Running Windows 98 on an SSD, Part One

June 6, 2016

It's finally happened - I've upgraded my Pentium II with Windows 98 to run on an SSD! It took a few false starts, what with the IDE technology, cramped space of a small OEM case, and not having upgraded such an old system to an SSD before. But now, at the age of 18, this system gets to experience an SSD!

And does it make a difference? Yes, it definitely does! While there was some question as to whether an SSD would really be noticeable on a system with a 450 MHz CPU, it absolutely is, and almost every program launches more quickly - quite a few a lot more quickly. Boot time is also down, although that's actually less noticeable than the program responsiveness once it is booted. It is an 18-year-old Windows install, which was in regular use for about 8 years, after all! But it really does make a difference.

As for the SSD, I used the SanDisk SSD Plus 120 GB. This is SanDisk's low-end line, but when it's going to be limited to IDE speeds anyway, that's perfectly OK. And the 120 GB size was intentional - it stays below the 137 GB IDE limit. It also happened to be the smallest SSD I could buy at the local Micro Center.

Is it worth it to upgrade a Pentium II running Windows 98 to an SSD? Well, probably not really unless you use it unusually frequently. But it does make it a lot faster, and it also makes it quite a bit quieter - late '90s hard drives are significantly noisier than today's models. And, ultimately, I was able to satisfy my curiosity about the answer to the question, "Does an SSD make enough of a difference to make even a really old PC significantly faster?" with an affirmative answer.

That said, there's still going to be a lot of difference between upgrading a 9-year-old PC and an 18-year-old PC to an SSD. My 18-year-old Pentium II is now nice and zippy at its late-'90s tasks, and can now do some modern things like starting an mp3 player at the speeds you'd expect today. But its CPU, RAM, and GPU still severely limit its potential at a lot of modern tasks.

I plan to make a future post with more details about the hardware used, hazards faced, as well as the improvement in startup times across a variety of applications. But until the, you can rest assured that one more system has been upgraded to an SSD, and it's rocking Windows 98!

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