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Building a new system with a 120GB SSD and a 1TB 7200 RPM HDD (windows 7 OS). Originally I was going to use the SSD as the boot drive and the HDD for additional storage, but then I started reading about Intel's Smart Response technology (which is supported by my motherboard).

My question is, does it make more sense to use Smart Response (with the HDD as the boot drive) or should I make the SSD the boot drive with the HDD as a secondary (I would regularly backup important files from the SSD to the HDD). Or is there another, even better, solution (e.g. using Smart Response with the SSD as the boot drive)?

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5 Answers 5

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I recently built a PC and enabled "Smart Response Technology" with a "Sandy Bridge" CPU. That is, a 2T mechanical drive and a 50G SSD. You plug both drives into the fastest SATA ports and build the OS (and all data) onto the mechanical C: drive. After all this works, enable the Smart Response feature in the special Intel app. It will tell you C: is accelerated and you will see no evidence of the SSD in the file manager. By the way, you need a special motherboard that enables this feature.

I also have another PC (also home built), that uses a previous generation Nehalem CPU. This has a dedicated 160G SSD as C: and a 2T mechanical drive as D:. That is, the OS is natively on the real SSD.

Performance? The new PC with Smart Response is faster than the PC with the dedicated SSD system. Both are fast, but the disk caching works well. I know this isn't a perfect comparison, but I wouldn't hesitate to do Smart Response. By the way, supposedly, the SSD cache can be ~30G and work well. No need to go bigger.

Full disclosure (in case someone tracks down my IP address), I work at Intel. However, my business is not PC's. This is just personal experience.

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tracking you down right now....men in black coming. –  Moab Feb 1 '12 at 23:39
    
Will not permanent caching on SSD kill it faster? Note - I know nothing about "Smart Response Technology" –  Lazy Badger Feb 2 '12 at 1:35
    
I believe the writes pass through the disk cache in the normal config. You can force caching writes as an option. –  Bill Feb 2 '12 at 5:15
    
Men in black came to my house –  Bill Feb 2 '12 at 5:25
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More than 18 months after following your advice, I am still very happy with my Smart Response setup. For the first time in my life, I do not experience lag in my day-to-day usage (tons of browser tabs, Photoshop, Visual Studio, and a host of other programs all running at the same time) - although I'm sure the 16GB RAM helps too. Thanks! –  Aaron J Spetner Aug 25 '13 at 14:38

The long answer is "it depends", specifically on how you use your system, and how much you want to invest in managing the layout of data for performance yourself.

In general, though, something like "Smart Responsive" is going to be better: it uses the SSD as a cache for data on the hard disk, and can adapt to store the most frequently used data on the fast system without any user intervention.

It can also change what data is fast and slow as your use of the system changes, again without you having to change anything.

That transparency and responsiveness has a significant benefit to you, because odds are you don't want to constantly invest effort in profiling and maintaining that yourself.

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I assume that Smart Response would always store the paging file on the SSD, as it is the most frequently used - am I correct? –  Aaron J Spetner Feb 1 '12 at 22:44
    
Answer unclear, try again later. It depends on how smart it is, and how much your paging file actually gets used; if you rarely swap then it shouldn't be there in favour of more frequently used data. Generally, though, you should assume that it will store the data that will give the most performance boost - because that, indeed, is what it looks for to decide to cache onto the SSD, the performance gain from doing that. –  Daniel Pittman Feb 1 '12 at 22:47
    
Smart Response Sounds just like the Seagate Hybrid drives, but needs 2 drives. –  Moab Feb 1 '12 at 23:39
    
@Moab: It is simply multi-level I/O balancing, as has been used on network storage systems for years, in fact it is not dissimilar at all to using RAM as cache (the difference being the solid-state-ness) and then using faster RAM to cache that and so forth. It is probably fairer to say that hybrid drives are a specific form of this family of I/O optimisations. –  David Spillett Feb 2 '12 at 0:24

I don't have hardware to try yet, but am battling the boot vs. Smart Response question too. I'm waist deep in the manual for an ASUS P8Z77 board, and it seem to say that you can partition a large SSD with one partition is a logical drive for Smart Response, and the other is a separate logical drive. The manual's a bit cryptic, though so I'm not sure.

If that's really possible, then presumably you could specify the second partition as the page file location. This is important to me, as I commonly work with very large database and flat files simultaneously in multiple processes.

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A disk of 128G size is very likely to be MLC type, and therefore only able to take a rather limited number of overwrites. The SSDs that come inbuilt in computers that are designed to be used with SSD caching are invariably SLC, and are able to take ten times as much overwrites. For this reason alone, I'd install the OS directly to the SSD.

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If you compare performance, there are pros and cons for two solution.

But when you look at long term maintenance, ISRT will win. Because it is easier. More flexible capacity allocation, no need to worry running out of space in SSD without idle them.

No need to customize location of my documents, desktop and others, it just works.

If you care about the non-bulletproofed lifetime of MLC chips, ISRT can make you fly fast and keep your data safe.

Sure, pure SSD is faster but is that your need?

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