I'm currently looking for a new HD soon, I don't really need it for space reasons. Intend it to be a speed upgrade. I currently have a WD SE 80GB. I was looking at the new Raptor 74Gb from the specs though I see Start and stop cycles(minimum) is 20,000. Yet my current drive and most other WD SATA drives have 50,000. So are the Start and stop cycles really all that important to the drive life. The raptor also has a 5 yr warrenty. while the SE WD's have 3 and most other drives just 1. And i'm assuming the Raptor is a more highend hard drive built for Highend workstations. So even though its expensive is my money better spend on just a 7200 120GB WD SE or the raptor which is the better drive all round.
The Raptor's mechanicals are based on SCSI drives as far as I know, normally used in systems that operate 24/7. Starting the drive puts a lot of stress on it, especially as the RPM is higher. 20,000 is still a big number, so judge accordingly.
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A minimum of 20K start stop cycles means you could turn your drive off and on 11 times per day for 5 years. That would only conceivably happen if you had APM enabled to spin the drives down after a certain amount of time. Personally I leave my 9 drives spinning 24/7.