I know that a Samsung SATA-2 SSD drive will work in the Dell. I'm not sure if it will make the machine perform much better than if I got a cheaper 7200 RPM drive. Additionally, not all 7200 RPM drives are equal. With everything considered... what is the best way for me to get this machine running as fast as it could possibly run? I'd like any advice I can get. Not just which hard drive will be best. Anything helpful, including how much RAM it can process and what OS to use (I am trying Ubuntu). Any ideas?
The maximum RAM this unit looks like it can handle is 2x1GB sticks of DDR2 (PC2-6400, 800MHz according to Dell upgrades page).
For best results of the SSD you'll want to stick with Ubuntu - though it's not Windows so there will be a learning curve, so just keep that in mind. As long as you get a Linux distribution that has Kernel 2.6.33 you'll be ok. The newest version of Ubuntu supports it.
For sheer software performance you may want to consider Ubuntu Linux instead of Windows 7. Windows 7 will run pretty rough on your current set of hardware. The SSD will make an OS you use & the applications on it boot quickly though, much much faster than a 7200RPM HDD.
Samsung makes good SSDs, but the enthusiasts say that the Intel & OCZ lines are the ones to beat in terms of performance. I like Kingston's products because they provide solid performance, good support, and aren't wallet-killing expensive. And, because I enjoy supporting the US economy, I like them because a number of them are made in The City of Industry, California.
Hope this helps, let us know if you have other questions!
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Other: iPhone 5S, iPad Air, Mac miniRetired & Donated to charity: Inspiron 530, Inspiron Mini 10, Inspiron M5030 (donated to mom, she's a charity case ), XPS 720 Red & Silver
2x2GB modules http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820104100&name=Laptop-Memory
these have the best speed for 2GB modules that work in that machine And 4GB works FINE (dont believe the 2GB limit some including Dell will tell you ) it works fine with a 64 Bit OS like win 7 64 bit or LINUX 64 BIT BACKTRACK 5R3
then find a cheap 64GB SATA II SSD on new egg or somewhere like it
Then do a clean in stall and you should be good to go, the video driver may have to seach some for but rest should be good to go, worse comes to worst install video driver in compatablity mode - I put WIN 7 PRO on a Dell inspiron 1200 and made it work so I know the 1501 will be much much easier.