Should You Be Looking For A Hard Drive Upgrade?


We chose two Samsung hard drives, but two drives from Hitachi, Seagate, or Western Digital would lead to very similar results. In our testing, which aimed to determine the benefits of exchanging an outdated hard drive on a three year old system for a current drive, we found some significant differences between the 3-4 year old Spinpoint P120 at 200 GB and the brand new Spinpoint F2 EcoGreen.

Advantages on the Hard Drive Level

In addition to offering five times the capacity, the most noticeable advantages of the new drive were nearly doubled throughput (despite a lower spindle speed) and 30-40% less power consumption. Samsung’s Spinpoint F2 EcoGreen does almost everything so much better than the old P120. We say almost because access time and I/O benchmarks were still better on the old 7,200 RPM drive. A look at the PCMark Vantage results make clear that the new drive introduces lots of performance benefits at much lower power requirements.

The improved performance and lower power consumption result in amazing efficiency for the F2 EcoGreen. There is a nice increase in performance per watt for workstation I/O operations despite the marginally lower I/O performance. We also found an increase in throughput efficiency by a factor of 2.6x when considering performance per watt.

Advantages on the System Level

Naturally, the impact on the whole system is not that large. We measured a 2 W reduction in system idle power, which doesn’t change much, but is nice to see in the light of much improved HDD performance. The overall SYSmark 2007 Preview score goes from 81 to 84 points, which equals a 3.7% increase. The same Windows XP installation boots in 16 rather than in 18.5 seconds, which is a 13.5% reduction in time needed.

Overall, we encourage anyone with a hard drive that is already a few years old to make the step and go for a decent replacement, because of the following reasons:

  • Hard drives are very affordable: terabyte drives will soon be at $80. So if you need more storage anyway, go for it.
  • New drives are always faster than old ones. We used a power-efficient drive. A performance drive, such as a WD Caviar Black would deliver even more performance benefits.
  • New drives will last longer than those that have been in service for a few years.