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 Post subject: Trying to pick a companion HDD for an SSD
PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 7:12 pm 
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I'm trying to make some decisions about storage for an April build. For reference, the build will use an i5-2500K with 16GB of RAM and a GTX-560 Ti. The primary usage will be moderate (non-FPS) gaming, software development, some low-performance VM usage (for testing the software), and general personal/internet use. I'm trying to minimize noise in the build, but I don't require silence (note the GTX-560).

I will be booting from an SSD, but I'm still trying to decide what spindle drive to use with it. Any advice/information would be appreciated.

Primary Drive: Windows 7 plus high-speed applications (browser, IDE, select games)

Option: 128GB Crucial M4/C400, Corsair F120, 128GB Crucial C300, Intel X-25M

An SSD is really the only option here. The only question is which drive to use. Any of these are going to be a huge improvement over a spindle disk. I haven't made a firm decision on which one I'll use, but I'm less concerned with that for now. The drive will mostly be an OS drive with storage for my most common applications and games. User document storage is going to be done on a different drive.

Secondary Drive: Low performance games, applications, VM images, photos, general documents

Option: 1TB Samsung F3

This was suggested repeatedly over at AnandTech. The drive looks respectable and shouldn't have any problem running the games that I don't care enough about to move to the SSD. However, it doesn't seem to be notably quiet. Of course, at its current cost, I could afford an enclosure to quiet it down.

Option: 2TB Samsung F4EG / Western Digital Green with pseudo-short-stroked partitions

At just 5400rpm, this is a quieter and more efficient drive, but it won't be able to match the F3 in the general case. However, with custom partitioning placing games in a partition on the outer cylinders, the drive becomes (sort of) short-stroked for those applications. In theory, combining this with the increased areal density, would offset the lower speed of the drive. Right? Maybe?

Option: 2TB Samsung F4EG / Western Digital Green

Like the previous option, but without really caring about partitioning ...or performance. Are the Green/EcoGreen drives good enough that they can be used for games without much worry? Remember: If I have a game that could really benefit from an SSD, it would probably be moved there. I expect that with a 128GB SSD, I can get about 40GB of games on the drive before performance becomes a concern. Perhaps I just shouldn't worry about the lower performance of

Option: 640GB-1.5TB Western Digital Caviar Black

This removes all concern over performance, but replaces it with worries of noise. The leading option for cases is the CM 690 II Advanced. I'm worried about putting a Caviar Black at the front of the box with just a layer of mesh between me and seek noises.

Media Storage: Music, large file storage (ISO, installers, source packages), backup

Option: 1.5TB Network Storage

This is served by a Linux server via gigabit crossover network with jumbo frames. It can't match the performance of SATA, but its fast and efficient enough to work for any sort of bulk file storage that I might have.

Questions:

1: Is a Green/EcoGreen drive fast enough to run "second-tier" games (eg: Torchlight, Dawn of War 2, Tropico)?
2: Can a pseudo-short-stroke partition offset the performance loss of a 5400rpm drive?
3: Is the Samsung F3 a suitably quiet drive, or should it be treated like a Corsair Black (suspended, enclosed)?
4: Can a Corsair Black be made quiet enough for a reasonably quiet build?


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 Post subject: Re: Trying to pick a companion HDD for an SSD
PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 7:43 pm 
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figment wrote:
Primary Drive: Windows 7 plus high-speed applications (browser, IDE, select games)

Option: 128GB Crucial M4/C400, Corsair F120, 128GB Crucial C300, Intel X-25M

An SSD is really the only option here. The only question is which drive to use. Any of these are going to be a huge improvement over a spindle disk. I haven't made a firm decision on which one I'll use, but I'm less concerned with that for now. The drive will mostly be an OS drive with storage for my most common applications and games. User document storage is going to be done on a different drive.
Random read, windows launch, application launch are all as good as any. Plus much better software. It even tells you how close to being used up the drive is. And it uses the older, more reliable 32mm memory.

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 Post subject: Re: Trying to pick a companion HDD for an SSD
PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 7:45 pm 
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figment wrote:
Option: 640GB-1.5TB Western Digital Caviar Black

This removes all concern over performance, but replaces it with worries of noise. The leading option for cases is the CM 690 II Advanced. I'm worried about putting a Caviar Black at the front of the box with just a layer of mesh between me and seek noises.
A 1T Caviar Black is my favorite for working data. I feel safer with my data on it. To me reliability takes precedence even over noise.

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 Post subject: Re: Trying to pick a companion HDD for an SSD
PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 7:54 pm 
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ces wrote:
Random read, windows launch, application launch are all as good as any. Plus much better software. It even tells you how close to being used up the drive is. And it uses the older, more reliable 32mm memory.

Which drive are you talking about here?

ces wrote:
A 1T Caviar Black is my favorite for working data. I feel safer with my data on it. To me reliability takes precedence even over noise.

What makes the Caviar Black more reliable than the Caviar Greens or Samsungs?


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 Post subject: Re: Trying to pick a companion HDD for an SSD
PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 8:56 pm 
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figment wrote:
ces wrote:
A 1T Caviar Black is my favorite for working data. I feel safer with my data on it. To me reliability takes precedence even over noise.

What makes the Caviar Black more reliable than the Caviar Greens or Samsungs?

price. :lol:

as for the hard drive... short stroking one of the 2TB drives would help make sure you get the same performance across the partition, but my concern with running games off of it would be that greater areal density actually hurts random reads/writes.

with a nice 2 platter 1TB drive you could do a bit better. check out the spcr review of the hitachi 7k1000.c; the vibrations are completely handled by my mini p180s silicon mounts, so if you went with a case like the p183 then you'd be in the clear.

if your case doesnt have a mounting system that is comparable, you might want to take a look at the noisemagic novibes III. with one of those, or just diy suspension, you'd be in the clear vibration wise for any drive.(idk what kind of airborn noise the wd blacks have.)

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 Post subject: Re: Trying to pick a companion HDD for an SSD
PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 9:40 pm 
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fumino wrote:
as for the hard drive... short stroking one of the 2TB drives would help make sure you get the same performance across the partition, but my concern with running games off of it would be that greater areal density actually hurts random reads/writes.

This is my concern. But maybe it shouldn't be? The more I think about it, the more I start to wonder just how "bad" it would be to load games from the first 200GB of a 2TB drive. It's not like I will have any swap usage. I don't know of many games that actually have their run performance tied to the speed of your hard drive. For the most part, the hard drive would only matter for app loads and then major data loads (between maps, switching between game modes, etc). I don't know if it's really worth caring about 20% worse random reads.

I guess that's where I'm at now. I know I can get good performance from a 1TB Black. I know the Greens are quiet. It just becomes a question of whether the Greens have good enough performance to be useful or whether the Blacks can be quiet enough to not be annoying.

fumino wrote:
with a nice 2 platter 1TB drive you could do a bit better. check out the spcr review of the hitachi 7k1000.c; the vibrations are completely handled by my mini p180s silicon mounts, so if you went with a case like the p183 then you'd be in the clear.

The P183 isn't an option (too ugly, more or less). At the moment the leader is the CM 690 II (which I believe uses the rubber-necked screws for soft mounting), but I am willing to suspend the drives to get better results. The Samsung F3 is also a two platter 1TB, as is one of the WD Blues I had looked at. They were all options for the "middle of the road" strategy.


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 Post subject: Re: Trying to pick a companion HDD for an SSD
PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 10:09 pm 
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figment wrote:
ces wrote:
Random read, windows launch, application launch are all as good as any. Plus much better software. It even tells you how close to being used up the drive is. And it uses the older, more reliable 32mm memory.

Which drive are you talking about here?
Intel X-25M

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 Post subject: Re: Trying to pick a companion HDD for an SSD
PostPosted: Thu Mar 17, 2011 10:15 pm 
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figment wrote:
ces wrote:
A 1T Caviar Black is my favorite for working data. I feel safer with my data on it. To me reliability takes precedence even over noise.

What makes the Caviar Black more reliable than the Caviar Greens or Samsungs?


I did my research a while back. WD was the most reliable manufacturer. The blacks were built more robustly. Mechnically the same as WD server farm models.

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 Post subject: Re: Trying to pick a companion HDD for an SSD
PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:00 am 
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fwiw on the topic of using a 5400 RPM drive for games I'd say go for it if you want the lower power/noise. The areal density is so high on modern hard drives that even the 5400 RPM drives beat the snot out of the 7200 RPM drives from a few years ago.

Personally I'd target the 1TB to 2TB drives with 512b sectors (drives announced in 2010 or even 2009) as I tend to use hard drives for a very long time and there are still several XP PCs in my hand me down chain.

Samsung F3 (2009 512b sectors)
Samsung F4 (2010 512b sectors)

With the western digital drives you have to be very careful and may even have to rely on luck to know what internals you'll get as they release new drives with the same model number as old drives and some stores often have large stock of several year old drives while other stores sell out and stock the newer drives. And that's before you even get to the head parking issue on the Greens.

If I were to buy a WD I'd get the Blue and go for a capacity that has no overlap with older platter sizes if such a thing exists (back in the day that was the 640GB drive, but now that is an old slow drive by comparison). As is I don't have the patience to dig out the specs and figure out which WD drive if any is worth recommending without reservations.

Oh and if money were no object then the Seagate Momentus XT ST95005620AS 500GB would be a good drive to pair with a boot SSD. But it's like 5x the cost/GB of a traditional 3.5" hard drive.

As to short stroking a 2TB drive or even the 1TB drive go for it. The only drawback is loss of capacity. It'll help some. Do a HD Tune / HD Tach test before you put data on the drive and decide where on the performance curve you want to avoid and set your partition size smaller than that percentage/capacity.

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 Post subject: Re: Trying to pick a companion HDD for an SSD
PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:03 am 
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How about the WD caviar blue 1 TB (WD10EALS)?

The "Blue" clearly indicates the compromise between performance and low power consumption (read: quietness).
According to the SPCR review, it idles at 14 dB(A) and seeks (AAM) at 16~17 dB(A) while not vibrating that much.

http://www.silentpcreview.com/article1163-page5.html

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 Post subject: Re: Trying to pick a companion HDD for an SSD
PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2011 6:34 am 
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dhanson865 wrote:
fwiw on the topic of using a 5400 RPM drive for games I'd say go for it if you want the lower power/noise. The areal density is so high on modern hard drives that even the 5400 RPM drives beat the snot out of the 7200 RPM drives from a few years ago.

That's the reason I started looking at them, especially considering that I'd have a 128GB SSD to hold any apps/games that actually need/want the speed.

dhanson865 wrote:
Personally I'd target the 1TB to 2TB drives with 512b sectors (drives announced in 2010 or even 2009) as I tend to use hard drives for a very long time and there are still several XP PCs in my hand me down chain.

The drive will spend 3 years running Win 7 and 3 to 5 years running Linux 2.6+. There's no way it will ever be used on an XP system. From what I can see, so long as you take a moment to think about the partitions in Linux (no thought required in Win 7), the 4k sector drives perform as good or better than their 512b sector brothers. Is there any other reason to avoid 4K sector drives?

dhanson865 wrote:
With the western digital drives you have to be very careful and may even have to rely on luck to know what internals you'll get as they release new drives with the same model number

I was aware of this, and it was one of the reasons why I had picked the Advanced Format drives, as they would supposedly provide some assurance that older platters wouldn't be used. Is this correct?

dhanson865 wrote:
If I were to buy a WD I'd get the Blue and go for a capacity that has no overlap with older platter sizes if such a thing exists

For Blue drives, I was considering the EALX. It's $10 more than the EALS, but with the SATA 6Gb interface and 4K sectors. Neither of those are big selling points, but I'd think they would be much less likely to re-use old platters.

dhanson865 wrote:
As to short stroking a 2TB drive or even the 1TB drive go for it. The only drawback is loss of capacity.

I was thinking more of the weaker version of short stroking. Namely something like:

Code:
[  260GB ] => G: (Games)              <= Outermost cylinders
[  180GB ] => D: (Apps)
[ 1400GB ] => E: (Storage)
[  160GB ] => Y: (Backup/Long-Term)   <= Innermost cylinders

I'd still have the full 2TB of capacity, but when gaming, the drive would never see a need to seek beyond the outermost partition, since the OS and other services are stored on the SSD.


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 Post subject: Re: Trying to pick a companion HDD for an SSD
PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2011 7:45 am 
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"The drive will spend 3 years running Win 7 and 3 to 5 years running Linux 2.6+" Then sure go for 4k sectors if you want. They have advantages so long as the OS doesn't hold them back.

I don't know if WD plays any games with platter density on the 4k sector and 6Gb/s drives. I'd guess that you'd be safe from that aspect but I haven't researched it.

Given your OS choices it boils down to price. Your choice in hard drive won't matter nearly as much as your choice in SSD. Just remember every day is International Backup Awareness day.

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 Post subject: Re: Trying to pick a companion HDD for an SSD
PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2011 8:01 am 
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dhanson865 wrote:
Given your OS choices it boils down to price. Your choice in hard drive won't matter nearly as much as your choice in SSD. Just remember every day is International Backup Awareness day.


I suspect that you'll approve of (most of) my SSD choices as they are based in large part on your own posts. And if I'll be fine with a Green drive, I'll probably be getting the 2TB Samsung F4EG or the 2TB WD EARS. That will give me so much space that I'll be able to do weekly backups of the SSD and critical network storage directories.

Unless someone has some convincing evidence to the contrary, that's probably the way I'll go.


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 Post subject: Re: Trying to pick a companion HDD for an SSD
PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2011 9:04 am 
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figment wrote:
dhanson865 wrote:
I'll probably be getting the 2TB Samsung F4EG or the 2TB WD EARS.
If you have a small group of files that you regularly access, I would encourage you to break the 1T into an initial 100M volume and a second 1900M volume. The first volume will be put on the outside tracks.

The small volume will automatically be "short stroked" so when your computer goes seeking a file from, or reading a file to, that smaller volume, it will be done much faster, especially if it is a fragmented file.

Doing this generates free speed for your most frequently accessed file. The speed is not inconsequential. It can make a WD Black perform almost as fast as a velociraptor when accessing fragmented files.

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 Post subject: Re: Trying to pick a companion HDD for an SSD
PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2011 9:33 am 
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Quick update:

The WD 2TB Green WD20EARS is indeed one of the drives that has multiple versions based on platter size. There is a 4 platter (500GB/platter) version and a 3 platter (667GB/platter) version. I really thought it was the EADS drive that had this issue. Of course, SPCR has a nice article on it.

The photo on the product page at NewEgg is showing the 4 platter version. Of course, that doesn't mean that they're not selling the 3 platter version now.

Annoying. I suppose I could always see if Microcenter will open a box to let me see which version they are selling.


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 Post subject: Re: Trying to pick a companion HDD for an SSD
PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2011 9:55 am 
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ces wrote:
figment wrote:
dhanson865 wrote:
I'll probably be getting the 2TB Samsung F4EG or the 2TB WD EARS.
If you have a small group of files that you regularly access, I would encourage you to break the 1T into an initial 100M volume and a second 1900M volume. The first volume will be put on the outside tracks.

That is precisely what I was talking about a couple posts up, except that I'd use a ~250GB partition (~12% of capacity). At that point, there really isn't much of a performance loss from the outermost cylinder.

...also... eek: The EARS drive also has the intellipark issue. Maybe I will go with the Samsung. ...which has a firmware issue. Grr. Screw it. I'm buying a bank of floppy drives.


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 Post subject: Re: Trying to pick a companion HDD for an SSD
PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2011 10:11 am 
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Another, simpler option.
- Get one of the quiet low noise drives mentioned and partition it as you'd like w/o worrying about short stroking.
- Move your currently played games to the SSD and keep the archived games on the HDD.

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 Post subject: Re: Trying to pick a companion HDD for an SSD
PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2011 10:43 am 
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CA_Steve wrote:
Another, simpler option.
- Get one of the quiet low noise drives mentioned and partition it as you'd like w/o worrying about short stroking.
- Move your currently played games to the SSD and keep the archived games on the HDD.

That was already the plan. However, I don't expect I'll be able to keep all the games on the SSD. Games like Mass Effect 2, Civ V, Batman Arkham Assylum, and Fallout 3 take up a few GB each. At some point, I'm not going to want to load the SSD more, so some lower-performance games are going to live on an HDD. If I'm going to do that, I might as well have them live on the outermost cylinders, right?


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 Post subject: Re: Trying to pick a companion HDD for an SSD
PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2011 1:48 pm 
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Do you really play 5-6 games? Or do you play 1-3 and the others just take up space? My thought was, if it's the latter, just rotate the games in and out of the SSD and don't bother with/worry about short stroking/trying to get the last bit of performance gain out of the HDD.

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 Post subject: Re: Trying to pick a companion HDD for an SSD
PostPosted: Fri Mar 18, 2011 2:34 pm 
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CA_Steve wrote:
Do you really play 5-6 games?


Possibly. I don't play them often (couple times a week, perhaps), but in the last month I've played Civ V, Dawn of War II, Mass Effect 2, Team Fortress 2, Half-life 2, Company of Heroes and Batman Arkham Asylum. Sometimes I'll stick to one game, but mostly I skip around depending on my mood and the amount of spare time I have. Sometimes I fire up Torchlight just for some mindless 'sploding.

Yeah, I could switch them in and out. And I probably will, but I'll pick and choose. To be honest, Dawn of War II and Torchlight don't really need fast disk access. Why move them? I haven't played Fallout 3 in a while, but it would benefit from an SSD, so I'd probably move it over in case I want to play it some weekend. What I wouldn't want to do is spend time moving over a game because I felt like playing it right then. The majority of the games are from Steam, so moving them to the SSD would involve a copy/delete followed by a junction creation. Sure, it doesn't really take all that long, but its not my idea of fun.

However, your point stands and its the reason I'm going forward on the Green drives. If 5400rpm isn't fast enough for some game, I'll just move it to the SSD. It becomes something like a manual SSD cache. If I use up all my space, then I'll buy a new SSD in a year. The more I think about it, the more I realize that it's all good and I'm going to enjoy having 2128GB of fast, quiet storage.


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 Post subject: Re: Trying to pick a companion HDD for an SSD
PostPosted: Sat Mar 19, 2011 7:04 am 
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enjoy!

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