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Raid and Gaming

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September 25, 2007 10:25:14 PM

I'm wondering if having a raid vs standard hd changes anything in the newer games coming out (like oblivion). From the older days, video cards were the bottlenecks till the 8800 series came out, then the cpu is a bottleneck (no cpu fast enough to keep with them yet).
With more games coming out using 2gb of memory, I'm wondering if the raid system improves it's performance or just load times?

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September 26, 2007 12:28:20 AM

RAID 0 will only decrease load and save times. That's it.

If saving 1 or 2 seconds is important to you, then do it.
September 26, 2007 12:38:13 AM

jaguarskx said:
RAID 0 will only decrease load and save times. That's it.

If saving 1 or 2 seconds is important to you, then do it.


That's the OLD way. Newer games are using alot more resources then ever. More then some ppl that have only 1gb of ram (NOT enough for a few games or Vista) So the question still holds. Does using a raid system improve performance DURING the game? and how much? Anyone tried to see if there was a difference?

(and btw, the load time would be far faster then a second or two).
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September 26, 2007 2:06:35 AM

Games are more GPU dependent and CPU dependent.

Continual memory swapping during gameplay will probably cause the PC to lockup eventually.

As for load time, I am referring the game loading / saving data during gameplay. Not when starting up a game.
September 26, 2007 7:17:09 AM

computertech82 said:
That's the OLD way. Newer games are using alot more resources then ever. More then some ppl that have only 1gb of ram (NOT enough for a few games or Vista) So the question still holds. Does using a raid system improve performance DURING the game? and how much? Anyone tried to see if there was a difference?

(and btw, the load time would be far faster then a second or two).


I have a RAID 0 setup, and indeed it's somewhat helping in load times, not just at startup but also during the game (obviously depends on how the game is implemented). However, if you were referring to having to handle memory swapping during gameplay (I interpreted your remark with regard to 1Gb systems), then the question is moot because if your system needs swapping then you're screwed regardless of your RAID set-up. RAID can theoretically boost your HD access to 2x as fast as a single drive but it's more like 1.5 times as fast in practice. If you want to avoid gameplay degradation due to lack of memory, the only remedy is adding memory, a RAID 0 setup will not save the day in that regard.
September 26, 2007 7:22:32 PM

BigMac said:
I have a RAID 0 setup, and indeed it's somewhat helping in load times, not just at startup but also during the game (obviously depends on how the game is implemented). However, if you were referring to having to handle memory swapping during gameplay (I interpreted your remark with regard to 1Gb systems), then the question is moot because if your system needs swapping then you're screwed regardless of your RAID set-up. RAID can theoretically boost your HD access to 2x as fast as a single drive but it's more like 1.5 times as fast in practice. If you want to avoid gameplay degradation due to lack of memory, the only remedy is adding memory, a RAID 0 setup will not save the day in that regard.


It's a bit more then that. I have 4gb of memory. Oblivion (just one example) is over 10+GB of data (with mods). I purely doubt it's loading 10gb of data in my 4gb of ram. It's obviously swapping memory over and over. So again the question still holds. How much of a difference does it make having a Raid vs standard hd? There are benchmarks for the speed increase in read/write but nothing about any impact on gaming that uses alot of data.
September 26, 2007 7:40:37 PM

A fast array will speed up any drive access... if your game only access the drive to load/save then that's all it'll help. Most games these days load levels, and it'll help there... a few games have huge texture files and end up swapping in and out textures because the graphics subsystem doesn't have enough memory... it'll help there too. I wouldn't spend a bunch of extra money on raid... but if you have all the stuff you need - give it a try.
September 27, 2007 8:18:12 PM

d_kuhn said:
A fast array will speed up any drive access... if your game only access the drive to load/save then that's all it'll help. Most games these days load levels, and it'll help there... a few games have huge texture files and end up swapping in and out textures because the graphics subsystem doesn't have enough memory... it'll help there too. I wouldn't spend a bunch of extra money on raid... but if you have all the stuff you need - give it a try.


Yea, I checked out what oblivion was doing to the harddrive, it accessed it over and over...forever during gameplay. Obviously a raid system would help the game (mostly it's stutters - NOT fps). I wonder how many other games continuely access the harddrive during gameplay?
September 27, 2007 9:26:30 PM

The real question is what is more important:

1. Being able to play all your games somewhat faster as well as loading and such (raid 0)

2. Or walking into you bedroom and seeing your PC with blinking lights to realize your Hard Drive just failed but you dodged a bullet because you have a backup (raid 1)


Personally when I was young and only used my PC for gaming I did a Raid 0 just because. Now that I do all the tax info, account, business stuff, family pictures, etc.... I love having the security of a raid 1. Also dont forget about the Raid 5 option!!
September 27, 2007 10:32:35 PM

nickc07 said:
The real question is what is more important:

1. Being able to play all your games somewhat faster as well as loading and such (raid 0)

2. Or walking into you bedroom and seeing your PC with blinking lights to realize your Hard Drive just failed but you dodged a bullet because you have a backup (raid 1)


Personally when I was young and only used my PC for gaming I did a Raid 0 just because. Now that I do all the tax info, account, business stuff, family pictures, etc.... I love having the security of a raid 1. Also dont forget about the Raid 5 option!!


LOL. since the early 90's, i've been using a extra harddrive (never part of a raid) for important data, photos, ect and even save to cd's once in a while just to make sure i lose nothing. I use to run raid 0 but when i upgraded the rig, i didn't bother with the raid setup.
I have done a bit of research which does show the fps not increasing (as I knew it wouldn't) but nothing really about the games that move HUGE amounts of data. It did get me to think, if the data it's moving is not that taxing that a single can handle it or is it moving alot of data where a raid setup could benefit the stutters in some gaming.

Only way to setup one and test it. Anyone ever looked into that with the new games? (shutter only (pauses)-NOT fps).
September 28, 2007 7:31:13 AM

computertech82 said:
Yea, I checked out what oblivion was doing to the harddrive, it accessed it over and over...forever during gameplay. Obviously a raid system would help the game (mostly it's stutters - NOT fps). I wonder how many other games continuely access the harddrive during gameplay?


More and more games that allow free roaming through huge environments will have this continuous access. Combatting stuttering with a RAID solution will never really help as it's only a factor 1.5 to 2 ideally that you will win, so assuming the stuttering is caused by the disk access as a bottleneck (unlikely by itself, it's more likely the combination of reading in the data and some pre/postprocessing of it) you will only halve a stutter at best, which is usually still noticable. Adding more disks to a (massive) RAID is costly and quite simply this problem and the RAID solution doesnt scale very well, it is linear with the amount of data (and theoretically 1 over the number of disks but you will never attain that in a massive RAID).

I do expect when games start utilizing multiple cores bettter, that the loading and initializing of the data can be done on different cores than the cores that are handling the gameplay where you are in the virtual world, and that might lessen or get rid of the stuttering alltogether. It will require some skillfull programming though and some restraint from game designers/artists that want to push the envelope at the cost of performance. I am looking forward to Alan Wake, which is a game that will typically be dealing with this issue.
September 28, 2007 3:02:51 PM

Drive subsystem performance definitely does help with games like Oblivion (noticeably). Also with games like Half Life 2 where the difference between a 1 minute and 30 second level load time FEEL huge. As with anything though... it should be part of a system wide update. HDD access in oblivion is one item... but more main memory will have a huge impact on studder too... and both together CAN eliminate it altogether.

A graphics subsystem with a gig of memory will help too... you need the whole enchelada.

As far as which raid... I use RAID0 on one box for the OS partition but that machine has a RAID5 data array.

For the best of both worlds... raid10 is tough to beat (unless you're very price sensitive). I've got an old IDE 1TB raid10 array that's nearly as fast as a bran-spankin-new 2 drive 2TB SATA Raid1 setup.
September 28, 2007 4:28:22 PM

If you have enough memory on your GPU this will almost eliminate the problem of textures loading mid game. The only reason you get all this load and pop is because of two reasons. 1) The game is not programmed very well and all the textures needed for the level cannot fit or have not been pushed to your texture memory or 2) The level has such a diverse array of textures that it can not possibly store them all on your graphics cards memory. You have to remember though, most of the texture pop up your seeing in games is not because of load from your hard disk to your ram, it is actually because of load from your ram to your GPU’s memory.

If you had to wait for load to come from your hard disk to your graphics memory you would be waiting much longer than the milliseconds you have to wait for it to load once your GPU runs out of texture memory. So at the moment if you have 2GB’s of ram or more you really have no need for a fast hard disc as all it will do is improve load times and save times as has been said. If you do get a load of pop up and you want this reduced then you need a bigger graphics card or you need to use a lower resolution with less features like AA and AF enabled on your system.
September 28, 2007 8:22:33 PM

Although, I don't have a "tom's hardware" class answer on this one, based on the systems I have seen, the biggest factor in whether improved IO improves your game performance is the game itself: How much of the data is sent while you're looking at a load screen, vs how much of the data is sent during gameplay.

As a predictor, I would watch the drive access light during any performance drops.
September 28, 2007 9:24:40 PM

d_kuhn said:
Drive subsystem performance definitely does help with games like Oblivion (noticeably). Also with games like Half Life 2 where the difference between a 1 minute and 30 second level load time FEEL huge. As with anything though... it should be part of a system wide update. HDD access in oblivion is one item... but more main memory will have a huge impact on studder too... and both together CAN eliminate it altogether.

A graphics subsystem with a gig of memory will help too... you need the whole enchelada.

As far as which raid... I use RAID0 on one box for the OS partition but that machine has a RAID5 data array.

For the best of both worlds... raid10 is tough to beat (unless you're very price sensitive). I've got an old IDE 1TB raid10 array that's nearly as fast as a bran-spankin-new 2 drive 2TB SATA Raid1 setup.


Interesting. I suspected that gaming might hit the harddrive bottleneck, just wasn't sure when. Raid10 does sound like fun (hehehe) but I really don't need that much power. Raid 0 (0+1) would be my options.

I know many games are starting to strain cpu/gps/memory like Oblivion. I'm running a x2 4000+ oc to 2.8ghz (pretty close to the 6000+ stock performance), 4gb ram, 8800 GTS 320mb and winXP. I know the limits of the textures and the memory, but at 1024 by 768 i don't really have to worry too much unless i use huge 3rd party texture packs. Graphic memory won't be an issue for awhile for me (unless the game developers push it).
I wonder how many ppl show less stutters with raid systems in a few games?
January 7, 2009 4:21:45 PM

Some of the new X58 boards come with a SAS onboard Raid Controller such as the P6T Deluxe and the Bloodrage. Newegg has SCSI drives for $179, $20 dollars more than a Velociraptor. 15,000 rpm's, dont need raid with these drives!!!
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