on the merits of SATA 3…

In a nutshell, I made a mistake spending extra for the 6 GB/s version of the Caviar Black terabyte hard drive, rather than the $20 cheaper 3 GB/s SATA II version.

I should have had the foresight to google the performance benefits of SATA III on traditional hard drives ahead of time; my earlier posts in this series are well-laden with links to my research for the other components. I originally was going to reuse the 1 TB Hitachi drive, but I found it limited my WEI score to 5 whereas the rest of the components were solid 7s. Benchmarks with HDTune were also slightly disappointing; basically in a system I designed for balance, the hard drive was the weak spot.

In hindsight, I should have realized that the 600 MB/s data rate for SATA III exceeds the physical capability of any mechanical hard drive. SATA II’s uppermost limit of 300 MB/s is already near the ceiling of a hard drive’s data access time, unless there’s some massive technological improvement ahead (akin to perpendicular magnetic recording, but more so).

At some point, I’ll move to an SSD drive for my main OS install and then use the terabytes for secondary storage (JBOD). I’m waiting for the 256 GB SSDs to come down in price to where the 128 GB drives are now – basically, I’ve realized that for a midlevel enthusiast build, the magic price point is $200 for any given piece of hardware. An extreme, gamer build will have a price point of $300 per piece. This is a rule of thumb I need to flesh out more when I do my final post on building this new rig.

Anyway, I guess i have a very future-proof disk now 🙂 The other big gotcha I encountered was that I did not set my BIOS to enable AHCI mode prior to installing the OS, which meant that changing the mode after OS install gave me a BSOD. Basically, the problem and the solution as described in Microsoft Knowledge Base article 922976. I ran the fixit, rebooted to BIOS, set everything to AHCI, and it worked. I forgot to redo the HDTune and WEI benchmarks, I’ll do that later today along with the other usual benchmark tools and post them here, with some pics of the new build.

In other news, I installed a DVD drive (multi r/w with BR playback), and I still need to put my CPU cooler in (the Mugen reviewed here). I’m going to call the machine Prefect, in keeping with my H2G2 theme. It definitely is the best machine I’ve ever owned and likely to last me a long time.

5 thoughts on “on the merits of SATA 3…”

  1. Been there, done that on both the BSOD and spending more on hardware than was functionally necessary. So don’t feel so bad.

    Pass it around. I have a good friend working at WD who’s telling me the domains on the multi-terrabyte HDs “forget” because they are so small. His sweet spot is in the 500G range.

  2. Rackmount, I’m not sure i understand what you mean. what domains do teh HD’s “forget” ? Do you mean to advise partitioning the drive into 500 GB pieces instead?

    I’ve heard somewhere that win7 supports larger block sizes which is more efficient for some reason. Not sure if thats the case on my setup, or how to check if so, or how to enable Some advice would be appreciated.

  3. As I understand it, the move to 4KB sectors is done primarily to lower overhead on the disk, improving data density.

    For each sector, there is a sector header, the data, ECC, and a gap. Making the sector larger means that there is only 1 header, ECC, and gap for each 4KB instead of 8.

    The drives can hide the enlarged sector for compatibility with older disks. This means that if you write a 512 byte legacy sector, the drive has to read the 4KB sector, update it, and write it back. The drive doesn’t have to do that if the OS writes 4KB sectors.

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