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How much of a real-world performance gain would you expect from:

  1. replacing a 5400rpm IDE HD with a 7200rpm IDE HD?

  2. replacing a 5400rpm IDE HD with a SATA-150?

It's assumed that the drive in question is both the system drive and the only drive. A modest AMD Sempron-based home computer with adequate DDR memory running Windows XP Home SP3.

Thanks for looking.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

In both cases there will definitely be performance gains to see from either. Hard drive performance is a function of a few things, such as:

  1. Drive bus type (IDE ATA66/100/133, SATA150/300/60, SCSI, FC, etc. Affects the upper bound maximum speed, and burst speed from the drive's cache)
  2. Drive rotational speed (Affects sequential read and write speeds and seek latencies. Faster platters = R/W head gets from point A to B that much quicker.)
  3. Drive size (The larger a drive, the greater the density of data per square inch, so read/write speeds are that much faster.)
  4. Number of platters (The fewer platters there are, the greater density (again). Also, noise, heat, and power consumption tend to be lower for a drive that only has to spool up one metal disk instead of five.)
  5. Drive firmware revisions (Any gains from these would pale in comparison to changes in the above, but for conciseness's sake, it's possibly a factor.)

Today's 1TB+ 7200 RPM hard drives are quite capable of outperforming older 10KRPM server hard drives simply due to the incredible amount of data flying under the drive read/write heads every rotation. Additionally, the price per GB sweet spot lives up in the highest capacity drives.

I believe that at the time of this writing, the greatest platter density is about 500 GB/in^2, which Samsung uses in their Spinpoint drives. These manage enough read/write throughput to actually saturate an ATA133 connection (finally!), so a 1TB+ drive might be choked a little under a SATA150 connection for bursty reads form the disk cache.

Either way I would definitely suggest grabbing a ~$100 USD 1.5 TB drive and connecting it via SATA150. SATA also has the bonus of being the cheaper interface, at the moment; equivalently sized IDE drives tend to carry a bit of a price premium now for being the older, deprecated technology.

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Thanks Dylan - some useful points here, especially about faster read/write speeds with denser data, which I would probably have found counter-intuitive. I will probably go with a SATA drive, but as I have the chance of a 7200rpm IDE for very little $ I thought it would be worth asking whether there would be any significant performance gain over 5400rpm, or whether the difference between SATA and the fastest IDE would be so big that upgrading to 7200 would be pointless. – raw_noob Apr 25 '10 at 9:00
Well, assuming it's a modern-ish IDE drive, the difference for real-world purposes will likely be minimal. Hard drive speeds haven't increased anywhere near as fast as other computer components have over the years. If it's older, there are issues of age-related failure and such to worry about, but generally I'd be willing to bet the IDE drive will give you a bit of a boost in boot times and application load times. Of course, if you pick up a shiny new SATA drive, there's almost always a return policy of some sort too. :) – Dylan B. Apr 25 '10 at 11:02
Thanks again Dylan. It looks like the SATA option makes most sense. I notice that SATA drives I can afford are 7200rpm anyway, so even if SATA-150 gave no noticeable advantage over IDE-133 one would still have the rotational speed improvement. Coupled with the speed advantage of greater data density by going up from the present 160Mb to, say, a 500Gb drive (I don't really need larger than this). – raw_noob Apr 25 '10 at 11:38

I would expect bigger performance boost when moving from 5400 to 7200 rpm. SATA gives you performance boost only if interface is bottleneck. In case of 5400 rpm drives, interface is not your problem.

To make it shorter. You will benefit from 7200 rpm drive more.

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Thanks Josip - this is useful because I had assumed that SATA would be significantly faster. Could you expand on 'SATA gives you performance boost only if interface is bottleneck'? Forgive my ignorance. Do you mean if the HDD is the system bottleneck rather than RAM or CPU? – raw_noob Apr 25 '10 at 8:51
good answer but drive size can matter. a small 5400 rpm drive is much slower than a large 5400 rpm drive because the data is packed less tight. Also some drives slated as 5400 rpm like WD Caviar Green drives don't actually run at it. Now given a 7200 will still be faster... but a 5400 1TB drive is not as slow as a 5400 160GB drive. – xenoterracide Apr 25 '10 at 10:37
Thanks xenoterracide - this issue was also raised by Dylan B. Given that any SATA drive I bought would likely be both faster in rotational speed (7200) and bigger (greater data density), this is a factor. The existing IDE is rated 133Mbit/s, so the actual gain by going to SATA-150 might be outweighed by the gain from greater data density on the bigger drive. It looks like actual performance gain on the move to SATA would be a combination of faster spin + higher maximum transfer rate + faster read/write due to greater data density, rather than any one factor. – raw_noob Apr 25 '10 at 11:46

Don't expect anything. Hard disks are ancient things. Mechanical tech that does not belong in an electronical device, switch to SSD.

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-1 Answer the question! – HaydnWVN Jan 9 '12 at 17:02

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