15 Years Of Hard Drive History: Capacities Outran Performance

Why Is Hard Drive Performance Crucial?

Every user can answer this question easily : turn your PC or notebook on, and you’ll notice that most of the waiting is caused by the hard drive pushing data into the main memory while Windows or another operating system is launching. While the time needed to boot into the operating system has decreased considerably over the last few years - thanks in part to BIOS optimizations - and some systems now start in as little as 15-20 seconds, this is still the main bottleneck that prevents a really smooth computer experience.

We don’t want to wait 30 or more seconds for our PCs to be ready. Nor do we want to wait 20 seconds for our favorite applications to be launched. And we should not have to accept that it can even take seconds for applications just to close !

Another important issue is backup : if it takes forever to read or write data on a hard drive, the time consumed by backup and data replication procedures will increase for even ordinary amounts of everyday data. While it was certainly possible to copy the data off an 850 MB hard drive onto another medium within few minutes, securing your audio, video and photo database will certainly take much more time today.

Test Setup

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System Hardware
Processor(s)2x Intel Xeon Processor (Nocona core)3.6 GHz, FSB800, 1 MB L2 cache
PlatformAsus NCL-DS (Socket 604)Intel E7520 Chipset, BIOS 1005
RAMCorsair CM72DD512AR-400 (DDR2-400 ECC, reg.)2x 512 MB, CL3-3-3-10 Timings
System Hard DriveWestern Digital Caviar WD1200JB120 GB, 7,200 RPM, 8 MB Cache, UltraATA/100
Mass Storage Controller(s)Intel 82801EB UltraATA/100 Controller (ICH5)Silicon Image Sil3124, PCI-X
NetworkingBroadcom BCM5721 On-Board Gigabit Ethernet NIC
Graphics CardOn-Board GraphicsATI RageXL, 8 MB
System Hardware
Performance Measurementsc’t h2benchw 3.6
I/O PerformanceIOMeter 2003.05.10Fileserver-BenchmarkWebserver-BenchmarkDatabase-BenchmarkWorkstation-Benchmark
System Software & Drivers
OSMicrosoft Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition, Service Pack 1
Platform DriverIntel Chipset Installation Utility
Graphics DriverDefault Windows Graphics Driver
  • There is a typo in the article:

    Quantum's Fireball was available about five years after the 40 GB Maxtor drive discussed above,

    It should be 40MB, obviously
  • badcat
    "And Samsung, finally, may have a decent advantage in the future with a possible hybrid hard drive; it is the only firm in this quartet that manufactures both magnetic and Flash storage." WRONG! This technology existed in enterprise level hard disks for some time now.
  • i am still looking a 40Mb hard disk for my machine in 386dx