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'Sweet spot' configuration for gaming

Last response: in Storage
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April 29, 2006 8:18:12 PM

Edit note: removed reference to the non-existant "SATA II".

I'm thinking of a new gaming system (MMORPG/RPG/strategy more than shooters FWIW), and have some questions on hard disk configuration.

1. I understand that two disks, each on their own cable, one for Windows and the other for the game, has benefits. Where would the swap file go?

2. What is a sensible configuration for gaming where you get a reasonable 'bang for the buck'?

Components to choose from include Raptor disks (74GB, 150GB), larger disks in the generic 7200RPB/16MB type (e.g., Caviar), RAID 0 or non-RAID for either or both of the system/data drives, PATA/SATA I/SATA 3.0 GHz

I'm not quite sure how much space to get; the 150GB line seems almost low-end adequate, I'm probably more comfortable with 250GB-300GB.

I could do anything from 'get two Caviars, non-RAID, and you will get a good bang for the buck' to 'get two 150GB Raptors in RAID 0 plus...'

What configuration would give great performance but not double the price for 5% improvement?

(The time I'm most annoyed with HD bottleneck are when zoning into new areas in an MMORPG, especially with many other players, or swapping).

3. In the generic 16MB/7200RPM 250-300MB category, are any drives worth picking in particular, or just get any of the WD/Maxtor/Hitachi/etc.?

Value, performance, reliability and low noise are all factors.
April 30, 2006 2:35:41 AM

Quote:

1. I understand that two disks, each on their own cable, one for Windows and the other for the game, has benefits. Where would the swap file go?


Actually I consider such an approach backward and wrong headed. I think people who recommend such setups are inexperienced or simply none too clever.

1) No performance advantages.

The hard drive only comes into play when the game is first installed and when the levels are loading.

Typically nothing else will be writing to you hard while your playing a game. Even if you are running a P2P program in the background you shouldn't be keeping your files and OS on the same partition. So the game should stay on C: and your emule folder on the 2nd drive.

If you have so little RAM that you are actually using vitrual memory while running your game/application having a faster hard drive won't be much help. Only thing that will help is to buy more RAM.

2) Your installed programs are spread over multiple partitions complicating backups.

Now if you were to tell me you were doing video editing. Then I would recomend that you install your software on C:, but edit and capture to a fast 2nd drive.


Quote:

2. What is a sensible configuration for gaming where you get a reasonable 'bang for the buck'?


Hard drive speed doesn't have much impact on gamming.

Gigabytes i-RAM (a solid state hard drive using DDR memory) is twice as fast as a Raptor, but check out how little doubling your transfer rate actually gets you.

http://www.anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=2480&p=8

The difference between a 74/150 GB Raptor and your typical hard drive is even less.

Quote:

(The time I'm most annoyed with HD bottleneck are when zoning into new areas in an MMORPG, especially with many other players, or swapping).


Most people assume that long waits are due to the hard drive. In most cases they are actually wrong.

Without benchmarking various drives there is no way to know if what you are actually waiting on is a transfer from your HD or the decompression and processing after that data has been transfered.

MMORPGs could be an exception. I will try to find some benchmarks comparing various hard drive setups and loading times. Hard numbers not people making stuff up or telling me their subjective experience.

Quote:

Components to choose from include Raptor disks (74GB, 150GB), larger disks in the generic 7200RPB/16MB type (e.g., Caviar), RAID 0 or non-RAID for either or both of the system/data drives, PATA/SATA I/SATA II (I'd think SATA II nowadays?)


Benifits of RAID 0 are debatable. The transfer rate goes up dramatically while real world performance increases are less dramatic. Consequently RAID 0 is a goodsend for some applications, and of minimal use in others.

The downside is if something goes wrong with your array or one of your drives you lose everything. And IDE/ATA Raid Controllers mess up way too often.

BTW there are no SATA II drives, never have been.
150 MBps is not SATA I and 3.0 Gbps is not SATA II.

Currently no drives can take advantage of 150 MBps let alone 3.0 Gbps, so ther is ZERO benifit to the 3.0 Gbps feature.

A 150 MBps or 3.0 Gbps tranfer rate does not imply the presense or absense of ANY OTHER SATA feature. So a SATA 150 MBps Raptor has NCQ while many SATA 3.0 Gbps don't.

So the speed is meaninglesss and tells you nothing about how advanced the drive is.

With controllers you might want it to support the faster speed just in case hard drive suddenly get 50% faster, but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

---

My gamming PC setup
74 GB Raptor (because I wanted to pay extra for that little bit of extra performance in loading Windows, installing programs, even a few seconds off loading a game level).

2 400 GB WD RE2 in RAID 1 - 400 GB of reliable, fail safe storage, so I don't have to worry.

---
What I usually recommend to gammers.

Seagate SATA with a 5 year warranty.
April 30, 2006 3:24:46 AM

This has been beat to death. It all depends on what you're doing. If you are consistantly swapping large files, fast HD's, RAID, will help a ton. If it was all smoke and mirrors, why are they even selling them to professionals, let alone the general public. Why do large file servers use RAID? All that money, just for security, when a good BU is very cheap?(ghost etc) I think not. A lot of larger companies do a daily off site BU anyway. Consider: File server, 20 workstations. Data read/writes from all machines, all day long, 6 days a week. RAID with several drives is a huge benefit. How do I know? I've set several up. Same machine just RAID controller and a few HD's. Throughput went up in a big way. No longer were the workstations waiting to do their read/writes to the server. <-- Pratical, real world application.
"Benifits of RAID 0 are debatable."
Only if you don't need it.
"Consequently RAID 0 is a goodsend for some applications, and of minimal use in others. "
Correct.
Botton line is this: Don't waste money for a RAID when you won't use it. I use my PCs for large files, both audio and video on a regular basis. RAID is a tremendous asset for me. Occasional games, internet and listening to music don't warrant RAID or super duper fast HD's. The Hitachi line (250 GB and above) have high density platters, they are close to the raptors in speed and well below in price.
Beat RAID all you want, it does work. Does it work well for everyone? That's where the debate lies.
Related resources
April 30, 2006 7:29:24 AM

Quote:
["Benifits of RAID 0 are debatable."
Only if you don't need it.


I think perhaps you read that to mean "Whether RAID 0 has benifits is debatable".

Rather than the literall meaning "People can debate the benifits of RAID 0"

Or my intended meaning "The benifits of RAID 0 for different computing tasks is the subject of frequent debate".

However phrase "RAID 0 is godsend for some applications" in the concluding sentence should have made it clear that we are actually in agreement.

Quote:
All that money, just for security, when a good BU is very cheap?


Thats where we disagree.

Good backups alone = downtime and usually waiting for a human to come fix something.

Redunancy and 5 9's or reliability rule the business world.

Thats why there are redunant powersupplies, RAID 1+0 5&6 with hot spares, load balancing servers....

For many businesses losing one days worth of data would do irreperable harm, some can't even lost an hours wihtout losing more money than many people make in a year. Again it all depends on the business.

---
PS I hate Hitachi because they inheritted IBM. My IBM deathstar was fast and broke in two months because the power pins were as thin as hell and bucked every time you connected them. Bend thin metal a few times and it snapes. Well documented problem. Tech guy knew it right away from other caller. Wouldn't honor the waranty.

(every other hard drive I uses solid power pins I can't bend by pushing on them no matter how hard I try)

Fixed the pins myself. My friend with identical drive laughed at me until his broke even though he was being extra careful after mine broke. He fixed his pins as well (repladements from an old drive). Didn't help much both our drives got the click of death within 3 months.

Wasn't long after IBM sold thier hard drive business to Hitachi.

Have no idea if Hitachi fixed the quality problems when they took over or not. But I will never purchase Hitachi. Not even if they come out with a 10 K RPM drive that blows the Raptor out of the water and breaks the 100 MBps mark.

---
April 30, 2006 8:02:55 AM

I've seen the comment that disks are not that important to gaming and generally, I agree.

I also agree that more RAM is the most important factor.

Having said that, as you alluded, my performance issue is very secific to certain MMORPG activities - zoning, moving to new areas, etc.

Those are where I see the longer pauses I'd like to reduce. When they happen, my drive light is going to town.

While a new system will greatly reduce the issue with a faster CPU, more RAM etc., I suspect disk will conitnue to play a role. When you zone, the system is trying to an on-the-fly loading of a new area's maps, textures, graphics etc. as fast as it can and it's sizable (and not cached, typically).

Any feedback on how to keep the volume down? Some drives may be quieter - some advertise low noise - or there are 'quiet cases', etc...

I'm not sure whether to anticipate the most noise coming from the disks, graphics card fan, or system fan(s), and what to optimize.

Thanks for the tips so far; additional comments are invited.
April 30, 2006 2:07:39 PM

"Good backups alone = downtime and usually waiting for a human to come fix something. "
How are you doing a BU? Are you manually entering each byte? The companies I work for do a BU at the end of the day as they are leaving. They do this in addition to having RAID 1+0. I'd call that pretty cheap and requires no one waiting around. :roll: Are you stuck doing BU's on floppy?
"Redunancy and 5 9's or reliability rule the business world.

Thats why there are redunant powersupplies, RAID 1+0 5&6 with hot spares, load balancing servers.... "
But but but....RAID has no uses, it gains the users NOTHING.....you contradict yourself here.
"PS I hate Hitachi because they inheritted IBM. My IBM deathstar was fast and broke in two months because the power pins were as thin as hell and bucked every time you connected them. Bend thin metal a few times and it snapes. Well documented problem. Tech guy knew it right away from other caller. Wouldn't honor the waranty. "
This is just silly. You carry a grudge because you bent the pins? Oh my! Why did you feel the need to keep plugging and unplugging it?
I don't know why you hate RAID but you better face the reality because your arguments againt them are mostly silly. I'm not attacking you personally but if you think RAID is of little benefit, you're living in a dream world. I respect your opinion but maybe you should do more research? Perhaps build an array and test for yourself.
As for noise, Hitachis are pretty quiet. I also have a few WD SATAs that can rarely be heard.
!