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Is there any advantage to having a smaller primary hard drive?

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January 20, 2009 4:18:44 AM

I remember hearing something back in the day (maybe 5 years ago) that you don't want a very large drive as your primary drive (that you install your OS(s) on). is this still true today?

for example i've already purchased a 1TB caviar green for media storage, and am now shopping for a primary drive for my OS's. (i plan on triple booting XP/Vista64/Ubuntu).

i wanted to go with WD for my HDDs because they're a name i've sort of been raised to trust. (yes my dad brought me to Western Digital Sunday School every week). anyway, i was thinking i wanted to go about 300GB because i've heard you don't want too much space on your primary drive because it will slow down your computer. i've decided that i don't want to pony up the extra dough for a velociraptor, but i'm thinking maybe a caviar black. the problem is that the lowest storage i can find for the caviar blacks is 500GB.

so my questions are: does drive capacity affect performance speed anymore? did it ever? or was this just a rumor? would my computer run applications and games just as fast with a 1TB drive as with a 300GB or 500GB drive?

thanks in advance to all who respond,

Marsh
January 20, 2009 9:50:54 AM

There are at least two parts to the path to answering your question:

1. Is a larger drive and the way data is arranged make it slower per se
2. Does the way you've configured and the way you use your system lead to drive access bottlenecks.

By my reckoning larger drives might, all other things being equal, exhibit slower inner edge to outer edge seek times (whether this relates to slower average seek time depends on drive design). So physical factors and the way your particular data is spread over the platter surfaces has some impact on overall drive and related componentry throughput.

Then there's the way you and your system is configured (what you do and how your system is set up). Look for bottlenecks in the way you and your machine get things done. You might, eg, have a great CPU, miniscule RAM, good video coprocessor and like to watch heaps of videos concurrently with a few data intensive apps, like music. Here, with a single large drive, you'll likely have your OS on the outer drive tracks, a large and preferably defragged swapfile somewhere in the middle of the disk, and your saved videos and music spread somewhere near the inner tracks. So, your single large drive while be sweating for all the seeks it will be pushed into. A small primary drive (small for economy's sake and to prevent the temptation to load it up), another drive for your page file, and another for your videos and music will 'parallelize' the work and reduce the pressure for sequencing many simultaneous seeks. Trouble is, you have to work out whether it's worth the cost since your next slowest bottleneck (your system busses, for example, or your CPU) might kick in for relatively little overall gain against the cost of dropping in more drives.
a b G Storage
January 20, 2009 6:16:58 PM

Larger drives tend to be faster than smaller drives actually, due to the higher data density. This mostly is due to the higher sequential transfer rates - the seek times are almost exactly the same.
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