the SSD controller and the southbridge. But I don't know for certain.

      I made a mistake in the last comment. According to the link below, TRIM is available in IDE/PATA. Meaning if you purchased an SSD, it would not degrade in performance if using Windows 7. XP on the other hand would suffer from performance degradation (which is what happens if you don't have TRIM).
      http://www.overclock.net/t/747658/trim-works-in-ide-mode 

      However, most SSD drives now incorporate alternatives to TRIM that keep drives from degrading in performance: Intel drives use a software solution, whereas Indilinx and Sandforce controllers (OCZ, Kingston, Corsair, Patriot and the rest of them) usually have a feature called garbage collection that optimizes when the drive idles. But both will work in XP if you configure it properly (the Intel solution is the most reliable).

      I had completely forgotten that PATA-SATA adapters exist... I've used them in desktops - but on a laptop the form factor seems to prohibit such an option.

      http://www.amazon.com/SATA-Drive-Adapter-Laptop-Drives/dp/B004ETGOCG 

      But low and behold, they do exist.

      With an adapter, it may actually work quite well. I would consider purchasing a really cheap adapter, just to make sure it fits the laptop.

      http://www.ebay.com/itm/Mini-7-15-Pin-Female-SATA-TO-2-5-Male-IDE-Adapter-Converter-For-laptop-/110837610708?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item19ce6fb8d4#ht_1699wt_1030 

  11. ha14
    April 12, 2012 at 8:05 am

    ssd increase the read and write operations, now you have to be sure that the laptop hardware configuration can host ssd, best will be to take the laptop with you and ask the verification in the shop.

  12. Susendeep Dutta
    April 12, 2012 at 6:02 am

    If you want to breathe new life to your old laptop,then you must also consider upgrading the RAM too. Upgrading to SSD will definetly increase the performance but the processor will be bottleneck as you can see in the benchmark test and conclusion in the article link below -

    http://opinionroad.com/2010/04/23/upgrading-an-old-laptop-with-an-ssd-performance/

    Windows 7 runs smoothly when you provide it with more RAM.Older laptops performs well when equipped with SSD and score better in Windows Experience Index -

    http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/news/2010/01/old-computers-get-young-with-ssd-upgrades.ars?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rss

    But SSD's cost to capacity ratio is high.So,you might consider installing SSD of smaller capacity with OS installed in it and a HDD to store large files like HD videos,games etc.

  13. Sri Vastav Reddy
    April 12, 2012 at 4:04 am

    Yes, It's a good idea to upgrade my laptop with an SSD
    first i have the same doubt with mine, i'm little afraid weather it will work or not with my computer, i searched internet forums, posted questions, but no answer. :-(
    but i thought to give a Shot :-) 
    and voilà ____it works Just amazingly Super.!!!
    after running some test to my previous and new, i discovered that my system speed is increased to 31% more !! i don't remember the specification's of my laptop bcoz,. It's Lost :-( 
    i can't do anything except posting about the problems i faced with that :-o

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