Can you format/partition a HD differently to gain speed?

These days, later HD are huge and inexpensive; for business it is just too big.  I'm wondering if HD can be reformatted/ repartitioned differently in a way to sacrifice space for speed..  since outer perimeter of the disc is moving faster, would having data near the outer edge gain any performance?  having a bigger cluster size gain any speed?
1edchoiAsked:
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mattconroyCommented:
You can use diskpart to align the drive before you format NTFS. Make sure the disk is unformatted and run a command prompt and type diskpart and hit enter, Type list disk and note the number it gives you for the disk. Next, type select disk x where x is the number of the disk you want from the list disk command. Next, type create partition primary align=x. I would recommend using the value of 64 for x. Next type assign letter=driveletter that you want to use for ex.(assign letter=X). exit diskpart and then exit the command prompt. Use diskmanager in Windows to format the drive. Make sure to backup any data and delete the partition using diskmanager before you start. This only works on disks that have 64 sectors per track. It WILL be faster.
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
Modern OS's automatically align partitions for NTFS when you create the partitions. Unless you've used a 3rd party tool to create non-NTFS partitions (e.g. LInux or FAT) alignment isn't really an issue -- although it certainly doesn't hurt to force it as suggested above.

But the BEST improvement you can do to gain additional speed is, as you noted in your question, ensure that the partitions you use are, to the maximum extent possible, on the outermost zones of the disk. Transfer rates from the outer zones are FAR better than the inner zones -- by nearly double.

Note that the TRANSFER rate is dramatically improved, but the ACCESS time doesn't change at all -- the only way to improve that is to use a faster drive (e.g. a 10,000 or 15,000 rpm drive).

As for cluster size ==> it depends on the use of the drive. If you're using a drive to edit large files (e.g. audio/video), then a large cluster size can indeed gain some performance. But if the drive has many small I/O operations, a large cluster size can actually slow things down a bit. For example, the page file is written in 4k pages. If you have a cluster size larger than 4k, then the system has to wait a small amount of additional time for the write to complete when saving a page. In MOST cases a 4k cluster size is fine; if you have a lot of medium size files you may want to use 16K, but I don't recommend 32k or 64k except for drives dedicated to video editing.
RowleyCommented:
FYI - the technique Gary is describing is called "short stroking".
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Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
Actually what I described isn't short stroking -- although short stroking IS a by-product of that partitioning structure.

"Short stroking" means only using a small percentage of a disk to minimize the head movement ("stroking") and improve the access time.    Note that there are 4 components to moving the head to a new sector:  (a) ramping up (getting the head moving);  (b) moving to the new cylinder; (c) ramping down (stopping the head movement);  and (d) rotational latency (waiting for the drive to rotate to the right sector).     "Short stroking" reduces (b), but has no effect on the other 3 elements.

Positioning the partition on the outer cylinders ensure that once the data starts flowing, it flows as fast as possible.    The gains from this are generally FAR better than the gains from short-stroking.

As I noted, however, short-stroking is an automatic by-product of limiting the partition to the outermost cylinders, so you'll also get the small added gains it provides.
1edchoiAuthor Commented:
What are your opinion with Paragon Alignment Tool ?
http://www.paragon-software.com/business/partition-alignment/index.html

and does this apply to windows 7 or does windows 7 already takes care of it..
Gary CaseRetiredCommented:
An unnecessary tool.    Their biggest claim is the increased improvement with the new advanced format drives -- which do, indeed, have reduced performance with older OS's that don't "understand" the new format.    However ... (a) Windows 7, Server 2008, and newer Linux distros all "understand" the advanced format and work just fine with them;  and (b) there is a jumper on Western Digital's advanced format drives (the EARS series) that will force the alignment to match older drives, and they then work quite nicely on XP, Vista, etc. with no need for additional alignment software.   You do, of course, have to install the jumper before initializing and formatting the drives -- but if you're astute enough to be considering alighment software, you're probably also quite capable of installing a single jumper on your disks :-)

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Gerald ConnollyCommented:
You are obviously asking this question as you either have an existing performance problem or are just interested in ways of speeding things up.

As has already been said, using the outer sectors and short stroking will allow you to tune a single disk for performance with reduced capacity (logical versus physical capacity),  and then maybe fiddling with the cluster size, but note that changes to the cluster size may have significant effect on file sizes if mismatched to the types of files stored on this volume.

But for optimum storage performance, what you have to consider is the full I/O chain and not just one aspect of it, the best way to improve performance is to reduce the number of physical i/o's to the storage device as this is the most costly operation with regard to time.

1) Application - Just looking at the way the application does its i/o (is it direct, or via a database) databases tend to cache data and collect logical i/o's into a smaller number of physical i/o's but this obviously uses more memory.
2) OS - Is the file-system tuned correctly, is the MFT fragmented, are the files fragmented. Fragmentation increases the number of physical i/o's required to retrieve data.
3) Hardware - If you are using a single disk or a JBOD then optimum performance is governed by rpm and the max IOPSs (I/O's per second) allowed (typically about 200 with modern disks.
Important performance factors for disks are, Seek time, Rotational delay (AKA latency) and transfer time

from wikipedia  - The theoretical averages of the rotational delay are shown in the table below, based on the empirical relation that the average latency in milliseconds for such a drive is about 30000/RPM:
Spindle RPM      Average latency (ms)
4200      7.14
5400      5.55
7200      4.17
10000      3
15000      2


BUT eventually  IOPS becomes the limiting factor so you need to go to at least RAID-0 [Striping] the more spindles the better. (obviously you will actually use RAID-6 - [striped mirrors])

You also need to consider single application use with a single partition.

Its also obvious that creating multiple logical volumes on the same physical disk is not a good idea either, as this will generate loads of additional disk seeks between the volumes.

Then there is the whole other subjects of RAID and caching - don't get me started on that!  :-)
1edchoiAuthor Commented:
Thank you for all your inputs.  I was just interested in ways of speeding things up.  
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