View Full Version : SATA - something to consider

10-25-2005, 05:08 PM
As the price of SATA hard drives drop and more and more flood the market some of you might be inclined to add one to your system. That's fine unless you don't have an actual SATA connection on your motherboard. If that is the case, read on.

Sata PCI cards are widely availible off the shelf now adays, but if you think you are going to get a speed improvement buying one of these and plugging in an 150mb/s SATA hard drive (or even SATA II) you will be sadly disappointed. Why? Well most people don't know that that PCI bus (not PCI-E, but if you have that, you should also have SATA on board) still runs at the same speed it did back in the 486 - Pentium era, a whole 66mhz. Yes, those little white slots turtle along at 66mhz. Hard to believe eh? Anyway, what this means is the through put of your Sata hard drive will probably never exceed 133mb/s. And for those with Via and some (very few) with Intel chipsets your IDE (aka PATA) bus should be screaming along at the 133mb/s rate already. The only advantage to buying an SATA controller and hard drive is it will elminate the hard drive limits that MAY occur with your BIOS.

I did a test the other day just to see how well the SATA card I use to scan failing drives (or test/setup with Maxblast) worked to capture a video stream. Hehe, it got 10 seconds into capturing 29.95 fps and bombed. The data rate dropped to a lacking 15fps. The program I use is iuVcr (the best capture software I found to date). I then redirected the location to one of my local IDE drives and hit the record.... la la la... <looks at watch> I got 20 mins of video without a dropped frame before I killed the recording and went onto something else.

So in short, don't buy an SATA drive and controller card unless you only want the extra storage space, and not the speed a dedicated SATA controller can offer.


10-26-2005, 07:52 AM
Just put together a graphics system at work on pretty much a hobbiest's budjet.

Based on the Ausus A8V-E Mobo, with SATA raid controler onboard.
And running Athlon 64 x2 4800+ / XP64

I really wanted the N-force mobo, but it seems that VIA drivers are working great and no problems so far.

I decided on using two SATA 250GB drives in RAID 1 for back up security.
In the past I would never use RAID 1 because of performance hit, but now they are so fast that I can do video work even in RAID 1. Reallly amazing.

The whole 64 bit system with 2Gb RAM, PCI express Nvidia graphics, dual 250GB SATA RAID 1 was under $2500.00.

really blows my mind that 12 years ago I spent $6000.00 on a piece of turd 486 system with the best graphics card of the time and it really sucked. (then I traded it for an Amiga 2000 Video Toaster and learned LW)

10-26-2005, 10:01 AM
That is true, sort of. SATA I is 150MB/s. ATA100 or 133 top out at 100MB/s and 133MB/s. While, PCI is 133MB/s. However, you must realize something more than just the maximum speeds. These are not sustained. Often the traffic on a hard drive falls well below the limit of PCI. To top it off, much of the physical drive is the same on SATA I ATA100 and ATA133 drives. In benchmarks around the web, there has been little difference in the last generation of PATA and SATA I.

With SATA II and newer drive technology, I would say SATA II will probably be bottle necked on a PCI bus, but SATA I is ok. Many motherboards that feature onboard SATA even tie the controller to the PCI bus anyway. Though thats common with older boards, but this is what we're talking about right? ;)

10-26-2005, 04:09 PM
Was focusing more on storage space vs speed of video capture.

10-26-2005, 04:39 PM
With respect, you do not know enough about what you are saying to teach people like that.

I have a promise sata raid card on my PCI, giving me burst speeds just above 150 mb/s. With 2 7200 drives, my raid rated above most 10K raid0 setups tested in Hd Tach,

A good sata controller with NCQ will in all normal cases outperform pata, and not have the problems you have with your hardware. Some of these cards either as feature or bug turn off the memory on the drive, and they can also experience some XP problems with scsi, but still I think particularly a real raid card like a promise can give good results on PCI. It is also possible to overclock these a little I have mine at +25% and so my burst speed is above 150 mb/s.

Now with new hardware there obviously are better solutions but still, it can be a sensible upgrade to get a good PCI sataI raid, especially since you can bring it with you to the next machine, it will still be a very fast secondary drive.

10-26-2005, 05:55 PM
What are your thoughts on using RAID-0 configuration for dual SATA's?

10-27-2005, 12:08 AM
What are your thoughts on using RAID-0 configuration for dual SATA's?

That's the configuration I have on mine. Theoretically there SHOULD be big improvements, but articles like this show that it's not really worth the extra expense nor the trouble in setting up an array.

10-27-2005, 06:55 AM
"Again, RAID 0 does have its advantages in a handful of key applications and uses where data files are huge and/or data requests are highly sequential in nature. Data requests are not highly sequential, however, in typical desktop productivity and most gaming usage patterns, the most often cited in "Help me build my RAID 0!" posts.

The point? Dont assume RAID 0 offers increased performance for all or even most applications... and dont assume that transfer rates reflect application-level performance."

From the last article, Storage Review is a good resource, in particular their forums.

Onboard raid I am skeptical to, though the last generation like the sil 3114 or nforce4 raid I think have shown good results.

The main benefits of a general raid0 setup is in work with large files, AE, PS very large renders that exceed cache size etc. as well as a speedup in boot and I think Internet browsing. Though file copy, defragment, virus checks, ripping and general responsiveness, you obviously have benefits.

The additional benefit of a "real" raid setup like a decent promise card or I think second generation onboard raid is that your harddisk performance will not plunge for all other apps if the computer is working hard like doing Virus/Spyware checks, *rendering etc. I can watch DVDs from hard drive while rendering, I don't know if that is special but anyway. Onboard raid, it can be very difficult to problem solve. If the computer goes south, I can take my raid to another machine and with a little luck continue like nothing happened.

I have a complete and relatively fresh complete disk image of my raid0 setup, it is maybe unwise to use raid0 without because Data recovery is much harder. Also, normal windows installation/recovery needs a floppy, a little hazzle. And for Linux and the like, you can in many cases just shoot yourself before trying.

So for gaming and 3D rendering, not much difference. But then your graphics card won't make lightwave render faster either ...

10-27-2005, 09:36 AM
That's the configuration I have on mine. Theoretically there SHOULD be big improvements, but articles like this show that it's not really worth the extra expense nor the trouble in setting up an array.

If you've ever lost work because of RAID 0, (Media 120 RAID 0, culprit-> IBM Deskstar IDE drive) then you'll appreciate the extra security of RAID 1 on a fast SATA. (in theory at least)

I just setup my first RAID 1 , dual 250 SATAs, so I'm hoping that the investment will pay off with a little peace of mind.

10-27-2005, 09:49 AM
That's why we use a RAID 5 system with 8 HDDs, 7 for data and one for redundancy...

If you're serious about your work, choose a RAID option that ensures you won't loose any work when a disc goes to ****. (I have had a non-RAID HDD crash on my workstation last week, and i can tell you, you always wish you had made those backups you've been promising yourself to make everyday :p )

10-27-2005, 11:00 AM
That is some setup ...

In my reasoning, raid is for speed and external drives for backup though real Raid5 makes sense for large arrays where it maybe aint an option to keep a backup on a single drive.

If you don't have backup, you will not need a hard disk failure to lose data; theft, fire, kids, windows partition tool, linux installations, viruses, hd encryption scams, user error and so on will all be at your disposal. Raid card break one and a half year later, now if you didn't get corruption you still need the exact same card, possibly you need a specific revision ...

Raid1 with two drives, I'd say take one of them out and put it in an enclosure. Or make a raid0 and buy a third disk of the same or a little large size, compressed your data will likely fit on this and you can keep the backup offsite like it should be, voila its just like raid5 only better. :devil:

Kidding, obviously the question is the price of a lost night of rendering etc. at a disk crash, and the risk for it. For me, it aint the biggest concern.

You also can often get warnings before new drives go south, either S.M.A.R.T. warning or they make funny sounds or whatever, I just see other risks that point themselves out over a disk crash.

10-27-2005, 01:01 PM
In my experience RAID is necesary on server systems, 2 pairs of raid 0 and than raid 1 2 by 2 for safety and so on. There is no need of RAID for our aplications, raid 1 is good for safety, but otherwise no real need. Also if u want RAID get a very good Power Source, many times RAID Matrix fail because of that. More than 500w if possible.

10-27-2005, 02:53 PM
To top it off if you're looking to speed up your system's overall performance, and expect RAID 0 to be able to improve virtual ram performance, you're sadly mistaken. It is much more effective in this type of situation to install more RAM. Virtual memory, even in RAID is still much slower.

I pretty much agree with everything here. RAID is really only useful in very large data manipulation (servers) and useful for stuff like playing very large video file back at good frame rates for editing.

RAID 1 is probably the most useful version of RAID to the home users out there. It will give you some data security, without breaking the bank.

10-27-2005, 03:57 PM
Well, a nice raid0 will give you about twice the virtual memory performance of a regular disk. And it can give you much more than that if the system is stressed. Writing in word won't go faster, but doing heavy multitasking your drive can easily be bottleneck and so there are benefit to heavy users. And copying large files or unpacking them take half the time.

There are serious downsides though, eg. your data isn't readable on machines w/o the raid card or the same onboard raid and so troubleshooting tend to suck, especially for people that don't know a lot about computers.

It is obviously desirable to have larger memory, but that is often limited either by economy, or by slots. Buying two smaller drives instead of one large is like 20$ more, a gig of good ram is like 150$.

I don't agree raid1 is a good investment for home users, I believe keeping a recent image backup on an external disk is and so I think you don't agree with me on that point, I respect your opinion though.

I don't believe disk crashes are a big enough concern with new drives to justify doubling the price. Raid5 can be a good compromise in my opinion, but raid1 I see as something for server use, where disk failure means people can't work or the web goes down etc. I figger maybe 1/1000 on a new drive crashing, 2/1000 on a raid0. And I figger about 1 outta 5 data loss cases to be disk crashes, and 9 outta 10 cases to be avoidable with a good backup.

10-27-2005, 05:07 PM
Well, for 3d i don't really care that much about speed when dealing with data from my workstation (the work server is a whole other thing, that baby pulls about 300MB/s).

I tried using RAID 1, but it bothered me that when buying 500GB (2 x 250GB) of data i only can use 250GB...
RAID 5 on the other hand required me to use 3 discs but allowed me to use the storage capacity of 2, the safety of RAID 1 and not to mention, an excelent data rate...

So, my personal favourite goed out to a RAID 5 config of 3 discs for my workstation, and those are pretty cheap these days. Also, 3 discs pull about 75 Watts of power and still fit in a (well ventilated) midi tower (like the CoolerMaster Wavetower, our favourite casing :) nice and shiny! )
So, i'd say, buy 3 (or 4) good HDDs and a PCI-X RAID controller (prefably from a somewhat decent brand, like Areca, 3Ware, LSI Logic or Adaptec.)

When you're somewhat serious about your craft, i wouldn't think too much about it and just shelve out the money for a decent and safe solution...
Remember, sending a crashed HDD to a hardware/data recovery center const about as much as a complete RAID setup (and not a cheap one at that), i've been there...

10-27-2005, 05:12 PM
Oh, and as for HDD crashing...Maybe we just ask too much of our systems here lately, but i've seen 3 disks die in the last 3 months.
Remember that normal SATA is as crappy as PATA...SATA II utlitize a better (more reliable) drive technology, so, if you're gonna stay clear of any RAID systems, atleast buy a decent HDD (like SATA II)

10-27-2005, 07:18 PM
Yeah, and NCQ is good as well on the sata IIs. Sounds like you guys get to buy a lot of drives ... I never had a single drive crash, since the 80s ... knock wood ...

Yeah I second to only buy raid cards from the brand names ...

10-28-2005, 02:41 AM
Yeah, really weird...i never used to have HDDs crash on me, but this year alone i have seen 5 or 6 die, 3 in the last couple of months...
Funny enough, almost all of them are Maxtor Diamond Plus 9 discs...maybe there's a pattern :stumped: ...hmmm

10-28-2005, 06:50 AM
Thanks for the perspectives everyone; I was second-guessing my decision to go with RAID 0 for my workstation, it crashed and burned on me twice in four months. (Faulty power supply; took everything down; thank goodness for nightly back-ups to external 250 Gb) You're right, it doesn't seem to show much effect on Lightwave, but I'm seeing some improvement in After Effects, even with only 2 gigs of RAM.

10-28-2005, 11:33 AM
Come to think of it, for a single LW workstation or for home use, to have a RAID 1 that backs up a system as you use it realtime wouldn't help if something becomes unstable, then you just have a copy of a corrupt system.

As habaņero says, an image back up of a stable system, safely stored away for quick recovery will be the most help if trouble arises.

So I'm wondering, if you build up your system to a basic usable state, with all the apps installed etc, in RAID 1, then it seems that you should be able to then disconnect, turn off one drive, keep it as the basic backup restore, then just work off the single running disk?

This depends on if you can run either disk independantly after the initail OS and app installs. :help:

10-28-2005, 05:42 PM
If you want very high throughput best to go with RAID 3 over 0 you Fault Tollerant without the slow down. However it will not work very well with a software RAID setup. Also to get RAID 3 you have to purchase a High-End RAID card.

Raid 3

Very high Read data transfer rate
Very high Write data transfer rate
Disk failure has an insignificant impact on throughput
Low ratio of ECC (Parity) disks to data disks means high efficiency
Controller design is fairly complex
Very difficult and resource intensive to do as a "software" RAID

Recomended Appliction Use:

Video Production and live streaming
Image Editing
Video Editing
Prepress Applications
Any application requiring high throughput

The data block is subdivided ("striped") and written on the data disks. Stripe parity is generated on Writes, recorded on the parity disk and checked on Reads.

RAID Level 3 requires a minimum of 3 drives to implement

Raid 0

RAID Level 0 requires a minimum of 2 drives to implement

RAID 0 implements a striped disk array, the data is broken down into blocks and each block is written to a separate disk drive
I/O performance is greatly improved by spreading the I/O load across many channels and drives
Best performance is achieved when data is striped across multiple controllers with only one drive per controller
No parity calculation overhead is involved
Very simple design
Easy to implement
Not a "True" RAID because it is NOT fault-tolerant
The failure of just one drive will result in all data in an array being lost
Should never be used in mission critical environments

Recomended Appliction uses:

Video Production and Editing
Image Editing
Pre-Press Applications
Any application requiring high bandwidth

10-28-2005, 07:17 PM
xid3d, I give up ... :D

that be like begging with raid card/MB failure your data could be almost as inaccessable as with disk crash ...

And you would be keeping your data uncompressed, so you couldn't use your backup to transport other files with either...

I am not sure if it is an issue with you red, but running computers on either unstable main power or on a not good enough PSU, can lead to a host of problems though it sounds like you maybe picked a particular bad edition. They wary internally, so if you are buying many or important drive it can be good to check the storage review forums.

Myself, I have a hang for Hitachis and Samsungs, but other people's advice might be just as valid.