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Highest Performing HDD Configuration?

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November 23, 2009 8:09:51 PM

OK, this is a question that I've asked several people, and have never gotten a definite, knowledgable answer. I'll give a bit of info before asking the actual question.

I'm a gamer. I custom built my own PC several months ago and this is what it looks like:
Intel Core i7 920
ASUS P6T Deluxe
Corsair XMS3 DDR3 1333 (3x2GB)
Corsair 850TX
1x WD Caviar Blue 500GB
2x WD Caviar Black 500GB (Raid 0)

EVGA GTX 275
Creative X-Fi Titanium Fatal1ty


I have Windows Vista x64 installed to the Blue drive. Vista, it's drivers, and a few other OS level applications are all I run from this drive. I install all my games and applications to (as well as keep my paging file on) the two Black's which I configured in RAID 0. I did this because I thought that Windows should be on it's own drive and I should install everything else to my RAID to increase performance when playing games or running a program, because it shouldn't need to access the Blue drive since the programs were installed on the Black drives.

I've been thinking that this may not be the best setup for overall performance. It seems to me that the computer should only be able to work as fast as Windows can operate. Since Windows is installed on the slower non-RAID drive, it should bog down my whole computer; in-game or not. The most logical solution in this case would be to reinstall Windows to the RAID in it's own partition and just do away with the WD Blue drive altogether.

So to sum up my problem in the form of a question:
Does installing your OS to a slower hard drive slow down the entire computer; even when you are running all your programs and games from a faster drive (in this case, two faster drives in RAID 0)?

If you can provide me with an explanation as to what the best configuration would be, I'd be very grateful. I'm planning to reformat and install Windows 7 x64 soon, and I want to get this HDD confusion sorted out beforehand.

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a b G Storage
November 23, 2009 8:28:18 PM

After boot, Windows is running pretty much entirely out of RAM. As a result, your current setup will be slower on boot, but games will not be held back. If you care more about game and application loading performance than you do about boot times, your current setup is fine.

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November 23, 2009 8:35:37 PM

That seems like how I originally imagined it would work when I set up the drive configuration; but would installing and running Windows from the RAID configuration noticably slow down in-game performance, or increase loading times, or anything like that?

If not, I could boot into Windows faster by booting from my RAID, and I would have one less device eating away at my bank account when it comes time to pay the electric bill.
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a b G Storage
November 23, 2009 8:56:16 PM

It wouldn't slow down in-game performance at all (since that's all in RAM as well). It would slightly slow down game loading, but I doubt it would be noticeable.

I would say it's probably not worth ditching the drive for electrical reasons though - a single Caviar Blue is nearly completely insignificant when it comes to power consumption in a modern computer.
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a b G Storage
November 24, 2009 11:01:32 AM

Also realize that RAID 0 is not redundant - if EITHER drive dies, your whole array dies. So, it's great for your swap file, great for game installations, less great for windows install, really bad for data files, unless you back them up frequently.

But, as far as speed, dump it all on the array. It would be an interesting experiment to put JUST the swap file on the caviar blue. If it is the only thing there, you won't have head contention.
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November 25, 2009 3:10:03 PM

Thanks for the clarification cjl, I owe you one.

@gtvr
I have no data stored on my local drive that I can't afford to lose. That goes for the OS too. It's be a pain to reinstall everything, but that'd be the worst of it.

I have my paging file on the RAID for the same reasons you suggested putting it alone on a solitary drive. Though with 6GB of physical RAM, I doubt it even uses virtual memory all that often.
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