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Which Western Digital Caviar should I get?

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June 6, 2012 7:36:55 PM

For my custom build, I have a 128gb Crucial M4 SSD that I am using to install my OS, games, and Office programs on, but am not sure which Western Digital to get for my HDD. I will mainly be using it to store files and media, but as far as the Caviar colors go, how do I know which one is best for my needs?

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June 6, 2012 8:52:38 PM

If you only intend to use the HDD for data storage, the Green drives are adequate. Though the reliability on them isn't that great, be sure to back up anything important ot another medium.

However, a 128GB M4 is not going to store a lot of games, so unless you plan to rotate games out a lot, you may want an HDD to store your games on. With how big games are getting these days, you'll probably only be able to get two major titles on your SSD at any one time. Really, you don't need to put games on an SSD, the only improvement you will see over an HDD is slightly faster startup and loading times. I run all my games off my 1TB Caviar Black and they all start and load up fairly quickly, an SSD would only shave off 1 or 2 seconds at best.

If you do want to run games or programs off your HDD in order to save space on the SSD, get the Blue or the Black. Blue is the midrange option that offers decent performance, but doesn't carry a large price premium. Black is the performance drive, as fast as you'll get on an HDD without using RAID or getting into the 10 000 RPM Velociraptors. Whether the price premium attached to the Black is worth it is up to you.
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June 6, 2012 8:56:50 PM

Well, to be honest I only plan on having perhaps 3 games installed (Diablo 3, StarCraft 2, and the new SimCity when it releases). Those may be the only games I have time enough to play, lol. I decided to go with a 500gb Black (sometimes I get impatient and 12 seconds versus 8 can seem like an eternity to me).
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June 6, 2012 9:12:38 PM

You might be able to squeeze all of those onto the 128GB if you manage your space right. It might get tight depending on how bloated D3 winds up getting, or if SimCity takes up lots of space. Worst case scenario, you may have to put one of those games on the HDD. If you think 500GB is enough for your additional storage, and you think yo may need the HDD for more than just storage at some point, the 500GB Black is a good choice.

To save some space on the SSD, I recommend that you turn off system restore, disable the hibernate mode, and move your pagefile to the HDD. That will probably free up at least 10GB worth of space on the SSD. Just be sure to create a system image before you do this, so you don't have to reinstall Windows if something goes wrong with the OS later on.
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a b G Storage
June 6, 2012 9:15:15 PM

green = energy saving (stops spinning when not in use. good for music/movies/dvr)
blue = standard drive
black = better warranty, weighs twice as much as the others (built better), more cache.
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June 6, 2012 9:15:40 PM

Very good, thanks for your help! I may also upgrade to a 256gb SSD and not have to worry a whole lot, lol.

I suppose a little off topic, but your comment brought it to my attention: is it better on a computer to shut all the way down when not in use (overnight, vacations, etc.)?
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a b G Storage
June 6, 2012 9:16:30 PM

my comp runs 24/7, but if you're on vacation, no real reason to keep it on.
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June 6, 2012 9:21:02 PM

You can keep your computer on 24/7 if you want, it won't hurt anything, aside from making the fans wear down faster, but the lifespan on fans are quite long these days, even when run 24/7 so that's not much of an issue.

If I'm going out most of the day, I'll turn my computer off, if I'm not going to be gone long, I just keep it on. As said above, if you are going away for extended periods, not much point in keeping it on other than running up your electric bill.
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June 6, 2012 9:29:20 PM

Thanks for you input, fellas! Any other general maintenance recommendations you can make for the storage drives, or overall computer health in general?
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June 6, 2012 9:42:42 PM

Be sure to check that Windows does not try to defrag your SSD. By default Windows should detect the OS drive as an SSD and not schedule a defrag, but it can sometimes still happen. When I got my SSD, Windows still had defrags scheduled for the OS drive for some reason. Defrags do not help performance on an SSD, and actually hurt the drive by consuming write cycles.

Don't run benchmarks frequently on your SSD, that will also hurt performance. Be sure to set your storage controller mode in BIOS to AHCI before you install Windows, AHCI mode ensures optimal SSD performance, the older IDE mode will significantly slow down an SSD. I'm not sure about the newest motherboards, but a lot of older boards still default to IDE mode.
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June 6, 2012 9:45:56 PM

Oh ok, thanks a lot! If I remember right, I can choose to not schedule any defrag and do it all manually, right? I am also semi-aware that a SSD life expectancy depends on the re/writes it goes through. Pretty much, I should just install and forget on the SSD, and just make sure that everything else saves to the HDD?
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June 6, 2012 9:58:21 PM

Yes you can choose to not schedule a defrag in the Windows control panel. You can also redirect your libraries like My Documents and My Pictures, to the HDD if you want to save even more space on the SSD. Just google how to redirect the libraries, be advised I think it involves a registry hack, so be sure to back up the registry before you attempt this.

I personally just keep the My Music on the SSD empty and have the My Music library linked to a folder on one of my HDDs. You can always tell your web browser to save downloads to a folder on your HDD. Shrewd space management is just something we need to do until the prices on SSDs come down to the point where 500+GB drives become affordable.
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a b G Storage
June 6, 2012 10:21:03 PM

Also, if you're using an SSD, you don't really need to keep your computer on, right?

Just turn it off if you're going to be away from your computer for more than 30-60 mins. It'll take like 20 seconds to get to your desktop once you turn it on. 2 seconds if you had put it to sleep. Depending on what other hardware you're got in your comp, at least putting it into sleep mode while you're away will save a lot of power/money over time.
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June 6, 2012 11:50:46 PM

I would definitely prefer not to hack any files lol. I rarely use my MyDocuments folder, I usually create new folders as I need to. Also, is there a difference between sleep and hibernation?
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June 7, 2012 12:19:12 AM

Sleep mode shuts off most of the computer but keeps the RAM powered so the system state isn't lost, this allows the computer to wake up and return to what it was doing quickly. Hibernate dumps the contents of RAM into a file on the hard drive and completely shuts down the computer. When the computer restarts, it accesses this file and restores the system to the saved state. The hibernate.sys file reserves a certain amount of space, I believe about 6GB if you have 8GB of RAM for this purpose. Disabling it saves HDD space.

If you are looking to save power, sleep mode only sips a tiny bit to keep the RAM refreshed. Hibernate is useful if you want to keep the state and are afraid of the system losing power, but otherwise it's not that useful. I never bother with hibernate, except in scenarios where say a laptop's battery is about to run dry and you can't get to an electrical socket quickly enough.
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June 7, 2012 12:53:25 AM

That clears things up a lot, thanks! Do start up/shut downs or putting the system in sleep mode eat up rewrites on the SSD If the OS is installed on it?
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June 7, 2012 1:11:01 AM

Startups are strictly read operations for the most part. Shut downs don't really write much to the drive unless you just installed updates. Sleep mode doesn't write to the drive at all, everything remains in RAM.

In any case, rewrite cycles aren't a huge concern unless you are writing 100+ gigabytes of data to the drive every single day. The earlier SSDs did have this problem more, but newer SSD technologies and software commands like TRIM have ameliorated this issue. In typical day to day use an SSD shouldn't burn through all it's rewrite cycles until after 5+ years at the very least. Most likely longer than that if you aren't writing lots of data to the drive constantly.

That said, you may want to keep some space free on the drive to allow things like the TRIM command to work, that way you won't go through as many rewrite cycles, extending the life of the drive.
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June 7, 2012 1:20:00 AM

Oh ok. I think I will be upgrading to the 256gb, so if I use the SSD as I think I will, I should be just fine as far as having extra, adequate space.
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June 7, 2012 1:27:47 AM

Since you want to put 3 rather large games on the SSD, you would be well served spending extra to get a 256GB model. What you want to do might be possible on a 128GB, but you would be pushing the drive's space pretty close to the limit. Having the extra headroom would definitely help, as it means the drive will perform better for a longer period of time, and you won't have to micromanage disk space as much.
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