$500 is a lot for a harddrive. I guess you could go RAID 5 with 3 SATA drives and a good RAID controller. That would get you good performance and reliability.
If you are actually looking for an entire system for $500, then here is my idea of a budget gaming computer. It's a Socket 939 3000+ Venice with 1GB of RAM, a PCIe 6800, an 80GB HDD, and a DVD burner.
If all you are looking for is performance go with a pair of 150gig raptors and Raid 0 them. If you just want sheer size for bulk storage get either a pair of western digital 500gigs or a trio of the 400 gig WD's. Both put you a little over budget so figure something out along those lines. If you want both performance and lots o' space get a pair of 36 gig raptors and Raid 0 them for your OS and games and programs, them get a pair of western digital 400gig HDDs. I wouldn't recomend doing a raid on the big HDDs unless it's a raid 1, which will mirror the HDDs so instead of 800 gigs or a terabyte or whatever you have half that, but if one drive goes out you still have the backup. That's my 2 cents, personaly I would go with the 36 gig raptors and 2 400gig drives, that should cost right around $500
BTW, if you are going to be mirroring two drives for redundancy, you might want to consider getting the drives from different vendors. I don't know if it is being overly cautious, but some IT people I know don't like to put sequential serial number drives in mirrored arrays. The simple idea is that two drives with sequential serial numbers were together during the assembly process and are therefore more likely to have the same manufacturing defect (if one exists). This could theoretically cause them to fail at the same time if not in close proximity. Buying from two different vendors almost guarantees the drives were manufactures sufficiently apart from each other. Like I said, I don't know if there are any studies, facts, or data to back this up.
If you want a Raptor, go with a 74 GB one for your system drive ($150). Then get 3 250GB SATA 3.0GB/s drives and do a RAID 0 or RAID 5. 500GB of storage with backup and speed. 750GB of storage with just pure speed.
Or just do 5 250GB SATA 3.0GB/s drives in whatever configuration you want.
Don't RAID your system drive though unless it actually qualifies as RAID (meaning it has redundancy which RAID 0 doesn't).
From my experience spending way too much money on PCs, configuring servers for businesses, and server application development, my recommendation if you want to allocate $500 for drives is this:
1) Ignore the user talking about RAID 5. It's slower, not faster than RAID 0
2) Realize your PC is for gaming, and thus redundancy is not a real issue. Just backup your PC from time to time. Especially after a fresh install, so you basically never have to setup your drivers again (assuming you keep the same hardware) Realistically, if you have decent hardware, your risk of crash is low, and your inconvenience should be low, too.
3) Consider either RAID 0 or RAID 1. Both setups on decent controllers will give you excellent read speeds. RAID 0 will be much faster writing, but RAID 1 will let you have a drive crash and not bother re-installing, just put in another drive and rebuild your array.
4) You will likely need to make a boot floppy for the RAID controller on your mainboard or whatever RAID card you choose to use.
5) Assuming you don't plan to do any immediate video editing, if you can squeak out 2x 150GB raptors, and a decent SATA 2 RAID controller (even if it's onboard), you should be set for a while. Even video editing would be okay, as long as you don't keep too many files on your drive for no other reason than the odd chance you might need it. Even SATA 1 RAID would be okay, but SATA 2 RAID has command queuing, which you may not really use much in gaming, so it's not too critical.
6) Another option would be (if seek latency isn't critical), you could go for a RAID controller that supports 4 drives, and get 4x 300GB 16MB buffer SATA Seagate drives.
7) Bear in mind that filling up your drives decreases performance because you start running out of space on the outer edge of the drive, and go towards the middle which spins at the same RPM but less speed (like standing in the middle of a merry go round instead of holding onto the outside for dear life)
I did not say it was faster than RAID 0. Obviously RAID 0 is faster because it doesn't have to spend extra processing on redundancy. I said RAID 5 is fast, as in faster than a single drive.
And spending $500 on 300GB worth of space is retarded for just slightly faster load times. I run two 160GB hard drives in RAID 0 for games and in Oblivion have only a slight half second loading hitch when running around. Spending $500 to eliminate that and having a fraction of the capacity you could have is idiotic. Other games have no problems and even the largest games I have load in a matter of seconds.
Even getting two 74GB Raptors, one for system drive and other for games is a better idea because it leaves $200 for two 250GB drives for bulk storage.
To my knowledge most games pre-load the levels anyway. Your speed boost would be minimal.
If you use money as a factor, my recommendation is to get a single 300GB HD, don't load it up with a bunch of junk software, or MP3s, or videos, and only use the smallest amount of it you can. Otherwise, make 2 partitions, one for OS + main apps/games, and one for all the other junk.
Also, make a set of recovery disks to re-install when performance gets lower than you want.
Then when you use it, you'll get good performance.
Afterwards, put the other $400 in the bank, and save it until there's something worth buying for some reason other than being "neat".
I was wondering what the current best harddrive setup for around 500$ would be for a gaming pc. My knowledge of harddrives sucks..
If you want a computer specifically for gaming, you don't necessarily need to focus that much on HDs. For example, if you want fast boot and game load performance, you could put your OS and games on a RAID0 array made up of fairly inexpensive drives, certainly under $200 total. If you don't want to mess with RAID, you could get a single 250GB drive for under $100. If that's not fast enough, pop ~$130 for a 74GB Raptor (curerent Newegg price, act fast) or get a 150GB Raptor for about $260 (again, act fast). If you save bucks on the HD, you can apply it on other components like the GPU that have more impact on gaming - or you could go buy more games!!!
Personally, I like being about 3-4 yrs "behind the curve".
1) A decent computer with a $150 video card will play nearly any game that used to be top of the line, cutting edge, and all that
2) Every one else worked out the bugs, and so you have decent patches if any were made.
3) The games cost about $20.
4) The ones that were good then, are still being played. Chances are, if no one plays it anymore, it's not worth buying.
The downside to this philosophy is that to get to this point, I've spent mad amounts of money on computer equipment of all kinds. I guess better late than never
After you spend about $50k on various computer equipment, software, and books in the last 10 yrs, you just start going after what works.