5. Hard Drive

Main Drive

I’ve left the hard drive selection for later because it is reasonably easy to select a good hard drive. The leading brands at the moment are:

  • Seagate Baracuda
  • Western Digital Caviar / Raptor

Transfer protocols must definately be SATA2/300.

Storage Drive

I suggest getting two hard drives: A very fast, smaller drive that will house your operating system and programs and a very large, very cheap, archiving drive where you will store all of your favorite music, tv shows, movies, anime and games.

An excellent idea is to invest in a removable storage option. Especially if you move around quite a bit, like going to your parents for Xmas and you wish had all the anime you’ve been downloading with you to watch, and you just finished exams and dont have time to burn 18 DVDs… well… it happens :). So why not get yourself a 380GB or even 500GB external USB or Firewire drive?

You will want to make sure you get a USB 2.0 drive and that your computer has USB 2.0 support. most computers made after 2002 support this through the motherboard. But if you have an older machine you’re using as a web server or media center, a really good addition to it would be $10 internal PCI USB 2.0 expansion card.

Go over to Newegg/Tiger Direct (these sites are the best/cheapest in the US!) and have a look at their prices – you’ll be surprised at how cheap, truely enormous drives have become! Always choose a hard drive that has been thoroughly reviewed so that you dont have any surprises. Never buy second hand/remanufactured hard drives.

RAID

There are various RAID configurations, each with their own code. A summary follows:

Raid 0 – Stripping: Two drives work in tandem, each sharing information with the other. Every time you write a file, half of it is written to each drive. This halves the seek time for the hard drive read/write heads, thus improving performance.

Pairing two very high performance drives for use as your boot/program drive is definately the way to fly here. Note that the performance boosts through Raid 0 are very small (less than 5%) in current drives, because they are already very fast, but if you can.. then you should :).

Raid 1 – Mirroring: Two drives create individual versions of each file. In this configuration the drives back up eachother’s information, so that in the case of data loss the information can be automatically retrieved from the other drive. This setup is suggested for increased security.

Remember what I said about storage drives? The cheaper + The Larger = The Better! Well, you may want to consider getting two cheap large drives to use in Raid 1 mode, for increased security, depending on how attached to your stored information you are. You always have the option to create DVD backups, if you’re paranoid… (… Im just saying…).

Raid 0+1 – Stripping/Mirroring: This configuration requires 4 drives. In this setup two drives mirror eachother’s information and the other two work in stripping mode for increased performance.

This is an optimum configuration to have especially for servers that require speed and safety. Maybe a bit overkill for a personal computer however, due to the added costs of the drives. Modern drives are pretty reliable, and the added cost could be diverted for something more important (like a better graphics card, or mode memory), but if you can find some cheap drives however, and are really keen on the Raid 0+1 idea then you should go for it.

If you are just putting the computer together right now, then make sure you have the rounded IDE or low profile SATA cables for the job. If you chose a removable Firewire HD then make sure that your Case has external Firewire ports and that you’re mom’s computer has them too :). In all honesty, a external USB 2.0 hard drive is the most versatile option.

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