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Would SATA Dramatically Improve Speed for Pentium 133?

Posted on 2005-04-26
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Last Modified: 2010-04-26
I have a Pentium 133MHz machine, and am looking to give it a speed boost. I am wondering if adding an SATA card plus SATA hard drive would result in a dramatic increase in speed. I was told that hard drives are amongst the slowest parts of the computer; however, I was also told the CACHE is also a bottleneck.

Has anybody tried this and what was your result?
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Question by:FASTECHS
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by:Callandor
Callandor earned 200 total points
ID: 13867562
If you had a pokey 5400 rpm drive and installed a 7200 rpm drive, you might experience a dramatic improvement, but it is not a guarantee.  I wouldn't go out of my way to install an SATA controller and drive for intangible benefits, and an SATA drive is not significantly faster than a good IDE ATA/100 drive.

Your real potential for improvement is the P133 cpu you are running, which is way down on the speed scale now - there are 3.8GHz cpus out there, and decent systems can be had for less than $500.  Why not consider this the time for a quantum leap, and save that money for a new system?
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Steve McCarthy, MCSE, MCSA, MCP x8, Network+, i-Net+, A+, CIWA, CCNA, FDLE FCIC, HIPAA Security Officer earned 600 total points
ID: 13868165
If you have a P133, you are only getting probably PIO Mode 4 at best on the Hard drive/controller combination, so it is probably 5400 RpM's with a data rate in the Toilet.  All things considered, in this level of machine, your hard disk is definately a bottleneck.  If you put a SATA controller and drive in there, you will see a big, if not dramatic difference in accessing and writing data to your hard disk.  Your system will then be more affected by the amount of RAM and processing power as your disk bottleneck will be removed.  Also, as you are adding a controller card, it will take any processing load for the hard disk off of the processor, giving you a little extra boost.

Now, If you were to put the same drive in a system that is already running a 100 or 133 ATA controller with the associated drive, you would see a very minimal difference that you and I probably would not be able to tell the difference in daily use.  These are in most of the newer systems out there today.

Now, to echo Callandor, there are some good basic systems out there for $500 or so and you could get the whole ball of wax there, Drive, Controller, Motherboard and RAM.
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by:Watzman
Watzman earned 600 total points
ID: 13868315

SATA as currently implemented isn't much faster than the fast, modern IDE drives.  Data transfer isn't usually the bottleneck in disk storage systems.  In your case, I don't think that there is any doubt that your bottleneck for almost everything is going to be the old CPU and all of it's system peripherals .... Motherboard chipset, memory, disk interfaces, etc.  Keep in mind, even aside from the slow clock speed, a Pentium 133 doesn't even have basic MMX instructions (those were first offered in the 166MHz on dekstop CPUs).  Your system is about 1996 vintage.  At this point, you really need to be thinking all new system, which will include new disk drives, most likely.  Even so, if you take two otherwise identical drives, same cache, same rotational speed (but not over 7200rpm) and same access time, I don't think that you would see a significant difference between a SATA drive and an ATA/100 EIDE drive.
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by:davidis99
davidis99 earned 200 total points
ID: 13868524
Concurring with Callandor, adding a drive and controller to your existing system, assuming they'll work properly with your OS, will cost roughly $100-120, depending on the drive and controller you purchase.  In comparison, there are a number of new PCs from Dell, emachines, Gateway and HP that can be had for under $500, with some as low as $300.
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by:JimsZ
JimsZ earned 200 total points
ID: 13868661
The newer PC even with an older hard drive would still perform better than an older machine with a newer hard drive... Save your money and buy when you can
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by:BILJAX
BILJAX earned 200 total points
ID: 13872461
Ok, spend the 200 dollars on a motherboard/cpu combo from someplace like newegg.com or zipzoomfly.com  If you need to keep an eye on deals, hitup http://www.fatwallet.com/c/18/  and search for deals.
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by:Steve McCarthy, MCSE, MCSA, MCP x8, Network+, i-Net+, A+, CIWA, CCNA, FDLE FCIC, HIPAA Security Officer
Steve McCarthy, MCSE, MCSA, MCP x8, Network+, i-Net+, A+, CIWA, CCNA, FDLE FCIC, HIPAA Security Officer earned 600 total points
ID: 13872844
I agree with the statement, "if you take two otherwise identical drives, same cache, same rotational speed (but not over 7200rpm) and same access time, I don't think that you would see a significant difference between a SATA drive and an ATA/100 EIDE drive."

However folks, we are not comparing a SATA with an ATA 100 EIDE drive.  That is not what he is replacing.  My take above is that everyone seems to be comparing these 2 types of drives, but we must remember that with these systems, IDE was just a new kid on the block and speeds were extremely slow compared to today.  

The drive that would be running in this system would at best be a PIO mode 4 which is barely 16.7bm/s transfer rate with a nil buffer at best.  This is a huge difference when compared to a SATA at 150mb/s or a 100 or 133 ATA drive with a 2mb or 8mb buffer.  Back in those days, the hard drives were bottlenecks.  Yes a slow processor and minimal RAM does have an impact compared to today's processors, but they also can gain more performance respectively with a faster drive.

With data the same, a faster drive and controller will deliver the data faster to the system.

With minimal RAM, the system will have to page more to disk.  Faster drive and controller equates to faster paging and improved performance in getting the next page in or out.

Offloading the processing for the disk transfer to an onboard card leaves the weaker processor with more clock cycles to accomplish the instructions at hand.

So, As I said before, If the $500 was not an issue, get a new box.  It will give a hands down great boost over the 133.  If money is an issue and you only have $100 or so, I do think it would be a good investment to breath some life back into this old beast, give it a kick in performance for what it can do and then the drive can be transplanted in a new system later.

BTW, put an old PIO drive in a P4 and see how badly it is crippled in performance.  That P4 can't do a thing until the data gets off the drive.  I have a bunch of systems here I inherited that I see this daily.
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by:Watzman
Watzman earned 600 total points
ID: 13872937

Re: "I agree with the statement, "if you take two otherwise identical drives, same cache, same rotational speed (but not over 7200rpm) and same access time, I don't think that you would see a significant difference between a SATA drive and an ATA/100 EIDE drive."  However folks, we are not comparing a SATA with an ATA 100 EIDE drive.  That is not what he is replacing."

If he's going to replace the drive, he could replace it with a new, modern IDE drive (for which he has the controller), or an SATA drive (for which he doesn't have the controller, and the drive itself will cost more.  So the comparison of the SATA drive to the IDE drive is still very relevant, although the drive that he currently has is [presumably] much slower than either.  But, in fact, we don't know even that.  While the system is ancient, the drive might have been replaced in, say, 2003, and might be a modern IDE drive.

And one other comment: "put an old PIO drive in a P4 and see how badly it is crippled in performance" suggests that DMA is new.  It's not.  I was using DMA hard drives in 1992 with Windows 3.1.  Granted, the DMA speed was lower, but even the original drive in even a Pentium 133 might well have fully supported ATA/33 DMA, which would not be all that much of a bottleneck in that system.

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by:Steve McCarthy, MCSE, MCSA, MCP x8, Network+, i-Net+, A+, CIWA, CCNA, FDLE FCIC, HIPAA Security Officer
Steve McCarthy, MCSE, MCSA, MCP x8, Network+, i-Net+, A+, CIWA, CCNA, FDLE FCIC, HIPAA Security Officer earned 600 total points
ID: 13874909
OK replace the ATA drive and forget about the controller.  Why??  

Again you have a controller that at best can handle PIO mode 4.  

Even if he has now or puts in say a 7200 RPM High Performance drive, your ATA 100 or 133 while newer and able to transfer data much faster is still crippled by the pipeline you are putting it on.  If the controller is only able to handle PIO mode 4, then that is all you will get on the data transfers no matter how fast your drive can put it out.  

Think of it as you put a new fast high performance tires on your 1930's car, but you still have the same transmission that the car came with.  If you want to see that performance boost from the tires capabilities, you need to replace that transmission as well.  I have lots of those in use at my location too where old machines have new drives, but can't take advantage of the performance because they are still using the onboard controller that is limited by the technology at the time it was designed.

I never said a word about DMA.  I referred to drives and performance in the context of controller and drive capabilities and connectivity.  Again, IDE was a baby at the time and DMA was new in the world.  Moving from MFM and RLL drives to the new IDE was a big step and then moving to EIDE drives was even bigger.  However, if your controller can only handle 16.7mb/s at best then that is what you will see coming across the interface from the drive.  DMA surely helps that data transfer to the system, but you are still limited by the pipe to/from the device.

Enough said, the poster will draw his own conclusions.  The question is simple and the answer should be too.
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by:Watzman
Watzman earned 600 total points
ID: 13876982

Re: "Again you have a controller that at best can handle PIO mode 4."

That is simply not correct.  His card can handle DMA.  Sure, not DMA 66 or 100 or 133, but probaby 33 MHz, which is probably fast enough, with a 133 MHz CPU, to not be the system bottleneck.

And when you say "that at best can handle PIO mode 4", that sure implies, "it can't do DMA", which doesnt seem consistent with your statement that "I never said a word about DMA".

Let me summarize where I think we are at:

I think that we are all in agreement that he really needs a new system.

I think that we are all in agreement that adding a SATA drive to THIS system would be a waste of money.  In fact, it might (MIGHT) make things faster, but it would make them no faster than upgrading to a modern IDE drive, and upgrading to a modern IDE drive would be easier (no controller needed) and less expensive.

However, since we don't know what the current drive is (it might BE a "modern IDE drive"), we really can't recommend even an interim upgrade short of a new system until the the author gives us additional information about the current system components.
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by:Callandor
ID: 13878006
I agree with Watzman's summary of the situation.  Let's all work together to solve these problems - there's no shortage of new ones to solve, and without more information, we're just guessing.
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LVL 18
ID: 13881428
As I said, enough said.  He asked a simple question.  It is either yes or no.  I think getting to the bottom, we both agree the answer is yes.  Is it the best option, probably not, but then when money talks, you do what you can.
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