Do I need a fast hard drive? Do I need a WD Raptor?

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Everyone knows that it is advantageous to have a fast harddrive. Almost all harddrives spin at 7200 RPM and have some 8 to 16 megs of ram built in. The difference between the drives is marginal at best and speed differences cannot be "felt" in a real system.

Unless you own an Ultra SCSI interface the fastest consumer harddrives are the Western Digital Raptor drives.
They come in 36, 74 and 150 gigabyte capacity.
All these drives are SATA and spin at a whopping 10,000 RPM and come with 8 or 16 megs of ram built in.

They are more expensive than the 7200 rpm drives and their capacity is not very high considering Seagate brought out a 750 gigabyte harddrive.

So: Do you need one and are they actually that much faster?

The answer: You do if you work with your PC a lot!

I own both a 36 gig and a 74 gig WD Raptor. And apart from all the reviews saying they are fast I have had 2 years now to test that in practice.

Historically, the 36 gig version came out first some years ago and despite its 10,000 RPM it is the slowest of the 3 drives. Following that is the 74 gigabyte version which is considerably faster and then the 150 gig version which again is faster.

Why buy a Raptor? Which Raptor to buy?:

1) Don't buy the 36 gig version, the "felt" speed increase is not so substantial to warrant spending that money.

2) The small HDD size does not matter at all. The Raptor should only contain the operating system, eg. Windows and the programs you install. You should not use it to store your mp3's, pictures, movies or documents. By the way, tit is a general rule that your main drive, ie C: drive should only contain windows and the installed programs. Of course this doesn't apply if you only own ONE harddrive ;-).

3) The 74 gig (and to an even greater extent the 150 gig version) really offer substantial speed increases.
    Loading windows is reduced by up to 30 seconds (on my system), programs noticably start faster and are executed faster. Example: When I am playing a game the level loading times are much shorter compared to a "normal" 7200 RPM drive. When I play an online multiplayer game I am usually the first one to enter a level because the others are still loading!
I speak from a lot of experience. I own a 120 gig Maxtor Diamondmax 9 plus, a Maxtor 250 gig Diamondmax 9 plus and a 250 gig Seagate 7200.8 in addition to my Raptors. I've run windows from the slower drives before I got the Raptors and I must say the Raptors load pretty consistently 10-30 sec. faster.

Now that doesn't sound like much but this loading time applies to almost EVERY PIECE OF SOFTWARE. If you work with your PC a lot like me these loading times really slow you down and annoy you.

4) The Raptors come with a 5 year warranty. They are much more reliable as they are designed to be used 24/7 and in companies as servers.

5) Trying to achieve the same performace with a RAID 0 set of 2 7200RPM drives will NOT yield the same results. That system is twice as unreliable and you are at risk of complete data loss if one of the drive fails. Plus you don't get huge speed advances unless you move big files around whereas the Raptor already shows speed advances with small files (see faster Windows loading time).

So in summary: If you work with your PC a lot and not just for word processing, you should seriously consider investing into either the 74 gig Raptor or the 150 gig Raptor. The prices start at £90 on ebay and around £100 in online shops.

Some reviews:

http://tomshardware.co.uk/2006/02/06/wd1500ad_raptor_xtends_performance_lead_uk/

http://www.storagereview.com/articles/200401/20040126WD740GD_1.html



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