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Trying to find a decent performing drive at a reasonable price

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December 23, 2009 1:53:51 AM

I currently have a fairly old ata 100 80gb wd caviar which I am using to store all my os files and programs as well as a 500 gb ata 100 for storing large files. My computer boots somewhat slow imo. It has certainly gotten worse with time, but I thought it booted slow to begin with. When I originally built this pc, I carried over the two drives from an old unit. At the time, SATA had just began to take over as the standard and everyone I talked to seemed to say the advantage was minimal. I think several factors are contributing to my slow boot. The drive is old and relatively small, ATA 100mb/s limit, and lastly my motherboard has this Marvell IDE Controller. I don't know very much about this controller, but to me it seems sub par. It has to wait a few seconds to detect ide drives after post, which I never noticed with older ata only boards. I was under the impression it was some type of software assisted controller rather than a full hardware solution, but I can't find anything on this so perhaps my memory fails me. Anyway, I would like to replace the 80gb and retain the 500gb for large files and I'm wondering what to look for. Would like to keep size at least 150gb, other than that performance is the main concern. I've looked into a raptor but I'm just not sure the extra performance is worth the cost? This thing doesn't have to be like lightning, I'm just looking for a fair improvement over my current setup. What in particular should I look for as far as cache, latency & seek time (seems like 4.2, 8.9 is the norm), and size? Is it true less used space (and therefore size) makes for better load times? Is there a particular model I should look for or is the most basic SATA WD Caviar Blue fine? Thanks ahead of time!

Specs:
Core 2 Duo E7300
Asus P5Q-VM motherboard
2x2gb dual channel 800 mhz DDR2 OCZ ram

I will probably purchase 2 of whatever drive I choose and put one in a core i5 system I am designing for my brother.

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a c 415 G Storage
December 23, 2009 3:17:52 AM

Hard drive access times haven't changed much over the past decade. There are some performance 10K rpm drives such as the Velociraptor that are faster, but as for the rest of them the access times are around the 8-10ms range - it's been that way since the IDE days and SATA, whether I, II or otherwise, doesn't do anything to change that.

Transfer rates have improved as data gets packed more densely around each track, but for boot and application load times that really doesn't matter much. The same goes for drive cache sizes.

Lots of people think RAID is a magic bullet, but RAID doesn't really do anything for access times so it's effect on boot/application load is pretty minimal, perhaps 10%.

A format and reinstall to put all of the OS files close together on the fastest outermost tracks will help, but the best "magic bullet" for boot times is a drive with shorter access times. A Velociraptor is good, but an SSD leaves everything else in the dust. Unfortunately those options, especially an SSD, are expensive - you have to pay for performance. But you don't need to store EVERYTHING on an SSD - typically just putting the OS and applications on the SSD and leaving all your data files on a regular hard drive gets you most of the performance gain without having to pay exorbitant amounts for bulk storage.
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a b G Storage
December 23, 2009 3:40:43 AM

Why on Earth are you still using IDE drives for primary storage on a P45 motherboard that natively supports SATA?

spiderdan said:
At the time, SATA had just began to take over as the standard and everyone I talked to seemed to say the advantage was minimal.

You need to talk to a better class of "everyone".

spiderdan said:
I think several factors are contributing to my slow boot. The drive is old and relatively small, ATA 100mb/s limit, and lastly my motherboard has this Marvell IDE Controller.

And you are not using SATA.

Drives: Seagate 7200.12, Western Digital Black, and the Samsung drives are getting popular.
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December 23, 2009 6:09:30 PM

Thanks for the replies guys. jsc, I'm definitely liking the caviar blacks. Their priced not much higher than other competitive drives and most of the benchmarks I'm seeing place them second only to velociraptors and ssds. Will probably go with a black. I was thinking and another reason my pc may be booting slow is I have both hds on one ide cable. As I recall, bandwidth is juggled between the two drives when you do this, and I only had 100mbs to begin with. Other than that I think its the ide controller. It really does not seem good.
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December 23, 2009 6:25:13 PM

I confirm Sata brings little up to now. But more recent platters, often associated with Sata, do bring more speed. The main difference comes with Sata300 and its Ncq, provided your Bios is in Ahci mode.

Marvell: my JMicron also adds extra seconds to detect any disk connected to it, so the JMicron I paid for is disabled in Bios now. I'm on the way to buy Chinese Pata-to-Sata adapters to see if these don't waste boot time. It would be a decent way to use your big Pata disk.

Cache size doesn't matter. Occupied space has some indirect influence, which you can cancel with a small volume containing your OS.

Random access time is the right category to characterize a disk, but it's not precise enough. And Raptors are outperformed by recent 7200rpm disks; only costly Velociraptors are said to bring some speed, but at the cost of a much faster small SSD.

Among known benchmarks, IOMeter represents most accurately usage experience, but it's so flexible that results are difficult to compare. Atto, especially 4k writes and 128k reads, is more or less representative. Forget HdTach and the older HdTune.

My 7200.12 is nicely fast and very quiet, but I can't tell you if a 7k1000.b or a Spinpoint F3 is faster. Good sizes for the 7200.12 are multiples of 250GB, so even the one-size-one-platter 250GB is fast. I paid 40€+shipping for my 500GB.

Having already 500GB, I would quite seriously consider a used Vertex SSD or equally good. A 30GB was sold for 70€ last month on eBay.de. At least, this makes a speed difference.
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December 23, 2009 7:36:15 PM

Thanks for the thoughts Pointertovoid. My current drive is quite old, so I'm sure the platter benefits you mention are not present. That's an interesting idea with the Sata-to-Pata adapters. I was aware of them but never really thought about using them to bypass the stock ide controller. That being said, this drive is so old I don't think it's worth the time effort and money to save it (granted, it may be a good option to keep my 500gb in addition to whatever I get). The few seconds after post the Marvell takes is not a big deal, but I know my old computer booted faster with a fresh xp install and it had nowhere near this pc's specs. I can't help feeling this controller is causing my pc to bleed performance, but maybe its my imagination. I concede an ssd would be the best option, but I quick search on ebay turns up a vertex for, at minimum, $130. That's for a 30gb and my current C: (only os & program files) is 42gb. Once I get this new drive I'd like to add a few partitions to learn linux, so that's only going to drive things up. I just can't justify the cost of an ssd at this point, but I will watch them for the future.
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