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i'm building my new PC so i'm starting the usual search for a good hardware/price around the net!

but this time i'm not sure i want buy a big Hard Disk! i was thinking to have a "very small" HD like 50GB as main one and external (big) for store all other stuff!

Assuming i'm using classic slow softwares like adobe suite (photoshop, flash, autodesk) and some very simple soft like notepad, php and so on...!

do you think this is a good practice for improve performance/speed or i'm jast saying some stupid thing!?

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migrated from serverfault.com May 21 '10 at 22:56

This question came from our site for professional system and network administrators.

    
Size isn't everything :) A similar-ish kinda question has been asked here superuser.com/questions/21486/are-smaller-hard-drives-faster which might also help answer your own question. –  Kez May 24 '10 at 20:54

8 Answers 8

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Yes, in your example of a 50 GB vs. 1 TB/500 GB drive, the larger drive will perform significantly faster than the smaller drive, assuming you are talking about inexpensive magnetic platter disks (i.e., not a SSD). More on that later.

For the best balance of capacity and performance, I'd suggest getting a smallish SSD for around a hundred bucks for your boot drive, and a 1.5 TB or larger standard hard drive (magnetic, non-SSD) for around $70. You can find some pretty low prices on both types of storage if you watch SlickDeals.

Now, getting back to your standard (non-SSD) hard drives: first, the larger drive has a much higher areal density and probably has a much larger cache. A higher areal density means more data is packed into the same physical space--so for each rotation of the disk platter, the read/write head reads or writes more data. Assuming adequate free space on both disks, the higher areal density also means that the head won't have to travel as far when seeking to read or write the next chunk from a large stream of data.

In addition, the larger drive is probably more modern and supports a faster data transfer interface (i.e., PATA for the 50 GB drive, vs. SATA2 for the 500+ GB drive), as well as performance optimizations such as Native Command Queueing.

As some of the others have suggested, you can partition the drive to separate your OS and data, but partitioning won't necessarily give you any performance benefit. I'd say these are the primary advantages of partitioning:

  • less downtime when you have to run chkdsk /f or chkdsk /r on C:
  • better organization of your files (I suppose this depends on your personal preferences)
  • ability to shield your OS from having all the free space consumed by other applications (e.g., preventing your DVR software from completely filling up C:\ and dragging down your system performance)

As dag pointed out, if performance trumps cost, a SSD should outperform both the small and large magnetic disks. The only catch is that SSDs do have a limited number of writes, but you can mitigate this problem by buying one large enough that you'll never come close to filling it (say, keep 20 GB or so free). This will allow the SSD's write leveling algorithms to distribute writes across the free space, so the drive should last longer.

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You can do both. Partition your drive into 2. One for your Main Drive (C:) and the rest for your storage. This way, if you system crashes, you can wipe drive C and start over without having to wipe your entire storage. If i have a 500GB, i normally give 100G to my main drive. It usually depends on how many apps you planning to install as this will be on the main drive. The other drive will be where I store all my backup, pics, etc.

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5  
Slicing up your storage, when it's all going on the same physical disk anyway, really isn't doing you much good. You can still just wipe the Windows and Program Files directories, and reinstall. Or better yet Win7 will move these directories to the Windows.Old directory when you reinstall; move your files back and wipe the rest. –  Chris S May 21 '10 at 23:13
    
Actualy it's not a problem of money and/or SO , it's just a problem of speed! so, my question is, do you think that size of HD do not influence it's speed!? –  aSeptik May 21 '10 at 23:36
    
@aSeptik: The capacity (and, indirectly, the physical size) of your hard drive most certainly will affect its performance. But that's not the only reason the larger drive will be faster; the larger drive probably uses more modern technology, as well. See my answer for more info. –  rob May 22 '10 at 1:40

The smaller drive will actually slow down your performance, re: as the disk fills up, the read access slows down. Getting a larger drive and partitioning it will also slow your system down since the OS will be fighting for disk resources on one partition and your data access will be fighting for disk resources on the other partition.

A good basic set up that will spin up fast will have 2 physical drives:

  • one for the OS and program files
  • the other for your data storage

If you have the coin, a large SSD drive would be ideal. However, since SSD's are still price prohibitive for most people, a good alternative is the WD 300GB VelociRaptor for your primary drive with your OS and program files. And then pick out a decent 1+TB drive for your internal data drive.

An external drive would be good to backup all your data.

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If it's not a matter of money, but only of speed ,go SSD

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I would say it's good to have a large internal HD. And a large-ish external HD to backup all your files on.

Disks in the 50GB range cost almost as much as a 500GB disk, there' just no reason no to spend the extra $20 and get 10x as much storage.

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I don't think hes worried about data protection at all. He just wants to know if a smaller hard drive will boost his data access speeds. In most cases this won't help at all and if it does, the difference would be marginal at best. The platters on these drives are the same size so a smaller drive doesn't mean less travel time. Just make sure you get a drive with a good cache amount and stick with the 7200 RPMS. You shouldn't see any slowness.

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It doesnt matter about the size. I would suggest you should get an external HD just as large in case you need to format. And you should get a HD that is fast if you would like a performance boost. Right now i am doing all my work on a cheap laptop ($600, all programming no video/image editing nor 3d gfx). It performs fine.

If you go to this page you'll see 7200RPM, 10k RPM, etc which controls the speed. There also is cache size listed in the title so you may be interested in that. But in short no the size doesnt matter of the HD so its ok to have a 500GB as your main one. Although i will warn you. One of my 1TB external HD got corrupted data and to transfer the entire drive it took 25hours with robocopy (built in windows command line). I never had an internal HD become corrupted but just know backing up will take time if you actually stuff it full ;). Mine is 160gb and it suited me fine but this is a laptop and thats the normal size this laptop comes with. (maybe you should forget my warning. It will never happen! ha).

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your answer is the most closest to what i wanted to know! actualy it's not a problem of money and/or SO , it's just a problem of speed, so you say that the size of HD not matter for its speed! right!? –  aSeptik May 21 '10 at 23:31
2  
If anything, a bigger hard drive will deliver much better speed for the equivalent amount of data as a smaller hard drive. This is because on a larger hard drive, the data will fit in a much smaller physical area on the hard disk which will likely be the fastest portion of the hard disk. So, you should be be able to get to the data much quicker on average on the large hard drive as compared to the small hard drive (where the data will be spread out over the entire surface). –  Sanjay Sheth May 21 '10 at 23:53
    
hey bro, good answer! +1 can you add this into an answer so i can vote it!? –  aSeptik May 21 '10 at 23:58
    
+1, I second that –  Phil May 22 '10 at 1:13

The best mix I've found is having a big physical disk (for speed) logically chopped up into smaller logical partitions based on what you need. The main reason for this is backup and restore. If you have a 500GB C: drive, and your Windows boot disk gets corrupted (based on the software you mentioned, I'm assuming you're running Windows), you have to restore 500GB.

If, however, you format your boot disk as a smaller disk (I usually recommend 32GB, but it depends on what you're doing), then you can restore your boot/programs disk without forcing a restore of the other 468GB. In other words, you're more likely to do it.

The other benefit is that if you're really looking for speed, you can image your 32GB C: drive to an SSD, and boot off the SSD, giving you significant speed benefits as all the Windows activity (registry, swap, prefetch) is contained to the SSD. From reports from friends who've done this, putting Windows on an SSD gives the system more of a boost than anything else.

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