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My Dad's PC seems a bit slow, even straight after a rebuild. I was wondering about replacing his boot drive with an SSD as I thought that it was I/O which was causing the problem (Task Manager showing hardly any activity, and not much ram used, but the harddrive light continuously on).

I ran Piriform Speccy against it to see what was installed, and was surprised to see that it is a Seagate Barracuda which I always thought were fast.

Does anyone have any pointers or suggestions about how to speed this machine up (apart from installing Linux!)? Would an SSD even be compatible?

I've investigated viruses, background processes and so-on, and it is clean in that respect.

It is a 2.6Ghz Celeron with 1 gig of ram running XP SP3. The motherboard is an i845G and the harddrive is a 40 gig ST340014A, 63% full. My dad just runs Office 2007 (mainly Word Processing and a bit of Excel) plus browsing.

The full spec is here. Perhaps the machine is just slow?!

Thanks in advance for any tips!

Rich

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6 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

It would be a bit of a waste of money to buy an expensive SSD when the rest of the computer is made from pretty slow components. Also, Windows XP does not fully support SSDs like Windows 7 does.

However, that Barracuda drive is a few generations old. Getting a modern 750GB or 1TB drive will certainly speed up the machine, especially with a fresh installation of Windows. Another gigabyte of RAM will also help.

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You could also purchase a hybrid drive which is cheaper, but will speed up boot times and app launch times. –  KronoS Sep 21 '10 at 16:57
    
@KronoS: It is my understanding that support for those drives was only added with Vista (ReadyDrive). The Seagate Momentus range is also 2.5" and intended for laptops. –  paradroid Sep 21 '10 at 17:06
    
I have it installed on my desktop... you can purchase an adapter or do a hack like i did... I'm pretty sure that it has XP support, but no personal experience (win 7) –  KronoS Sep 21 '10 at 17:08
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No, do not replace that drive with an SSD.

The reason the drive is always grinding is because the ram is constantly full and windows is using the pagefile constantly to store stuff in memory.

If you replace the hard-drive with an SSD, you will have to move the pagefile to the disk drive, or you will burn up your SSD fast!

My work PC was amazingly slow. I would open up a web browser 10 tabs, and outlook, and one other essential program, and I would be out of memory. Any new program would take ages to open, navigating my hard drive or network drives in explorer took 20 seconds for it to navigate sometimes. I convinced management to get me 4 gigs of ram, and now I can open a lot of programs at once with no hard-drive grinding, and everything is snappy.

Seriously get the money that you would spend on the SSD and max out the ram on that computer. Your Dad will be really happy.

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Maybe not. If most of the grinding is app startup times, it could very well not be the RAM being the problem. Depends on the workload. –  Billy ONeal Sep 22 '10 at 2:43
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The specs are pretty low on the PC... The celeron isn't the fastest CPU out there, in fact it's on the slower end. The 1 gig of ram is pretty low for todays standards as well. Using word won't be a huge issue, but using excel can cause some problems. Using an SSD, in my opinion will speed things up, but even then there will be some "performance" issues. The SSD will speed up boot up times as well as app launch times, but actual performance during program usage can/will probably still be an issue.

What sort of lack of performance are we talking about?

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Just generally taking a while to warm up. Once it's got going, Word and the browser are fine. His Excel work is never particularly demanding, just for viewing tabulated data, no complicated calculations or anything. –  Rich Sep 21 '10 at 17:41
    
Then I suggests using an SSD if you are really worried about the boot up times. This will only help just a little however. –  KronoS Sep 21 '10 at 18:26
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I'm going to say the machine is "just slow".

I would add another 1GB that I think would help more than a SSD, but you would need 2 1GB modules of a somewhat old RAM (DDR 133Mhz).

As mentioned, XP isn't going to support all the features you can get from a SSD.

But if I were you, I wouldn't spend money upgrading this computer (slow processor, slow memories, etc), but rather save up some and buy a completely new one.

As a temporary workaround, I would just reformat, install Win7 (disabling Aero) which will run as fast as your WinXP SP3. I have done that to a Turion x64 with 1GB of RAM laptop I had laying around, and gave it to my father. He uses it for Outlook, Word, Excel + browsing and had no problem thus far.

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boost your page file, check the CPU if its over heated, i think buying a newer hard drive & 2 gigs of ram will be still less than a SSD & more effective in your scenario

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This machine has too many parts in need of upgrading.

Before you invest in any new parts, I encourage you to consider buying a used, off-lease computer (such as the Optiplex 745 small tower on the Dell Financial Services web site). You can often get a 2-3 year old machine which will run circles around this one for $250 or so, with specs like Core 2 Duo 1.9 GHz, 2 GB RAM (which is really plenty for everyday use under XP, Vista, or Windows 7), and a 160GB or larger hard drive. The better models have a true discrete video card (look for models with 64, 128 or 256MB of VRAM mentioned). These come with a 100 day warranty. Keep an eye on DealNews for coupons - they regularly offer 15 - 25% off of various systems.

Links:

Dell Financial Services

DealNews

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