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Recently one of my hard drives (2TB) stopped working, I knew it was on its way out and only used it for temporary project work (so I didnt lose anything important that couldn't be retrieved).

I am now left with 3 hard drives (1TB SSHD - 1TB HDD - 320GB HDD) all of which are relatively old.

The 320GB drive (at least 5 years old) is currently used to store my Virtual Machines (and now any temporary project files)

The 1TB SSHD (a year old) is used for both my personal file storage (partition 1) and the OS (partition 2)

The 1TB HDD (at least 3 years old) is used for my Steam games

I am under the impression that having the OS stored on one drive, and personal files on other drives is the best way to maximize performance. As the OS drive has less chance of beingg overloaded with read/write requests. The only reason I don't follow this strictly at the moment is because the 320GB and 1TB HDD have much slower read/write rates.

So, my first question is, is my belief above correct? if not, can you explain why?

Recently my drives have been getting overloaded and the whole computer is locking up (I checked, no viruses), I am a fairly active user and do tend to have a lot of programs open at once, so this is probably the cause, but recently its got to the point where I can't ignore it.

Before going off to uni, I was hoping to change the configuration around (including buying new drive(s). SSDs are probably still out of my price range depending on the fate of my other drives.

TLDR:

Does having multiple drives connected to a computer slow down access to all drives?

Is it beneficial to store the OS on a separate hard drive to personal files?

Would it be worth the investment getting a smallish (64-128GB) SSD purely for the OS and using my left over storage (3 drives totaling 2.3TB of various specs) as space for personal files?

Based on my configuration above, is it worth ditching the oldest 2 hard drives and replacing it with a newer one?

Does a SSHD actually have performance benefits that warrent the extra cost over HDDs?

My hard drives all plug in at the same area on the motherboard yet use different SATA standards (SATA3, SATA2.5 and SATA 1), will my computer only operate as fast as the slowest device or is having the SATA 1 drive limiting overall performance at all?

Thanks

  • I am under the impression that having the OS stored on one drive, and personal files on other drives is the best way to maximize performance - I think that's entirely subjective. I'd be interested in seeing emperical data that shows this to be true. – joeqwerty Aug 6 '14 at 12:47
  • @joeqwerty I was basing this entirely on what I've heard to be true, coupled with the fact that it makes sense in my head since the stresses of file operations are spread across multiple disks instead of one. Though I understand that caching files may be slower if it has to cache a file from another hard drive. So yeah, I'd like to see hard evidence too – user3494322 Aug 6 '14 at 15:47
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Does having multiple drives connected to a computer slow down access to all drives?

No. SATA drives all operate independently of one another. The controller merely issues requests for data from a particular drive and waits for a response. The drive's own hardware determines how best to service those requests and in what order, and the controller can have multiple requests pending at a time to different drives. It's not like it was in the old days where the controller had to issue a CPU interrupt every time it wanted to send or receive data from a drive.

Is it beneficial to store the OS on a separate hard drive to personal files?

Maybe. It depends on what kind of data you're storing. Virtual machines definitely benefit from being on their own drive as do video editing projects, database files, or any other program that uses large files under heavy I/O load. Your Steam games, pictures, music, and movies offer negligible benefit to being on their own drive. I/O operations on these kinds of files are mostly sequential read operations that don't slow down the OS by being on the same drive.

Would it be worth the investment getting a smallish (64-128GB) SSD purely for the OS and using my left over storage (3 drives totaling 2.3TB of various specs) as space for personal files?

Absolutely it would. The OS specifically benefits from having short access times. Throughput is less important. Although SSDs do have faster throughput, their access times are orders of magnitude faster than HDDs. A small, cheap SSD just for your OS will practically double your performance. The only issue is managing your free space, as Windows always wants to save everything on the C: drive by default.

Based on my configuration above, is it worth ditching the oldest 2 hard drives and replacing it with a newer one?

If you have the budget for only one drive, spend it on an SSD for your OS. Also stop storing your VMs on the 320GB drive. It's old and slow, and you're using it in the worst possible way. The best task for that drive is to hold your personal files. Put the VMs on the SSHD. The Steam games are fine where they are. But no, you don't have to ditch them if you've got room for them all in your computer.

Does a SSHD actually have performance benefits that warrent the extra cost over HDDs?

In my opinion, no. I look at it this way... I'm spending the same amount of money I would have spent on an SSD for a drive that has the capacity of an HDD, but is only as fast as an SSD in some cases. Personally, if it's capacity I'm after then I go HDD. If it's speed then I go SSD. An SSHD is not the best of both worlds.

  • Regarding SSHDs, they actually make a big difference on newer motherboards if you're using Intel SRT. – Jason Aug 6 '14 at 22:00
  • Both of my computers are about around 3 years old so neither have that feature. I've heard good things about it though. But I seriously considered an SSHD for my MacBook because that's my primary workhorse and I need both space and speed on it. But I found that for 1 TB laptop drives, it's either a regular 7200RPM drive or a 5200RPM SSHD. All the evidence points to the the SSHD as being marginally faster in the best cases, but far slower in the worst cases. And no way I'm gonna drom $450 on a 1TB SSD so I went w/ the 7200RPM drive. – Wes Sayeed Aug 6 '14 at 23:11

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