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I'm about to retire my old computer, and replace it with a new Sandy Bridge build. I pretty much settled for a Z68 motherboard, but I couldn't decide if I will get solid-state drive (for use with Intel's Storage Response Technology), or just spend the money on more RAM.

I wonder what are the advantages of having a SSD for Intel's SRT, versus having lots of RAM (16GB+) for Windows Superfetch. For comparison, the cost of a Larsen Creek drive is about $6 per GB, just the same as RAM.

So far, I see these advantages for Intel SRT:

  • Cache will remain after boot
  • Possibly faster boot time

For Superfetch:

  • If needed, RAM can be used for something else
  • Way faster
  • Can be used to cache more than one spinners.

In my case, reboot very rarely so I am leaning towards more RAM. Anything I'm missing?

(I'm not considering getting SSD for main drive. Large ones are too expensive and I don't like micromanaging folders).

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Related, but not quite a duplicate: superuser.com/questions/55571/is-ssd-better-than-superfetch –  sblair Aug 15 '11 at 12:24
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@sblair, yeah not quite. I never really considered pure SSD drive. I hate micromanaging folders. I always wondered how Intel SRT + SSD, Readyboost/Superfetch + SSD, and Superfetch + Lots of RAM compare to one another. If I get no answers, I might try them all and post benchmark results. –  Herson Aug 16 '11 at 2:36

3 Answers 3

So far, I see these advantages for Intel SRT:

Cache will remain after boot
Possibly faster boot time

Yes, that's correct. It's similar to running a solid-state drive all of the time (but not exact), so the applications you use most will launch a lot faster (since they're cached on the SSD).

For Superfetch:

If needed, RAM can be used for something else
Way faster
Can be used to cache more than one spinners.

Yes, but superfetch doesn't cache everything in memory. It also stores a lot of stuff on the hard drive itself, in locations it determines to be the quickest. At the current moment in time, unless you really need more then 8GB of RAM (and you know if you do), then you would most likely see a much faster overall system using the solid state drive. Applications don't usually take a lot of memory except in certain cases (e.g. gaming, video editing, file compression), and even then, it's rare to actually need 16+ GB of memory.

In my case, reboot very rarely so I am leaning towards more RAM. Anything I'm missing?

It's not only rebooting you're saving time with using SRT, but application loading times and write speeds (depending on the mode you use, enhanced or maximum). SRT can allow the use of the SSD as a "write through" or "write back", so keep that in mind.


Lastly, you might also want to have a look at the following question: What are the pros and cons of a solid-state drive? It covers a lot more material then is relevant here, but it may help your decision.

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"It's not only rebooting you're saving time with using SRT, but application loading times and write speeds (depending on the mode you use, enhanced or maximum)" Superfetch can also boost application loading times right? The way I see it they are both caching mechanism. One in the hardware layer, and another in OS layer. RAM is faster and closer to the processor, and the OS should know better which files to cache. Another way to look I look at it is: L1/L2 cache > RAM > HD > Network. I'd like to add SSD between RAM and HD, but SSD cost more per GB than RAM. –  Herson Aug 16 '11 at 2:29
    
Yes, you are correct, but like SRT, superfetch doesn't cache everything as you would expect (it has a "learning" curve so-to-speak). What I'm telling you is that you will see a huge difference going with a SSD + 8GB of RAM versus only 16GB of RAM. There is diminishing performance returns adding more memory with superfetch (most users can't tell a difference above 4GB). –  Breakthrough Aug 16 '11 at 10:33

Just to give you an idea of SRT. My current configuration is:

  • SRT Cache: 1x64GB SATA3 SSD
  • Raid 0: 2x500GB SATA2 7200RPM HDD

I copied a large VM image from the hard drive (SRT + RAID0) to another SSD drive.

enter image description here

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Explain that please. This is fast? Slow? What is the average without SRT? –  Ricardo Polo Oct 11 '11 at 6:05

In my experience Windows 7 often goes for several days with as much as 4GB of RAM free and unused with only 4GB used for cache. This is with 16GB installed RAM on a few months old system (i.e. old enough for Superfetch to learn disk usage patterns).

So, at the moment I'm quite reluctant of buying another 16GB of RAM to bring the total to the maximum supported by the CPU, which is a mere 32GB.

By the way, with RAM amount maxed out at 32GB and with about 10GB used for programs most of the time, I'd get something like 20GB for disk cache at best.

On the other hand, SRT can use up to 64GB of dedicated disk cache - on top of the RAM cache available, and the 64GB SSD costs only a little higher than the 16GB of RAM I've been contemplating.

Therefore, I advocate for the SRT path as a more effective upgrade solution. That is, if you cannot afford both.

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