I currently have a WD VelociRaptor 10,000RPM 150GB drive (this model: http://www.newegg.com/product/product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136034) that I bought about 3 years ago. It's been a great HDD and is still working well, but recently games have been growing ever larger in size. The last three I installed were each over 15 gigs each, and I was actually having to uninstall programs just to make room for the new games. With how cheap hard drive space is nowadays I find this to be totally unacceptable, so I'm looking to expand my storage capacity.
My first question is regarding RAID. I've built my own computers before but always managed to get by with a single hard drive, so I'm embarrassingly ignorant to adding a second drive. I've read the advantages/disadvantages of setting up hard drives in various RAID configurations, but my real question is whether this is even necessary for my purposes? I have external drives where I backup my data, so I don't need redundancy within my machine. I don't care about having a separate letter drive on my machine, so can I just buy a new HDD, plug in the SATA cable and be more or less ready to go?
My next step is obviously picking a new drive. There are so many options out there it can be a tad overwhelming at first, especially since I haven't looked at computer hardware in three years. My first thought is that while having a 10k RPM drive has been nice, it's probably unnecessarily expensive to go with another one and 7200 should suffice. I found it funny that the 300GB VelociRaptor is $50 cheaper than what I paid for my current drive (again, 3 years ago), but at $200 it's quite a bit more expensive than many larger 7200 RPM alternatives. I would like to spend under $100 and get at the very least 500GB.
Does anyone have any other suggestions? I've had good success with WD in the past so I am comfortable with them, but I am open to other manufacturers if they have a good reputation for high quality at a reasonable price.
WD will work just fine. As for the raid, unless you want to buy 2 drives, I wouldn't worry about it.
As for what size, take your pick depending on how much space you want/need.
As for installing the drive, plug it in and windows should see it. In disk management you can partition and format it.
WD's have a lot of fans and some currently opine that they are better on the reliability score than others, although I'm not sure how one proves that. Personally I'd go with the Black line - they are a bit faster, helped along by the larger cache RAM.
I am not a RAID0 fan, but I admit there are many gamers who say (or at least used to say) that RAID0 gives you a speed edge in some games. Since I'm not a gamer either, I can't confirm - I only suggest looking at real-world performance data in reviews and deciding for yourself. I worry about the slightly higher risk of data loss on RAID0, but you say you already have a reliable backup system in use.
On size, look also at the 1.5 and 2.0 TB units. Both are more expensive than 1.0 TB, of course. Last time I looked, on a per-GB basis the 2.0's are no bargain, but the "sweet spot" may be at 1.5 TB. IF you can settle for a little less speed, look at the WD Green line. They use a bit less power. The most recent of these tries to offset the rotational speed factor by putting in an even larger cache, 64 MB.
Hard Drives - Check out the performance charts and pick whatever 500 GB per platter drive performs best under your usage patterns. The WD Black 2 TB is a good choice as is the new Seagate XT but at smaller capacities, you are limited to the Seagate 7200.12 or the Spinpoint F3. The 7200.12 excels in gaming, multimedia and pictures whereas the F3 wins at music and movie maker. See the comparisons here (copy past link in manually, link won't work in forum):
$100 to $200 for two drives as RAID1 is really cheap... I have rebuilt my system more than several times over the last 12 years, never lost data OR the way my system was setup. Good data backup is always crucial, but consider the time you spent installing, upgrading, tweaking and modding your OS and all the programs/software you run; it takes more than a few hours, and if you don't take detailed notes, you'll never get it right. Acronis is a tool you should have to backup a current image of your computer as you make changes... if a singe drive system fails, you can put the SAME image on a new drive. RAID1 makes this even simpler, a drive fails, replace it and rebuild the RAID, done deal... One caveat, NEVER use onboard RAID, buy a stand alone card... if the motherboard dies, goes out of production, or you just want to upgrade, the card travels with the drives.
As for deciding between the drives listed, it simply appears the larger drives cost more... the question you have to ask is, "What do I have in my wallet"?