SSD upgrade - it was supposed to be so easy...


Mar 2, 2008
This is as much of a rant as a request for advice...

This week I noticed that some UK retailers had started selling Crucial M4 128GB SATA III drives for less than £90. Thus they finally reached the tipping point where I reached for my wallet.

I pretty much immediately realised I'd made a mistake, albeit not a fatal one - my motherboard is an old LGA775 model (MSI P35 Neo2-FR) and only has SATA II ports.

No problem, I thought, I'll buy a SATA III PCIe expansion card. So I ordered a cheap Lycom PE-115 card with a Marvell 9128 chipset.

Installation of Windows 7 64 bit went as usual, and the PC felt much more responsive than with my previous 2x 80GB hard drive RAID 0, which was showing its age. However, when benchmarking with CrystalDiskMark, the drive's sequential read speed was a relatively paltry 170 MB/s.

I checked the drive was in AHCI mode; tried different PCIe slots; checked the drivers and firmware were up to date. And then it struck me - all the PCIe slots on this board are generation 1...

This was confirmed by the "PCIe Speed Rating" in the SATA III card's BIOS reading as 2.5 GB/s. And although I have a spare 16x PCIe 1.0 slot, and it runs at 4x speed, the card is a 1x slot PCIe 2.0 design and is only picking up one of the lanes.

Reading up online, the advice was to swap it back to the onboard SATA II connections. And that's where I am now, with the drive maxing out at 270 MB/s.

It'll do for the time being, but is there any way of cheaply upgrading the hardware to allow the SSD to reach its maximum output of 400-450 MB/s? I bought the SSD primarily to help load times in games such as Skyrim, and although it's definitely improved in its current state I hate that nagging feeling there's a fair chunk of performance available.

I think I have a couple of options:

1) There are no LGA775 motherboards that support SATA III natively. But there are some chipsets (X38, X48, some P45) that have more than one PCIe 2.0 slots. Obviously, one 16x is needed for my graphics card, but if there's another that is PCI 2.0 of any size, I could use the expansion card at full speed. The complication is there are a number of P45 boards that have a single 16x PCIe 2.0 slot, but all the other PCIe slots are generation 1, which is irritating.

2) Find a SATA III PCIe 1.0 expansion board that has a 4x connector, and slot that into my spare 16x PCIe 1.0 slot.

3) Leave it for the time being, save up for new MB/CPU/RAM combo with native SATA III support. This is made more attractive because X38/48 boards are still expensive even second hand...

This whole process has given me a headache. It was meant to be a quick and easy upgrade! :pt1cable: Do I have any other options than the above?
I say leave it be, at least for now. Sata 2/3 help with sequential speed of large blocks. true. But that is not what we usually do. The OS does mostly small random reads and writes. That is why your pc feels more responsive.

LGA775 is a few generations old, so you are better off in planning a complete replacement.
I agree with both of the above. I'm running an SSD on an SATA II motherboard, and it is sufficiently responsive that I haven't bothered replacing the mobo.

Good on you figuring out the PCI-E x1 issue. That one snags a lot of people; they see SATA III and assume that it will actually get those speeds.