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High-performance HDD

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I am looking into investing in a new HDD since it seems to be just about my only bottleneck these days. More than anything, I am looking for something to help decrease compile times and, seeing as the CPU (E6750) usage (as monitored by Task Manager) is never higher than 25% and usually stays between 15%-25% on complete rebuilds, I am assuming the bottleneck is the HDD. Anyways, storage is hardly an issue. I never have more than one game on my computer, and even that is rare, so my collection of apps and the OS rarely takes more than 20 GB. Looking around, these drives seem to fit what I am looking for pretty well: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822136054 I was thinking of setting up two of those in a RAID 0. My MoBo, GA-P35C-DS3R, comes with RAID support, so I was thinking of just using that. Anyways, since I have never set up a RAID (or even used a good HDD) before, I am just curious on what kind of input you all have. Any recommendations of a different drive (keep in mind size is not an issue)? Would you suggest investing in a separate RAID controller? Other? On a side note, if I reinstall Windows on these new drives while set up in a RAID, should I be expecting to need to specify a driver during installation? The reason I ask is that I have no floppy drive, so hope that won't be an issue. Thanks in advanced for any input. :) [Edited by - Spodi on May 26, 2008 8:51:05 PM]

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You know they just came out with a new raptor drive.
You should read this review before you buy anything
WD's New Raptor Drive Is a Bird of Prey!
Not saying that the older raptors were a slouch since I use them and the 150GB in my main machine but one of the new drives will probably leave the old drives in the dust even in raid 0 mode.
I'd personally avoid using raid myself anyways since it can be a PITA to setup not to mention the effects of dataloss are greater if you aren't in the habit of keeping your backups recent!

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Thanks for the suggestion, daviangel, but it doesn't seem to perform a whole lot better than the WD360ADFD, and comes with a much larger price tag.

Someone suggested the i-RAM, which seemed more like a geek's show-off gadget more than anything at first, but looking into it more, it does seem like it could be a reasonable way to go. It wouldn't be hard to stash up on some cheap 1 GB DDR400 RAM to fill that up. 4 GB is a bit on the low side, but thats still plenty of room to throw all of Visual Studio 2008 and my project files on there.

It does suck a bit in the sense that it only supports older technology, but I think it could provide quite a lot of use since 4 GB is still a good chunk of space for just programming-related stuff.

Anyone have opinions on the i-RAM or experiences with it that they care to share?

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Can your build system effectively utilize two processors working in parallel? Many won't and even for those which support it you might want to set a flag.
Anyway you might want to check how long does a second rebuild take after everything has (presumably) been cached. Or are you processing large game resources as well as recompiling the code?

Frankly in my experience the disk speed is rarely the problem (for compiling code) unless you're doing something insane, like compiling across a network. Once upon I time I saw huge performance improvements by placing my temporary build files on a ramdisk, but then DOS didn't exactly have the worlds most efficient cache manager..

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Thanks for the input, implicit! I am pretty sure that no, I don't utilize both processors. I am using Visual Studio 2008, building .NET 2.0 projects, and am pretty sure that it doesn't use parallel builds, but someone please correct me if I'm wrong.

I have seen some people post in different places plenty that they have noticed great boosts in build performance using faster HDDs and/or RAM-drives, so I would think it'd be worth a try at least, especially with the (insanely) improved seek times. Hell, even the read times of the i-RAM is double my current HDD. Moving onto a separate drive and dedicated drive, too, has got to help a lot.

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Microsoft provides a free ramdisk driver (install guide). You can use that to get an idea of how much difference it makes.

There are also Solid State drives. Expensive as hell, but they're based on ultra-fast Flash RAM and supposed to run circles around any spinning disk based drive (evidently even beating WD's Raptors, though the comparison I saw was against a Raptor-X, not the new VelociRaptor series).

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I've considered SSDs, but the "limited life" is a huge turn-off to me. I do extensive I/O for all my drives, and would probably kill the poor little guy way too fast. Also, the i-RAM seems to do loop around modern SSDs, and its going to take an incredibly expensive one to near-match the performance. But they definitely do perform well, and I'm sure in a 2-3 years, we'll see some awesome and reasonably priced SSDs. But outside of laptops, I don't see them being too ideal.

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Quote:
Original post by Spodi
I am using Visual Studio 2008, building .NET 2.0 projects, and am pretty sure that it doesn't use parallel builds, but someone please correct me if I'm wrong.
Ok, you lost me. If you're "building .NET 2.0 projects", that implies a .NET language. C# and VB compile lightning fast. Now, if you're doing C++/CLI, that makes more sense. If that's the case, go into the project properties, C/C++, Command Line, and add "/MP" in the box. (Do this for all configurations, all platforms.) That will enable multicore builds, which should be a nice boost.

And honestly, even putting two normal drives in RAID 0 provides a pretty nice boost in compile speed.

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Yeah, its C#. I know that C# projects build incredibly fast in comparison to C++ (then again, many things do), but that doesn't mean the overhead is transparent and, as time goes on, it just gets more and more noticeable. The fluency and responsiveness that was once there in small projects is quickly fading out.

Unless anyone has any negative experiences with the i-RAM they wish to share, or any flaws with it that I have overlooked, I think I'll give that a try and see how it goes. If that doesn't work out like I'd like it to, or more likely just later down the road when I grab some new HDDs, I'll get two well-performing ones and put it in a RAID 0. If I wait a little while until I can afford to invest some more, I can probably go with something like daviangel suggested and give me enough disk space to use for many years to come. :)

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I think that the original WD raptors are pretty outdated now - hence the VelociRaptor and Raptor X, either of which would probably be plenty fast enough. I believe, although I am not sure, that a modern current gen 300-500gig hdd at 7200rpm should be as fast as a Raptor because the areal density is far higher allowing faster reads. Not sure how expensive the I-RAM is - if it is cheaper than a Velociraptor I would go for it, otherwise I think the Velociraptor would probably be a better choice, possibly both in terms of reliability and storage space - 4gig isn't enough for OS + compiler + source files - and the speed boost in normal usage you would get from having OS and programs on a faster disk would be big enough to make it a tipping point for me.

RAID is probably a waste of time - it will put extra work onto your CPU if you don't have a dedicated RAID controller, and if you don't want redundancy (as RAID 0 has no redundancy) the speed increase is probably not worth the loss in reliability, apart from for hardcore gamers. Software or mobo RAID is quite often dodgy, although I don't have personal experience I have read quite frequently that it is a waste of time. There are some really good comparative hardware reviews on extremetech that might help you make a decision

Mathmo

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I have a Raptor and it improved my build times considerably. I say go for a Raptor. The i-RAM is pretty cool from a geeky perspective but the reality is that I'd rather just add more ram and make a ram disk on my own. That's my two cents.

Oh, and the VelociRaptor just hit Newegg's site.

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I got a Raptor too. I actually still do development off the second HD and let the other OS stuff polute the quick raptor. It is a large difference when the only thing doing IO on my second HD is development related.

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Well I decided on an i-RAM. It came yesterday and I finally got around to setting it up today. Visual Studio 2008, ReSharper, MySQL, and my project files are all on it. The performance boost wasn't as great as I hoped, but it is still a lot better - takes probably half the time to both load and compile. So, was it worth it? I think it was. It was a total of about $275, which is quite a bit for such a tiny thing (4 GB), but if you have some smaller I/O intensive programs you want to speed up, you might want to consider this. Though it'd be best to wait until someone comes out with one that can actually support DDR2 RAM and 300MB/s SATA. ;)

Thanks again for your input, everyone.

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