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 Post subject: SSD, readyboost, win 7 and an old, loud HDD
PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2012 10:50 am 
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I've been reading a little bit lately, and am thinking about buying a small 32-64 GB SSD to act as a cache for my larger, but "slower", louder and more power hungry HDD. I'm hoping I can install a small internal SSD and set it to use as readyboost to increase system boot times, program load times, etc. I really don't want to deal with the hassle of multiple HDDs/SSDs for system, programs, etc.

<gripe>
I did that a few years ago and had nightmares with programs thinking D: was the CD drive, wondering why c:\program files didn't contain their exe, etc. Nearly lost all of the data on two of the hard drives because a low level data recovery program (that I was using on the first drive) thought the other drives were ramdisks or CDs or something and overwrote their file systems. That was fun to clean up. I assume things are (much) better now, but its a frustrating memory and I don't want to do it again.
</gripe>

Is this a feasible idea? Does Win7 work that way? Any suggestions/comments are appreciated!

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 Post subject: Re: SSD, readyboost, win 7 and an old, loud HDD
PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2012 11:43 am 
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Wait a little longer for SSD's to keep dropping in price. With a 120GB there shouldn't be any problems for almost any user to run one system drive and have the other drive(s) for storage. 120GB SSD's are already reaching a price point that makes smaller drives pointless, including the option that comes with some new motherboards today of having a small cache drive connected straight to the board in a mSATA slot.

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 Post subject: Re: SSD, readyboost, win 7 and an old, loud HDD
PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2012 1:20 pm 
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There are several dedicated caching SSD's out there on the market:

Corsair Accelerator
OCZ Synapse
Crucial Adrenaline

Reading through some reviews, it seems that the installation is really easy. Just plug the SSD in, download and install some software, and it's ready to cache. After that, you don't need to worry about anything. And all of your data is still stored in your HD. But, the software can be restrictive about the number of hardware changes you make. You'll need to check this out before purchase.

You can also buy an Intel mainboard with the Z68, H77 or Z77 chipset. These chipset feature Intel's own caching software that can be used on any SSD you have on hand. Anandtech has made a thorough review of this feature and they can easily recommend it:

http://www.anandtech.com/show/4329/inte ... ing-review

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 Post subject: Re: SSD, readyboost, win 7 and an old, loud HDD
PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2012 1:22 pm 
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lapon wrote:
Any suggestions/comments are appreciated!

With Win7 IMHO the quicker solution is the Nvelo Dataplex, seen onto Corsair Accelerator and OCZ Synapse. They start from 30gb.
You won't address the noise issue, however.

If you should rather an hardware solution, there's also the Silverstone HDD Boost: not ideal, but an easy way.

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 Post subject: Re: SSD, readyboost, win 7 and an old, loud HDD
PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2012 10:33 am 
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Note that these caching schemes are potentially dangerous. You can get some acceleration safely but if you want the full benefit you're going to have to take chances.
The conservative software schemes are potentially the safest but the high-performance software schemes are potentially the most risky.

If you're going to use one of the less conservative schemes, seriously consider using an UPS! Many SSDs could use one anyway because they're a bit unsafe.
And if you're using a software scheme, make sure you're running a stable OS with stable drivers (wishful thinking in this context, I know). If not, try not to avoid doing the things most likely to crash your OS.

I guess no one seriously considered the Silverstone and there are not test results around but people did test the Dataplex thing and found it unreliable. Google for horror stories.


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 Post subject: Re: SSD, readyboost, win 7 and an old, loud HDD
PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2012 11:29 am 
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What is the risk? From my understanding, with the Win7 built-in mechanism the data is always on the HDD and the system will look back there if anything is missing or corrupted. How do these addons and special drives etc compare against Win7's built in caching software with a standard drive? Do they move the data, or just mirror it? I want to keep the total price low, around $60, to see how well it works before I sink $100+ into something I have little to no knowledge in. I don't have an Intel system, though its interesting that they provide that with their later mobos. Thanks for all the posts everyone!

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 Post subject: Re: SSD, readyboost, win 7 and an old, loud HDD
PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2012 11:52 am 
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Like I said, "the conservative software schemes are potentially the safest". So I bet the scheme built-in to Win7 is pretty safe. But it's not all that fast. In fact I'm not sure you'd see a real benefit from using an SSD over a decent (and much cheaper) USB Flash drive with Win7's scheme.
The trouble is that there's no magic bullet. You've got to compromise safety if you want performance on the cheap.
Some schemes are better than others though. I guess Intel's scheme is pretty good and offers a good compromise if you use Windows. The free software world has alternatives which work fully in software. The most affordable and reliable hardware solution might be one of those hybrid hard drives offered by reputable hard drive vendors (this is not an actual recommendation, only a guess).

What I would recommend is what you don't want to do ("deal with the hassle of multiple HDDs/SSDs").
Just because you were too ambitious and/or did it wrong the first time around doesn't mean you won't ever be able to do it. I bet you had to use a really small SSD if you did that "a few years ago". It's not nearly as complicated with a reasonably-sized SSD.


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 Post subject: Re: SSD, readyboost, win 7 and an old, loud HDD
PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2012 1:06 pm 
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I think there is a bit of misunderstanding of what Readyboost does. It is a cache, but it is quite limited compared to SSD caching solutions.

- It's read only. It does nothing for writes. This also makes it very safe as it cannot loose data.
- It only works on random reads, sequential reads still go to disk.
- It only supports removable disks. An internal SSD will not work with it. An SSD in a USB enclosure may work.
- The more RAM you have the less it helps. If you have 4 GB or more it really doesn't do much unless you are doing tonnes of random reads. Even with 2 GB it doesn't help a great deal.
- If you have an SSD boot drive Windows realizes it is useless and disables it.

Even if you could get it to work, using an SSD for Readyboost is a waste, it won't help much unless you are under 2G of RAM. If that is the case just get more memory.

Get an SSD made for caching or an Intel board that can do it. Best solution is separate boot SSD and data HD.


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 Post subject: Re: SSD, readyboost, win 7 and an old, loud HDD
PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2012 1:34 pm 
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Oh, yea, sorry let me be more clear. I had a system with 4 HDDs in it, back in 2002 or so, that lasted until 2008. One for system, one for applications/games and two for video/audio. Its a mess, but it works when you are 17 and putting together a system piecemeal at college, it works. I don't know if there was a "right" way to do it, but it was a never ending headache with older games, smaller programs, and internet updates that couldn't find what they were looking for. I even went into %path variables and fixed them to point where I wanted. I imagine most of my newer software would be quite fine with a dual drive setup, but it was a really frustrating experience.

Do the other systems give improved performance at boot time? Does the Win7 one? I imagine that they work quite well for applications, games, etc. I do want to stay away from caching writes, I think the HDD can handle that much activity.

Seeing that, at least on Newegg, the USB3 64GB flash drives cost the same as the 64GB SATA3 SSDs, I do wonder what the performance difference would be. The USB devices report lower "Read Speed" and "Write Speed" performance than the SSDs, but I have no idea how much that matters. Both are as fast or faster than my HDD tested.

Is there a reference for this "If you have more than x GB of RAM, readyboost is worthless?". I have 8GB, and dont ever plan on having less. I figure I load the vast majority of my active OS straight onto RAM. But! The SSD has better random and sustained performance than my HDD, though if Win7 uses it stupidly, I don't suppose it matters. Is there also a reference for the fact that readyboost wont use internal SSDs? Ive seen that it wont be turned on if the system drive is an SSD. This site seems to suggest that it can use an internal SSD.

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 Post subject: Re: SSD, readyboost, win 7 and an old, loud HDD
PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2012 2:07 pm 
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No one is perfect but a post signed "washu" is a pretty good reference, especially when it comes to storage.
I don't use ReadyBoost and I don't know the details. If it indeed caches only random reads as washu says, it's not going to be very useful if you have lots of spare RAM (on the other hand, if you've got an application that uses that RAM...).

lapon wrote:
a never ending headache with older games, smaller programs, and internet updates that couldn't find what they were looking for. I even went into %path variables and fixed them to point where I wanted.

There is absolutely on reason you'd have such problems if you only used your slower drives for large data files like movies. You wouldn't have had these issues then and you wouldn't have them now.
But if you have games so big they wouldn't fit on a reasonably-sized SSD, they could theoretically give you trouble if you wanted to install them on another drive. It would be very sloppy on the designer's part but it's possible.
Another possible problem you might have is stuff like games looking for their CD/DVD at the wrong drive letter. But this can happen even if you add an empty drive and put nothing on it. Worst case, you can fix the problem by reinstalling the program.

For what that's worth, it's possible integrate several drives in your "C" drives but I think that would be unnecessarily complicated.

lapon wrote:
Seeing that, at least on Newegg, the USB3 64GB flash drives cost the same as the 64GB SATA3 SSDs, I do wonder what the performance difference would be. The USB devices report lower "Read Speed" and "Write Speed" performance than the SSDs, but I have no idea how much that matters. Both are as fast or faster than my HDD tested.

You don't need USB3 for ReadyBoost. Just pick a reputable brand and avoid the bottom-of-the-barrel models. Specs are useless. Almost all Flash drives are much faster at random access than hard drives.
That said, I believe washu: don't bother. I was assuming ReadyBoost would cache all reads.


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 Post subject: Re: SSD, readyboost, win 7 and an old, loud HDD
PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2012 2:23 pm 
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I completely missed the Readyboost part in my first reply because it's been a largely irrelevant piece of technology for a good while. Yes, with any recent systems that have ample amounts of RAM it is not very useful at all. One could see indications of this in tests on machines with 2GB of RAM or more already when Vista was new, almost six years ago. Vista was put on a large number of OEM systems that practically had too little RAM to handle Vista well and there but only there could Readyboost have a substantial effect, at least with one of the faster USB drives back then.

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 Post subject: Re: SSD, readyboost, win 7 and an old, loud HDD
PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2012 2:48 pm 
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lapon wrote:
Is there a reference for this "If you have more than x GB of RAM, readyboost is worthless?". I have 8GB, and dont ever plan on having less. I figure I load the vast majority of my active OS straight onto RAM. But! The SSD has better random and sustained performance than my HDD, though if Win7 uses it stupidly, I don't suppose it matters.

This is for Vista, but you can see that with 2 or 4 GB of RAM Readyboost does nothing: http://www.pcstats.com/articleview.cfm? ... 160&page=5
Quote:
Is there also a reference for the fact that readyboost wont use internal SSDs? Ive seen that it wont be turned on if the system drive is an SSD. This site seems to suggest that it can use an internal SSD.

Microsoft says it is only for removable devices, but I admit I have not tried it on an SSD. It may allow it on any device that meets the performance requirements for Readyboost. Still, even if it did work with 8 GB of RAM it would be pointless.


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 Post subject: Re: SSD, readyboost, win 7 and an old, loud HDD
PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2012 2:56 pm 
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lapon wrote:
Oh, yea, sorry let me be more clear. I had a system with 4 HDDs in it, back in 2002 or so, that lasted until 2008. One for system, one for applications/games and two for video/audio. Its a mess, but it works when you are 17 and putting together a system piecemeal at college, it works. I don't know if there was a "right" way to do it, but it was a never ending headache with older games, smaller programs, and internet updates that couldn't find what they were looking for. I even went into %path variables and fixed them to point where I wanted. I imagine most of my newer software would be quite fine with a dual drive setup, but it was a really frustrating experience.


All of my "end user" systems have at least dual drives (even my laptop) and I haven't encountered such issues in years. I ran on a 30 GB SSD for a while when they were expensive and even then it was pretty easy to get everything working properly across all the drives. Two of my main machines still use 80 GB SSDs with lots of room to spare. Windows 7 makes it really simple to move the standard documents/music/video/etc folders to a new location. Vista and up support proper symbolic links so with a bit of command line use you can move almost anything to a different drive and just point a link to it. Also, NTFS compression is well suited to SSDs.

Just bite the bullet and get good 120 GB SSD and then make it your boot drive. Save for a bit if you have to. The performance boost is well worth it.


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 Post subject: Re: SSD, readyboost, win 7 and an old, loud HDD
PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2012 3:04 pm 
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You would think that they'd have improved the Vista feature since they kept it in 7 though. When 7 was launched, most computers had plenty of RAM. Then again, we're talking about Microsoft...

A quick look at Wikipedia references a usually clueful person (Russinovich) claiming ReadyBoost caches more than just random reads.


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 Post subject: Re: SSD, readyboost, win 7 and an old, loud HDD
PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2012 3:25 pm 
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I would suggest buying a 120GB SSD if you can possibly afford one. Cheapest on newegg at moment is $96...
With 120GB I think you easily be able to install OS and most programs to the SSD, or at least any that won't let you install to another drive, which most modern programs / games have no issue with.
Also a 120GB SSD is likely to be useful for much longer, 60GB would feel cramped for today's OS/Apps and time will only make it worse. So unless you want to RAID anther 60GB to it down the road... which should work, I have 2x120GB in RAID0 as at the time 2x cheapest 120GB (Corsair Force 3) was not much more than 1 performance 120GB (Vertex 3 Max IOPS) and much cheaper than a single 240GB SSD.
Another note, larger SSDs are faster than smaller ones, 60GB drive are often somewhat crippled compared to 120GB ones due to less flash chips to read/write to in parallel. The same also applies to 120GB / 240GB comparison, likely a 240GB Force 3 isn't dissimilar in performance to my RAID0 120GBs. At the moment the 480/512GB drives can be slower, not sure why but check specs and reviews, Anandtech do good reviews as do many others, including comparisons between sizes.

Use your existing hard drive as bulk storage. On my system I created a user folder for my account and then moved the Documents, Pictures, Movies, Downloads etc folders to it. This is then seamless from a user perspective, you click the "Documents" (or what ever) link and it "just works" yet the files are stored on the hard drive not the SSD.
[To move user folder(s) go in to C:\Users\user_name\ and right click the folder, eg Pictures, chose properties then location then click "Move" button and tell it where you want it, dead easy! Any app that then references "My Documents" etc will be sent to to your chosen location seamlessly. This "Folder Redirection" is very commonly used in large organisations to move user folders to network drives so no data on PCs. Been around at least since Windows 2000 so not a new tech!]

I would say, at the present time, this is the best solution. It's easy to do, I've had zero problems with it, and you get maximum performance as all the OS/apps are on SSD while the bulk data is on cheap spacious HDD. This avoids any issues caching systems may introduce and give very consistent performance, which caching systems struggle to do.

As most of the random IO is then on the SSD this makes the HDD quieter.
Seek noise, made by the heads moving, is drasticly reduced by soft mounting with "No Vibes" or home made, elastic or foam fixings. Idle noise, from the spinning platters/motor/bearings, is helped a bit by soft mounting but if you need/want to go further you need either lots of case damping or enclosure round the HDD. I have a Scythe Quiet Drive and love it, it really is very good when you want the very quietest PC.
If you don't have a soft mounted HDD I strongly suggest you try it, even just test with HDD sitting on a bit of foam to hear the difference it makes.

Regards, Seb

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 Post subject: Re: SSD, readyboost, win 7 and an old, loud HDD
PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2012 3:26 pm 
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HFat wrote:
You would think that they'd have improved the Vista feature since they kept it in 7 though. When 7 was launched, most computers had plenty of RAM. Then again, we're talking about Microsoft...

As far as I'm aware Microsoft did make Readyboost better in Win 7, but as you pointed out most Win 7 have enough RAM to make it pointless. A 7 machine with only 512 MB and Readyboost will do better than Vista on the same hardware, but both will do better with more RAM.
Quote:
A quick look at Wikipedia references a usually clueful person (Russinovich) claiming ReadyBoost caches more than just random reads.

Russinovich is very clueful about Windows internals, so he may be correct and the "official" Microsoft claims are wrong (or simplified). I think part of it may be that most Readyboost devices would be a flash drive connected with USB2, so most hard drives would be faster at sequential transfers.


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 Post subject: Re: SSD, readyboost, win 7 and an old, loud HDD
PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2012 4:47 pm 
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A 120 sgb ssd boot drive would be nice but 64 gb is also viable. Using the ssd as a boot drive will give you the best improvement in performance but also the opportunity to reduce noise: with the os installed on the ssd you can get windows power management to turn off the mechanical drive.

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 Post subject: Re: SSD, readyboost, win 7 and an old, loud HDD
PostPosted: Wed Jun 13, 2012 10:52 am 
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For most people 40G would be more than enough. But most people would not have a gamer GPU...

washu wrote:
I think part of it may be that most Readyboost devices would be a flash drive connected with USB2, so most hard drives would be faster at sequential transfers.

If it wasn't for the concurrency issue, yes. If a cache hit can allow the drive to focus on something else...


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 Post subject: Re: SSD, readyboost, win 7 and an old, loud HDD
PostPosted: Wed Jun 13, 2012 12:51 pm 
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Thanks everyone for all the replies and information! Looks like a main SSD is the best bet for me. Prices are still a bit steep for the volume of data I keep but I'm sure they will come down as competition abounds. Thanks again to everyone who contributed!

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