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completing a system build - best harddrive/ram/pagefile config?

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Hey everyone, I've been lurking in here for a while while I was doing some major upgrades to my system. I've been building PC's for almost 15 years, so I was able to handle mostly everything on my own, but I do have a couple questions.

Here is my current system (NOTHING is overclocked):

AMD Athlon™ 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 4200+ with the included fan/heatsick (new as of last week)

a blue Broadway case that's starting to fall apart, but still works....fans on the top and back....there's a slot for a side fan, but I removed it when I did the last upgrades as wires tended to get trapped in it

Thermaltake Silent Purepower W0014RU ATX12V 480W Power Supply

ASUS M2A-VM (new as of last week)

ATI X1250 w/256MB shared RAM (this is on-board video...I was on a budget so I didn't want to buy a new PCI-E video card yet....so far it still beats my AGP Radeon 9800SE 128MB card in all aspects though)

G.SKILL 2GB (2 x 1GB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400) (new as of last week - I actually have 1.75GB since the onboard memory uses 256MB)

Sound Blaster Audigy Platinum (PCI card and a 5.25 port bay--I use the optical out to plug into my 5.1 Aiwa AV-D58 system)

Western Digital SATA-150 320GB 7200 RPM harddrive, the system drive - both harddrives have screw-on fans attached to the bottom of them.

Maxtor IDE ATA-133 160GB 7200 PM harddrive, attached to a SIIG PCI controller (these are the two oldest components in my system, and are going to be replaced this week...see below)

two IDE DVD burners, connected to the on-board IDE port

Windows XP SP2 32bit

okay, my Maxtor IDE drive doesn't seem to be responding too well to my system. I don't know if it's because it can't keep up, because of the controller card (I had this controller for a couple of years, but removed it when I got my first SATA drive as I was replacing two older 80GB drives with it), or if I simply wasn't careful enough with it when I stripped my case to clean it and install new parts. Regardless, it's been extremely slow in transfering files to and from my other drive (more-so than with my old config) and I think it's been causing my system to freeze - Windows would stop responding to keyboard commands, and I could still move the mouse around, but couldn't actually click anything, and after a while my speaker would beep and the mouse would freeze in place too. I just ordered a Western Digital Caviar SE16 WD5000AAKS 500GB SATA-3.0 to replace this drive with. This brings up a couple of questions for me - since my other SATA drive is a 1.5, should I leave that as the system drive, or should I ghost the drive over to the new 3.0 and make that the new system drive? Is there really a noticeable difference between SATA-150 and SATA-300? The cache and RPM on both drives is the same. Also, as far as running programs go, would it be more efficient to run programs off the same drive as the system drive, or from the opposite drive? Whichever drive I don't install my programs to, I will use for storing my multimedia and data files. I've also started watching high-def videos on my computer - would it really matter which drive I run these from? Right now they play perfectly when stored on my system drive, so I doubt it would matter.

My second question is RAM. As stated above, I have a 2x1GB dual channel configuration.....but since I have onboard video, it's really only 1.75 usable. This takes care of things for the most part, but since I do work with some RAM-eating files in Adobe Illustrator (the main reason I did an upgrade in the first place - since it would have been almost as cheap to build a new CPU/MB/RAM config than to buy more DDR1 ram), I could still use even more of it, although it isn't essential. My motherboard has two more free slots....if I WERE to go to 4GB, would it matter if I bought the same brand/type again or not? At 2GB for $46 on newegg, it's hard not to go with the same type, but I'd like to know for future reference. Because of some hardware/software compatibility, I can not go to a 64 bit OS, so I know that 4GB would be my max option.

Lastly, the pagefile. This is a setting in Windows that has always baffled me. Right now it's set to the system-managed size. Is there any tweaking I should do to this? Also, once I get my new drive stored, should I keep the pagefile on the system drive, or the opposite (possibly-Program Files drive) drive?

Thanks for everyone's help.
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Neil Jones

Neil Jones

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IDE - probably can't keep up.
The difference between SATA 1.5Gbs and SATA 3Gbps is purely theoretical at this point in time - most SATA drives, in terms of raw output, perform no faster than a standard IDE drive regardless of SATA mode. However since SATA is newer technology and IDE has been around since Noah built his ark, it will inevitably become faster as the standard progresses. But if one drive is 1.5Gbps and the other is 3Gbps, they really won't care and will work with each other.

Programs - virtually all programs run off the drive with the Windows folder on it to a certain degree. In theory it should be faster to spread the load across to a second drive but in practice the difference is nothing to write home about. Same with data files, though movies may benefit from being on a separate drive, but again its theoretical.

RAM - if you have a 32-bit operating system, it will not see 4Gb of memory - the most you'll see is 3.2Gb, which normally excludes the memory for the graphics in an on-board graphics system. A 64-bit version of Windows XP or Vista can see up to 128Gb of memory depending on which flavour of Vista you have. Ideally to keep the dual-channel, the sticks would need to be matches, otherwise none of them will run in dual-channel.

Pagefile - the pagefile is surrounded in varying degrees of user opinion, thoughts, ideologies and misunderstandings. In theory putting the pagefile on a separate drive should speed things up. In theory, having it fixed to a custom size increases performance because Windows doesn't have to bother resizing it. In theory having no pagefile at all is not necessary if you have enough memory. In theory System Managed pagefiles grow and shrink with system demands. For all of these, they all have merits and cons, but realistically you need to find something that works for you and your particular setup.
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If you have a huge HDD you should just be able to set your pagefile to the max (only two gigs or so, from what I remember) and be done with it...but I'm no expert :)
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