So I will be building my "new" PC tomorrow and I haven't decided on a hard drive solution yet. I'm thinking either 2 500gb 7200RPM drives in RAID 0 or an SSD with the 2 500gb HDDs for storage. I would rather not buy an SSD, but I would like to squeeze as much performance as I can get. The data is not important and will be backed up by Acronis nightly, so what would you guys do?
Cost is the priority. I already have the 2 500gb. So is it worthwhile to RAID them?
No, it is not worthwhile to use raid-0.
Synthetic sequential benchmarks will look impressive, but in actual use, you can't tell the difference.
It really is not worth the hassle.
A SSD, on the other hand is magic. SSD rices are down, and even a 60gb ssd for only the os will make all the difference in the world. Really, I would use at least a 120gb ssd which can comfortably hold the os and half a dozen games.
I would go with an SSD for your OS and apps as it will really speed up any system. A RAID 0 for storage is a good idea if you are backing up regularly. I actually use a similar system for my workstation. 128GB SSD, 1.5TB RAID 0 storage and 3TB back up.
It is best to ensure the drives are the exact same.
If you can live with less space, partitioning the drives smaller then full capacity can limit the distance the heads have to travel giving better access times.
Access times are the killer for hard drives and what makes SSD's so desirable.
I am saying this as someone who used (R)AID0[The R is in () because you have no redundancy] for years with multiple drives to get better speeds. The biggest issue was while you could get nearly 2x the sequential read/writes. You did not gain lower access times.
Think of it this way access is not always sequential sometimes you need data from many different places on the drive so the longer it takes to get from place to place, the slower the drive will perform. SSD's because they do not have to wait for an arm/head assembly to move into place have near instant access.
Still with 2 identical drives, (R)AID0 will not hurt things. If the drives are not the same you get strange effects on transfer speeds and access times.
I have gone SSD + HDD storage + backup and never looked back.
my config is 2 SSD in RAID0, plus 1TB HDDs in RAID1 (plus an extra drive... because I had it laying around?).
Anywho, as someone who recently had one of my RAID1 drives fail I have to highly suggest NOT doing RAID0 for a data drive. RAID0 is for a little extra performance, or to get a larger usable pool of space when you need extra room in a single partition, but in real world applicaiton it is very risky business, especially if reusing drives that are already a few years old.
That said, HDDs have a throughput of roughly 100-130MB/s for sequential performance. However, for nonsequential performance (things like OS and program loading) HDDs have a dismal 40-60MB/s throughput. It is painfully slow!
SSDs are really not all that much faster than HDDs in real world use, and tend to hit a modest 160-200MB/s under most workloads. It is faster, but not magically faster for sequential workloads. The trick is that the HDD has a high latency due to seek time, where the SSD is under .2ms. In short, it means that for nonsequential workloads it still gets the exact same 160-200MB/s, while the traditional HDD is hitting ~1/4th the performance, plus a latency hit! That is where the magic lies. It is a huge difference, and you would be crazy to not want an SSD in your system.
For another real world example: I do a bit of video editing and from my HDDs (reading from 1 drive, writing to another to achieve max performance) I could only push my i7 to ~60% load. Put in an SSD and use that as my scratch disc? Now I have no troubble at all maxing out the load on my CPU! Also, because I OC via turbo boost (because I was too cheap to buy a K CPU... no regrets), that extra load makes the CPU go from hitting 3.6GHz, to fully maxing it out at 4.2GHz the whole time. It is a massive performance difference that I very much enjoy, and I am on cheap Agility SSDs. If you throw down some real money on a Sammy then you can get even more performance (and probably better reliability to boot), so absolutely get an SSD... it will rock your world!
And no, don't RAID0 the HDDs, not worth the risk, nor the hastle. RAID1 is fine, but RAID0 gets a bit scary and should not be done unless you keep good backups.
All great advice, I don't think I am going to RAID after reading all of that. If I get an SSD, I know that I need to reinstall Windows. Do I also install my games and apps on the SSD? Say I had the SSD (C and an HDD (E where would I install Battlefield 3 for best performance? The reason I ask is because BF3 is around 23gb IIRC
It is recommended to reinstall windows and programs. You may also be able to clone the drive if your data set is small enough to fit the SSD you get. While many will recommend against it. I have done it a few times without issues.
Most games should be installed(if you do a fresh install of windows) and not just copy/pasted as many games have registry entries to deal with as well.
Many MMO games have a launcher that will fix the game up.
Steam(if you use it) can be installed and the old copy of steam and all games can be copied over the new steam. It will recreate any needed entries for games on the first run.
Windows and any commonly accessed programs and games go on the SSD. All the others can be put into the HDD.
You wont see a performance boost in games using an SSD (your FPS wont rise), but you will notice shorter load times. In BF3 I dont think that will really be all that noticeable since you are also constrained by network speed, other players loading in and such.
But on games like Skyrim or Fallout 3 with constant load screens, it is truly worth it.