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Last post Author Topic: A three drive system - the sweet spot  (Read 11230 times)

mouser

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A three drive system - the sweet spot
« on: March 22, 2014, 02:57:06 PM »
We've talked about this before, but as I have a relatively new pc setup, I thought it was worth revisiting the idea of having multiple hard drives, for those who haven't yet caught on to the greatness of it.

This is mainly for heavy computer users -- more casual users do not need to worry about such stuff.

Three Drives are better than one:

  • The first hard drive (C) on the computer should be an SSD.  These are super fast, and affordable when the sizes are small (250 gb or so).  This will be your Operating System drive and where (most of) your program files get installed.  My philosophy is that this drive is too small to hold everything, and too unreliable to hold your documents.
  • The second hard drive (D) will be a giant one.  2TB at least.  (Almost) everything else goes on this drive -- including your large virtual machines, a giant directory for drive image backups, all downloads, any giant game installations, etc.  You want it large enough that you always have plenty of free space. Drive speed is usually not an issue on for this drive.
  • The third hard drive (E) is for your documents and settings.  Now this might be where some people disagree with me, and only use two hard drives, and put their documents on their SECOND hard drive.  After all there should be plenty of space on the second drive.  But having a dedicated SMALLER drive for your documents has some advantages.  For example, you can backup from your documents drive to your second (big) drive, offering real redundancy to hardware failure.  The document drive is also small enough that you could RAID mirror it, and/or full drive image it frequently.

The "fourth" hard drive:

In addition to these, you will want either an external sata hard drive dock, or an internal sata drive rack that will allow you to easily attach and remove additional hard drives for the purposes of backing up to a drive you can store on the shelf.
« Last Edit: March 22, 2014, 03:02:45 PM by mouser »

40hz

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Re: A three drive system - the sweet spot
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2014, 03:51:59 PM »
The first hard drive (C) on the computer should be an SSD.  These are super fast, and affordable when the sizes are small (250 gb or so).  This will be your Operating System drive and where (most of) your program files get installed.  My philosophy is that this drive is too small to hold everything, and too unreliable to hold your documents.

If you're running a server, make sure your temp and logfile directories are all residing on another standard drive too. I'd suspect all that constant reading and writing is probably not too healthy for an SSD. And servers generate a lot of logging and scratchpad activity.

Just my :two:  :)

Edvard

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Re: A three drive system - the sweet spot
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2014, 07:13:43 PM »
^^ Amen.  I've heard it since SSD's came out that the swapfile (pagefile on Windows) should go on a fast but non-SSD Disk.  Hadn't thought of the temp and log files, good catch.

I've always thought separate drives were a good thing.  If I had another SATA disk, I'd do that for my current setup, but... :(

mouser

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Re: A three drive system - the sweet spot
« Reply #3 on: March 22, 2014, 07:39:06 PM »
Is there any guide somewhere on how to configure the temp and log files to put them on another drive?

Shades

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Re: A three drive system - the sweet spot
« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2014, 07:47:47 PM »
System and user specific temp folders can be configured in the advanced settings menu that is accessible through System properties.

40hz

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Re: A three drive system - the sweet spot
« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2014, 12:34:30 AM »
If you're not rebooting, or are opening and closing apps constantly, I'm not sure how big a speed advantage an SSD would give you in actual use.

I'd definitely think about upping RAM (to between 8-16 Gb) before I sprung for an SSD. And if it were a desktop PC - and I had money left over after adding more RAM - I'd then spring for a faster video card.

I'm not trying to dis SSD drives. They're certainly a nice bit of kit. But I personally feel the benefits they bring to the mix are somewhat overblown. But that's probably more me and what I use a PC for. YMMV.

Jibz

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Re: A three drive system - the sweet spot
« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2014, 01:49:04 AM »
^^ Amen.  I've heard it since SSD's came out that the swapfile (pagefile on Windows) should go on a fast but non-SSD Disk.  Hadn't thought of the temp and log files, good catch.

I think for most recent SSD drives, the controller is likely to die years before the read/write tear of the temp folders is going to make a dent. I can't find anything backing this up though, most tutorials seem to reiterate the wisdom of five years ago.

Regarding the pagefile, here is a Microsoft Q&A from 2010 stating some usage data for the pagefile (near the bottom) and recommending keeping it on the SSD.

40hz

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Re: A three drive system - the sweet spot
« Reply #7 on: March 23, 2014, 07:04:30 AM »
I think for most recent SSD drives, the controller is likely to die years before the read/write tear of the temp folders is going to make a dent. I can't find anything backing this up though, most tutorials seem to reiterate the wisdom of five years ago.

I'm looking at this more from a server perspective (since that's where my experience chiefly lies). But there's enough in common between PCs and servers that I think what applies to one pretty much applies to the other as far as hardware goes. Two articles worth looking at are here and here.

The first (from March 2014) discusses "SSD myths and legends."

Quote
SSD endurance - should you worry? - and why?

Flash wear out still presents a challenge to designers of high IOPS flash SSDs as the intrinsic effects at the cell level get worse with each new chip generation.

That's in contrast to RAM SSDs - where as long as enterprise users remember to replace their batteries periodically - the memory life is more dependent on elapsed time (classic bathtub reliability curve) and heat stresses rather than directly related to the number of R/W cycles.

Higher SSD capacity, and faster speeds come from progressively smaller cell geometries - which we used to call shrinks. In flash memory small size means less trapped charge holding the stored data values and greater sensitivity to charge leakage, charge dumping and disturbance effects from the normal processes which happen around the cell vicinity during R/W, powering up, powering down etc.

If you're a consumer you don't have to worry about the internals of endurance management - because most new SSDs are good enough (if they're used in the right applications environment).

Exceptions still do occur, however for users in the enterprise SSD market - where I still hear stories of users thinking it's perfectly normal and economic to replace burned out Intel SSDs every 6 to 12 months - instead of buying more reliable (but more expensive) SSDs - from companies like STEC.

But if you're a systems designer it's useful to know that the longevity difference between "good enough" and the best endurance architecture schemes can still be 2x, 3x or 100x - even when using the same memory.

In 2011 - new evidence started coming in from longtitudinal flash SSD research done by STEC that old, heavily written MLC cells - managed by traditional endurance schemes - tend to get slower as they get older - due to higher retry rates on reads - even though the blocks are still reported by SMART logs as "good" - and the writes do eventually succeed on retry.

In the same year - a paper by InnoDisk confirmed that whereas SLC and MLC memories have often had endurance populations within each chip which were mostly much better than guaranteed (something which SSD makers had been telling me since 2004) - the headroom / margin of goodness - in newer types of MLC is lower than in the previous MLC generations. That's why controllers which used to work well with vintage MLC need something much stronger than a tweak to deliver well behaved SSDs when co-starring with the new brat generation of naughty flash.

The second  (February 2012) is from AnandTech  :-* and goes into the issue with their usual mind-numbing level of attention to detail.

One very interesting recommendation:

Quote
We also showed a clear relationship between performance and drive capacity/spare area. Sizing your drive appropriately for your workload is extremely important for both client and enterprise SSD deployments. On the client side we've typically advocated keeping around 20% of your drive free at all times, but for enterprise workloads with high writes you should shoot for a larger amount. How much spare area obviously depends on your workload but if you do a lot of writing, definitely don't skimp on capacity.

Some other good stuff in the article. It's confined to one brand of SSD, but since the technology is similar to what’s in other brands I think most of it should still be valid - bearing in mind this article is now 2 years old.

Dunno...I'm still a tiny bit leery of using SSDs for anything really valuable. :tellme:

Stoic Joker

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Re: A three drive system - the sweet spot
« Reply #8 on: March 23, 2014, 09:22:24 AM »
The first hard drive (C) on the computer should be an SSD.  These are super fast, and affordable when the sizes are small (250 gb or so).  This will be your Operating System drive and where (most of) your program files get installed.  My philosophy is that this drive is too small to hold everything, and too unreliable to hold your documents.

If you're running a server, make sure your temp and logfile directories are all residing on another standard drive too. I'd suspect all that constant reading and writing is probably not too healthy for an SSD. And servers generate a lot of logging and scratchpad activity.

Just my :two:  :)

Okay, first off I agree with you. I'm not a huge fan of SSD either. But... If the Temp file is on a more reliable - longevity wise - "Standard" (e.g. slower) drive, then it stands to reason that any process that is dependent on doing its workload in/out of the temp folder would then be restricted to/by the performance of the lower speed (presumably) mechanical drive. So wouldn't that negate the purpose of using a SSD? ...Or am I missing something?

I'm thinking that with the huge amounts of memory in machines these days are making the PageFile an almost moot point, so anything active in memory will most likely stay there. Then why not push the high traffic and ephemeral work areas off onto the higher speed (and arguably grenade prone) disk to keep the overall disk failure data loss exposure down? Sure you might - damn the luck on timing - lose the latest changes on the current project...but you're not going to lose all the projects in the folder next to it.

Lightning fast boot times might - well yeah okay they are - be important for laptops and tablets. But for a desktop that has a much longer typical running cycle the extra 30 seconds is really that big a deal. The same thing could also be applied to application load times, laptop/tablet...gotts to be zippy ... Desktop...not so much.

mouser

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Re: A three drive system - the sweet spot
« Reply #9 on: March 23, 2014, 10:20:33 AM »
Quote
Lightning fast boot times might - well yeah okay they are - be important for laptops and tablets. But for a desktop that has a much longer typical running cycle the extra 30 seconds is really that big a deal. The same thing could also be applied to application load times, laptop/tablet...gotts to be zippy ... Desktop...not so much.

I can't really disagree with the logic of this.. In fact we should say that even for laptops, most people, most of the time, will be waking from sleep, which is extremely fast on Windows these days, and involves little drive activity.

Shades

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Re: A three drive system - the sweet spot
« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2014, 10:58:15 AM »
For 6 months now my main system is set up as a dual-boot Win7 and Server 2012 PC on a i5 with 8GB and a 1TB SATA2 hard disk that is already 3 years old (connected to the 6GB/sec SATA port on my mobo).

Now I must say that the Server 2012 zips along noticeably faster than Windows 7. 80% of the software I use is portable and work as expected on both OS's. I would argue that both systems are the same with one exception, Server2012 runs an Oracle 12 database.

With the above I was expecting similar performance, but Server2012 is really faster, screens open immediately completely populated with varying content full screen. Applying an SSD would improve Windows 7 I have no doubt, but for my intends and purposes I cannot imagine an SSD being faster in Server2012.

Hence I am not planning to upgrade to SSD soon. More RAM and and an extra SATA3 HD would fit me fine and will likely be cheaper than getting an SSD anyway.

Jibz

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Re: A three drive system - the sweet spot
« Reply #11 on: March 23, 2014, 03:36:43 PM »
I'm looking at this more from a server perspective (since that's where my experience chiefly lies). But there's enough in common between PCs and servers that I think what applies to one pretty much applies to the other as far as hardware goes. Two articles worth looking at are here and here.

Thanks for the links, some good stuff there :Thmbsup:.

I think you're right, the server/enterprise market is a little different. Personally, I've had my SSD for little over two years, and the wear indicator is at 2%. If I can get that with all user and temp folders and the pagefile on the SSD, that's okay for me.

rgdot

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Re: A three drive system - the sweet spot
« Reply #12 on: March 23, 2014, 03:59:56 PM »
What are drive image backups doing staying on the PC itself?

xtabber

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Re: A three drive system - the sweet spot
« Reply #13 on: March 23, 2014, 04:24:28 PM »
I used to use multiple drives on my working desktop system, but after moving to smaller form factors in the past five years or so, have used a single 2TB drive with 3 partitions.  C: is under 100GB, and has system, software and critical or frequently used data (work/accounting/correspondence, etc.).   The remainder of the drive is divided roughly equally between two data partitions, with D: used for multimedia, reference materials and VMs, and E: reserved for longer term storage, including software libraries and backup images.

On my working laptop, I have the same sized C: partition, roughly mirroring my desktop C: drive, and a single data partition, where the essential folder trees from the two data partitions on the desktop are mirrored.

Keeping the C: partitions small allows me to image them regularly, while most of what is on the data drives is backed up on external drives.

Earlier this year, I added 120GB SSDs to both desktop and laptop and moved C: to them while keeping the hard drives for the data partitions. This was possible on the laptop because it has an mSata slot, and on the desktop by wedging a 2.5" bracket into space under its single drive cage. 

The difference was more dramatic than I had expected and after a couple of months, I have become a believer in using an SSD for one's system drive.  If you spend a lot of time in front of a computer, it makes day-to-day work much more pleasant:  Programs load almost instantaneously and, perhaps surprisingly, browsing is also faster and smoother, which I attribute to the browser's caching to the SSD.

Shades

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Re: A three drive system - the sweet spot
« Reply #14 on: March 23, 2014, 04:27:36 PM »
As long as there is a copy from the image not residing on the PC, I don't see the big problem. Actually it would speed up the restoration a whole lot than doing the same job from CD/DVD. Besides it doesn't require supervision either.


xtabber

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Re: A three drive system - the sweet spot
« Reply #15 on: March 23, 2014, 04:56:18 PM »
What are drive image backups doing staying on the PC itself?
In my case, for backup purposes, I only image my system/software partition (which I keep small, as explained earlier) and keep copies of only the most recent images on an external drive, case of drive failure.

But I also keep locally a good number of images created at various intervals since a system was initially set up. This allows me to go back to an earlier state, or to mount an image as a drive to retrieve something that I might have overwritten or deleted.  Keeping images on the system itself makes this much faster than searching offline backups.

4wd

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Re: A three drive system - the sweet spot
« Reply #16 on: March 23, 2014, 06:32:01 PM »
I'm thinking that with the huge amounts of memory in machines these days are making the PageFile an almost moot point, so anything active in memory will most likely stay there.

Given huge amounts of memory, besides disabling the pagfile, wouldn't you also move the TEMP stuff to a RAM drive and thereby not lose any speed writing to physical media at all?

In my desktop with 12GB, I have a 2GB RAM drive and no pagefile and there's apparently 6GB+ left available for other programs.  About the only time I've run out of memory is when some program has a memory leak.

Innuendo

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Re: A three drive system - the sweet spot
« Reply #17 on: March 23, 2014, 07:26:18 PM »
I upgraded my boot drive to an SSD drive a year or two ago and it's been well worth it, especially if you do anything on your PC that loads a lot of data frequently like games.

I don't treat my SSD drive with kid gloves, either. I let the swap file and whatever else Windows normally stores on the C: drive to reside on it with no ill effects thus far. Knock wood.  :)

mouser

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Re: A three drive system - the sweet spot
« Reply #18 on: March 24, 2014, 08:42:55 AM »
Quote
What are drive image backups doing staying on the PC itself?


I agree they should be kept on external drives for the most part -- though it's nice to be able to store copies on a local drive too.  Redundancy is the name of the game.

Don't forget you want backups not just on external drives, but offsite -- someplace that wouldn't be lost if your house burned down or was robbed.

40hz

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Re: A three drive system - the sweet spot
« Reply #19 on: March 24, 2014, 11:27:54 AM »
I agree they should be kept on external drives for the most part -- though it's nice to be able to store copies on a local drive too.  Redundancy is the name of the game.

Yup! :Thmbsup:

You can save time by doing an image to an internal drive - and then syncing or copying the image over to an external drive or network share - thereby getting the best of both worlds. Schedule both for overnight runs and you're ready for almost anything.

Addendum:

Spoke to my clients who I know are using SSDs (mostly in laptops FWIW) to find out how it's been working for them. Everybody (except for one) loved them and felt they were a great boost to their productivity. However, about half experienced reliability issues or needed drive replacements within 12-16 months of original installation.

I'm sure being early (or earlier) adopters of the bleeding edge contributed to the number of incidents experienced. And I'm sure these drives have seen significant improvements in their design and manufacturing in the interim. But I still don't get warm fuzzies seeing those stats in conjunction with an expensive new piece of hardware. At least not for the marginal additional benefit gained by using one. Or so it seems to me.

I certainly would like to get an SSD....but not just yet. :)
« Last Edit: March 24, 2014, 12:45:45 PM by 40hz »

cranioscopical

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Re: A three drive system - the sweet spot
« Reply #20 on: March 24, 2014, 06:58:05 PM »
A couple of years ago I installed a 128 GB SSD as my boot drive… 
and if anyone is interested
That was a bit too snug for what I was doing, so I upped it to 240GB. After a while I added a second 480GB SSD, then swapped the boot drive for a 520GB SSD. I keep one 2TB mechanical drive on board for little-used junk data.

Thanks to the SSDs, computing has never been better for me.

I've lost one SSD (a 128GB OCZ Vertex) probably because I was playing around with it in an external drive cradle.

So, I like SSDs but it's probably better to buy a decently sized model to begin with than to work one's way up the capacity ladder. Now I have a few unused 128's and 240's lying around.

FWIW, as I can easily eject drives from a front-fed bay I tried a backup policy of having two identical boot drives - if one fails, shove in the alternate and carry on. That turned out to be a pain as various things didn't like the hardware change and I had to keep track of two items (I find counting things to be difficult with my socks on). For me it is easier to use a 'normal' backup strategy — it's so easy and fast these days just to stick in a new drive and restore to that.



40hz

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Re: A three drive system - the sweet spot
« Reply #21 on: March 25, 2014, 06:58:38 AM »
Brian Trapp over at Linux Journal agrees with Cranioscopical, Innuendo and xtabber regarding SSDs.

Quote
Solid-State Drives: Get One Already!
Mar 18, 2014  By Brian Trapp   

 
I've been building computers since the 1990s, so I've seen a lot of new technologies work their way into the mainstream. Most were the steady, incremental improvements predicted by Moore's law, but others were game-changers, innovations that really rocketed performance forward in a surprising way. I remember booting up Quake after installing my first 3-D card—what a difference! My first boot off a solid-state drive (SSD) brought back that same feeling—wow, what a difference!

However, at a recent gathering of like-minded Linux users, I learned that many of my peers hadn't actually made the move to SSDs yet. Within that group, the primary reluctance to try a SSD boiled down to three main concerns:

  • I'm worried about their reliability; I hear they wear out.
  • I'm not sure if they work well with Linux.
  • I'm not sure an SSD really would make much of a difference on my system.

Luckily, these three concerns are based either on misunderstandings, outdated data, exaggeration or are just not correct.  <more>

Brian's article goes on to discuss SSDs primarily from the viewpoint of a Linux user. But he includes a discussion of the technology and the results of his real-world testing that should be of interest to anybody regardless of which OS they're running.

He concludes with the following remarks:

Quote
Summary

If you haven't considered an SSD, or were holding back for any of the reasons mentioned here, I hope this article prompts you to take the plunge and try one out.

For reliability, modern SSDs are performing on par with HDDs. (You need a good backup, either way.) If you were concerned about longevity, you can use data from your existing system to approximate how long a current generation MLC or TLC drive would last.

SSD support has been in place in Linux for a while, and it works well even if you just do a default installation of a major Linux distribution. TRIM support, some ext4 tweaks and monitoring via tune2fs and smartctl are there to help you maintain and monitor overall SSD health.

Finally, some real-world performance benchmarks illustrate how an SSD will boost performance for any operation that uses disk storage, but especially ones that involve many different files.

Because even OS-only budget-sized SSDs can provide significant performance gains, I hope if you've been on the fence, you'll now give one a try.

So there you have it...

Seems to me that (a) the people who actually own an SSD love these little guys; (b) reliability doesn't seem to be as much a concern as it originally was; and (c) regardless of what you've read (or been told) SSDs are just like any other piece of hardware (i.e. YMMV.) ;D

I guess the only real way to find out is get one and see for yourself.  8)


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Re: A three drive system - the sweet spot
« Reply #22 on: March 25, 2014, 07:08:37 AM »
I have not yet owned an SSD.  Mine is:

C: 1Tb SYSTEM
D: 4TB GAMES (1.3TB free)
E: 2TB DOCUMENTS
F: 1TB PAGE FILE and TEMP
My Web Site:  http://www.y0himba.net

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Re: A three drive system - the sweet spot
« Reply #23 on: March 25, 2014, 04:28:41 PM »
WRT consumer SSDs I think the real world reliability is often very different than what you're likely to get from a properly configured test setup due to power quality issues. IME controller electronics have been far and away the most common failure point for modern consumer HDDs for several years now.

A significant percentage of home computers (and sadly an awful lot of business computers) have low quality power supplies which are plugged into outlets with inconsistent line quality and poor or nonexistent grounding. When you replace the mechanical bits of a hard drive with the purely electronic ones in a SSD it stands to reason cheap computers would have a higher failure rate than expensive ones. I'm over generalizing a bit because not every expensive computer has a quality power supply but a quality power supply usually makes for a more expensive computer.

That's without even getting into the issue of cooling which is a problem for all drives, but probably even more for a SSD (especially a consumer model) than a HDD.

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cranioscopical

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Re: A three drive system - the sweet spot
« Reply #24 on: March 25, 2014, 05:51:56 PM »
That's without even getting into the issue of cooling which is a problem for all drives, but probably even more for a SSD (especially a consumer model) than a HDD.
I find that my machines run cooler with SSDs than with mechanical drives. More space for air flow?