Well yes, it matters. But the best consumer drives aren't much better (except perhaps for WD's old 10k drives). The difference is marginal and not dramatic like the difference with SSDs or RAM.
Well of course I wouldn't expect it to be as fast as SSDs or RAM. I'm not sure that means the difference between drives is so small as to be not noticeable, as certainly I recall people mentioning that booting was a lot slower with one drive compared to another, etc.
That particular figure is pretty meaningless anyway which is why decent reviewers try to come up with better way to evaluate performance. They wouldn't be doing all that work if that number was useful!
I don't know why you say it's meaningless, but just because reviewers do more in-depth testing doesn't make it so. Just because they might test actual app performance to demonstrate what difference it makes, doesn't make the transfer rates meaningless either, but just serves to illustrate what a faster transfer rate actually means for the user.
If you're preoccupied by noise and access times, some laptop drives are pretty good by the way like that 7200rpm Seagate reviewed by SPCR two years ago.
I wouldn't say I'm preoccupied by access times (certainly am about noise though!). I've got a 2.5" drive I've been using as a USB backup drive, so I'll have to check the specs on that and maybe use that until HD prices return to normal.
Windows should'nt do it a lot (if it's properly configured anyway). Assuming no misconfiguration, junkware in the background or something it would be more helpful to split your game files across several drives.
I'm afraid that's never been my experience of XP or Win7. I've disabled most of the scheduled tasks, which has helped somewhat, but I'm not sure that disabling features that MS intended to be running counts as properly configuring it, rather than making adjustments to compensate for poor design.
If by split my game files across several drives you mean RAID, I can't be bothered with that. Otherwise, I'm not sure what you mean.
RAM is fairly cheap nowadays so you can fetch a lot of data from RAM instead of your drives. RAM can also help by allowing a more sequential type of access to drives.
Ideally, you shuld be able to configure your software and OS so that they make efficent use of your RAM and drives but some products are not ideal (to put it kindly) so you have to resort to brute force and populate a RAM drive.
Still don't really know what you mean I'm afraid. I don't know how I'm supposed to configure my software to fetch it's data from RAM instead of my drives. I might increase the size of my RAMdrive when I upgrade to 8GB and put a 2GB swapfile on that though, which will help a bit, but then again it might not need to use it much with 8GB so I'll have to see if it helps or hinders.
Are you sure? What strange OS are you using?
Win7 64 Ultimate (you might be right that it's strange). It's currently 35GB, which obviously includes installed programs as well as the 4GB hibernate file (which will be 8GB when I increase my RAM). Pagefile is already on a different partition. I run a dual-boot as well, so I've got a XP partition which is maybe 14GB.
That's true for the crappy ones (like if you were to rig one up with a Flash card or something), not the expensive ones. Maybe you'd do well with a crappy Flash drive actually but if you're going to pay for a nice SSD, you won't have to fear that kind of write load as long as you keep a reasonable amount of free space (and some models automatically set aside enough free space anyway).
I'm probably a bit out of touch with the current drives, as I lost interest in them (mainly due to price) a while ago, so maybe they are OK in that respect now. I still have concerns about whether data can be properly wiped off them though, as well as the cost, so I'll be sticking to HDs for now.