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New thread from another post to discuss HD - Raid-O?  Should I change?

Posted on 2006-07-06
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Last Modified: 2010-04-25
Here is the quote that has me asking

>>>Your hard drive is the one area that doesn't seem exceptional.  If you're going for the brass ring, why not get a RAID-0 array with Raptor drives?  Keep in mind when using RAID-0 to have a ready backup at all times.  If you want top bragging rights, an overclocked Opteron 148 running at 3GHz would be essential.  Someone here has one running at 3.4, which I believe is the fastest I've heard yet.<<<

Here is my system info that prompted the comment (my question follows)

Operating System             System Model
Windows XP Professional Service Pack 2 (build 2600)             MSI MS-7220 100
(MY INSERT) Motherborad is MSI K8N Diamond Plus
(MY INSERT) PSU  Antec SmartPower 2.0 SP-500 ATX12V 500W Power Supply 115/230 V TUV, UL, CUL, CE, CB, FCC
Enclosure Type: Desktop
Processor a             Main Circuit Board b
2.4 GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 4800+ Toledo 2000MHz HT 2 x 1MB L2 Cache Socket 939 Dual Core Processor256 kilobyte primary memory cache
2048 kilobyte secondary memory cache             Board: MSI MS-7220 100
Bus Clock: 200 megahertz
BIOS: American Megatrends Inc. 080012 12/14/2005
Drives             Memory Modules c,d
620.10 Gigabytes Usable Hard Drive Capacity
444.84 Gigabytes Hard Drive Free Space

LITE-ON DVDRW SHM-165H6S [CD-ROM drive]
PLEXTOR DVDR PX-716AL [CD-ROM drive]
3.5" format removeable media [Floppy drive]

ST3120023A [Hard drive] (120.03 GB) -- drive 0, s/n 3KA11DVW, rev 3.33, SMART Status: Healthy
ST325082 3A USB Device [Hard drive] (250.06 GB) -- drive 2
WDC WD2500KS-00MJB0 [Hard drive] (250.06 GB) -- drive 1, s/n WD-WCANK3228075, rev 02.01C03, SMART Status: Healthy             3072 Megabytes Installed Memory

Slot 'DIMM0' has 1024 MB (serial number SerNum0)
Slot 'DIMM1' has 1024 MB
Slot 'DIMM2' has 1024 MB
Slot 'DIMM3' has 1024 MB
       Local Drive Volumes
       
         
c: (NTFS on drive 1)      250.05 GB      211.90 GB free
d: (NTFS on drive 0)      119.99 GB      49.83 GB free
h: (NTFS on drive 2)      250.06 GB      183.11 GB free
 

DISABLED Marks a disabled account;   LOCKED OUT Marks a locked account
           
Lexmark C510 PS3      on USB001
Controllers             Display
Standard floppy disk controller
NVIDIA nForce4 Parallel ATA Controller
NVIDIA nForce4 Serial ATA Controller (2x)             NVIDIA GeForce 7900 GT [Display adapter] (2x)
Default Monitor
DELL 2007FP [Monitor] (20.2"vis, s/n C9536659249S, May 2006)
Bus Adapters             Multimedia
Silicon Image SiI 3132 SATALink Controller
Standard Enhanced PCI to USB Host Controller
Standard OpenHCD USB Host Controller             Sound Blaster Live! 24-bit
Communications             Other Devices


NOW BACK TO THE THREAD--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

My three hard drives:
c: Main hard drive  - the one I'm considering changing
d: Hard drive from old computer - thought I could keep old programs so everything would look, feel and smell the same for my wife (who is not a computer guru) and young children.  Didn't work, caused more headaches than it was worth.  Has me worried about changing out hard drives again.  I also bought a new hard drive for my laptop but after that experience I'm too scared to try it.
h: external HD - used only for storage of pics, video and backups.  

Now the questions - what exactly are SATA and RAID?  I'm assuming RAID is better but I don't know what it is?  
If I did change - how do I prevent the headaches from before - basically had to reinstall what programs I had discs for, lost everything that I had downloaded.  Could not access anything.  I can access some things now after I reinstalled the programs I did have but I'm not sure it's worth it.  Is a RAID-0 array that much better?

And lastly what is overclocking?  As I'm sure you know by now, all this is new to me.  I used to know a few things about computers 10-15 years ago and I'm trying to catch back up.  I hear/see that term used a lot.  How is it done?  How risky is it?  Is it worth it for everyday use (I would include my video editing in that) or just for gamers and people trying to show off?

As I stated in my previous post, I'm not going any awards, I just want to make sure I'm getting the most out of what I have.  Thanks for the help.
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Question by:abpowell
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by:Callandor
Callandor earned 250 total points
ID: 17053776
Since I'm the one who said the quoted statement, I'll try to explain.

SATA is the new form of interface for hard drives, with a maximum theoretical speed of 1.5Gbits/sec for SATA I and 3.0Gbits/sec for SATA II.  These are burst rates, not sustained rates, which means once the drive buffer is empty, the rate will drop down to the typical drive transfer rate of 50Mbytes/sec.  ATA133 IDE drives have a maximum of 133MBytes/sec by comparison.

RAID is explained here: http://www.acnc.com/04_01_00.html
RAID-0, in particular, distributes the data across the drives in an array to gain the maximum benefit of each drive.  The downside is if one drive fails, the whole array is gone, along with your data, so it increases your risk from drive failure.  This is the reason anyone who uses RAID-0 should have current backups at all times.

I have two WD Raptors in a RAID-0 array, and have measured the throughput at 100MBytes/sec sustained over the entire array.  This is significantly faster than a single Raptor, which I have measured at 70MBytes/sec.  The bootup time and program loading is faster as a result.  I use Acronis True Image to make sure I have a current backup every so often.
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by:Callandor
ID: 17053892
Overclocking is merely running the hardware beyond the rated spec.  If you're satisfied with the speed you have or are uncomfortable with running things out of spec, there is no need to overclock.  People like me have a need for speed and want to know how fast the machinery will run, and like the idea of getting more for our money (preferably at no extra cost).  With cpus like the Athlon X2 you have, overclocking is as easy as manually changing the FSB upwards from 200 to a new value, such as 220 (which is a 10% increase).  If the motherboard, RAM and cpu is of high quality, overclocking can give you up to a large increase, up to 50% in some cases, but less likely the faster the cpu is to begin with.  With the Athlon64, you have to lower the HT multiplier to keep within the physical limits of the chip, and RAM latencies may need to be increased as the FSB is ramped up.
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by:abpowell
ID: 17054296
FSB?
HT Multiplier?
RAM Latencies?

I'm playing catchup with technology.  Havn't gotten this far in since college.

Now on the subject matter, I've got my Iomega scheduled to backup data every night and system back up once a week to my external HD.  Do you not have a scheduled backup program?
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by:Callandor
ID: 17055006
FSB: Front Side Bus (the Northbridge chipset, or the cpu in the case of Athlon64's, communicates with memory using this, and it is also used in many cases to determine the AGP and PCI clock)

HT multiplier: HyperTransport multiplier in Athlon64 cpus to determine how fast the HyperTransport bus runs

RAM latencies: The time it takes to access data in RAM - http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_zdext/is_200408/ai_n7183843

I don't have a scheduled backup, because I create entire disk images at a time, which makes restores simple.  Unfortunately, my boot drive has grown to 30GB, so this takes a while to do, and the image takes up a bit of space.  Therefore, I run the backup manually.
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by:Callandor
ID: 17055602
Here's Tom's Hardware review of the MSI K8N Diamond, and it talks about being able to push the FSB: http://www.tomshardware.com/2006/01/26/msi_k8n_diamond_plus/index.html
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garycase earned 250 total points
ID: 17056069
Now that you know what overclocking is, I'll toss in my nickel's worth:  don't.

... Callandor and I disagree on that (he overclocks; I don't).   From one perspecitive you get "something for free" by overclocking;  from another you're running chips beyond their designed operating parameters and are "asking for trouble."   Which is right?  Neither !!   A properly cooled, modestly overclocked system will probably run fine.   But if it does fail, the manufacturer will NOT warranty their parts if they've been overclocked (they'll know -- modern CPU's store status info).  Only you can decide if you want to push the system => I choose to err on the side of caution and rock solid stability.

As for replacing your disk subsystem with a RAID-0 array => that WILL give you more performance; at the cost of more complexity.  I'm quite happy with the performance of my Raptor as the system drive without the need for a RAID array.   But if you're trying to get the absolute minimum boot times, go for it.  A 3-drive RAID-0 is probably optimal => notably faster than 2, and not appreciably slower than 4.   But even 2 drives will give you a nice boost over a single drive (as Callandor noted, typical performance is about 50% faster sustained transfers).

A comment on scheduling an automated backup:  I absolutely agree you should do that.   I recommend setting up systems with a dedicated system/programs partition;  and a separate partition for your data (including "My Documents", your e-mail, and all data associated with your other programs -- just configure them to keep their data on that "drive").   Then you should take periodic images of the system partition (as Callandor does) -- these can be manual;  but have the other partition automatically backed up on a frequent basis (daily is usually okay).   You might want to read what I posted here for a general idea of how I suggest configuring systems:  http://www.experts-exchange.com/Hardware/Desktops/Q_21582113.html

... as an example, here's what my system does:

(1)  Every night at 4am it turns on my wife's computer (via WOL), then backs up her data to a 2nd hard drive on her computer;  then to a 2nd hard drive on my computer; and then to an external USB drive.   Then it backs up my data to a 2nd hard drive on my computer; then to the 2nd hard drive on my wife's computer; then to the external USB drive.   All of the backups are then copied to another computer on my network at a distant end of the house.

(2)  Once a month at 4:30 am the computer reboots; images the C: drive; and then boots back to Windows  (this is automated).

So I always have an image that's less than a month old (if I make significant changes I do one manually);  and always have my data stored in at least five places on 3 different UPS-protected computers.   (I also burn backup DVD's on a when-I-think-about-it basis)   I feel reasonably confident I won't lose anything important :-)
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Author Comment

by:abpowell
ID: 17063366
I'm more on the conservative side like Garycase, so I'll take that as the accepted answer but Callandor you have been much help explaining things so I'll split the points here.  Be on the lookout for my imaging, page file and partition questions.  You have been very helpful.  Thank you
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