Upgrading a Compaq Evo D510 for Windows 10 and beyond

I had an old Compaq Evo D510 full-size tower/desktop convertible PC, from the Pentium 4/Windows XP era, that I wanted to upgrade. The machine long ago outlived its usefulness–its Pentium 4 CPU is less powerful than the average smartphone CPU while consuming enough power to be a space heater–but the case is rugged, professional looking, and long since paid for. So I thought it was worth dropping something more modern into it.

I chose the Asrock Q1800, which sports a quad-core Celeron that uses less than 10 watts of power and runs so cool it doesn’t need a fan. It’s on par with an early Intel Core 2 Duo when it comes to speed, which won’t turn any heads but is plenty fast to be useful, and the board can take up to 16 GB of DDR3 RAM and it’s cheap. I put 16 GB in this one of course. I loves me some memory, and DDR3 is cheap right now.

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Sitting in the lap of luxury with an SSD

OK, it finally works. I have my OCZ Vertex running in my Compaq Evo D510 using a Rosewill RC-203 IDE-SATA bridge adapter.

It’s fast and quiet. I haven’t had it working for long but I really wouldn’t want to give it up. I’m not looking forward to that clunker with spinning disks on my desk at work tomorrow.Windows boots in well under 30 seconds. You barely see the Windows XP splash screen. And once you get to the desktop, you can start loading programs even though the disk light is still blinking a little. The system doesn’t care.

Firefox loads in about three seconds. I could probably reduce that some if I cut down on the amount of history I made it remember. But since I keep it loaded all the time, I probably won’t bother.

Excel loads in a second. I think it spends as long displaying its stupid splash screen as it does actual work now. You can disable that, and it might be worthwhile to. There’s no perceptible difference between loading it the first time or loading it the second time.

Word loads in about a second too. Like Excel, the first launch is about the same speed as launching it from cache.

Photoshop Elements is still a slow pig. It loads about five seconds faster than off my old Seagate drive, but takes about 20 seconds to load. That’s not bad, but it’s about as long as Windows itself.

It’s quiet and cool. The system fans on this Compaq adjust themselves as necessary, and they’re spinning very slow. A bird singing outside your window drowns it out. The drive isn’t completely silent, but without putting my ear right up to it, I can’t hear it.

With no more worries about physical wear, shutting the computer off at night (or at least hibernating it) becomes more feasible. And while it’s on, the system’s power usage will drop a few watts.

I had problems cloning to my new drive with Ghost. If you want to clone rather than rebuild, Drive Image XML looks like a better bet. The downside with it, as I found out, is that your new drive has to be the same size, or larger, than your old one. Even though I had 18 GB free on my 40 GB drive, it wouldn’t let me clone to a 30 GB drive.

Why did I buy a 30 GB drive? Because I expect prices to continue to drop. 30 gigs is enough to be useful, so if I decide to buy a larger drive this year or next, I can move this 30 GB drive into another system.

This is a big deal. If you can’t afford an Intel SSD, buy the OCZ Vertex. You won’t regret it.

Very brief first SSD impressions

My OCZ Vertex SSD arrived yesterday. I don’t have it working yet–not completely. In retrospect, I should have just installed the drive and rebuilt the system from scratch. I’d be time ahead by now. But I can tell you a few things.It’s fast. I booted Windows XP in 20 seconds off the Vertex. Not a fresh install either–this was my existing installation I’ve been using for 18 months. Granted, off my factory Seagate Barracuda 7200.7, it booted in about a minute. (I’m still pretty good at optimizing a PC.)

It’s eerily quiet. You see the disk activity light but you don’t hear anything. On those rare occasions when the disk does grind, it’s weird to see the disk light going crazy without hearing anything.

The OCZ Vertex will work with an IDE-SATA bridge, such as the Rosewill RC-203. I think a better option is to put a new SATA card in the system, even if all your system will take is a SATA-150 card rather than SATA-300, and rebuild. You’ll get ever-so-slightly better performance, both from the SATA interface’s greater bandwidth, and from the fresh installation.

An older system like my Compaq Evo D510 can’t take full advantage of a Vertex’s capabilities. But the drive will keep the IDE bus saturated much of the time, longer than any conventional drive, including a 10,000 RPM drive like the legendary (in some circles) Western Digital Raptor.

I still haven’t figured out what went wrong with my installation, but I have an idea. The first time I booted with the new drive after cloning the system to it, I still had the old drive in the system and it decided to load my user profile off the old drive for some reason. Now it doesn’t seem to know to look for the profile on the new drive.

Maybe copying my profile over to the new drive will do the trick. Maybe I need to re-image and not boot until I’ve removed the old drive. I’m not sure. Copying the profile is fastest and easiest. Imaging takes about an hour, plus the time it takes to route cables and move things around in this small form factor case.

I’d hoped this upgrade would be a two-hour project, and back when I routinely did disk swaps, I probably could have done it that quickly. But I think it’s been six years since I’ve done one of these, and I found myself second-guessing things I used to just fly through.

But I’ll get it. I always do.

So I can’t verify yet that a six-year-old Compaq Evo with an OCZ Vertex can launch multiple memory-hogging apps simultaneously in less than a minute. But once I have the system running on that drive, and only that drive, it’s a test I intend to undertake. I believe it will, but of course I want the proof to back it up.

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