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HDD vs RAM upgrade...which first?

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September 21, 2012 2:24:59 PM

So I’m about to upgrade my PC to the following specs (don’t currently have the mobo or cpu) and I would like to swap out my RAM and HDD but am not sure which is more urgent to swap out. I cannot currently change both. The HDD is used mostly for storage as my SSD runs my OS. I would either get 8gigs of ram (2x4Gb Mushkin 1600 blackline) or 1.5T 7200rpm HDD (Seagate Barracuda).

Any suggestions on which is most important to update? Which would I see most performance upgrade from?
Any comments on the build in general are welcome as well :)  .

MOBO: ASUS P8Z77-V Pro
CPU: Intel i5-3570k ivy
PSU: corsair enthusiast series tx650
GPU: Sapphire Radeon HD6870 1G DDR5 PCIE
RAM: 6GB DDR3 (1066)
HDD: 1TB HDD Western Digital 5200k
SSD: 128g OCZ vertex4
Case: Corsair Carbide 400R
Cooler: Hyper 212+
Optical: generic lightscribe CD/DVD read/write
PCI: Roswell wireless card

More about : hdd ram upgrade

a c 91 G Storage
September 21, 2012 2:46:34 PM

Have you already purchased the memory and HDD? I would get a 7200 rpm drive and 1600 speed memory. The size of the HDD depends on how much space you need, and you can add another pretty easy later.
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September 21, 2012 2:51:50 PM

6GB memory upgrade to 8GB memory can't improve performance,upgrade HDD better
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a b G Storage
September 21, 2012 2:54:48 PM

Well it all depends on what you are doing.

Check your ram usage, if you are using some 80%+ of your ram when you are multi-tasking/editing/gaming, then that would be the obvious choice as it would prevent you from dipping into virtual memory. If you are not using the bulk of your ram, then there would be literally no performance gain by adding more.

For HDDs it is mostly about space, and not so much about speed.
Think of it this way: video and music only plays back so fast, so there is very little 'performance requirement' for a storage drive as it is all about just getting a large enough drive to hold everything. So if this is just for media storage and playback, or even a home server situation, then go for sheer size of the drive over the rpm or raw benchmarks for throughput. If 1TB filled up, then 1.5TB is going to fill up rather quickly. As you have a modern board I would suggest looking more at the 2-3TB drives, and have it last you a bit longer before needing another upgrade.

The obvious exception to this is if you are doing production work with some type of video editing. If that is the case then I would suggest that you get a 5900 or 7200rpm drive, and the bigger the better. Seek time for files is determined by the rpm rating, and the read/write speed is determined by the density of the platters. This is why there are some drives that are 2TB for relatively cheap, because they have several low density platters in them, while other drives are more expensive because they have fewer high density platters in them that bring greater sequential performance. If you are doing serious, or at least consistent, video work then I would also suggest that you look into a RAID1 or RAID5 setup (which your motherboard can do for you if you have the drives). It would provide a little more throughput (provided you are running identical drives), and it provides a basic level of safety in the event that you have a drive failure. sadly it does nothing for seek time, and it will add an extra 5-10 seconds to your boot time due to loading the RAID rom, so it is not for everyone (though I enjoy mine).

Another idea on the HDD: If you are doing editing then consider getting another SSD to use as a project drive. Even a 60GB SSD is large enough for most projects to fit on it, and then you will be able to fly through photo and video editing projects, and then offload the files to your HDD when you are done with the project. What I am doing now is using my SSD RAID for all my editing projects, which has pushed all of my editing bottleneck back to the CPU where it belongs, and is a huge improvement from editing from the HDD like I use to. I then store all projects on the 1TB RAID1 setup (which is now full and needs bigger drives) so that if one of my drives fails then I am not totally screwed.
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September 21, 2012 3:02:04 PM

I mostly game and do light photo and video editing (recreationally).
I was more concerened about the speed of my RAM than the ammount of RAM. I am aware that for my use I probably don't use more than 4GB very often.
The HDD situation is interesting as I don't run everything on my SSD, just my OS, Itunes, and a few games. All my other programs are installed on my HDD to save space on my SSD.
Would the HDD speed then affect my other programs?
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September 21, 2012 3:03:39 PM

ss202sl said:
Have you already purchased the memory and HDD? I would get a 7200 rpm drive and 1600 speed memory. The size of the HDD depends on how much space you need, and you can add another pretty easy later.


I will eventually get both, but am looking at which would be the most advantageous right now.
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Best solution

a b G Storage
September 21, 2012 3:50:05 PM

Loren_ha said:
I mostly game and do light photo and video editing (recreationally).
I was more concerened about the speed of my RAM than the ammount of RAM. I am aware that for my use I probably don't use more than 4GB very often.
The HDD situation is interesting as I don't run everything on my SSD, just my OS, Itunes, and a few games. All my other programs are installed on my HDD to save space on my SSD.
Would the HDD speed then affect my other programs?

Faster ram does not scale well on performance. Moving from 1066 up to 1600 would be a decent upgrade, but it is not going to be a really big noticeable performance gain like adding a faster GPU. For the most part Ram is simply Ram, and so long as you have enough to prevent going into virtual memory (using your SSD, or God forbid your HDD, as system memory), then it should not be a huge issue. But the faster ram will increase your game FPS a little bit (my guess is ~10-15%), so if that is a specific need, then this would be the upgrade to do.


The HDD is only going to affect the programs and files that reside on it, so upgrading the HDD is not going to change your OS load time, or the load time of programs that are on your SSD currently, but getting a bigger/faster HDD will help with load times on games that are on the HDD. A faster HDD only changes your load time to get into a game, or load an area, it will not change the FPS inside the game one bit.
As an example; I got skyrim a while back, right before I got my first SSD (found it mistakenly on clearance at Target, I normally don't buy new games, but I couldn't pass up their stupidity lol). On the HDD some areas would take FOREVER to load, upwards of 20+ seconds for an area, which is ridiculous. Moving to the SSD brought all area load times down to 5-10 seconds which was nice, and more than playable. Now that I am running 2 SSDs in RAID0 the area load transitions are only 2-5 seconds, which really helps with the transition, and keeping me on the task at hand... though I have a lot less breaks to get up and grab a snack or drink now lol.

If your HDD is simply not full, then I would suggest a few options:
1) partition your SSD and use 60GB of it as an Intel RST cache for your HDD. The 1st 60GB or so would be for your OS and commonly used applications that you want consistently fast performance from. The 2nd 60GB would be used to cache your most used parts of the HDD, and if you start playing a different game, or using different files on a consistent basis, then it will adapt and follow your usage habits. If you do this, and you are not pressed for space on the HDD then you would not need to purchase anything (though you would have to deal with the annoyance of formatting, partitioning, and reinstalling all your software). But it would give you a little speed boost on some things, while freeing up your upgrade money for 8GB of DDR3 1600 (2x4GB kit by the way).

2) Get a 2nd identical HDD to what you already have (running mixed drives can actually yield worse performance), and then do a RAID1 to give you a little bit of redundancy for your files. It will also speed up read times a little bit (not a doubling in performance, but it will be better), which is a nice plus. RAID1 writes the same information to both drives, so there would be no performance boost to your write speed, but this is typically not an issue. In theory you could do this in addition to suggestion #1 and have a cache on the RAID, but I have never seen anyone do this and am unsure on how things would react (but it should work in theory).



The real answer is that you really want an SSD large enough for all of your programs, documents, and music collection, and then have a RAID1 or RAID5 array for bulk files like video, system/file backups, and files that you want some amount of redundancy on. So anything that you can do to move in that general direction would be the smartest move you can make from both a performance, and a data security/longevity standpoint.
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September 21, 2012 3:59:19 PM

Best answer selected by Loren_ha.
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September 21, 2012 3:59:52 PM

CaedenV said:
Faster ram does not scale well on performance. Moving from 1066 up to 1600 would be a decent upgrade, but it is not going to be a really big noticeable performance gain like adding a faster GPU. For the most part Ram is simply Ram, and so long as you have enough to prevent going into virtual memory (using your SSD, or God forbid your HDD, as system memory), then it should not be a huge issue. But the faster ram will increase your game FPS a little bit (my guess is ~10-15%), so if that is a specific need, then this would be the upgrade to do.


The HDD is only going to affect the programs and files that reside on it, so upgrading the HDD is not going to change your OS load time, or the load time of programs that are on your SSD currently, but getting a bigger/faster HDD will help with load times on games that are on the HDD. A faster HDD only changes your load time to get into a game, or load an area, it will not change the FPS inside the game one bit.
As an example; I got skyrim a while back, right before I got my first SSD (found it mistakenly on clearance at Target, I normally don't buy new games, but I couldn't pass up their stupidity lol). On the HDD some areas would take FOREVER to load, upwards of 20+ seconds for an area, which is ridiculous. Moving to the SSD brought all area load times down to 5-10 seconds which was nice, and more than playable. Now that I am running 2 SSDs in RAID0 the area load transitions are only 2-5 seconds, which really helps with the transition, and keeping me on the task at hand... though I have a lot less breaks to get up and grab a snack or drink now lol.

If your HDD is simply not full, then I would suggest a few options:
1) partition your SSD and use 60GB of it as an Intel RST cache for your HDD. The 1st 60GB or so would be for your OS and commonly used applications that you want consistently fast performance from. The 2nd 60GB would be used to cache your most used parts of the HDD, and if you start playing a different game, or using different files on a consistent basis, then it will adapt and follow your usage habits. If you do this, and you are not pressed for space on the HDD then you would not need to purchase anything (though you would have to deal with the annoyance of formatting, partitioning, and reinstalling all your software). But it would give you a little speed boost on some things, while freeing up your upgrade money for 8GB of DDR3 1600 (2x4GB kit by the way).

2) Get a 2nd identical HDD to what you already have (running mixed drives can actually yield worse performance), and then do a RAID1 to give you a little bit of redundancy for your files. It will also speed up read times a little bit (not a doubling in performance, but it will be better), which is a nice plus. RAID1 writes the same information to both drives, so there would be no performance boost to your write speed, but this is typically not an issue. In theory you could do this in addition to suggestion #1 and have a cache on the RAID, but I have never seen anyone do this and am unsure on how things would react (but it should work in theory).



The real answer is that you really want an SSD large enough for all of your programs, documents, and music collection, and then have a RAID1 or RAID5 array for bulk files like video, system/file backups, and files that you want some amount of redundancy on. So anything that you can do to move in that general direction would be the smartest move you can make from both a performance, and a data security/longevity standpoint.


That was comprhensive....thank you for that lesson...exactly what I needed :) 
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a b G Storage
September 21, 2012 4:01:50 PM

no problem :D  Glad I could help!
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