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best way to setup my system raid / page file

Posted on 2011-09-20
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Hello,

I would like to get people's opinion about my proposed system setup.  I would like to know how best to use my drives and setup my page filing for system performance.

I have a Dell Precision 690
a 64 bit machine
one dual-core Xeon 5100
4GB of RAM running in quad-channel2 architecture DDR2 Fully Buffered DIMM 533 and 667MHz ECC
I will be installing 32-bit XP Pro

I have four hard drives to install. Two new 80GB WD Raptors which are 10k rpm.  And two used 80GB 7200 rpm seatgate drives.  They are all SATA drives.

My system has a built in RAID card.  LSI SAS 5 (SAS1068).  It can handle RAID 0 and RAID 1.

I was initially planning to use two of the drives in RAID0 configuration and to install the OS there.  But I have been informed that this would not bring any performance gain at all and would increase the chance of error (I would double the chance of a failed hard drive and system crash).

What about this plan….
Skip raid configuration altogether
Install the OS on one of the new 10krpm drives ' without partition the drive.
Then install the second 10k rpm drive and install apps on that drive.  
Install the two used 7200 rpm drives.  Don't partition them.  Use them only as page file / swap file locations.  Never install any data on those drives.  

What would you recommend for the page file settings?  I would guess that I should set one page file on C, windows managed, for memory dumps or whatever.  Then I should use max/min setting for the two page files on the 7200 drives.  Based on the fact that I will always have 4gb ram what would you suggest for the min/max settings.

Note… I don't need to use any of those drives to store personal data.  I use large externals for that.
I don't care too much about raid for recovery purposes.  I do care, but not tremendously – I care far more about system performance.
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Question by:santaspores1
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by:Callandor
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If you care about performance, get an SSD instead of RAID0 - it will run much faster than even Raptors in RAID0.

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/best-ssd-price-per-gb-ssd-performance,2942.html
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by:jakethecatuk
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If I have read your config correctly, you are running both 533mhz and 667mhz RAM in your system.  This is not ideal as your memory will perform at different speeds and could cause problems.  Also, you are installing a 64bit OS on a machine with only 4GB of RAM - you will not get any benefit from this but you could find compatability problems with some drivers.

But, you were asking about disk setup.  

RAID0 would give you a performance gain, but as you have said, lose one drive and the OS is gone.  RAID 1 would give you a performance gain as the data can be read from two spindles at the same time which is good.  Write performance will be the equivalent of one disk.

For your pagefile, you could put that on a RAID0 disk set as the write performance would be faster than a single disk which would be good.

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nbhu earned 500 total points
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Hi,
I would set up Raid 1(mirroring) on the two 10k drives and install system and pagefile on the RAID partition.
If performance is the most important aspect and you don't need more storage then try Raid 1 on all drives if it is possible(so you get 80 GB of storage on 4 disks, the throughput of each disk added up.).
Regards, nbhu
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by:santaspores1
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Callandor:
Thank you for that good advice.  But I don't want to buy more hardware.  I need to use what I have.

jakethecatuk:
1.  I think I am running two different sppeds of RAM but have not checked them physically to be sure.  In my BIOS there is only one memory speed specification and it says 533 Mhz.  It does list each RAM slot and some information about the ram in that slot - but the info is identical for each of my four sticks and does not include the speed.  They all show as 1gb, ecc, rank1, type FBD, x8 organization.
2.  I am NOT installed a 64-bit OS.  I have a 64-bit capable machine on which I am installing 32-bit XP pro.
3.  I asked the RAID0 for my os question in another thread and was told that I would not gain any noticeable performance from using raid0 for my OS (and would eat up a second drive and would increase risk of failure).  What do you think of using raid1 with two disks and installing the OS on that?

nbhu:
Don't you think that if I use raid1 I should use both of the 10k drives in the raid 1, install the OS there, install my apps on one of the slower 72k drives and use the other 72k drive for the swap file?  Having the main swap file on the same drive as your OS will degrade its performance.
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by:nbhu
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Hi,
Of course it will degrade performance, but it is a good option to put pagefile on the fastest drive.
The page file can be put on a different drive later, too.

In your place I would test the different setups first with some raw disk speed test program, then decide according to what I need.
Does your controller accept more than two disks in RAID 1 config?
Regards, nbhu
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by:santaspores1
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What about this:

Configure the two 10k drives as RAID1.  Install the OS there.  This will offer some performance boost.  Use one of the slower 72k drives to install apps (D drive).  Use the other 72k drive as a swap file drive (E).  Place system-managed-size swap files on both C (the raid) and E.

 It seems to me though that windows will always want to use the swap file on the faster drive... and that swap file can become fragmented (which is a performance hit) and can take time to access while the drive is using data on another platter (which is a performance hit that will frequently happen because the OS is there).
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by:santaspores1
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I'm also not sure that I will get much of a performance gain from using either raid0 or raid1 with an onboard dell controller (which can't be all that great if it only supports raid0 and raid1).  And recovery from a failed sisk in a 2-disk raid1 setup wouldn't be a sure and easy thing (and only my OS will be on the raid - not any user data).

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by:nbhu
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I think it's better to use fix size swap files, so they don't get fragmented on disk.
How big swap do you design?
What will be the application running on the machine?
If RAM is enough, keep swap to a minimum, you achieve the best performance if you can avoid swapping.
From my opinion it is better to have a fixed size of swap say 8GB on the fastest drive than on any slower if there will be any swapping.
Regards, nbhu
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by:santaspores1
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nbhu:  so you are saying that you think it would be better to have a fixed-size swap file on a 10k rpm drive (that also contains data on it and might not be available at a given time and can become fragmented) than on a 7200 drive with no data on it (so is always available an never fragmented).  Is that correct?
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by:nbhu
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If not sure, then make some basic testing on that.
I think RAID1 does twice the read speed, and maybe between 1 and 1,5 the write speed of a single drive.
You really should measure it, try hdtach without installing any OS after setting the RAID in BIOS.
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by:nbhu
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You told that it will contain only the OS. The fixed swap will not be fragmented on the disk. If swap size is managed by OS, then it will allocate new fragments from the disk as it wants more swap, this way it can be fragmented.
If you allocate a big enough swap file, then the OS won't need to add to it anyway.
This is why I asked about memory usage of the applications.
If you count on dynamic swap management, then rather make 2 partitions , 1 for the OS, 1 for swap on the same fastest RAID volume.
THe best is not to make the OS do any swapping at all.
Regards, nbhu
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by:santaspores1
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nbhu:
I am trying to understand what you think is best for me.  You think that I should setup the two 10k rpm drives as RAID1.  And you think that I should create a single fixed 8GB swap file on C.  Then I should install my apps on one of the 7200 rpm drives. No other swap files anywhere.  Is that right?

And you asked about my apps.  The biggest hogs will be web browser and Photoshop (which I use a lot and with large files).
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by:santaspores1
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Oh... I was also told NEVER to partition a drive an put the OS on one partition and a swap file on the other partition.  That's not me speaking... but that is what another EE expert told me.  And it does seem to me that if your swap file and your OS are on the same partition of the same drive... that the swap file could very well become fragmented (because you are writing data to an OS only partition) and could also be inaccessible when needed (because the OS is busy reading from the drive as it wants to access the page file which might be on a different platter of the same drive.

Thanks for the discussion by the way... I will go ahead and award you the points for helping.
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