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Game Development Environment - Virtual Memory on SSD | Fast HDD worth it? | SATA 3 Expansion Card | Memory Frequency @ CPU OC

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December 23, 2013 11:12:28 AM

Hello everyone, as you might have been able to tell from the Title I have a couple questions that I've been recently researching on a lot. To come to a conclusion I figured, I'd have to imply the community's input so please share your thoughts on he following Issues.

This is how it all started - I am a game developer and as my new project started I noticed that I'm frequently running low on available system memory due to the extensive memory usage of some 3D applications.

My relevant System Specs:
Gigabyte P55-UD3
Intel Core i7 860 2.8ghz OC to 3.57ghz
12GB 1020mhz CL9 memory (2x2GB Adata 1333mhz CL9 + 2x4GB Mushkin 1600mhz CL7)
Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB 7200rpm HDD



The first thing that came to mind was upgrading memory capacity but my mainboard only supports up to 16GB memory so that would only be a 4GB increase which probably won't suffice.
I have to add that I disabled Virtual Memory because my System would almost freeze/ become extremely unresponsive whenever the Pagefile was being used, forcing me to restart and potentially loose work progress.
I'm not sure if this behavior is normal but my HDD is really slow (about 30-40 MB/s read write) so I guess writing multiple GBs at 40 MB/s rate is the reason my system becomes so unresponsive.


The next solution I considered was getting a reasonably sized SSD and re-enabling Virtual Memory to utilize its 10x faster write speed to hopefully prevent system unresponsiveness as the Pagefile could be written much faster. But my research presented mixed opinions on this. I am considering the 240GB Sandisk Extreme II I'm not sure how the life cycles of SSDs are these days and how virtual Memory affects it.


In case Virtual memory and SSDs actually are a poor choice I took a look at high speed HDDs. The Western Digital Velociraptor appears to be the fastest. I'd go with 600GB version (about 180 MB/s read/write) as I don't require too much storage and could always use an external drive for that. Would a high speed HDD be worth it at all, specially concerning virtual memory?


While taking another look at my mainboard's specs and realized that it only supports SATA II while both the WD Velociraptor HDD and Sandisk Extreme SSD require SATA III. I then stumbled upon SATA expansion cards, more specifically the Asus U3S6. It officially is only compatible with Asus mainboards but people report that it's compatible with others as well. Do you know if it will work with a GA-P55-UD3 ? And will it actually deliver the same performance as a true SATA III connection?


Another Issue i have is my current memory speed. Due to my Overclock my memory speed dropped to 1020mhz. I initially planned to use 8GB of 1600mhz cl7 memory but then realized that 8Gb weren't enough so I tossed in my spare 4GB 1333 cl9 and adjusted the frequncy/ timings allowing me a total of 12GB. 1020mhz seems extremely low to me for dd3 memory and I was wondering if this is possibly impacting performance?



So to conclude these are my main questions:

Why does my System become completely unresponsive when using Virtual Memory?
Is Virtual Memory on SSD fine and how does it impact Lifetime/ Will it fix unresponsiveness?
Is a high speed HDD worth it and will it fix unresponsiveness?
Will the Asus SATA expansion card work with any/ my mainboard and provide actual SATA III performance or could it potentially bottleneck SSD Performance?
Is my current 1020mhz memory setup hindering performance/ Will replacing the 1333mhz cl9 memory with another pair of 1600 mhz cl7 sticks so that I have 16gb ~1400mhz cl7 memory provide a tangible performance boost?


Please keep in mind that I am a game developer and simultaneously use several CPU/ Memory demanding applications such as 3DS Max, Zbrush, XNormal, Photoshop, UDK, etc.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and do not hesitate to share your thoughts.
a b G Storage
December 23, 2013 11:30:01 AM

I would say that yes, re-enabling VM using such a slow HDD would cause a big performance hit. But to help mitigate the hit, you should manually set the VM min/max to the same number to keep the CPU from using cycles to keep adjusting the VM size.

The memory speed isn't quite as much of an issue as the VM issue, but it could still be a problem. If you are using two different RAM modules or kits, the motherboard might not let you overclock to the maximum speed. In this case, I would get a whole new kit at full capacity/performance.

Between having an SSD or a Velociraptor, I would go with SSD hands down. The speed you're reading about is the sequential speed, which you may actually benefit from being that you work with large files, but what they don't tell you is the performance of random 4k which is where smaller files would reside on the performance scale. SSDs can be hundreds of times faster in that metric mostly because of the lack of rotational latency that you have with a mechanical HDD. I wouldn't worry about the life of the SSD.

SATA2 vs SATA3 - the SSD will saturate the SATA2 port so you will get a maximum of about 270mb/s give or take, but that is still significantly faster than the mechanical drive. You would benefit from a SATA3 port, if you can manage it.

To close, if at all possible, I would think about getting a new motherboard or platform that supports SATA3 and more RAM. If you can't do that, then I would go with the 16GB kit and SSD. If you can't do both, then get the SSD only.
a b K Overclocking
a c 256 G Storage
December 23, 2013 12:28:51 PM

I'm just going to answer the part about the ASUS Model U3S6 USB 3.0 & SATA 6Gb/s add-on card.

The card is no longer in production. We experimented with them a couple of years ago. I had one myself. They weren't very good.

I am curious. Since this thread is about professional use rather than gaming, what graphics card do you have?
December 23, 2013 1:10:07 PM

leo2kp said:

[...]

I would think about getting a new motherboard or platform that supports SATA3 and more RAM. If you can't do that, then I would go with the 16GB kit and SSD. If you can't do both, then get the SSD only.


I would love to get a new mainboard that supports SATA III but I'd have to get a new CPU as well cuz new mainboards obviously have different cpu sockets and I that's not an option right now. They don't really sell LGA 1156 mainboards anymore, specially not appropriate ones for reasonable price.

I was actually able to find an updated version of my mainboard that supports SATA III and USB 3.0 on ebay so I might be able to snag that or this Asus mainboard also on ebay and take full advantage of that SSD. More than 16GB doesn't appear to be supported by any of these.

Where is your Pagefile placed and how does your system behave when VM is used? Is the SSD speed even gonna provide a satisfying result in terms of VM Speed? I'm currently temporarily on a different System and tried Loading up enough application so that VM would be used and the system also became very unresponsive fairly quickly. Not sure where Pagefile is on here though, it says its managed by the system so that Probably on the System Partition which is on the SSD.


JohnnyLucky said:

[...]

I am curious. Since this thread is about professional use rather than gaming, what graphics card do you have?


I have a Powercolor ATI Radeon HD 5870 reference design card.
a b K Overclocking
a c 740 G Storage
a b } Memory
December 23, 2013 2:05:33 PM

Get both an SSD and a new hdd, just not the raptor. While the raptor is an extremely fast 2.5" drive the new 3.5" drives are almost as fast, have more room, and are at a better pricetag. I'd suggest a 2Tb 7200rpm seagate barracuda or WesternDigital Black wd2003fzex, whichever brand you prefer, for about the same price as the raptor or a 1tb for some savings.
a b G Storage
December 23, 2013 6:23:04 PM

"Where is your Pagefile placed and how does your system behave when VM is used? Is the SSD speed even gonna provide a satisfying result in terms of VM Speed? I'm currently temporarily on a different System and tried Loading up enough application so that VM would be used and the system also became very unresponsive fairly quickly. Not sure where Pagefile is on here though, it says its managed by the system so that Probably on the System Partition which is on the SSD."

Virtual Memory is a RAM supplement when an application needs more memory. The file is called "pagefile.sys" and is usually located on the root of C:\, but you can choose to place it anywhere when you select Custom Size and pick the drive letter from the options. A SSD will be significantly faster than a mechanical HDD, but there really is no substitute for RAM since RAM can read at gigabytes/second vs megabytes/second.

Out of curiosity, is the HDD light blinking fast or solid when the system slows down with VM enabled?
a b G Storage
December 23, 2013 6:30:18 PM

To answer your question about "behavior", Windows will try to keep a certain amount of physical RAM available for system processes, so if you enable VM, it might decide to load more of your application-related stuff in to that, and with all that extra space available, it may load a lot of stuff between RAM and VM causing a pretty hefty slowdown.
December 23, 2013 7:41:02 PM

At the time of posting this thread I didn't have access to my machine but now I do and I just re-tested the HDD speeds and realized that it doesn't perform all that badly. I have to apologize because the 30-40 MB/s I was initially recalling apparently were the 512k random speeds not the seq read/ writes which I get about 120 MB/s at.



popatim said:

[...]

I'd suggest a 2Tb 7200rpm seagate barracuda or WesternDigital Black wd2003fzex [...].


I definitely considered the Seagate Barracuda 7200.14 2TB because of the excellent performance/ price ratio but decided that I didn't need that much Storage and would rather get more performance but I'm kind of on a budget here so getting a velociraptor doesn't make sense and I'll probably get a Barracuda. Thanks for your suggestions.

leo2kp said:

[...]

Out of curiosity, is the HDD light blinking fast or solid when the system slows down with VM enabled?


Okay I just enabled VM to test this and while starting up all the applications to fill my memory the light was solid and when it very obviously transitioned to massive VM usage it switched to very fast blinking mixed with couple seconds solid inbetween but mostly very fast blinking.

Man I really need to get that SSD, starting up all those applications took a long time and fighting with the systems unresponsiveness to terminate processes in order to calm it back down via task manager was a pain.

Is the blinking/ solidness relevant or were actually just wondering?

Best solution

a b G Storage
December 23, 2013 8:07:43 PM
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The solid HDD light tells me it's probably paging to disk (using your virtual memory), however a better indicator would be to monitor your Resource Monitor which can be found in Performance tab of the Task Manager. I can't give a big tutorial on how to translate the data, but the graphs can give you a good idea of what's going on. The benchmarks are pretty average for a mechanical disk, so it's not too bad, but still not where a SSD would be.

Below are my results from my aging Crucial C300 SSDs on a SATA2 controller in a RAID-0 configuration. A good modern SSD on a SATA3 controller would beat my numbers, but just for argument sake, this is the kind of difference you can expect between a mechanical disk and SSD.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
CrystalDiskMark 3.0.3 x64 (C) 2007-2013 hiyohiyo
Crystal Dew World : http://crystalmark.info/
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
* MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]

Sequential Read : 518.755 MB/s
Sequential Write : 276.014 MB/s
Random Read 512KB : 486.049 MB/s
Random Write 512KB : 113.331 MB/s
Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 33.231 MB/s [ 8113.1 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 124.353 MB/s [ 30359.5 IOPS]
Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 330.466 MB/s [ 80680.1 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 131.282 MB/s [ 32051.2 IOPS]

Test : 1000 MB [C: 43.0% (102.6/238.4 GB)] (x5)
Date : 2013/12/23 22:05:36
OS : Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 [6.1 Build 7601] (x64)
December 24, 2013 11:03:50 AM

It was definitely paging to disk I was checking the memory usage when loading up everything and it started to become very unresponsive when it hit 14/15GB allocated memory. My physical memory usage was hovering at about 95% (~10-11GB) while the allocated memory was increasing so it was using VM for sure.

So I'll try to get a LGA1156 mainboard with SATA III support along with the Sandisk Extreme II, maybe a barracuda if I decide that I'm gonna need the extra storage performance.
Now the Sandisk Extreme II is rated at 80TB lifespan, that basically means I don't have to care about write cycles at all right? Or do I have to treat the SSD differently from a HDD in any way?

For have long have you been using your SSDs and have you had any issues?
a b G Storage
December 25, 2013 8:56:52 AM

I wouldn't worry about the life of the SSD, you would have to write about 220GB of data to your pagefile every day for one year to reach 80TB. If you think you'll actually be hitting that, get the drive anyway and save up for a drive with a better lifespan. A mechanical drive also has a lifespan and probably only has a 2 or 3 year warranty. If you decide to get a long-life HDD, you're going to want to spend more on an enterprise-class HDD with a 5 year warranty to beat the SSD in longevity. Time is money and your increase in productivity will be much better with the SSD vs a HDD anyway. You can monitor the SSD using CrystalDiskInfo and keep an eye on certain metrics that can help determine how much time is left on the SSD.
December 25, 2013 9:29:03 AM

Thank you for your assistance, I think I'll be fine with this SSD. Appreciate your advice.
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