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How to install an SSD in a Dell D430 laptop

Speed up your laptop with a solid-state drive
You may know from elsewhere on my blog that I have a tiny Dell D430 laptop that I use for portability when I'm out and about and want more power than just a tablet alone.

I'd been looking at ways to speed the laptop up and started to look specifically at replacing the 1.8" 4,200rpm 60G Toshiba hard disk with something a bit faster.  The Toshiba drive is tiny and very low powered, but it is sloooow.  Indeed, it is so slow that it ranks 3189 out of 3192 - literally fourth from the bottom - of Passmark's November 2014 Hard Disk benchmark!

No prizes for guessing I need to replace this to get some performance out of this laptop. The obvious direction is to install an SSD - or a Solid State Disk. The question is - How?  The Dell D430 hard disk sits under the battery and is shown outlined in red in this photograph.  You can see that there's no room for a physically larger hard disk.


Add to this the fact that the hard disk interface on the Dell D430 is a PATA or IDE interface and that would normally rule out any SATA devices too.

The only options we have therefore is to replace the disk with a purpose-made SSD that is designed to fit a 1.8" format or to seek an alternative format.  There are a few 1.8" SSDs available (there are a few shown here) so an easy approach would be to buy and install one of these. However, I was looking for something that would likely outlast the Dell, so I looked at using an mSATA SSD and running it using an mSATA to ZIF Adapter.  Not only is the mSATA SSD cheaper to buy, it's transferable and usable in other computers and laptops should the Dell die in the future.

Here's how I did it.  To start, I wanted a clean build of a new OS, so I took a backup of my data from the old hard disk before I started this procedure.  The old disk had Mint 13 on it but I wanted to move to Mint 17 with the new disk and this is best done with a clean install on the new disk.  I'm therefore going to assume that you won't need my help to manage your data or your OS - just the procedure for swapping the old disk for an SSD.

You'll therefore need:

Tools:
a small cross-head screwdriver
possibly a wooden toothpick and a wooden coffee stirrer.

Parts:
An mSATA Solid State Disk (I chose a 120G Crucial m4 mSATA SSD like this)

An mSATA to ZIF adapter card
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/search/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=19450&keywords=mSATA%20to%20ZIF%20Adapter&linkCode=ur2&qid=1443561019&rh=k%3AmSATA%20to%20ZIF%20Adapter%2Ci%3Acomputers&tag=vastmblog-21%22%3EmSATA%20to%20ZIF%20Adapter%3C/a%3E%3Cimg%20src=%22https://ir-uk.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=vastmblog-21&l=ur2&o=2
 

Method:
Start with the laptop powered down and the battery removed

Step 1 - Undo the two screws on the disk caddy

Step 2 - Lift and slide the caddy so it is freed from the plastic clips on the base of the laptop

Step 3 - Gently lift away the disk caddy and put it somewhere safe - with the two screws.

Step 4 - Locate the pull tape on the disk plug. Gently grip and pull this straight up to disconnect it

Step 5 - Lift the old hard drive clear

Step 6 - Ease the rubber case away from the old hard disk. Don't stretch it and don't use anything metal to loosen it.  If necessary use a wooden stirrer to ease the rubber free of the drive.

Step 7 - When the rubber case is loose, gently pick open the ZIF connector lock (it should just flick up, but don't force it)

Step 8 - Here the lock is free and the ZIF connector is ready to have the cable removed.  Slide the rubber case over the connector so you can remove the drive.

Step 9 - Gently pull the connector from the drive.  Use a toothpick to ease it out if it is sticky. Put the drive somewhere safe.

Step 10 - Start to assemble the SSD and the adapter.  Undo the two screws on the adapter

Step 11 - The SSD and adapter are ready - now to connect it up.

Step 12 - Pick open the ZIF connector on the SSD adapter and offer it to the cable.  Make sure the cable goes into the connector and not under it.  Note that here I have inadvertently put the cable in the wrong way round.  More on this later.

Step 13 - Here is the SSD with the cable connected the right way round.  The cable should sit so that it curls or wraps over the top of the SSD.

Step 14 - curl the cable loosely over the top of the SSD and place the SSD top-down in the rubber case.  It will be a loose fit.  Don't worry, it will be fine.

Step 15 - Offer the SSD in the case to the Dell laptop and connect the blue plug to the disk connector on the laptop, pressing it gently so that it clips into place.

Step 16 - Re-attach the disk caddy to hold the SSD in place.  Don't forget to do up the two screws.

Step 17 - Re-connect the battery

That's it, done.  Now turn the laptop over and turn it on.  If you enter the BIOS while the laptop is booting, the new SSD should show itself by advertising its capacity on the Device Info screen as shown here.  If you've managed to get the cable the wrong way round (see Step 12 above) you'll know because there would be no disk found by the BIOS!

For me, I next inserted a prepared USB stick with the install ISO of Mint 17 Cinnamon on it and set about installing a clean, fresh copy of Mint 17.  When this was complete, I then tweaked it from the guide here and tuned it for an SSD using this guide.


Addendum:
Two months after I completed this upgrade I experienced a little problem.  my laptop died.  Well, more exactly, I'd let the laptop go to sleep as I was busy elsewhere.  When I resumed the laptop the system didn't come back to life.  After a power off/power on the system still did not boot.  A view in the BIOS showed no hard disk found.

The SSD had died on me.

Slightly worried by this (my British stiff upper lip here...) I began to search Crucial's web site for a Returns page for SSDs when I chanced upon this article:

Why did my SSD "disappear" from my system?

It turned out that my SSD had suffered from a bug in its firmware and had apparently 'died' as a result of this bug. After following the steps in that article I once again had an operational SSD.  In that article you are also advised to update the firmware of the SSD and this I completed from following the instructions in the SSD Support page

I once again have a fully working Dell D430 with a 120G SSD on board.


Well?  How fast is it?
Let's be clear. You won't get the full speed from your new SSD with the old 100MB/s IDE disk interface on the Dell!  That said; the performance of the Dell is greatly improved by the addition of the disk.  For me, the laptop now boots from power-on to the log-on prompt in a little over twenty five seconds (the BIOS alone takes 8 seconds of this).  And then, from entering my password, it takes a further twenty or so seconds until the desktop is operational. Not bad!

As you'll see from the comments below I was asked what the measured speed differences were.  I must admit, when I first installed the SSD I didn't measure the performance, but I've since popped the old disk back in and run before-and-after speed tests.

The two tests I carried out are simple but indicative. The first uses the Linux dd command as described in Systembash's post to measure write speeds:
$ dd bs=1M count=512 if=/dev/zero of=test conv=fdatasync

When this is run it produces an output like this (this was run on the old Toshiba hard disk)
512+0 records in 512+0 records out 536870912 bytes (537 MB) copied, 36.4651 s, 14.7 MB/s

and the second test uses the hdparm command from Unixcraft's post
$ sudo hdparm -tT /dev/sda

This produces an output like this (again, for the old disk)
/dev/sda: Timing cached reads: 1090 MB in 2.00 seconds = 545.34 MB/sec Timing buffered disk reads: 32 MB in 3.07 seconds = 10.43 MB/sec

If you run the dd test above, don't forget to delete the test file when you've finished testing - it's 512MB in size!
$ rm test
The results for the Toshiba 60G hard disk and for the Crucial SSD on my laptop are shown in the table below:
ComputerBoot timedd write speedCached Read speedBuffered Read speed
D430 with Toshiba disk
90s
14.7 MB/s
545.34 MB/s
10.43 MB/s
D430 with Crucial SSD
41s
27.4 MB/s
775.91 MB/s
77.20 MB/s

You can see that the SSD is distinctly faster that the older Toshiba disk, but not by as much as you would expect.  This is due to the restrictions in the D430 design.  Dell built the D430 laptop around Intel's low-power 945GMS chipset and, while the chipset supports both SATA and IDE interfaces, Dell decided to use the much slower IDE interface rather than the SATA interface in the D430 design.  It is this IDE interface that is holding back the performance of the SSD in this laptop.

Conclusion
If you have an old Dell D420 or D430, why not try this upgrade on it rather than just throwing it out.  My costs for this were around £75 (about $120 or €95) (you can click on any of  the orange text in this blog post as they each link to suitable products and articles that back up the points I make).  You can even buy a Dell D430 to do this yourself - a good D430 can cost as little as £50/$80 on ebay.

Running Mint, it is still plenty fast enough for Internet browsing, simple office work and light picture editing.  I'm even coding on it, running IntelliJ while I learn Java.  The device does get a bit warm (I'll get round to improving the cooling later on (using the same approach as I did in this Blog post)) but the battery lasts two and a half hours and it's so light.  the casing is magnesium, so it's very strong and the keyboard is plenty big enough even for my fat fingers.

46 comments:

  1. I'll stick with the stock 80GB HDD (plenty of room and my PC is loaded with more than the averge user needs). In order to keep free space abundant, I delete old and overstaked system restore point and use windows cleaner. I can usually get ride of over 20GB of wasted space that way (that's a lot). I usually resume from hibernate so no issues in slow starts, it's up and running in less than 30 seconds. I bought an extended battery that give my D430 3.5 hours and outlasts most air travel. The SSD seems too volitile and there appears many had had problems (I don't want to risk loosing all my stuff at this point). Your're right about the size, 12.1" screen is not too big and not too small--great for travel, etc, espcially on needs a FULL pc and not a lame tablet. I also have the docking station at home, which has a DVI output. It displays 1080p on my TV. Love my Dell.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Thanks for your comments. I moved to an SSD simply for two reasons - the old disk was so slow and I wanted a reliable, useable machine. I chose to go the mSATA route rather than the 1.8" SSD route to avoid the problems that others seem to have have faced and, since the firmware update, I've had absolutely rock-solid stability and performance.

      To me Dell have always made good laptops - and desktops. In addition to the D430 I've had a D620, an M1330 and a i7 based Studio 1557. They're all good but I've only got the D430 and the Studio nowadays. Once I've sorted the cooling on them they seem to go on forever - it's just a shame the batteries eventually die on them.

      May your Dell continue to serve you well!

      Delete
  2. Thanks for this. Just upgraded using the same msata zif card but with a different ssd. Really fast and very pleased. So quick to boot and programs are so snappy now. Cheers for your guide.

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  3. I made the same , but didn't get the speeds that i thought. With old disk i got seq. w speed 27 Mb/s and seq. R speed 34 Mb/s with msata i get seq. w speed 30 Mb/s and seq. R speed 60 Mb/s better any way.

    The msata is rated as sata III so i guess if old dell zif connector and mobo won't allow more ?

    What about the speeds you are getting ?

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Pedro. I must admit I've not run formal disk benchmarks on the laptop but I still have the old disk, so I'll swap the disks back and forth and try to get a more accurate figure for you.

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  4. Hi Martin, Don't bother test the old drive, for sure you would get results similar than mine). Just test the new msata drive with "parkdale" (very handy to use) to compare with my values around 30 MB/s (seq. writing) and around 60 (seq. reading) .

    Regards

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    Replies
    1. Hmm. I can't use Parkdale as I don't run Windows on my laptop. However, I've run some simple tests as can be seen by my edited post above and I'll test with Bonnie++, a Linux-equivalent to Parkdale

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    2. I hope my revised post helps you Pedro. I should have included the speed tests when I first carried out the upgrade and I thank you for making me go back and do the job properly.

      It looks as if your figures and performance gains are similar to mine, given the different operating systems we are using and I hope my research helps us understand why we don't get a huge increase in performance.

      Still pretty good though for an eight-year old laptop!

      Delete
  5. Now you made a perfect job :-) ... Tanks a lot.

    I can see that my old hdd (samsung 120Gb, from 2008) performed a bit better than yours to be more exact i got with that drive : Sequential Write 27 MB/s ; Sequential Read 34 MB/s , but my cold boot was a hell of slow 135 s .
    Now my cold boot with msata is around 33 s but by values are not totally comparable because i made a fresh w7 installation on new drive.

    Even with a decent old hdd , i guess it worth the up-grade because i doubled the read speed and improved significantly the the cold start. And my up-grade was inspired by you , so tks a again.

    Regards.


    PS.: The mSata i'm using here is a (King Fast model: fm6 , 120 GB) , so far so good.

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  6. Thank you for sharing this. Worked like a charm. My laptop has a new lease on life :)

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  7. Did you try the MSATA SSD in the WWAN card slot? I've been wondering if that would be a faster interface going right into the PCIe bus?

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    1. That would be a nice touch! mSATA is supposed to be compatible with Intel's Sandy Bridge processor architecture that's used in the Dell. I've got a separate 32G mSATA SSD I could try and see if it is recognised. I'll report back when I've had a go.

      Good call!

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    2. Thanks Martin!

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    3. Mmm. No joy, I'm afraid. Added the mSATA, rebooted and it wasn't seen, by the BIOS or by Linux. I also ran the command lspci before and after and compared the results. No difference. This would imply that the mSATA device wasn't seen by the system in the WWAN slot.

      A bit of research (not extensive!) shows that while mSATA and mini PCIe are physically similar, they are electrically quite different - and can operate in different modes. To be in with a chance of this working the mSATA SSD has to be PCIe compatible and the PCIe slot itself must not be running in USB mode.

      Sorry mate - it doesn't work with the mSATA SSD I have and this Dell D430.

      Delete
  8. That's a shame, thank you for trying it and sharing the result. I wonder if a mini-pcie sata adaptor would work? I'm hoping there is a possibility of some way of using a major name SSD drive, as I'm a bit hesitant about Kingspec. Thanks again Martin for your help.

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  9. On a related subject, I wanted to make my D430 running Windows 7 Pro more responsive. I had a 8GB SD card laying around, so I popped it in to run ReadyBoost. That, and upgrading the WiFi card turned the little D430 from a snoozer to a snappy little performer. I might try a larger SD card later to see if the improvement is proportional to size, as I think the D430 can use up to a 64GB SD. Not sure how long it will last, but I only use the D430 when I'm in the family room and someone else is using the iPAD. :-)

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  10. Thanks for the excellent piece! I've resurrected a D420 without palaver, now have the fine Mint 17.2 XFCE running with noticeably better performance on a 64GB Kingspec msata + adapter.

    The D420 is perfect for casual use, lightweight & sturdy, surely worthy of my £20 upgrade?

    Tablets take note :)

    Cheers!

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  11. Just to reiterate my thanks for the excellent instructions!

    The D420/Mint 17.2 XFCE (Kingspec 64GB mSata + 40pin ZIF Adapter) is now running very well with a few software mods, importantly:

    - The recommended SSD tuning mods

    - http://manpages.ubuntu.com/manpages/dapper/man1/i8kctl.1.html seem to have the fan noise under control without worseningoverheating.

    One happy punter :)

    Thanks again Martin,

    Neil

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    Replies
    1. And, of course, you can stop the WiFi activity LED from flashing with another of my blog posts - http://vastmeridian.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/fixing-blinking-led-on-intel-wifi-cards.html

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  12. Hello, i followed your setup installed the ssd and cloned back the old installation, but it seems that the machine is now much slower, dp you recommend a fresh installatipn or spmething else?

    Thanks in advance, great guide!

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    1. Hi IoanKo. Thanks for your comment.

      It's difficult to recommend anything from the information you have given. Can you provide some more information? What Operating system was on the original installation? Was it Windows or Linux? If it was Windows, which version of Windows was it?

      If you look at what I did, I took a backup of my data on the old disk and carried out a fresh installation of my operating system.

      Delete
    2. It was a Windows XP installation, i managed to install windows 7 using a usb stick, and disabled aero, but the system does seem to be affected very much my the ssd addition. The only huge difference is the boot time which is considerably faster.

      Delete
    3. Hi
      It is highly possible that you've not yet optimised Windows to run best on an SSD. For example, have you enabled TRIM? Is the SSD correctly aligned?

      I can't help you directly here, but there are guides on the Internet on how you should optimise Windows installations to run best on the SSD. Have you looked at these at all? If not, try this link -

      http://www.disk-partition.com/kb/tips-ssd-optimization-windows7-1.html

      If you can't find drivers for the hardware (eg Wireless card) let me know the make of the card and I'll try to help find a driver.

      Good luck!

      Delete
  13. Hello again! It was a windows 7 installation. Yesterday i created a fresh windows xp installation and went fine. The problem is that i cannot find the drivers for the wireless card, the ones provided by dell do not work.. do you have one for it? I will try a fresh installation of windows 7 also, but this time i will use a usb stick.
    Anyway thank you very much!

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    1. Hi.

      If you got the drivers for Windows XP working then you should be able to find out what the chipset of the wireless adapter is. Given that - and the likelihood that it is an Intel unit - have you tried Intel's website for Win 7 drivers? You could also remove the cover on the base of the laptop and see what the adapter is from there too.

      Just a thought.

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  14. Hello Martin Devies, I have performed all the steps but the disc is not visible in the bios. I bought two adapters and no result. Disk is Intel 80gb brand new and work property. What could be the problem? I would be very grateful if you help me. Attach photos to the next link. https://www.dropbox.com/sh/wqbg6p29e5ohcq4/AAB5XAs-HVFQIhKPR4zwHhgNa?dl=0

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    1. Hi
      Thanks for your comment. From your photos it does look like you've put the cable in the right way round when you compare with my pictures. The only other thing I can suggest is to check very carefully that the ZIF cable is actually going into the white connector and not under it - it is easy to put the cable between the connector and the PCB, rather than into the slot in the white connector.

      If you can, take the cable, bend it straight and take another photo this time into the connector and post that in the same folder on Dropbox. I'll try to look at the photo and see if I can help from here.

      Good luck - and let me know how you get on.

      Delete
  15. Thank you for this nice write-up and especially the pictures. It took the fear out of me, and I ordered a KingSpec 128GB SSD. It arrived earlier today, and I just installed it in my D430. I also upgraded the RAM to full 2GB earlier. I did a fresh install of Ubuntu on it. From pushing the power button over typing in my passwords to a full desktop is now 21 seconds.

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    1. That's a good result! Welcome to your faster D430!

      Delete
  16. Dear martin, how do I get thevzif connectors to try this

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    1. Hi Chizzy

      You just need the mSATA SSD and an mSATA to ZIF adapter board. If you click on the pictures at the top of this post you should be re-directed to the Amazon store where you can buy what you need.

      Let me know if you have any problems.

      Martin

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  17. Worked flawlessly as explained (i put the cable in backwards the first time too! :) ) Thanks for your help! FYI - I used a 256GB SanDisk X300 mSATA Solid State Drive without issue.

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  18. Great post! It's like a new laptop! ~20 sec power to boot in xubuntu!
    I bought the cheapest converter card though and the zif wouldn't grip. Had to use hot glue in the end. Also worth googling Linux ssd enhancements. A few extra fstab enhancements should radically extend its life. Noatime and nodiratime, along with a daily cron job for TRIM

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  19. Hi I just start, I bought a ssd only 60gb, ram 2gb, wlan intel n 300mb/seg,external drive 1 T, I hope this upgrade work, I buy D430 for 40 dls and I believe it can work like a new 400 dls machine

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  20. Great instructions, Martin. Thanks a lot! I installed a 256GB ScanDisk X300, put Win10 and Mint 17.3 on it and it all worked fine. I had been using it for about a week without any issues when it all of a sudden went blank while working on it. When trying to boot the BIOS can't find a disk.
    I've taken the SSD out and put it back in but to no avail. Really annoying. How did go about updating the SSD firmware when this happened to you? I have not been able to figure out if the ZIF adapter has gone bad or the virtually new SSD....
    I'm grateful for any suggestions.

    Flo

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  21. There is lot of articles on the web about this. But I like yours more, although i found one that’s more descriptive. Ssd prices

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  22. Update: After getting an external SSD casing and trying it on a couple of other computers I had confirmation that the SSD had gone south. I got a warranty replacement, re-installed my double-boot Win10/Mint and am enjoying a much faster and perfectly capable D430;-)

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    1. That's great news, Florian

      My apologies for not replying to your first comment - I've had a great deal on over the summer and have not had much time to maintain the Blog.

      So glad you got it sorted - and thanks for the kind comments in your July comment.

      Martin

      Delete
  23. Hey Martin

    Good post. I have always been a fan of the D420, D430, D620 series. Got a couple of D420s and was trying to speed these up a bit after upgrading to windows 10. I have tried to use this adapter http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/291583534333?_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649&ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT hoping that it would work. Unfortunately bios does not recogzise it. So while trying to find a fix found your post.

    Next I am going to try the adapter you have used.

    Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Hi.

      Thanks for your comments. Did you try the adapter with an SD card fitted when you booted the laptop? That might have been why the BIOS didn't pick up the card.

      Also, I may be wrong, but I would have thought that using a micro SD card as a boot device will likely be quite slow - even on this IDE interface - and also possibly short-lived, as SD card technology isn't geared up for the high quantities of read/write activity as you'd get in a laptop.

      Good luck in your research!

      Martin

      Delete
  24. HI, I have a D420 and am planning to upgrade it to a 512GB HDD so I can get multiple operating systems on there, basically making it an gaming pc for old games (XP, Vista and Lubuntu to be exact) And I was wondering if I could do this.

    Now that I know that I can I'll invest in this. but I also wonder if I can use the WWAN slot for MSata cards as well. So I have the meager speed upgrades of an Msata but also another Msata to actually put stuff on. Basically a dumping place for my Lubuntu stuff. I still haven't found any one who actually tried it.

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    1. Hi Kelleth

      If you look through the comments above you will see that I and another reader of the blog did try using the mSata/pcie slot but it didn't work.

      The comments were made in July 2015.

      Delete
  25. Since this blog was a great help in bringing this D420 back to life I thought I would post my results. I went for a very cheap solution of a Zheino 64GB mSATA at #29.99 and a #5.59 mSATA adapter from Shen Zen Jiu Wu Technology (sounds reliable, eh?). Those hashes are GBP as the keyboard doesn''t have the right driver, yet. Both items from Amazon.co.uk.

    The results are pretty stunning. 85MB/s read and 58MB/s write with very good small file access figures in the 20s on Crystal Diskmark. The CPU is giving a figure of around 585 which is 15% higher than the average at Passmark, where it's 515. All of this is still with just 1GB of RAM (and my machine doesn't appear to be seeing the soldered RAM). I expect this to speed up when the 2GB stick arrives. All in all it's rather amazing for a machine I bought for #20 last week. All these figures are on XP Pro, which I need for some old kit

    I have a few other things to try with it. One is running it as a Chromebook from the SD slot, which could be fun. Another is seeing how it will do with Win10 32 bit on another partition on the same disk. It may even do better if Windows 10 recognises more of the hardware that the XP iso did. The third is the ultimate temptation of getting a mSATA with a controller chip on it to go in the WWAN. So far here and elsewhere seem to be saying this likely won't work but a bit of write buffering would be lovely.

    Thanks again for your help, which saved me from going the Compact Flash route, which would not have been as durable and I don't think would have hit the same write speeds - or small file speeds. I am going to use this also on a Pentium 3 machine I am building which I need for its ISA slot and which has ATA133. With half a Gig of memory running Windows SE that should be wild.

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  26. Having just dug my R430 out I'm looking at just this upgrade, and it's great to see sopmeone else recently trying this out!

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