Hard disk's "in-game" performance?

I'm in the market for a HDD for a newer build. As gaming is already a terrible waste of time, loading times are of no concern to me. I'm looking for in-game performance specifically, using only one drive (for simplicity, noise, and heat reasons--but may consider a raid set-up). This sytem is used for gaming only, with no exceptions, so anything 150GB or more is suitable--I only play 3-5 games during a six month period or so and never play older games, so they can be removed to make room for new ones.

I know that high rpm HDD's can help load times and system response, but what about in-game performance? It seems that some of the newest game titles are actually accessing the hard drive during gameplay, for background scenery and pop-up imposters. Now, I know that a hard drive cant increase FPS, but what about the obvious dips in FPS that seem to occur during gameplay? Some of those dips in FPS are caused by server/internet lag, especially in MMO-RPG's, but if games are starting to actively use the HDD's during gameplay it stands to reason that they can slow down some processes from time to time. Is it possible that the current crop of DDR3 memory is catching up with hard drive transfer rates, assuming that new and future game coding does indeed use active HDD seeking, not to mention that the memory is fighting for priority against this resource hog known as Vista 64?

My new system has the newest and greatest everything-- X38 chipset, Q9450, 1600mhz+ FSB, 8GB DDR3 at 1600mhz+, HD3870X2 (x2), Vista 64--will any HDD out there give me that extra edge in smoothness and general performance? I want to punish Crysis and the newest DX10.1 games on the horizon. So far, with over $4k into this build, Crysis is humming at only about 30-40 FPS on max settings(1600x1200, aax4) with an occasional dip below 20FPS--although the x-fire drivers for this configuration are brand new, I still was expecting more FPS for this much money and am a little concerned on the longevity of this set-up.

Thanks to the techies who can set me straight on this issue---much appreciated!
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More about hard disk game performance
  1. You spent over $4,000 on this computer and didn't research your hard drive?
  2. Well, look at the HD light. Is it blinking a lot? If so, I'd recommend more ram, not a faster HD. No hard drive is faster than modern ram. Oh wait, I just read and saw you have 8GB, so never mind. If you want to, go get a Raptor to set your mind at ease. First though, look around for benchmarks of 2 3870X2s to see if your system really is underperforming or if Crysis is written poorly (from what I have heard I'd guess the latter).
  3. HD 3870 X2 has a driver issue with Crysis, so I think it's not caused with your HDD.
    Modern HDDs have similar performances(except Raptor), but 1TB drives come closely to Raptors.
  4. boonality said:
    You spent over $4,000 on this computer and didn't research your hard drive?

    You answer my question with an irrevlavent question? Why waste your time? I have been researching until my fingers bleed on HDD's... how insulting. You make many assumptions based on nothing.

    First of all, I just used my previous HDD as it had all of my games and O.S. on it, so I wasn't looking for a drive when i built the PC, and as I stated originally, I don't care about load or boot times, so a high-end HDD wasn't a priority--until I noticed that my HDD seek indicator was blinking fairly often while playing Crysis and Tabula Rasa. Secondly, there is not one thread solely about HDD's "in-game" performance benefits or the lack of on this site or any other I have found.
  5. I was simply stating that I found it hard to believe that you managed to spend 4 thousand dollars on a computer without getting new hard drives. I am almost 30 and an I.T. person and have not spent 4 thousand dollars on computer parts, video games, and game consoles combined in my entire life.
  6. Today, there is nothing faster than the 150gb raptor. Excepting a Mtron SSD in the multi thousand $ range. There is talk about a new raptor coming, but who knows what it will be , or when.

    You might try adding a readyboost device. That is a fast <4gb usb drive that Vista will use as a cache for small amounts of data that you use often. The idea is that there is minimal access time for the devices, but a penalty of high transfer times. Vista will cache some small frequently accessed data there so it can be retrieved faster than from a hard drive. There is a learning/training period while Vista learns what to cache. Over time, I think it makes your system a bit more responsive.
  7. um, ram drives are faster than your mentioned SSD drives
    a ram drive is as fast as you can currently get but with a very high price premium
    they pretty much fill up the entire memory bandwidth when under heavy use
    however, I've only found DDR1 based ram drives - and the cheapest is Gigabyte's I-RAM (the catch: up to 4GB DDR1)
    I haven't found any DDR2 based ram drive solution yet - if they did, that would be sweet because of the current DDR2 memory prices
    but be careful - if a stick of memory goes bad, there goes the data so do intensive testing and cooling before those sticks of memory go bust

    I've played with (but not own) ram drives and they destroy the HDD speed competition, IMO
    (there are plenty of threads about HDD speed and ram drives)
    however, I'd suggest you _wait_ - yes, I said the painful word - until AMD releases new drivers or when the next patch gets released for Crysis
    if you do get a ram drive, you won't see a crazy improvement in your gaming experience - the GPU and the CPU are the largest contributors in that regard
  8. The problem with ram drives is their limited capacity, and what to put on them. The ddr2 solution is to go to 8gb ram, and use some of it for a ram drive using software. I tried this, but took it off because it did not seem to help in general. For some specific applications, it could be wonderful. I don't think games are one of them.
  9. Quote:
    I've played with (but not own) ram drives

    Back in the early 80's and the days of 64K-of-Ram...I had a home made circutboard with 1MB of ram that connected to my ATARI 800 via the s port which I used to load my BBS software on.

    I had the fastest BBS known back in the old pre-internet days.
  10. First though, look around for benchmarks of 2 3870X2s to see if your system really is underperforming or if Crysis is written poorly (from what I have heard I'd guess the latter).

    Very good suggestion EXT. Appearantly the only thing getting more than 40 FPS in Crysis is 3 8800GTX's in a tri-Sli configuration. 35-40 is average for my set-up at max settings and 1600x1200 resolution.

    Although anything over 32 FPS is undetectable by the human eye (which is not to say you cant feel the difference in smoothness between something over 32 FPS compared to something at 32 FPS), and completely exceptable for gaming, its the dips in FPS that bother me.

    Anyhow, I think your right about Crysis coding--the graphics are great, but it doesn't look worlds better than say, COD4, and I am getting 115-130 FPS in COD4 at an even higher resolution than what i play in Crysis (1920x1200 vs 1600x1200). With only one of the X2's I can get almost the exact same amount of FPS in Crysis, with only one X2 in COD4 I get almost half as much. Very interesting to say the least. This is an obvious indicater of bad programming or a driver issue.

    Here are my average results from some testing I did today!

    Crysis at 1600x1200, (HD3870X2) 30-35 FPS - low was 18 FPS
    Crysis at 1600x1200, 2x(HD3870X2) 30-40 FPS -low was 22 FPS

    COD4 at 1900x1200, (HD3870X2) 60-70 FPS - low was 54 FPS
    COD4 at 1900x1200, 2x(HD3870X2) 115-130 FPS - low was 103 FPS

    Anyhow, I will hold off on buying another HDD for now--thanks for all the info guys!
  11. firebanshee said:
    First of all, I just used my previous HDD as it had all of my games and O.S. on it, so I wasn't looking for a drive when i built the PC

    Woah, so do you mean you just transplanted the HDD from another system with the OS and games and everything still on it? I'm amazed that worked if that's what you mean :eek:

    If that's what you did and you're not happy with your hard drive's performance you might want to format it and reinstall everything fresh!
  12. Is Crysis one of those "The Way it is meant to be played" nVidia buyouts? If so I'm not surprised it doesn't like quad X-fire. Hopefully ATI will be able to get quad X-fire to work better in Crysis in a little while.

    I agree with you that 35 FPS is fine, but those lows are a little low for my taste. Anyway, it looks like I won't be buying Crysis anytime soon. If a card with 4x the processing power of mine has trouble, I'd hate to see how mine handles it.
  13. RAM drives will not help game performance, unless you took the time to install the game on the RAM drive each time you booted the computer. Games have various ways of managing the resources they use, like geometry, textures, sounds, etc. They try to load an prioritize the resources needed, so that the most commonly used ones are always in memory and less used are either compressed in memory or read off the hard drive as needed. So, the HD accesses you see during play is the reading of resources needed that were not read before or had been read and released earlier to make room for other stuff. It could also be accessing the HD to write status info to the disk (like auto-saving your current position and accomplishments), so that you can restart in the event of a program or system failure.

    So, the best HD for in-game performance is going to be the same that is fastest at starting up the game or even starting Windows. Read performance is important here, because of the massive amounts of data used in games these days.

    The Raptor is your best bet.
  14. Set yourself up with a 4 drive RAID0 array. Data loss issues aside, you'll get great read performance for sure.

    Or get a scsi controller and a couple 15K rpm scsi drives in a RAID0.
  15. jevon said:
    Woah, so do you mean you just transplanted the HDD from another system with the OS and games and everything still on it? I'm amazed that worked if that's what you mean :eek:

    If that's what you did and you're not happy with your hard drive's performance you might want to format it and reinstall everything fresh!

    Yep, you got it. I wasnt sure how well that would work either. The other system was almost brand new itself though, the motherboard just couldn't manage the configuration I wanted. I had a regular HD3870 in it, so the catalyst recognized the X2--just had to download the drivers. I went from an Intel X38 board to a Gigabyte board, and added 4 more gigs of DDR3 and thats really all that was different. Also, there was no extra software, no cpu-z, no nothing but game programs, the catalyst, and Vista 64, which may have helped the transition. I did have to use the Gigabyte install cd the first time I booted up with the new components though.

    I'm not sure what reformatting will accomplish--its essentially the same computer it was before besides the mainboard--the $4K i have invested included all the previous components I had for the Intel set-up, which are all less than 2 months old themselves--the HDD in question is a WD Cavier SE 500GB.

    All-in-all, my original question, and the only one that I even remotely care about was this--do games use the HDD during gameplay? ...and if so, is it possible that they can create a bottleneck of sorts at any point during gameplay?

    I appreciate everyones advice and knowlegdge, but if you can't directly answer either of those two questions, your replies are just symantic, or just blatently off topic. Thanks again.
  16. i am pretty sure that SAS drives are the fastest hard drives around
    you cant beat a 15000 spindle speed with read times of 188 and up MB/s.

    SSDs are only good for random access
    they are not good for read or write times
  17. My only experience really pertaining to this is Oblivion. In it, my computer rarely goes to the HD EXCEPT when loading a new area. The game automatically loaded all of the textures, etc. needed for an area into Ram, however, if I moved significantly it would jerk a little while it loaded new textures.

    Now here is where I get into conjecture. In Oblivion, there was a way to mod the config files so it would use more of your ram and load more textures in the background before you got to the location needing it. This allowed my WD 250GB 150MB/s (SATAI) to be more than enough. I don't know if Crysis has any options like this. It would be a shame if it didn't

    So, to try to answer your question, a faster drive MAY help slightly, but don't expect miracles. I guess it's worth a try if you have the money sitting around. It would be interesting to see if it makes a noticeable change. Though, as some have mentioned, it may be worth it to just try a reinstall first. Windows (XP at least) was very sensitive to changes of any hardware. I have no idea why and it didn't make sense, but it often was the case.
  18. You can try Short stroking a 500 - 1000 GB drive. Just make the main OS partition (the first partition) 100 - 200 GB. This will greatly reduce access time and increase transfer speeds. You can even use the rest of the space for a second partition for less intensive stuff like video, pic, and music.

    P.S. I myself did NOT come up with the (hilarious) term short stroking.
  19. Games can use the hard drive for a number of reasons. They need it to load new levels, to save checkpoints, etc... It depends on the game.

    Turn on the performance monitor, and look at the disk activity while playing the game of interest. This is easy if you have a second monitor. I think there is an option to log the statistics to view later.
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