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I'm going to be building a new system soon and I'm willing to spend a few more dollars to improve my hard drive performance. This will be a general use system so I just want to see HD intensive tasks in general go faster whether it be booting, application loads, game loads, maybe video editing, whatever.

My initial thought was to just buy 2 WD Raptors, RAID-0 them together and then just get a regular 1TB+ 7200 SATA drive for storage. The raptors would be my OS drive and all my installs would go there. I could perform whatever work I feel like on the OS drive and then when done move it over to the storage drive. Thus, its not too big a deal if one of the raptors failed, I would just have to reinstall everything.

Thing is, in reading some reviews, not everyone is impressed or notices speed improvements. This gets me to look at other options and honestly there are so many that it seems almost impossible to know what the best is for a medium price range.

SSD's have crazy differences in speeds between manufacturers and models, in the hundreds of Mbps! They also scare me right now, various reports of weird behavior like application freezes and such. I think I've actually experienced this on my SSD Eee netbook, though I can't confirm its the SSD's fault. Maybe the more expensive models don't have this issue. SAS 15k drives are comparable to the raptor's in cost and have better performance but it looks like a decent controller card will run you 200-300 easy.

Honestly right now I'm considering just getting a couple 1-1.5TB standard 7200 drives and raid-0 them together. It would be a huge waste of space as I have no use for that much room for an OS drive but it actually seems like a decent idea as I can probably do that for under $200 and still get a performance boost. Would it be slower than a single raptor (price is about the same at this point), hard to know really unless someone does a side by side comparison. People have done reviews I know but they get outdated fast as speeds and cache sizes improve on a regular basis.

I guess a 100% certain answer to the best combination for your money is pretty much impossible as nearly every combination out there amongst various models and types would need to be evaluated. So I guess I really would just like to get some insight into what generally will be a performance boosting setup for a mid range price (200-500). Thanks.

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I can see doing RAID-0 with the Raptors for the performance boost, as long as you're really good with your backups. I can't see it with the 1TB 7200s -- too much temptation to use all that space for something, and you'll never keep it all backed up. RAID-0 means one lost drive and your filesystem is gone -- backups are all you have left. You've been warned! –  quack quixote Oct 2 '09 at 4:06
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I believe stuttering/freezing was only a problem for some of the earlier SSD models (see anandtech.com/storage/showdoc.aspx?i=3531&p=2). It should not be a problem now, especially with the well regarded drives such as the Intel X25-M or OCZ Vertex. –  sblair Oct 2 '09 at 9:29

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I have never found raid arrays really make that much of a positive performance boost for every day use. They certainly don't improve access times and that is what you tend to notice most in general use. I would also avoid raid-0 unless you don't care about the data being stored.

An SSD is the way to go to get a noticeable speed boost. Use a modest sized (60-128GB) one for a boot drive and a larger mechanical drive for bulk storage. If you want your games to load faster they should be kept on the SSD in which case you might want to get a larger drive (120GB+).

Almost any fairly recent SSD should be OK but Intel is best followed by drives based on Samsung or Indilinx controllers (Samsung are probably safer and Indilinx slightly faster). Cheaper drives based on JMicron controllers are OK only if you are on a very tight budget. If the price is cheap and there is no mention of the controller then assume it is JMicron based regardless of how impressive the specs might seem.

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I would agree that SSDs have made consumer RAID (certainly RAID0) redundant (sorry about the dreadful, unfortunate pun). Especially considering the hassle of setting up/maintaining RAID(0), and definitely if TRIM is not supported... But that only applies if you seek pure performance - the "inexpensive disks" aspect of RAID still has much merit. –  sblair Oct 3 '09 at 2:40
    
I quite agree about raid still having merit. If you are after capacity and redundancy then it is definitely the way to go. But if you are after performance then it isn't that good for typical home use unless you are copying around large volumes of data. –  user10762 Oct 8 '09 at 3:16
    
Set this answer as accepted after doing some more research. Apparently the new G2 drives from Intel are even faster than a RAID-0 array of two Raptors! This article really sold me too: codinghorror.com/blog/archives/001304.html –  XHR Oct 16 '09 at 19:17

The Intel X-25M fits well into your budget and has had great reviews. Even Linus Torvalds has been impressed with his Intel SSD. The X-25E performs better but only provides 32GB space, at a fairly higher price. If you choose a SSD, I'd only keep the OS on it and programs you use frequently that require high data transfer speeds. Other programs can be installed to a seperate 7200rpm disk.

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You can get 64GB X-25E for an even higher price. –  Zan Lynx Mar 17 '11 at 0:06

check out tomshardware hard drive benchmarks. they benchmark all kinds of different drives from 3.5" to SSDs. There is also price included beside each one.

http://www.tomshardware.com/charts/hard-drives,3.html

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