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I have a slightly older laptop (Dell Inspiron 1720) into which I am about to install an SSD. I'm wondering now what other options I have to improve the performance of this computer (since I can't buy a new one for quite some time yet).

  • I have already maxed out the RAM at 4GB (DDR2) and upgraded the discrete graphics to the highest processor available for my model.

  • I tried a permanent ReadyBoost USB drive, but saw no performance changes (plus several sites say that it's no benefit if you have more than 1GB of RAM).

  • I usually keep my windows installs pretty light and don't install a lot of programs, so that's already been accounted for.

Anything else that could help?

Finally, I'm currently running Windows 7 64-bit (to take full advantage of the 4GB of RAM), but I'm wondering if the older hardware actually takes a performance hit running 64-bit. I don't have any programs that require 64-bit, and I have 32-bit available. Should I reinstall with 32-bit?

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Multiple organizations out there have tested XP versus Windows 7, and found that Windows 7 is not a complete performance boost over XP. So, depending on what programs you intend to use, you might see improved performance by using XP if you can. Or, you could give Windows a shove altogether, and step to Linux, to squeeze out every bit of performance that you can. Just a couple of options. And 32bit versus 64bit? You hit that already. If you don't have any programs that require 64 bit, why install? – Bon Gart Jun 28 '12 at 0:39
An SSD will already provide very noticeable performance increases for disk operations. Details are available in this related Super User answer, but if knocking down boot time from 50 seconds to 12 seconds isn't amazing enough, I'm not sure what else to tell you! – Deltik Jun 28 '12 at 4:40
I'm curious about your budget, SSD is actually still pretty expensive. Unless there's no second-hand market for your laptop, it would be better to just use the SSD budget and sell your old laptop to buy a new low-end laptop, which probably will get you an i3 (dual core, HT, for a total 4 logical core), bigger RAM, and a working battery. However, the SSD will indeed boost your laptop so much. Check the first graph on… SSD boost will be more noticeable than any upgrade. – Martheen Cahya Paulo Jun 29 '12 at 2:20
@MartheenCahyaPaulo Actually the SSD was not too bad. I got a 120GB OCZ Agility 3 for $70 through a recent sale. Hadn't really considered selling the laptop to upgrade it, especially given its age. Quick check on ebay says my model only goes for around $100-200. It'd be hard to find a decent replacement at that level, esp with features like this one has (17", 2 HDD bays, numeric keypad). Plus, this was one of the last laptops I saw to have a 1920x1200 screen, and I'm not anxious to give that up. :) Fascinating article you suggested, thanks for that! – techturtle Jun 29 '12 at 15:05

Not to put too fine a point on it, but that laptop is 5 years old now and probably needs to be put out to pasture if performance is really your thing.

Windows 7 performs slightly worse on the same hardware than XP, however 64bit vs 32bit isn't a huge difference either way (in some workloads/applications it's faster, in others slower...)

You can use /3GB switch in XP boot to use more memory for processes, but windows XP can still use 4GB of ram fine - the limit is per-process as far as I understood, not systemwide...

One last thing to try is just turning off the pagefile (I've only ever come across a single hardware device - an old graphics card - where doing that caused a problem) if you don't care about getting crash debug dumps anymore and you have enough physical ram to run everything you want to comfortably.

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This one's not quite 4 years old, but you're right... it should be retired. Unfortunately, I have not the funds to do so; hence the question. :) I may toy with the pagefile option. I've seen it mentioned before, and had considered it for my desktop (though it has 16GB of RAM, so it could handle it better). – techturtle Jun 28 '12 at 4:20
The pagefile is used as needed. Don't disable it. – Deltik Jun 28 '12 at 4:23
The problem with pagefile usage that all those "don't disable the pagefile" articles fail to mention is that windows pre-emptively swaps out stuff to disk, even if there's still plenty of physical RAM free. Of course, if you only have a very small amount of physical RAM, it's not an option, but if you throw lots of RAM at a computer and disable the pagefile you will eliminate any pagefile related disk operations (obviously) and this will have a performance benefit. Again, if you go that route you should make sure you have enough RAM plus a margin, and watch your mem usage to be safe. – Jon Kloske Jul 4 '12 at 0:10

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