benchmarking the SSD vs striped drives

I’ve got the storage system all sorted out now. Here’s my disk manager:

Disk0 (E: – BACKUP) is the 2TB Western Digital Caviar Green, formatted as one large basic volume. Disk 1 and Disk 2 are the 1TB Samsung Spinpoints, where the first 128 GB of each have been striped together to create a single 256 GB striped volume (Y: – FASTDATA) and the latter 800 GB are mirrored (Z: – USERDATA). There’s also a strange unallocated block on one of the Spinpoints, which is relatively tiny (130 MB). Odd, that. Finally, Disk3 is the 128 GB Crucial RealSSD C300. I’ve moved all the user data directories to the mirrored partition and kept the Windows OS and application data on the SSD, with plenty of room to spare.

I was curious as to the performance of the striped volume versus the SSD. Note that I allocated the beginning of the spinpoints to the stripe, to “short-stroke” it (ie, the data is on the start of the disks, meaning the read heads have to travel less physical distance). Unfortunately, HD Tune does not seem to like partitions, only treats disks as single entities, so I used CrystalDiskMark 3.01 instead. The results were intriguing! Here are the runs for each partition – each run had 4 averages, 1000MB test data size:

2TB Western Digital Caviar Green

800GB mirrored partition, Samsung Spinpoint F3 (pair)

128 GB Crucial RealSSD C300

256GB striped partition (short-stroke), Samsung Spinpoint F3 (pair)

What is kind of amazing is that in sequential reads, the striped volume actually matches the SSD in read speed, and outperforms by a factor of 2 on write! However, when it comes to random 512K and 4K sectors, the SSD completely smokes the striped volume. This suggests that the striped volume would be just as good as an SSD for things like video other multimedia. In fact I might just rename my striped volume VIDEO and move the My Video folder to there instead of on USERDATA. Actually I should rename USERDATA just DATA as well ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m not really sure why I created the striped volume, other than simply because I could. I didnt need a full terabyte for mirroring once the OS and apps are excluded. At some point in the future i can move to 2TB disks if necessary, but this setup shuold last me for a few years at minimum, if not longer – especially since I’m also segregating video. The only downside is that the striped volume not only lacks redundancy, it’s doubly vulnerable to disk failure. But that’s why I have my backup volume E, after all, and backblaze. (Though backblaze doesn’t backup data files over a certain size… need to check into that)

I’ve put a huge amount of overthought into this, but I think I am finally happy with how it all turned out. I need to do my final wrap up post on PREFECT now, with photos and cost estimate. Since the only game I run is WoW I think I am basically futureproof for a long time.

SSD me

ok, this thing is tiny.

stacked against a hard drive
the size of a credit card

For a few moments, I was confused enough to wonder if I’d accidentally ordered the 1.8″ drive size instead of the 2.5″. It’s not only small, it’s unbelievably lightweight. It comes with a nifty little SATA-to-USB adapter for cloning software to it prior to installation.

I’m really keen on doing a fresh install of Win 7 x64, but I also want to move my data off the boot drive, and make the data drive a mirrored volume (as I mentioned earlier, I bought two Spinpoint 1TB drives). So, here’s my order of operations:

1. install one 1TB spinpoint drive, formatting as two partitions, one 128 GB to match the SSD, the second as 872 GB for the data partition. I’m not exactly sure why I am creating the smaller partition, but it seemed logical, if you will pardon the pun. These will be Y: (SPARE) and Z: (USERDATA).

2. move the My Documents folder (and My Videos, My Music, etc) to USERDATA. This is a lot simpler than trying to move the system folders.

3. now, the original boot drive should only have about 30 GB left (just OS and apps). Clone this to the SSD using the included software and the cable that came with the SSD.

4. replace the boot drive (a 1 TB Seagate) with the SSD and boot up in full SSD glory. Re-run Windows Experience Index to bask in the glory of 7s. If all goes well, take the old boot drive back to Best Buy.

5. Add the second Spinpoint and mirror using Windows software RAID rather than the built-in motherboard variety (which is referred to disparagingly at various online forums as “fake RAID” because it still relies on the PC’s CPU to do most of the work.)

At this point I will have a BOOT partition in C: (128 GB SSD), a BACKUP partition in E: (2 TB Caviar Green), a USERDATA partition in Z: (870 GB mirrored Spinpoints) and a spare partition in Y: (128 GB which I might actually do short-stroke striping across the spinpoints just for fun, rather than a simple mirror. I might reserve that for video). There’s also the external 1 TB drive and Backblaze for redundancy.

I’ll update the post with my earlier hard drive benchmarks from HD Tune and the new one from the SSD for comparison once I’ve got it all in place…

UPDATE – here’s the benchmarks from the various drives using HDTune. The Samsung is actually the older one I had, which seemed to have issues and was returned to Amazon. I replaced it with the Seagate, and now have taken the Seagate back to Best Buy in favor of the SSD and the new pair of Spinpoints (the new spinpoints are not benchmarked yet but should be identical).

Also note the huge difference in the SSD performance between SATA 2 and 3 modes. The latter requires me to sacrifice the bandwidth to the PCI x16 slot however, so I need to test framerates in WoW in both configs (SATA 2, PCI-E x16 vs SATA 3, PCI-E x8) to see which is better overall. Even in SATA 2 mode, the SSD is a beast.

If you don’t feel like clicking through the thumbnails, here’s the data:

Drive | min / max / avg transfer rate | access time | burst rate
Samsung Spinpoint 1TB | 69.0 / 133.3 / 106.3 MB/sec | 14.6 msec | 95.0 MB/sec
Seagate Barracuda 1TB |60.2 / 103.8 / 91.2 MB/sec | 20.2 msec | 65.6 MB/sec
Western Digital Caviar Green 2TB | 45.5 / 104.3 / 79.1 MB/sec | 17.5 msec | 95.0 MB/sec
Crucial RealSSD C300 (SATA2) | 105.7 / 154.7 / 143.6 MB/sec | 0.2 msec | 2410.3 MB/sec
Crucial RealSSD C300 (SATA3) | 227.4 / 274.2 / 243.0 MB/sec | 0.1 msec | 2050.8 MB/sec

Samsung Spinpoint 1TB

Seagate Barracuda 1TB

Western Digital Caviar Green 2TB

Crucial RealSSD c300 128GB (SATA2, 3 Gbps mode)

Crucial RealSSD c300 128GB (SATA3, 6 Gbps mode)

1.5 TB for the desk, SSD for the road

it’s even got it’s own gravitational field:

The new Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 1.5TB HDD is 50 percent larger than the 1TB desktop drives available today, while the 500GB Momentus drives (available in 5400rpm and 7200rpm flavors) are 56 percent larger than the current high-capacity 320GB 2.5″ laptop drives.

The main difference between the new 1.5TB drive and the 1TB ST31000340AS already available is their platter density. Both disks are four-platter designs, but the 1TB drive uses four 250GB platters, while the new 1.5TB is apparently using four 375GB platters.

We could see modest increases through the end of the year, but 2TB before 2009 is a toss-up. 500GB platters are probably still a ways away, and while a 5x400GB platter configuration would do the trick, the first generation 1TB five platter drives tended to run hotter and noisier than the units that the followed.

I am fully aware that in five years someone will link to this post and guffaw at what a rube we all were for being impressed by this. I think Ars is being conservative here – someone is sure to roll out a 2TB drive (on 5 platters) before the end of the year. If not Seagate, then Hitachi.

While the desktop drive is noteworthy for its sheer size, the laptop drive doesn’t impress me at all, however. The future of laptop drives is SSD and SSD alone (I say this without irony, even though I just bought a 250 GB drive for my own laptop a few months ago). The far more important news on that front is that Samsung is opening the flood gates of volume production:

Seoul, Korea รขโ‚ฌโ€œ July 9, 2008: Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., the world leader in advanced semiconductor technology, announced today that it has begun mass producing 1.8- and 2.5-inch multi-level cell (MLC)-based solid state drives (SSD) with a 128 Gigabyte (GB) storage capacity. Mass production of the Samsung MLC-based 64GB SSD also began this month.

Power consumption for the Samsung SSD is exceptionally low in standby mode at approximately 0.2 watts and in active mode at 0.5 watts. The Samsung MLC-based SSD has a write speed of 70MB/s and a read speed of 90MB/s.

Somehow I don’t think SSDs will ever supplant 3.5″ on the desktop, though I do think that eventually 2.5″ will become desktop standard. So the progress by Seagate on pushing the envelope on the notebook drive capacity is still relevant.


As soon as I finish downloading Microsoft Office Ultimate (which I bought for $60 – you need a .edu email address to qualify), I am going to shut down my Thinkpad, remove the hard drive, and install the new hard drive I bought earlier. Then I will put the nlited DVD of Windows XP SP3 (using the original Windows license that came with the Thinkpad) in the drive and hopefully boot to the install screen. If all goes well, I’ll have a clean install on a clean hard drive. I’ve already backed up my data and also have an external USB case for the old hard drive handy.

Gulp. Here goes. I’ll be twittering updates if anyone is curious to follow the progress.

upgrading to 250 GB

WD Scorpio 250 GB PATA UltraATAMy T42 Thinkpad came with an 80GB Hitachi Travelstar hard drive. I’ve been living at 95% maxed out capacity for well over half its lifetime, surviving by migrating a lot of files to an external disk (mostly personal video and raw data from my MRI research). The Thinkpad is also starting to show its age in terms of cruft; my new Asus EEE is much easier to use in some ways because I’ve installed only a core set of software that I use often (limited by it’s tiny 4 GB SSD). A clean XP install – nlited to save me the hassle of installing service packs and software – is clearly necessary. So, an upgrade was clearly (over)due, despite my tightwad constraints. Winning a $30 Amazon voucher from Read/Write Web spurred me to action; I’ve just placed an order for a Western Digital 250 GB Scorpio drive.

Since my Thinkpad is older, it only has an Ultra-ATA interface instead of the newer SATA ones. Hence, my choices were limited and I had to choose between 250 GB for $130 or 160 GB for $90. WD is the only manufacturer which makes a laptop drive at 250 GB capacity with the Ultra-ATA interface, but I am satisfied that the drive is worth the cost (partially offset by the Amazon voucher to boot). The performance of the SATA version is reputed to be excellent, and I doubt the UATA lags it much (as it happens, SATA requires slightly more power consumption, so what I lose in marginal performance, I will regain in marginal battery life).

I am planning to stay with Windows XP for the time being, most likely Service Pack 3 (which is not an official release yet, but you can download it as a release candidate from Microsoft). I’m not sure how well my Thinkpad will run Vista, since it’s only got a Dothan chip instead of a Yonah (aka Core Duo). Steven’s travails are also a cautionary tale.

My plan is to also order a cheap external 2.5″ case to house the old drive, so I can more easily transfer the data off (and of course reserve it in case I ever need to boot back into my old setup). Now I need to think about something a bit more rigorous for backup; at present I have the external disk I mentioned, but it would be better to invest in a NAS like a Linkstation Pro. Sigh. A print server would also be nice… argh! It never ends.