Hard drives.. In My Opinion

Published on: Author: Mike Hall Leave a comment

Benchmarks.. a exercise in futility?

For those of you who just love numbers, here are the ‘read’ results of running HD Tune Pro on my hard drives. What they essentially show is that a large SATA II drive with a cache twice the size of smaller drives has a better transfer rate. Pretty cool, eh, but nothing that wasn’t known publicly.


USB Ext.
Minimum 53.0 34.0 32.7 25.0
Maximum 112.1 73.2 56.3 30.6
Average 87.7 59.1 49.4 27.9
Access time 16.2 20.6 13.8 14.6
Burst Rate 115.9 97.5 75.8 24.8
CPU 24.1 16.6 10.6 21.3


Despite the fact that my 320gb drive obviously outperforms all of the others, a system is only as fast as the slowest part. Fortunately, my 80gb external drive is used only as a backup for ISO images and archive for files backed up elsewhere.

So internal transfer rates are governed by the speed of the 80gb ATA/IDE drive, assuming that it is the drive to/from which data is being transferred. It takes the edge straight off of the 320gb numbers.

Why I don’t use a RAID configuration.

I don’t want the hassle of managing a RAID configuration or the problems of rebuilding in the event of failure. If I was going to use RAID, it would be RAID 5, but I would need to obtain four or more hard drives of the same make, type and size, and a machine capable of  true ‘hot swapping’. Before retiring from big business, I worked on such systems, and I can tell you that for what I do now, it would be complete overkill.

Why don’t I have larger hard drives installed?

When a hard drive physically fails, it takes all data with it. I am not the only computer user who has ever sat down at a keyboard and very quickly realised that a hard drive has fallen over, scattering the contents into the wind, never to be accessed again. Even with backups readily available, it is totally heartbreaking.

Anybody who has worked as filing clerk will know that working with one huge drawer is harder than working with stacked smaller drawers. Preparing a large drive can be a nightmare too. I would far rather format smaller partitions than sit waiting for 320gb or larger to format.

I ensure that at least 25% of any drive is free space, and I still can’t get close to filling up to that limit, so 1Tb drives are not required. Also, bragging rights do not make up for the time spent just formatting those suckers.

Why is my external backup drive so small? I cheat.

My production machine carries all programs and all files that I will need for the machine itself and the other two connected to the internal network. It also carries any installation files I will need while fixing machines for clients.

The other two carry their own stuff and copies from the main machine on internal secondary drives. It is my equivalent of a RAID system without the hassle.

Oh, and I also backup (actually copy) to DVD.

Why copy and not backup?

Apart from ‘proper’ backup utilities like Acronis TrueImage, some backup utilities are not good at handling backups from previous versions. Windows Backup is notoriously bad for this.

Backups are also compressed which means that one has to use the backup utility to view files contained therein. If copies are made by simply transferring or ‘burning’, they can be viewed easily by any computer, and easily transferred to any location on any computer. Why make life harder for yourself!!

Why I don’t use the 320gb as a primary boot drive.

I run Vista from my 160gb SATA II hard drive. Vista and production applications use roughly half of the first partition, which is half of the entire drive. The rest is in two parts, one for keeping installation files, the other as data storage and archive. In theory, I could transplant the drive into another computer and still have everything I need to remain ‘in business’

Note that this is the drive most likely to fail because it is in continual use, where the action is.

The 80gb ATA/IDE drive is partitioned into three parts, Windows 7 beta taking up half, the other two partitions essentially mirroring the two spare Vista drive partitions. While I do boot from this drive, I do for very little time.

The 320gb drive is partitioned into four equal parts, three mirroring all data, archives and installation files from all computers attached to the internal network. The ‘other’ partition is used to moved OS images around. When I finally switch to Windows 7, I will image Vista to the 320gb drive, install Win 7 RTM cleanly to the 160gb drive, and then re-sort everything at my leisure. In time, Vista will reside on the 80gb ATA/IDE drive, which is where XP used to be.

But the 320gb SATA II drive is faster!

Well, yes it is, but am I going to notice the speed difference on the small files that I open? I doubt it somehow. In the meantime, it makes for an excellent storage and transit area.

Dual boot and Virtual Machine?

Nope. Not gonna do it. Keep it simple because maintenance is easier when it is. One ‘independent’ OS per hard drive is my rule. If I want to boot to a different OS, a restart and F9 to select the boot device gets me there.

A quick note on 3rd party defraggers here.

Do not set automatic defragging for any drive which contains a bootable operating system. From what I can see, they treat the perceived bootable drive in a different way to the ‘slaves’. I am not convinced that defragging a slave containing a bootable OS is the way to go.

In actual fact, I defrag all drives manually as part of ‘crapware’ removal routine.

If you don’t agree with any or all of the above..

.. tell it it a judge because I don’t care. I like easy maintenance and technology works for me, not the other way around. No way am I going to become a slave to anything weird, wonderful and wacky. You know what they say..

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and my entire network, system, modus operandi works well 99% of the time. I need time to go shopping for groceries etc, to sleep, eat, watch some TV. Full time System Admin and service engineer does not fit into my life plan.

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