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Hard Disk - I want some speed - What to buy?


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#1
DA IMP

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After a good while of trying to decide what my best choice for an HDD upgrade is. I want something decently big (bear in mind that I've been mostly happy with a 40GBs HDD up until now, burning DVDs pretty often), but I wanna put a good emphasis on speed as well. So, I'm willing to buy something smaller, and/or more expensive, if it'll give me a considerable speed boost.

Thus far, I've made up my mind about...

Size:160-250GBs. I could be perfectly happy with 160, but the difference in price is small. I could even take 80GBs, but nothing that small is as fast as I want it to be.

Connection type: SATA 3GBs (usually referred to as SATA2) for maximum future compatibility and a good speed.

And brand: WD/Seagate/Maxtor, 'cos they possess full backward compatibility for motherboard chipsets that use SATA but don't handle SATA2 despite usual compatibility, like mine (click here to see my motherboard). They have this special jumper feature to handle such an issue. Though, if anyone think this is not true, feel free to say so please! I'm not an absolute expert by any means.

My problem now, is about the buffer/cache size (I'm using the terms indistinctly. Pardon my ignorance).
I see some SATA and SATA2 hard disks offering 2MBs, which I assume is bigger than what IDE/ATA normally offer. Others, 8MBs. Yet others, 16MBs. I've been told the buffer size makes a sizeable difference, and I know what a buffer is meant for, but I'm not positively sure how this would actually affect the overall speed. If buffer size is of small significance, I'd rather save myself some U$S30.
So, if any of you could give me pointers and suggestions about this, or anything else that I should keep in mind when it comes to speed (they're all 7200RPM I think)...I'd be very grateful.

Thank you all for your time.
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#2
The Skeptic

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It all depens on what you plan to do and the question goes beyond the buffer of the HD. If you are a not running applications that use lots of computer resources you can manage (e.g) with 512mb of ram instead of 2 gig, you can buy a Celeron processor which is considerably cheaper then P4 or Conroe, you can easilly manage with the sound and video cards that are built into a motherboard, saving add-on cards, and so on. Of course, you can buy much stroger components but you will not benefit from the extra expense.

The same is with the buffer of the HD. The bigger it is the faster is data transfer. The question is if you need it.
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#3
DA IMP

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Mmmmh...what I plan to do, is not very well-defined. This is my personal computer. And also my main system when it comes to doing my tech support work. So it sees lots of different work. The main personal focus is multimedia. I have a 19" LCD and good speakers so I use it to watch movies and TV series, for example. It burns a good deal of DVDs, and sometimes requires that I grab a normal video file and adapt it to DVD format, which is a long process as it has to write entire gigabytes of information...what else...read and edit pretty massive and rather complex PDF through Acrobat...same with Photoshop but mostly to supplement the art and quality of PDFs...and there's always the occasional heavier software being loaded and tested, if just once for a particular job...

In short, it can range from the simplest to some of the heavier things out there...although I don't run any heavy-duty games through it, or anything that taxing, such as real video and sound editing.

I hope that wasn't too lengthy. I just want the computer to have more overall speed. To be a ready and able system for whatever I may throw at it... While remaining reasonably cheap, and meant for the practical and not for the flashy (that is, no big video cards).

Also, my system is a couple years old already...a very cheap Sempron, a S939 ASRock mother that isn't worth much...I'll probably just build a whole new system in an year or less...and I plan on this brand new HDD being the main (and probably only) HD in this new system. Thus, it should run under pretty new standards, so I can trust it'll be compatible with something I'll buy in the second half of 2008, and still have years of future compatibility to spare.

So...to sum up my questions:
1) Do I get a significant, overall boost in speed from the buffer size? If I do, I'll go for the biggest buffer I can afford.
2) Just what difference do I get in speed, from 2MB to 8MBs to 16MBs buffer? I don't wanna spend extra to get 16MBs, when it may have a 5-10% difference with 8MBs only. I assume it'll "double" whatever speed I get form 8MBs...but the double of "very little" is still small.
3) If the boost in speed is focused on a less broad range of tasks...what tasks would get the boost?

Thanks for your tips. I'm actually pretty experienced in building up new systems. I've built and sold a fair deal. I do tech support, upgrades, all that stuff. I just never really had to mind hard disk speed, so I don't know a lot about that. And I want the best for the hard disk that I'll use for the next years.

Edited by DA IMP, 23 November 2007 - 02:28 PM.

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#4
The Skeptic

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Regarding the present system, 2 or 16mb will hardly make any difference because your system is limited in other parts. Regarding your future system, when you buy or build one you expect it to last several years without putting hardware limits on present or future programs. Considering this I would definitely spend the extra money for a 16mb buffer. I don't know how many percent of efficiencyit will give you, partly because other components are just as important for data transfer, but it will. Page files and buffers are two technics aimed to speed-up data transfer on hard disks which, being electromechanic components are slow relatively compared to other components.

If you buy a lower buffer HD and come to regret in the future there is no way back. You can save on ram, sound and video card when you build your system and always and add them later if you wish.
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#5
DA IMP

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Thanks a lot, you've confirmed my choice of sticking to 16MBs.

About the "expecting it to last several years," that's a bit more complicated 'cos it's got a lot to do with other factors that aren't technical...money, for example. I don't really know how things are in Israel about this, since it's no third world but it's not Sillicon Valley either...
Here in Argentina, my experience tells me that you don't really need to do significant upgrades that often. I can survive on the same system for 3-5 years without much trouble, and my clients, being usually common-type users that don't really demand their PCs much, even more so.

I'm just used to not running hugely demanding stuff (I just never need to)...buying with a quite strained budget...and squeezing the most out of every last resource available, for maximum possible stability and speed. I've made XP SP2 run safely on several cheap system with 128MBs of DDR333...it's even worked decently on a 128MBs PC133 Compaq Presario (a nightmarish model if there was ever one) from 1999.

But all this is annecdotic...thanks for your help once again!
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#6
The Skeptic

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My pleasure. Tight budget is a universal problem and I can understand and appreciate your pont of view.
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