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Seagate SATA HDD - Slow transfer rate

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January 31, 2010 1:32:09 PM


I have been struggling with an issue of non-responsiveness from my computer. Especially during startup. However, I have determined that non-responsiveness occurs during heavy disk use. While I understand that slowness is to be expected, my system absolutely just sits there until the drive thrashing slows a bit.
The CPU usage rarely goes between 5% - 10% and usually stays around 2% - 3% during these times. I think that this is primarily due to the fact that the hard drive is not returning any data for the CPU to work with, so it is just waiting for something to do.
I have tried all the system cleanup tools known to the internet. I don't have any viruses. I use Norton AV and have never had any issues.
I have replaced my ASUS P5K-E with an MSI G31TM-P21. I have replaced the 2 1gb Corsair PC6400 with 2 2gb RAM chips.
I have even replaced the original Intel E6550 CPU with an E7500.


My drives are Seagate ST3202620AS 320gb. One with firmware 3.AAE and the other with 3.AAK.
After reading about 3.AAK being slow, I took the image from that one and put it on the 3.AAE. Actually, under no-load, both drives perform about average for those drives.
It just seems to me that something is limiting my throughput between the drives to the CPU (and/or RAM).

The only common denominator between the hardware is the system software. Even though the drives are the same type, they are different physically.

OH... I previously had them in a mirrored RAID configuration, but lost everything and had to re-load, so I went back to IDE mode.

Should the transfer rate be so extremely low during moderate to heavy disk use? I am talking 1 mb/sec to 10 mb/sec. I am attaching the readout from HDTune that I captured right when I logged on to Windows (Win XP pro sp3).

-------
HD Tune: ST3320620AS Benchmark

Transfer Rate Minimum : 0.8 MB/sec
Transfer Rate Maximum : 23.6 MB/sec
Transfer Rate Average : 7.0 MB/sec
Access Time : 30.6 ms
Burst Rate : 33.7 MB/sec
CPU Usage : 2.0%
-------
HD Tune: ST3320620AS Information

Firmware version : 3.AAE
Serial number : 6QF1S6W0
Capacity : 298.1 GB (~320.1 GB)
Buffer size : 16384 KB
Standard : ATA/ATAPI-7 - SATA II
Supported mode : UDMA Mode 6 (Ultra ATA/133)
Current mode : UDMA Mode 5 (Ultra ATA/100)

S.M.A.R.T : yes
48-bit Address : yes
Read Look-Ahead : yes
Write Cache : yes
Host Protected Area : yes
Device Configuration Overlay : yes
Automatic Acoustic Management: no
Power Management : yes
Advanced Power Management : no
Power-up in Standby : no
Security Mode : yes
Firmware Upgradable : yes

Partition : 1
Drive letter : C:\
Label : SG300A
Capacity : 305242 MB
Usage : 43.34%
Type : NTFS
Bootable : Yes
-------
a b G Storage
January 31, 2010 3:40:43 PM

Your drive is probably fine.
Excessive HDD activity in the background is mostly causing this problem and I wouldn't be surprised if Norton AV was to blame for this. Sometimes virus scanners slow down the system more than viruses :ange: 
But you can check this with Task Manager. Just check which processes have a high I/O activity (go to View -> Select Columns to add the various I/O options).
January 31, 2010 4:02:11 PM

I don't think Norton AV would have the large impact identified - but off course it is easy to check by turning it off for a minute or two (and only visiting known reliable sites) while using IE or other applications.

Have you used Seagate's Disk Tool?

Did the problem start immediately after reloading with no RAID? I am more suspicious of the transfer out of RAID - although not having used it I have no experience in this area. But I have to wonder if there are some BIOS or driver changes that were missed to make the change out of RAID.
Related resources
January 31, 2010 4:14:30 PM

By the way, I had an older Seagate drive that was only giving me about 25-30 MB/s transfer rate so I replaced it with a new 1 TB drive and drivers and the rate jumped to 95 MB/s.

Did you have them in RAID 0? If so, maybe part of the problem is you did not realize how slow the drives were since they were in RAID before.
January 31, 2010 6:31:20 PM

Thank you Rockyjohn and Mimoso.
I didn't convert from Raid0 to IDE. I simply re-formatted the drives re-installed windows and all my programs and then restored the data from backup files.
So really, I don't think there are any hangovers from the Raid setup.

As far as the SeaTools goes, I did download it, but I haven't run it on the drives yet. I guess I skipped that part.

Thanks for tip on Task Mgr. I didn't realized there were columns for I/O.
I will watch that.

But realistically, is the transfer rate supposed to drop all the way down to .8 mb/sec? I would think that it would drop to 15 or 20. I am sure there is some kind of calculation based on the spin of the disk to determine minimum transfer rate. (I am sure I have no idea of the physics or math involved)
Even at full load, the disk should be able to return data at a nearly fixed minimum rate wouldn't it?
a b G Storage
January 31, 2010 6:52:13 PM

tmbiv1956 said:
But realistically, is the transfer rate supposed to drop all the way down to .8 mb/sec?

Even at full load, the disk should be able to return data at a nearly fixed minimum rate wouldn't it?

Actually the drive doesn't slow down at all (ie. it always reads/writes at the maximum rate) but the performance will go down rapidly if the drive is accessed by multiple programs simultaneously because the heads are constantly moving.
An occasional speed drop is normal when the HDDs is the boot disk. But in your case the HDD never even gets close to its rated speed because it's so busy with other tasks. And it's not just the transfer rate. The access times are all over the place.

Here is how my Seagate performs:


a c 127 G Storage
January 31, 2010 6:55:12 PM

Harddrives are slow when used as system drive; use Solid State Drives if you want high performance on your system disk, and use HDDs for large file storage only, when possible.
January 31, 2010 7:36:47 PM

Mimoso said:
But you can check this with Task Manager. Just check which processes have a high I/O activity (go to View -> Select Columns to add the various I/O options).


Yeah, thanks for that jewell. All these years of using Task Manager and I had no idea you could change the columns on that table.
January 31, 2010 7:50:10 PM

Momoso, my second drive has an almost identical graph to the one you supplied.

So, I guess to summarize,
- There is nothing abnormal about the way the drive is performing.
- I should look into software/system configuration changes to make improvements.

I really appreciate your thoughts and feedback.

Tom
a b G Storage
January 31, 2010 8:27:52 PM

tmbiv1956 said:
Momoso, my second drive has an almost identical graph to the one you supplied.

So, I guess to summarize,
- There is nothing abnormal about the way the drive is performing.
- I should look into software/system configuration changes to make improvements.

Just check the I/O activity of the running processes with Task Manager, make sure to click the 'Show processes from all users' button.
You may also want to check which programs are executed at startup. You can do this with either Windows Defender (Tools -> Software Explorer) or by typing msconfig /startup from the run command.

And to make sure the drive is fine, check the Health status in HD Tune.
January 31, 2010 8:46:24 PM

Gotcha.
I have pared down my startup tasks to mostly windows system processes.
I will continue to monitor processes and their I/O activity.
I have already done the health status in HDTune, and they are okay.
Thanks.

I am beginning to feel like the culprit is either Norton AV or Windows Search 4.0.
I am trying to find a way to schedule the indexing so that it doesn't run all the time. If I can't, then I'll just stop it all together.
a c 167 G Storage
January 31, 2010 9:39:38 PM

Windows search will do it's work when the pc is at low usage. It is designed to not interfere with your work. Just leave your pc on overnight until the initial index is built.

If norton seems a bit heavy to you. Uninstall it and try windows security essentials. It seems to work well for me and is entirely unobtrusive. It's free.



January 31, 2010 11:17:12 PM

Just a thought, I had this issue with a netbook that was running XP. The hard drive kept reverting to PIO mode, running extremely slow. Here is a link to check and possibly fix,:
This links says CD/DVD Rom drive but the same steps apply to the HD.

http://www.onthegosoft.com/dma_setting_nt.htm

After I had the hard drive running in DMA mode the netbook was like a whole new computer.... May not be your issue but definitely worth check since your running XP.
a c 127 G Storage
February 1, 2010 3:26:42 PM

will31: PIO issues will mean the CPU usage is very high and its theoretically impossible to get speeds like 20MB/s. So the OP does not have a PIO problem else his HDTune benchmark would show this.

No, he just benchmarked his system drive; and the system drive has all kind of random I/O going on; and HDDs are terribly slow with that and actually cannot even get 1MB/s with true random I/O. If you want high performance on your system disk, you need to use a Solid State Drive. Harddrives will always be slow, unless you read or write to them sequentially (large files). For anything else, a SSD will totally toast any HDD like it was stone age technology.
February 1, 2010 5:11:59 PM

Thank you geofelt for the info. I may try the Windows Security essentials.

will31, I did check the driver mode and it is in UDMA.

sub mesa, I am certain you are correct about the SSD drives, but they cost too much.
Besides, I had WindowsXP running on much slower drives and much slower CPU about 3 or 4 years ago, and it still ran better than it is right now.

It has to be either the drive or software. I think it's software, but not sure where.

When I look at my Device Manager and under IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers I have 2 storage controller, one for Serial ATA and one for Ultra Family controllers (I'm not at home now, so I can't give exact data).
The troubling thing is that under those I have 2 Primary IDE Channels and 2 Secondary IDE Channels.

Maybe this is the problem. Maybe I should delete all those and then reboot and see what gets added?

Should I have duplicate Primary and Secondary IDE Channels ?
a c 167 G Storage
February 1, 2010 5:55:39 PM

Your motherboard probably has support for IDE drives. If you have nothing attached, you might as well disable them in the bios. Windows will not detect them, and the device manager entries can be deleted. I doubt that this will help your sata speeds, but at least your boot sequence will be a bit faster since the bios does not have to initialize the adapter.

Same goes for any floppy adapter.
a c 167 G Storage
February 1, 2010 6:05:06 PM

If you can stand another windows install, set the sata mode in the bios to AHCI. That will give you hot swap capability which you might not need. But, it also implements NCQ(native command queueing). That lets queued commands to the drive to be delivered in an order which minimizes seek contention.
February 1, 2010 10:22:25 PM

Thanks for another good tip geofelt!
If I have to re-load again, I'll give that a shot.

Here is a screenshot of my device manager. Notice the duplicate IDE entries.
Does this look right to y'all?


February 8, 2010 3:24:06 PM

After reviewing this topical thread, I am a bit confused. I am also using Segate SATA drives, and wondering about speed. I read all of the hype about the new standard coming out with SATA 3.0 that is supposed to get 6TB/sec. Our current mobo is supposed to have 3Gb/sec capability, the SATA cables are rated for that as well, we are using 3 Segate ST31500341AS drives in a RAID 5 system (which is supposed to actually increase the overall throughput of the drive system) and when transferring data from that system to Hitachi 2.0TB SATA drive also rated at 3Gb/sec. we are getting only 100MB/sec. transfer rates. So what gives? How do you get anywhere near the 3Gb/sec times the SATA path is rated for? All of the drives, all of the hardware, the firmware and the software are rated for the speed but we seeing at least 30 times slower speeds than the system is rated for. So, how do we get the marketed speeds? Also, what is the point of 6Gb/sec if we are already stuck at 30 times less speed than 3Gb/sec?
February 8, 2010 4:44:40 PM

Good observation. HD mechanical hardware is not yet close to saturating the SATA 3 GB/s standard.

First, keep in mind that when I talk about my drive benchmarking at 95 MB/s, that is an average. It sometimes peaks much higher - although I dounbt it ever goes over 200 MB/s.

Second, while it will still be awhile before HDs use the current capacity - SSDs are a lot faster, especially with peak read speeds.

Third, while SATA technology is a lot farther from saturating current capacity, USB speeds should get an immediate boost.
February 9, 2010 3:38:55 PM

Thanks, for the input. I guess we are doing pretty good then. If we are doing a disk to disk copy we are getting up to 112 MB/s and when running several other programs at the same time our speeds drop to around 84 MB/s. We went back to the Seagate site and looked at their detailed spec sheet and found that though the burst rate for the drives is rated at 300 MB/s the sustained data transfer rate is only 120 MB/s. We were surprised to see that the new 6 Gb/s SATA rated drives were actually slower on the sustained data transfer rates than the 3 Gb/s drives for most of the drive manufacturers; and, the highest sustained transfer rate available was 138 MB/s; but, Seagate’s drive that could meet that speed was a 1 TB drive while WD has a new one that will do it at 2 TB.

We do a lot of video rendering so drive speed and size is a critical factor. We used a RAID 5 configuration hoping for more speed and for the built in backup stability. The built in redundancy has already saved us a couple of times but it appears like the speed increase is actually minimal.

I wish there was a good way to get an image backup on RAID drives that would allow a secure direct transfer of the system from one computer to another.

On the other hand, as you suggested, if we went to an SSD for the boot drive and moved most of the rest of the work to the RAID system, that could be a good mix except we have never found a good way to get the software on the system to stop loading tons of stuff on the C: drive; so, we have always favored having a large C: drive to handle whatever comes.

I know back in the days of systems that only used a limited amount of the available RAM and smaller drives we used to create a RAM drive onto which we would load the entire operating system at startup and then used the drives for other program operations and data. It seems like that would still work well considering the fact that we have an abundance of RAM 24 GB that rarely gets used. However, I have no idea where to go to even learn how to do such a thing today; or, even if that kind of thing is still reasonable.

The bottom line, like everyone else, we are still looking for a way to speed up the system and at the same time improve reliability. Anyway, thanks for your input.

(By the way—we like your signature line.)
February 9, 2010 4:28:52 PM

A big part of the misunderstanding - mine too - here is the Big B versus little b issue - bits vs. bytes.

The old SATA is 3 Gb/s - three gigabits per second = 375 MB/s.

So you can see if HDs can have burst rates at 300 MB/s they are starting to approach capacity. And top end SSDs may be limited by it.

The new SATA is 6 Gb/s = 750 MB/s.
February 9, 2010 4:49:33 PM

Tnias said:
We do a lot of video rendering so drive speed and size is a critical factor. We used a RAID 5 configuration hoping for more speed and for the built in backup stability. The built in redundancy has already saved us a couple of times but it appears like the speed increase is actually minimal.

Do you use a fast RAID controller card or just the mobo controller?


Tnias said:
On the other hand, as you suggested, if we went to an SSD for the boot drive and moved most of the rest of the work to the RAID system, that could be a good mix except we have never found a good way to get the software on the system to stop loading tons of stuff on the C: drive; so, we have always favored having a large C: drive to handle whatever comes.

What "tons of stuff" are you talking about the software loading? A few registry entries? Temporary files?
Are your primary applications too large to load on the C drive alond with the OS in an SSD based system? You could still place less CPU intensive applications, like MS Office, email, and browser, on the data drive if the SSD has too little space.

Tnias said:
I know back in the days of systems that only used a limited amount of the available RAM and smaller drives we used to create a RAM drive onto which we would load the entire operating system at startup and then used the drives for other program operations and data. It seems like that would still work well considering the fact that we have an abundance of RAM 24 GB that rarely gets used. However, I have no idea where to go to even learn how to do such a thing today; or, even if that kind of thing is still reasonable.

I think the OS is already doing that for you today - and with fetch and other routines also loading stuff - like often used applications - to RAM that it thinks you might need soon.

Tnias said:
(By the way—we like your signature line.)

Thanks. I really did a double take and chuckled the first time I read it so wanted to share the joy.
February 9, 2010 4:54:58 PM

Thanks for the bit vs Byte reminder. We made that error when we originally posted our inquiry. We accordingly corrected both of our posts above. I have been around long enough to have known that but I did make that very mistake. Kind of like the scientist studying a glass of water he knows is loaded with cholera, later on he gets thirsty and habitually picks up the glass without a second thought. Oops!

Thanks again for the correction. A magnitude of 8 does tend to make a difference.
February 9, 2010 5:20:06 PM

We use the RAID controller built into the Asus P6T Deluxe V2 mobo, which Asus advertises as a fast controller; of course, they are marketers.

The “tons of stuff” we referred to is the production software itself (primarily) Adobe CS4 Master Collection and AVID’s Production Suite, etc.; of course, beyond that does come an abundance of .dll files, Temporary files and though we hadn’t given much thought to it (because we never considered the registry entries as too much of a space gobbler) registry, etc. We just know from experience that if we have a C: drive of 250GB everything fits easily to start off but in no time the systems starts growing and there is no space for the C: drive to function. Then you have to figure out a way to save space on that drive and that is a nightmare! So we start off with 2TB drive spaces and never use more that the first TB on the C: drive because we use the other drives for data.

Therefore, considering the cost of SSDs, we had not considered using them due to their size.
a c 127 G Storage
February 10, 2010 3:16:16 AM

rockyjohn said:
A big part of the misunderstanding - mine too - here is the Big B versus little b issue - bits vs. bytes.

The old SATA is 3 Gb/s - three gigabits per second = 375 MB/s.

So you can see if HDs can have burst rates at 300 MB/s they are starting to approach capacity. And top end SSDs may be limited by it.

The new SATA is 6 Gb/s = 750 MB/s.

Normally yes - but SATA like PCI-express uses a 10/8-bit encoding algorithm that means 3Gbps = 300MB/s raw bandwidth. The usable bandwidth is even lower, due to command overhead. Like PCI-express, each lane is 2,5Gbps or 5,0Gbps; translating to 250MB/s or 500MB/s (PCI-express 2.0) full-duplex bandwidth, per lane.

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/8b/10b_encoding

What i'm going to say may sound strange. But even if HDDs don't surpass 300MB/s, moving to 6Gbps interface can increase performance, because it means all communication is twice as fast; like the speed limits on the virtual highway are doubled each car can move faster too. What this means? Slightly less 'propagation delay' latency; causing more IOps rate. SATA 6Gbps standard also changes the design to allow for better command buffering; that may improve performance on especially SSDs which are designed for SATA 6Gbps.
February 10, 2010 5:20:24 PM

We understand and certainly appreciate the input.

We also understand both the new SATA and USB 3 data paths are adding to the already congested path our multiple PCI Express 2.0 GPU cards share to the CPU traffic jam.

It all adds to a complex equation. However, anyplace in the system where we can widen the paths or increase the speed improves the overall performance; and, that is the bottom line in the video production world.
!