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Hardware Thread, Old IDE HDD vs New(ish) SATA HDD - noticeable general performance difference? in Technical; Recently we upgraded some desktop units from ancient Pentium 4 (skt478) to Core2 E6750 2.66Ghz but opted to reuse the ...
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    dgsmith's Avatar
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    Old IDE HDD vs New(ish) SATA HDD - noticeable general performance difference?

    Recently we upgraded some desktop units from ancient Pentium 4 (skt478) to Core2 E6750 2.66Ghz but opted to reuse the original hard drives to save money (which were 80GB IDE, from 2004). Despite the fact these machines are fairly decent core2 spec with 2GB RAM, we often get complaints that they're pretty darn slow and on occasion "no better than they were previously", although we upped the OS to Win7.

    In contrast, we have the same spec in an IT room, also with Win7, except we have 160GB SATA drives in these and whilst they don't "fly", they certainly logon/logoff quick enough and seem to get the job done without the wait - a noticeable difference.

    Could it be quite true that the whole machine is being severely, negatively impacted by the HDDs? There are 4 identical ones with these reused HDDs in and they all seem to be suffering the same way. The size is sufficient so it's not a disk space issue and I didn't think IDE could have such an impact (although I obviously know it is slower, but not significantly surely)?

    Before we consider purchasing new HDDs (with the current prices and our non-existant budget), would it be worth it? Would appreciate responses based on fact and not "probably" or "try it" which isn't much help!

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    did you check them for badblocks before refitting them? The disks could be dying and reallocating bad sectors isn't going to help

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    Quote Originally Posted by dgsmith View Post
    Could it be quite true that the whole machine is being severely, negatively impacted by the HDDs?
    Definitely (although I would do what CyberNerd suggests above first). HDDs are by far the slowest part of a computer so you are correct to assume that upgrading them will improve the responsiveness of the OS and applications. See the articles below for more info.


    Back when HDDs were super cheap, we upgraded several IT suites from the original 80GB HDDs the PCs came with in 2005 to the latest 500GB HDDs, even though we didn't need all of the space. The difference this made was very noticeable due to the higher areal density and faster access times of the new drives. I'll post the benchmarks if I can find them.

    With hard drives still being quite expensive due to the floods in Thailand, if I was doing the same thing again I would be seriously considering SSDs instead of HDDs. They are pretty reasonable now in terms of price, the speed increase over a hard drive is amazing and you typically get longer warranties too (many HDDs have had their warranties slashed to 1 year!).


    If you need a drive larger than 120GB, I would be looking at HDDs that use the latest 1TB platters since these will be faster than drives which are several generations old e.g.

    • 500GB Western Digital WD5000AZRX - £49.99
    • 1TB Western Digital WD10EZRX - £58.33
    • 1TB Seagate ST1000DM003 - £58.33
    Last edited by Arthur; 25th April 2012 at 01:05 AM.

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    SYNACK's Avatar
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    Yes, IDE drives have aweful performance, they usually only had 8MB or so of cach as opposed to the 16-64mb of modern SATA drives and the interface itself is much slower. We replaced the HDs in some really old machines from IDE to SATA and the speed difference was emense and very noticible.

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    synaesthesia's Avatar
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    We did some real world, side by side tests on this in one of our ICT suites.
    Replacing the crap internal Maxtor IDE hard drives with 250GB SATA drives gave between 30 and 90 seconds difference for the better in boot time on CC3.

    So hellyeah it makes a difference. It does cause some problems with CC3 when you go too quick though (noticed on brand new PC's and SSD's too) - it boots too quick for the RM stuff to start so you can't install packages automatically!

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    Quote Originally Posted by synaesthesia View Post
    We did some real world, side by side tests on this in one of our ICT suites.
    Replacing the crap internal Maxtor IDE hard drives with 250GB SATA drives gave between 30 and 90 seconds difference for the better in boot time on CC3.

    So hellyeah it makes a difference. It does cause some problems with CC3 when you go too quick though (noticed on brand new PC's and SSD's too) - it boots too quick for the RM stuff to start so you can't install packages automatically!
    As long as AHCI is enabled in the bios and the relevant AHCI drivers are installed otherwise the SATA drives go quite a bit slower ( or at least they do with SSD's , especially when in an IDE compatible mode )

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    Areal density may be the biggest difference there - an old 80GB drive may have multiple platters to achieve that size, where the newer 160GB drive may only have one. Combine that with cache size and the higher throughput of SATA (this won't make a massive difference in booting, but for file transfers etc it may) and it really adds up. If you need to get some new drives, don't even bother with traditional drives now, decent 64GB SSDs should be large enough for workstation needs and will blow them all away. I'll be swapping to SSDs rather than replacing our current crop of PCs when upgrade time comes.

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    The other possible difference, which nobody has mentioned yet, is the RPM of the drive. It's more common on laptops, but even some older 3.5" drives will only be 5400RPM, while almost all new 3.5" drives are at least 7200RPM, which makes a big difference even without a change from IDE to SATA.

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    I've just done exactly the same exercise. An RM ascend machine that was a pentium 4 with 2 gb ram and a 40 gb IDE drive, updated to a core 2 duo (not with new parts) and a new 160gb sata drive, and it knocked 2 minutes off a boot/login/logoff/shutdown cycle!

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    That 64GB Crucial is very tempting for desktop machines here, not sure what manufacturers are buying HDDs in at but none seem to offer an SSD option without adding £20 per unit upwards... seems odd when you consider your average 160 \ 250GB HDDs are going for £50 odd in most online stores

    And yup switch those old HDDs for something better and you'll see performance gains... do the machines support SATA if they have IDE drives though?

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    Another vote for the 64gb Crucial m4's at the moment - astonishing value for the performance, particularly compared to the price of some SSDs (Intel 510s need a remortgage), and normal HDDs are not much less still - and in a domain environment where files are stored on the network, that's more than enough space.

    And the difference is astonishing

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    Oddly enough, our tests were with IDE compatibility mode - to retain simple rebuilds with CC3. It wont slow things down massively as it doesn't throttle to IDE speeds.
    Good point re 5400rpm vs 7200rpm - some of our tests were done with new 5400rpm drives though (machines replaced with spare NAS drives we had hanging around). We do tend to spec 7200's though, but as I've said before we're now going for SSDs. It's rude not to

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    Thanks for the responses, very interesting reading - I am surprised too that noone has corrected my use of IDE not being solely PATA, as IDE can mean both PATA and SATA right? I guess I should have said "Old PATA HDD..", but obviously everyone knew what I meant though

    Drive RPM speed isn't the drawback as all our desktop drives are 7200rpm (we don't do green drives, laptop drives in desktop cases etc). I can only see the cache or the actual way the drive is built (in the form of the platters) being the root cause (or as CyberNerd said, bad blocks which I haven't actually checked for.. seems so obvious too!). I don't want to come out and say that the "old age" is making them slow, as I guess that is too generic a comment to make and I don't think the RPM slows down over the years either!

    If we had the cash then we'd definately look at SSD, but our best bet is trying to get some half-decent refurbs on ebay (SATA, 160GB+)



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