Hard Drive General Info


Junior Member
Jul 23, 2002
I didn't see this in the FAQ's so I thought I'd ask a few questions.

It seems that given the latencies inherent in the system that upgrading the hard drive to a faster model would be one of the more effective ways to increase real-world performance (given that HDD access times are many times longer than RAM, etc). So using current EIDE interfaces, something like the Western Digital Special Edition 100GB 7200 RPM drive with an 8MB cache would give much better overall performance than say, a WD 60 GB 5400 RPM drive with a 2MB cache.

However, a recent article on CNET comparing exactly those factors showed that there wasn't much difference overall between 5400 and 7200, and they stated that buying a drive for the lowest cost per GB was the best strategy. Unfortunately I can't find the article on CNET (it was called "Behind the Scenes"), but I do remember it because it seemed to fly in the face of conventional wisdom.

So, what do you guys think about:

1. Is it worth it to upgrade from a 5400 rpm drive to a 7200 rpm drive?
2. Would it be worth it to get a drive with an 8MB cache rather than a 2MB cache?
3. Do seek times really matter, or are these just another stat that doesn't mean anything in the real world?

The last question is kind of complicated. I'm running a P3-800 on a Soyo mobo with two hard drives, both 5400 RPM. Both are connected (one master - with the OS and most programs , one slave - with pictures and music) to the same IDE slot on the mobo. The other IDE slot has a CD-RW and a CD reader on it. The hard drives are running at ATA-100, and the CD drives are running at PIO4 (I think it's PIO4, but they're definitely slower than ATA100). I have heard that it might increase system performance if each hard drive were the master drive on each IDE slot so that the system could talk to the hard drives simultaneously. However, I've also seen that whatever devices you have on an IDE slot are limited to the slowest device, so if you put an ATA100 device on a IDE slot with a PIO4 device both devices will run at PIO4. So in that case it seems that I'd do better to leave things as they are, so both HDD's can run at ATA100 speeds. I'd be grateful for any opinions or advice on these as well.



Dec 12, 2001
well, first off think about this...one car has it's wheels spinning 5400RPm and the other 7200RPm which is moving faster? Apply that thught to HD's and you got a winner.

Seek times are very important because it is the amount of time a drive takes to locate the requested information. Slower seek times means slower access to your info.

Cache is another important factor just like windows cache it allows the driver to transfer info faster by spooling files in cache after it's found and when the info is ready to be processed it sends it out without having to wait for the cache to empty.

Newer IDE controllers can transfer asynchronously. In other words one drive can be ATA133 and the other ATA66 and both drives can run at full speed. This wa you don't have to wait for the slower drive to finish or drop speed down at all.


Junior Member
Jul 23, 2002
I understand that the RPM's being faster OUGHT to make a difference...but CNET said in their tests, which used HDTach and some other benchmarks, you couldn't tell the difference between 5400 and 7200. Unfortunately it seems that in the computer world (as well as in the automotive world) a ton of things make it seem like you'd be faster/better/more efficient (like AGP4X, or ATA-133, or any number of things) but really aren't all that much better.

Similarly with seek times - their article seemed to show no difference between two drives with different seek times.

Cache did seem to make a difference, although the only place I've seen good data is www.tomshardware.com ...

To give an analogy, one car can make 290 horsepower on a dyno - you can make a change and get another 5 horsepower, but you can't feel it. It's only something a dyno will be able to register. What I mean by "worth it to upgrade" is that would it make a noticeable difference in the day-to-day operation of the computer? Benchmarks are great, but faster boot times and faster access to data are better...



Feb 19, 2001
i notice a pretty big difference between 5400rpm and 7200rpm... when im opening directories, or small files (like .txt files) my 7200rpm drive is quite a bit faster


Platinum Member
Oct 9, 1999
"well, first off think about this...one car has it's wheels spinning 5400RPm and the other 7200RPm which is moving faster?"

Depends what the diameters of the tires are.

Similarly, platter density makes a difference.

That said, two drives with similar density and buffer, but with one in 5400 and one in 7200 will show the 7200 being faster. But not a scarey fast amount, just a comfortable boost.



Elite Member
Apr 16, 2000
1. Yes
2. Probably not, but if the cost difference isn't significant, no reason not to.
3. Not within same generation drives. If a 40GB/platter WD has 14ms access time and a 40GB/platter Maxtor has 13ms, it doesn't matter, there won't be any noticable difference. If you compare 14ms WD to 6ms Seagate Cheetah, then yes access time makes a difference.

"However, I've also seen that whatever devices you have on an IDE slot are limited to the slowest device, so if you put an ATA100 device on a IDE slot with a PIO4 device both devices will run at PIO4."

This isn't true with current MB's. All devices can run at their rated speed. Moving your HD's to seperate channels will not yield any sort of real world noticeable performance boost. You're fine the way you have it set up.

"You trust Cnet why?"

I believe LF is referring to the article linked below. I don't know about their usual content, but this article is the most accurate storage article from the general user perspective this side of StorageReview. There are a couple of odd statements and I don't agree with some of the T or F sidebar, but all their definitions are correct and they debunk quite a few of the common misconceptions you see people even on this board make.

Behind the Numbers: Hard drives


Diamond Member
Dec 19, 2001
I do notice a difference in going to a 7200rpm drive, but this might have to do with the "newer" technology in my new drives which are all 7200rpm and faster overall than my "older" 5400rpm drives that are at least 5 years old or more. If you have the drives now then I wouldn't just upgrade to faster drives cause you want more speed, but if you decide to get new drives for the future, you should go with as fast as you can afford to buy. Why not?

I would probably separate the cd drives and the hard drives and put one hd and one cd on each channel like this:
Primary master - hd 1
Primary slave - cd 1
Secondary master - cdrw
Secondary slave - hd 2

My reasoning is to lessen the strain of using just one channel for copying cd to cd or burning from hd 1. Plus cd 1 can install to hd 2 where most apps and games might be stored. It can be done on the same channel, but it's probably not as efficient as separating the channels and you are less likely to receive coasters.


Junior Member
Jul 23, 2002
Thanks to all above for replying and your good advice. It sounds like perhaps it'd be better to wait until I upgraded my entire system to do the HD upgrade. Many thanks to Pariah for linking to the article that I was talking about.

I guess overall it's difficult to sort hype from real performance boosts - the computer industry seems rife with newer/faster/better claims that don't seem to make a noticeable difference overall. The CNET article seems to say that many of the things that ought to increase performance don't make any difference in the real world.

Thanks again!:)


Diamond Member
Feb 18, 2001
I went from a 7200 rpm drive to a 5400 rpm drive and my life is now hell. It takes for fricken ever to even browse directories using ACDSee. It sucks! And the 5400 rpm drive is of a newer process generation than the 5200 rpm drive too! I can't wait to get a new drive. I'm only waiting for the new 60gB platter drives to make the jump.