Could An SSD Be The Best Upgrade For Your Old PC?

Test System Details

Samsung's PM810 (470 series in retail) is our 2011 reference SSD, in part because it facilitates the balanced performance needed for testing processors, graphics, and motherboards, and also because we were able to get our hands on enough drives to distribute to our offices in France, Germany, Italy, and the U.S. This is the 256 GB flagship equipped with firmware version 0701.

Any discussion about picking the right SSD can quickly become heated. Some folks will tell you to spend as little as possible on a small boot drive, particularly if you're upgrading an older machine. That'd mean going with a 60 or 64 GB drive, and those generally aren't the best performers. Other folks look specifically for the latest features, like SATA 6 Gb/s support. Of course, that's not really a relevant qualification in our comparison, since most older boards lack 6 Gb/s controllers. While we could certainly use any other drive in this one's place, we really wouldn't see much of a difference between various SSDs on older platforms. It's much more significant to measure performance moving from a hard drive to an SSD and simply generalize about solid-state performance, rather than talk about this specific model.

System I (2005)
Motherboard (LGA 775)Gigabyte EP45-UD3P, Rev. 1.0, Chipset: Intel P45 Express, BIOS: F10
ProcessorIntel Pentium 4 660 (90 nm Prescott), 1C/2T, 3.6 GHz, 2 MB L2 Cache, 115 W TDP
Discrete Graphics
Nvidia GeForce 6800 GT, GPU: NV45 (350 MHz), Graphics RAM: 256 MB GDDR3 (800 MHz)
2 x 1 GB DDR2-800, Corsair CM2X1024-6400C4
Samsung Spinpoint T133, HD300LJ, 300 GB, 7200 RPM, SATA 3 Gb/s, 8 MB Cache
System II (2006)
Motherboard (LGA 775)Gigabyte EP45-UD3P, Rev. 1.0, Chipset: Intel P45 Express, BIOS: F10
Intel Core 2 Duo E6700 (65 nm Conroe), 2C/2T, 2.66 GHz, 4 MB L2 Cache, 65 W TDP
Discrete Graphics
Gigabyte GeForce 7900 GTX, GPU: G71 (650 MHz), Graphics RAM: 512 MB GDDR3 (800 MHz)
2 x 1 GB DDR2-800, Corsair CM2X1024-6400C4
Samsung Spinpoint T133, HD400LJ, 400 GB, 7200 RPM, SATA 3 Gb/s, 8 MB Cache
System III (2008)
Motherboard (LGA 775)Gigabyte EP45-UD3P, Rev. 1.0, Chipset: Intel P45 Express, BIOS: F10
ProcessorIntel Core 2 Duo E8600 (45 nm Wolfdale), 2C/2T, 3.33 GHz, 6 MB L2 Cache, 65 W TDP
Discrete Graphics
MSI GeForce N9800GTX-T2D512, GPU: G92 (700 MHz), Graphics RAM: 1024 MB GDDR3 (1100 MHz)
2 x 2 GB DDR2-800, Walton Chaintech Apogee AU2G732-12GH001
Samsung Spinpoint F1, HD103UJ, 1 TB, 7200 RPM, SATA 3 Gb/s, 32 MB Cache
System IV (2010)
ProcessorIntel Core i5-750 (45 nm Lynnfield, B1), 4C/4T, 2.66 GHz, 4 x 256 KB L2 Cache, 8 MB L3 Cache, 95 W TDP, 3.2 GHz max. Turbo
Motherboard (LGA 1156)MSI P55-GD65, Rev. 1.0, Chipset: Intel P55 Express, BIOS: V1.10
GraphicsMSI N280GTX, GPU: GT200 (602 MHz), Graphics RAM: 1 GB GDDR3 (1107 MHz)
2 x 4 GB DDR3-1333, Kingston HyperX KHX1600C9D3K2/8GX
Samsung Spinpoint F3R, HE103SJ, 1 TB, 7200 RPM, SATA 3 Gb/s, 32 MB Cache
Common Hardware
SDDSamsung PM810 (470 series), 256 GB, Firmware 0701, SATA 3 Gb/s
Power SupplySeasonic X-760 760 W, SS-760KM Active PFC F3
Performance MeasurementsPCMark 7 1.0.4
Boot Timer 
System Software & Drivers
Operating SystemWindows 7 x64 Ultimate SP1
Intel Chipset DriversChipset Installation Utility
Nvidia GraphicsVer. 270.61
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  • infernox_01
    I would have liked to see some gaming benchmarks to see what difference it would make. Lower loading times is a given and maybe higher minimum frame rates.
  • aje21
    While I understand the why to facilitate comparisons between systems of different ages, would you really take a P4 system from 2005 and install Windows 7 on it? If I was spending the money on an SSD and new O/S then a new PC would be worth considering instead.
  • Anonymous
    The home user pc now days is to powerfull. When i see a kid whit a 2k$ pc and all what it does is 50% net surfing,30% playng, 10% chat , 5% watching movies and 5% doing something for school it literally makes me sick. A pc should be chosen for the needs of the client and not imposed by seller. Currently are to many powerful pc witch are not even at 50% of their full power used, is full of them, the gap between software needs and hardware power is bigger and bigger. I asisted many times at scenes where clients hwo whanted a ned pc have bought an aircraft whitout even knowing to verify email. No etics, nothing, so much processing power wasted for surfing web and watching pictures. I really think something must be done.
  • pat219
    I have seen that if you delete a file you do not get that back on the SSD drives so you will loss space as well as they cost way to much for such a small Gb size older is best and far cheaper than wasting money. they will come down but not for a lest 5 years when hopefully the disc size is worth talking about
  • jaksun5
    I have to say I have a Core Duo 1.6 notebook with 2Gb RAM and after replacing the 80Gb drive with a 64Gb Kingston SSDNow V running Ubuntu 10.04 it's faster than anyone I knows Vista and Windows 7 running Core 2 duos with double the RAM. My machine has now been used solid for 6 years and still ticks over well.
  • Gonemad
    RAM was the king of upgrades in the era when swap files were really critical to Windows. When machines had measly 128MB of RAM, you could bet you would get rid of all that HDD paging (hence slowness) by chucking in more RAM. Now, XP can survive having just 2GB of RAM (and won't benefit having more than 3GB by default...), but we still need to avoid that dreaded HDD poor performance. Enter SSDs...
  • Marko3333
    If all you do is simple applications, and you have a core duo or better with sata 300 mobo, a SSD would really make a difference. Boot time, windows updates, applications, all start with less then half the time as with an HDD.

    Just try a virusscan with your old HDD and then on a SSD, you can't miss the increase of speed even if you're blind. It's just a huge difference.
  • Rab1d-BDGR
    So... despite my manifold protestations that I would not buy an SSD until they hit the £1 per GB mark, I finally caved and bought a 60GB OCZ Solid 3 to put Ubuntu Studio on. Still got half an hour of twiddling my thumbs whilst the distro downloads.

    I can't wait to see what 500MB/s read and 450 MB/s write actually looks like!
  • usafang67
    I thought older pc's using IDE/ATA interface could not be connected to SSD?
    Do SSD's ship with some kind of adapter to make this possible?
    If so why isn't it mentioned in the article unless I completely missed it.