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New build - Seperate drive for OS?

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November 5, 2007 1:43:39 PM

Sorry for my lack of knowledge (yet again).

Reading some threads I'm seeing quite a few people planning to run their OS off a separate drive in their builds. I assume this is to speed up the machine overall, my question is by how much does it do this? And what exactly should be on the main drive, just the OS? Where do applications of games reside? And lastly what about backup of data? I was planning on having two similar sized drives with everything on one of them, and number 2 being a backup of data from number one. But that logic is probably flawed.

Thanks in advance.

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November 5, 2007 1:54:35 PM

I can't exactly say how much it would speed it up, but imagine your at a very cluttered desk. It would take a while to find that tax form from back in 2006.

Now imagine that you "partitioned" your desk. For practical purposed lets say you made each of the partitions a certain year, it would be a lot easier to find.

Basically, the desk analogy directly relates to your computer. If it only has to check one of your partitions, it will be able to pull that info faster.

From what I understand, your main "drive" should be the OS. Then it doesn't really matter. You can make pretty much as many partitions as you want: 1 for games, 1 for back-up, 1 for apps, etc.

Hope I Helped,
-Adam
November 5, 2007 1:58:27 PM

So instead of separate drives I could partition the OS and get the same effect?
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November 5, 2007 2:13:29 PM

I believe so, but if you want pure speed, you can try RAID0 (Disk Striping) configuration. It uses two HDD disks at once and gives you faster read / write speeds... but be warned, because if one drive fails in this configuration, the other does as well.

Quote:
And lastly what about backup of data? I was planning on having two similar sized drives with everything on one of them, and number 2 being a backup of data from number one. But that logic is probably flawed.


If you want to run dual drives with one being a direct copy of the other, try running a RAID1 (Disk Mirroring) configuration. It will "mirror" the two drives and if one were to die, the other would run in it's place.
November 5, 2007 2:13:46 PM

Pretty much.

Then again, if you were talking about a FASTER drive, then it wouldn't be the same.

Some people like to get a small(sub-100gig) drive that runs at ~10k RPM to put applications and games on it and then get a big(~500gig) drive that runs at 7.5k RPM for just storage.

In the end, the improvement won't be absolutely stellar, but you may notice it either way.
November 5, 2007 2:17:53 PM

having seperate hdds for data management is probably the best idea, that way youre not 'putting all your eggs in one basket' so to speak, incase of hdd failure, which does happen, and it sucks.

thats not to say partitioning is bad though either, itll help keep fragmentation down depending on the size of the partitions, and speed up data accessing as a result of the size. smaller partitions = faster data accessing overall, especially if your data is organized well. that way the head only has to move so far to get a specific piece(s) of data, instead of needing to scour the whole hdd for different data that is essentially placed at random, on a single large partition.

and without partitioning, that fragmentation situation only gets worse the longer you keep the data on the hdd, especially since windows defrag can only do so much to reorganize. so its best to minimize it before it starts.

as far as hdd performance is concerned, as long as you partition on the outer 70% of the hdd, youll get the fastest performance the hdd has to offer. after 70% though, performance takes a rather sharp decline. so maybe just use the last 30% for storing music and stuff, or maybe just keep it unformatted, though thats kind of a waste of space.

as far as seperate hdds though, if you do things that are disk intensive, it may be a good idea to host those things on a seperate hdd too, that way your os hdd isnt slowed at all, if you try to do things on it at the same time too.

i have mine set up as such:

74GB adfd raptor-
25GB xp x64 os partition
25GB xp x64 application partition
10GB ubuntu partition
10GB currently unformatted

400gb maxtor-
single large partition
November 5, 2007 2:52:41 PM

Hi guys,
Yes the OP has described RAID1 pretty well hasn't he? A mirror.
Note there is a performance gain to be had from using RAID1 too.
Harddisks are inexpensive and SATA controllers plenty these days (I think I have 8) so you see more drives and less partitioning.
3 harddisks work well and Windows identifies mine as 'System', 'Boot' and 'PageFile' drives. Normally this would all be handled by a single harddisk (with reduced performance).
A/V encoding/transcoding works much better from disk to disk also, as do many other things...
So just 1 harddisk is pretty basic these days. From a performance point of view, partitions are no substitute for another drive on its own controller,
Regards
November 5, 2007 3:06:18 PM

Kurse, you are asking the right questions, but you may get some bad advice here, evaluate it carefully.

A second drive for backup is a good idea if you have data that you want to protect. I would, however make it an external drive, connected by USB or E-sata. Back up to it as often as you need to, disconnect it, and put it in a safe place. Data can be lost not only from hardware failure(rare), but more commonly by virus, or inadvertent operator error. Raid-1(mirroring) can protect against hardware failures of certain types, but not all loss reasons. External backup is best.

For the single user desktop environment, the WD 150gb raptor is currently the best performer, although some of the newer 750gb units are not far behind. Go to www.storagereview.com to read up on hard drive performance. If you have a few extra dollars to spend, I would get a 150gb raptor, and when your capacity needs exceed 150gb, then add a second drive for overflow storage.

Partitioning is not a performance enhancer. It is best used to add a second logical drive so that you could dual boot a second os. If all your needs fit on one drive, I think that is the simplest, cheapest, and best solution. If your work is of the type that reads one file sequentially, processes it, and writes it to a second file, then two physical drives is very good. Put your input on one, and your output on the other. This minimizes arm motion. Putting the OS on it's own drive was somewhat helpful with windows XP. XP tried to conserve a then expensive resource(real memory) by writing it out in advance to the page file. Vista, on the other hand, tries to KEEP as much useful stuff in main memory, so that it can be used instantly. Since memory is now much cheaper, this is a better strategy today.
Some here will suggest raid-0 as a performance enhancer. It has been shown to have almost no benefit in typical user applications(vs. synthetic benchmarks). In certain sequential operations, it might, but even then it is better to use two independent drives.

In the end, with the technology of today, there is not a very large difference, no matter how you do it. When we finally get affordable, high performance SSD's, then you will see a very noticeable difference.

---good luck---
November 5, 2007 3:25:41 PM

@geofelt i wasnt intending to give bad advice at all, if that was at all directed at me to some extent

what i had stated was true, such as, if you have 1 partition on 1 hdd, and 100% fragmentation, its going to take a lot longer to do anything, and windows defrag isnt capable enough to really eliminate as much as it should be... for my data hdd, performance isnt essential, so neither is partitioning, everything is catagorized and organized how it is, and fragmentation is also at a minimum too, due to simply not being active nearly as much.

for an OS and application hdd, fragmentation is easily accumulated, and can quickly slow a drive down, if its not managed

no doubt though about a second hdd though, such as storing internet cache on a secondary hdd, or opening installers from it too to install on the primary hdd, or just copying/moving data from one to the other, transfer rates really benefit from that. for my particular partitioning, access times and performance is key, for the majority of things (as it is with OS' in general, due the proliferation of very small files)... no one partition is dependant on the other, and there are seldom simultaneous reads and writes occuring on a partition, that impact performance really. all but 16MB of the pagefile is stored on the 400GB, keeping the bare minimum needed to avoid unnecessary problems in windows.

the point though, is that partitioning is effective from a performance viewpoint, but strs really dont benefit oftentimes from it either... just data access performance usually.
November 5, 2007 4:03:26 PM

What about the windows swapfile on XP?

I have heard that it is better to have Windows on one drive, and the swapfile on another. If this is true, and one of the two drives is, say, a raptor, should I put Windows on the raptor, or the swapfile?

I have also heard that putting 2 smaller swapfiles, one on each drive, is faster. Any truth to that one?
November 5, 2007 4:09:09 PM

@choirbass, my comments were not directed at you, or at anybody in particular. It was a related to my expectations of a wide variety of opinions that I have seen on similar posts, some good, some bad(in my opinion).


Regarding your use of partitioning on the raptor74:

A separate partition for ubunto seems like a functional necessity.
I am dubious about the performance benefits of having both the OS and application partitions on the same hard drive. Yes, the fragmentation issues on each will be less, as you correctly described. However, each partition will have some free space. This free space will push the middle of the used areas of each group further apart, meaning that when the disk arm needs to seek from one partition to the other, it will have to traverse a larger distance, and take more time. The best case for partitioning is when most of the activity is concentrated on the files in one partition, or the other for long periods of time. The worst case would be when the access pattern alternates between the OS partition and the application partition. I suspect that we really don't know which the situation really is over time. Even if we did, the OP asked a good question, "how much difference does it really make?" I suspect very little, therefore, my advice is not to worry, and keep it simple with one partition.

I don't know if there are any links to benchmarks that examine this, but if there are, I would be interested in seeing them.
November 5, 2007 5:31:30 PM

point taken, that the data will infact be seperated and take longer to get to if you have to keep jumping back and forth between them.

i guess i had just taken the best case scenario more into effect, for all partitions. such as, anytime im going to play a game or use another large program, or the os even, it wont involve moving to a completely different partition to access, or moving to extremes constantly back and forth.

i guess overall performance improvements would probably be more negligable though, especially when you take higher rpms into consideration.

a raptor for example, can locate files throughout a total hdd noticably faster than the fastest 7200s can, given the situation of a single large partition and platter sizes. so for 7200s, the difference would be more pronounced than on raptors, if you were to divide the 7200 into sections, instead of having to potentially go through everything anytime it wants to access something new (much like you had said for the worst case scenario, which i guess is a lot of what i think of when someone only has one partition). the ~20ms to read across a whole 7200rpm 3.5" platter full stroke, would practically be cut down to ~10ms half stroke, assuming a partition half its total size was only in use (and even faster with smaller partitions than that, such as an eighth stroke takes only ~2.5ms to cover all the data, the same as a quarter stroke takes for a raptor). the addition of increasing densities due to pmr only increases that benefit and reason to partition, since you can cover more data in a smaller area in less time. i guess another way to word it would be comparing using 'only' half of a 220GB 7200rpm platter, to a whole 74GB platter of a 10k raptor, and you should have very similar performance between them (my math is probably off im sure, but its more or less that way, if you wanted to compare apples to oranges). and if you use more than half of that for a partition, your performance only ends up worse, and if you use less, your performance only improves (but you have less capacity though too)

im sure the above is probably pretty pointless to bring up though... but with the increasing densities of pmr, partitioning a lot smaller as such can only help for performance (as long as you dont mind losing the remaning space to something else)
November 5, 2007 5:48:23 PM

In general, it's best to keep the OS on it's own partition (my primary PC has a 20GB partition) and all other data kept on a large data partition, or physical hard drive. That way should you need to reinstall Windows, you will not loose any data.

Of course, if the hard drive dies, then you will loose the OS and everything on the partitioned (logical) drive. Therefore, it's always best to save important data on a separate physical hard drive. I tend to install games on the partitioned drive. If the actual physical drive fails, I'll loose all my saved games, but I don't really consider that as "important" data.

Setting up RAID 1 is a good idea. I plan to do that with my next HTPC. My current HTPC is not RAIDed, but all the media files have been burned to DVDs so I won't loose any data should it suddenly die.

I tend to have the page/swap file on a separate physical drive rather than on the physical hard drive that Win XP is installed on. Not sure how much of a performance boost that provides, but it's just something I always do.

I'm hoping to build a new HTPC soon, I just checked the health of my Maxtor 40GB hard drive (I though I tossed all my Maxtors away) which has Windows XP installed on an 8GB partition. According to S.M.A.R.T. the drive is between 50% - 60% healthy, hopefully it will not die until next year.

If that Maxtor does die, then I'll just recommission my IBM Deskstar 75GXP 60GB hard drive that I've been using since 2000. I recently retired I from my primary PC, but according to S.M.A.R.T. it's still in pretty good condition (80% - 90% health).
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