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Best Performance Upgrade for My Home System

Posted on 2013-12-05
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Last Modified: 2014-01-19
Hey Guys -

I while back, I started building a new home "server" and every now and then upgrade it a biot more.  I'm looking for a performance jump currently.  Not because it's slow, but because I like doing stuff like this :)  At the end of this post are it's hardware specs as well as what things I do on it.  Even though it runs Windows 7 x64, I still call it my "server" because it hosts numerous services for my personal use.

As you'll see, I currently have an MSATA SSD for my OS drive.  The upside is it's an SSD, but the down side is that using it disables one of my SATA ports plus it's only 60gb in size.  Therefore, I have the paging file split up amongst 3 other drives and install all my apps to a separate hybrid drive.

Questions
My 1st question is, I'm thinking about replacing it, but would would be the best option for increased performance?  A new, larger SSD (not more performance, but at least more space), a SATA SSD, or something else?  I know that you can put SSDs in RAID, but to be honest, I don't have the available ports unless I put a couple in a NAS. :)

Even though I have the fastest MSATA SSD I could find a year ago, it's still about as fast as they come.  I found out MSATA maxes out at 3Gbps and my SATA goes to 6Gbps.  My second question is will I see any noticeable advantage using a 2.5" SSD on a 6Gbps port over the MSATA running 3Gbps or does it not use that extra speed?

The last question is simple.  Given my hardware and that my MB supports overclocking natively and since my CPU is water cooled, should I just attempt to overclock for additional horsepower regardless of replacing hardware or not?  I want stability over breaking records, though.  If so, what method is suggested and what's a good resource?

System Specs:
- x1 QuadCore Intel Core i7-3770K, 3800 MHz (38 x 100)
- x1 Water-cooling system for CPU (Not overclocked, but thought be good addition)
- x1 Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H Motherboard
- x4 Kingston HyperX KHX1600C9D3/4GX (16gb Total) (not overclocked)
- Windows 7 Professional SP1 x64
- x1 AMD Radeon HD 7800 Series (2GB)
- x2 Marvell 91xx SATA 6G Controller
- x8 Drives
   - x2 ST2000DL003-9VT1 (2TB)
   - x1 ST3000DM001-1CH1 (3TB)
   - x1 ST3000DM 001-1CH166 (3TB)
   - x1 ST4000DM 000-1F2168 (4TB)
   - x1 ST950056 20AS (500GB) (Hybrid SSD/HDD Drive where I install Apps to)
   - x1 ATA MKNSSDAT60GB-DX (60GB) (MSATA SSD dedicated to OS and few apps)
   - x1 ATA ST2000DL001-9VT (1.8TB)
- x1 CD/DVD Burner

Current System Load
Partitions      
C: (NTFS)      57138 MB (6092 MB free)
D: (NTFS)      2794.4 GB (119.6 GB free)
E: (NTFS)      1863.0 GB (466.2 GB free)
F: (NTFS)      2794.4 GB (848.2 GB free)
G: (NTFS)      465.8 GB (16.8 GB free)
H: (NTFS)      1863.0 GB (66.9 GB free)
I: (NTFS)      1863.0 GB (9.4 GB free)
J: (NTFS)      3725.9 GB (475.7 GB free)
Total Size      15425.3 GB (2008.8 GB free)

Physical Memory      
Total      16345 MB
Used      7171 MB
Free      9173 MB
Utilization      44 %

Virtual Memory      
Total      59687 MB
Used      14089 MB
Free      45599 MB
Utilization      24 %

What I Use It For
The primary thing I do with it is to host services.  These include, but are not limited to:
   - Plex
   - File Shares for XBMC use (Have x2 Rasp Pi's where I stream video from here)
   -  ~5 other IIS sites for personal use
   - FTP Server (Rarely used because upload speed stinks)
- Playing games every now and then - it does have a better than average video card
- Testing Virtual Machines (VMWare Workstation)  Never keep any VMs on 24/7
- Remote Desktop - I often RDP in to perform various tasks

So, that may have been more info than you needed, but would rather give more than not enough.  

Any suggestions are very much appreciated -

Thanks guys!
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Question by:BzowK
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by:dlethe
dlethe earned 500 total points
ID: 39699839
Use a pair of SSDs in windows 7 software RAID. It does read balancing so in perfect world, if your SSD can read 250MB/sec, you'll average throughput of 500MB/sec.

Also make darned sure you have AHCI enabled if it is not (this adds support for additional instructions, queuing, and TRIM among other things).  As for memory, CPU, and graphics performance, if you want to improve those, then go for it. I'm just addressing disk I/O.

Same is true on all your disks.   RAID1 doubles read performance, with a statistically insignificant penalty on writes.

If you are doing database, then redo filesystem so that NTFS is doing 64KB at a time, which is how much SQL server does at a time. This is always most efficient.
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by:BzowK
ID: 39710255
Thanks dleth -

Quick question, though.  You suggested software RAID.  My motherboard supports RAID, but you think software is better?  Never tried it - especially with Windows 7.  If I do try it, think I could mix two different SSD models / sizes or too unreliable?

Thanks
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by:dlethe
dlethe earned 500 total points
ID: 39710293
Your motherboard RAID is absolute crap.   Host-based RAID1 (mirroring) does read-load balancing, so you'll typically get nearly twice the read performance with a RAID1 than a single disk -- as every byte of data is in two places.  Write performance won't be significantly affected.

Your fakeraid controller won't do that.  There are also a long list of other limitations of the $2.00 fakeraid controllers on motherboards, but no point getting into it further as the performance reason I mentioned makes this a slam dunk decision.
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Author Comment

by:BzowK
ID: 39745024
OK, thanks.

So just to make sure, though, when you say Software RAID, are you specifically referring to Windows 7 native tools or a 3rd party app?  If controlled by OS / 3rd party and not hardware, though, what would happen if I had to use a boot disk to access content on either?  Both unreadable, cloned, or other?

Also, what are your thoughts on RAIDing x2 different models of SSDs (if possible)  Thanks
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by:
dlethe earned 500 total points
ID: 39745354
I am referring to the native capability in the O/S.  Not a 3rd-party app.  furthermore if your motherboard has any RAID capability, do NOT enable it. Do not use it.  This is called fake-raid and is directly responsible for at least 5 EE T-shirts I've gotten over the years due to problems people have with fake-raid ;)

The way windows works with booting is that
1) make sure both disks are in boot path, where whatever disk you set up first is the first boot.
2) If the first (primary) disk is dead at power-up, win7 will show you that there is a secondary plex and lets you boot from there.  Do so, all your data will be there.

Then you can do things with administrator tools to convert that broken RAID1 into a single disk, and then mirror a new disk in the place of the one that died, all while online.

I mirror non-matching disks at times (when absolutely necessary), but as I am a professional storage diagnostic/firmware/test software developer, I know what will and will not work.  So I do not advise other people to do this as a general rule, unless the manufacturer of both disks says it is OK, or you have the equipment and experience necessary to qualify and do data integrity testing with error injection to validate the config.
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