WMC Menu responsiveness, SSD vs RAM

hoorah

Senior member
Dec 8, 2005
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5
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#1
So I've seen recommended many times that while a standard mechanical drive is plenty fast for recording video streams, that an SSD will improve responsiveness in things like menus, mediabrowser, media libraries, etc.

All of my HTPCs have the OS on a mechanical drive. Some of the ones with older drives seem to be pretty sluggish in the menu, especially when updating guide data or sorting through large media libraries. So I thought about getting SSDs for them, but then I thought - why should I have to? Most of my HTPCs have 6-8GB of ram. They typically only use about 1-1.5 GB. That leaves 5+ GB to store any kind of library and a good amount of TV buffer in RAM. These HTPCs do nothing but WMC so no other programs going on in the background.

I know windows is supposed to pre-fetch frequently used data into RAM, but then why is the interface sluggish, and why is that helped with an SSD? Is there any way to force windows to prefetch more data and fill up the ram?

I've seen some people claim to try to put the guide data on a ramdisk, but I've never seen anyone really document the procedure or report results.

An SSD wouldn't be the worst purchase in the world but with 6 HTPCs in service over 3 houses, finding a solution without buying SSDs if there is one would be great.
 
Nov 20, 2005
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#2
I know windows is supposed to pre-fetch frequently used data into RAM, but then why is the interface sluggish, and why is that helped with an SSD?
Because it doesn't know what to fetch.

For example, I have hundreds of movies in my library and each has their own fanart. Is the system supposed to leave ALL The fanart in my RAM PLUS everything else the OS needs always just in case I pick a random movie? No, that is not practical.

Plus there is the whole thing that much of these HTPC softwares don't get the development resources that other software does. Most HTPC programs people use REALLY depend on single core performance and random read for the GUI, which means hello to Intel and SSDs. Basically you are fixing a software problem with hardware, because the software will never get the resources needed to be completely optimal.

Honestly you are late to the party. SSDs have been a requirement for optimal HTPC performance for a while now. The "solution" is to use cheaper SSDs, as the expensive ones really only kill it on sustained reads or writes which isn't much use in the HTPC. That plus the fact that you can get by with a smaller OS drive should save you some money. I use Linux for all my current HTPCs so they each have either 32GB or 64GB SSDs in them, which are pretty cheap secondhand.
 
Last edited:

Binky

Diamond Member
Oct 9, 1999
4,046
0
81
#3
Are you using CPU graphics? If yes, your issue may not be entirely related to the hard drive. Try adding a video card to one of your systems (at least GT430 or 5570). Media Browser in particular can be sluggish with on-board graphics.
 

hoorah

Senior member
Dec 8, 2005
746
5
81
#4
Because it doesn't know what to fetch.

For example, I have hundreds of movies in my library and each has their own fanart. Is the system supposed to leave ALL The fanart in my RAM PLUS everything else the OS needs always just in case I pick a random movie? No, that is not practical.

Honestly you are late to the party. SSDs have been a requirement for optimal HTPC performance for a while now. The "solution" is to use cheaper SSDs, as the expensive ones really only kill it on sustained reads or writes which isn't much use in the HTPC. That plus the fact that you can get by with a smaller OS drive should save you some money. I use Linux for all my current HTPCs so they each have either 32GB or 64GB SSDs in them, which are pretty cheap secondhand.
I see what you mean about the media library. I was more thinking about the guide data in WMC, which is typically a 200-800mb file (accessed frequently) or, in the case of the cover art if it happens to be stored in one place separate from the actual media. I'd like to be able to store the entirety of WMC (at least for default function, the guide) into RAM. Guess it just doesn't happen.

As for the smaller SSDs, it looks like I may be forced to go that route. Retail it seems like the price stops at $60 regardless of getting 128, 64, or even 32GB. Secondhand a 32GB is more reasonable on ebay.
 

hoorah

Senior member
Dec 8, 2005
746
5
81
#5
Are you using CPU graphics? If yes, your issue may not be entirely related to the hard drive. Try adding a video card to one of your systems (at least GT430 or 5570). Media Browser in particular can be sluggish with on-board graphics.
No, GPU graphics on pretty much everything. One has a 6450, one has a 4350, and one has a G210. The sluggish behavior comes from the ones with slower drives (160, 250GB) versus the ones with more modern drives (1TB black).
 
Nov 20, 2005
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#6
I see what you mean about the media library. I was more thinking about the guide data in WMC, which is typically a 200-800mb file (accessed frequently) or, in the case of the cover art if it happens to be stored in one place separate from the actual media. I'd like to be able to store the entirety of WMC (at least for default function, the guide) into RAM. Guess it just doesn't happen.
I mean, you could maybe run the entire OS off of a RAMDisk or something, but I don't know of a way to force the program into the RAM. Something tells me even if you could it would eat more RAM than you would expect, so then its a Catch 22 like "whats cheaper, having 16GB of RAM in every HTPC or buying a 32GB SSD?"

Secondhand a 32GB is more reasonable on ebay.
That has basically been my plan for years now. Part of the reason going forward when I replace a HTPC the replacement is a Chromebox- already a SSD.
 

hoorah

Senior member
Dec 8, 2005
746
5
81
#7
I mean, you could maybe run the entire OS off of a RAMDisk or something, but I don't know of a way to force the program into the RAM. Something tells me even if you could it would eat more RAM than you would expect, so then its a Catch 22 like "whats cheaper, having 16GB of RAM in every HTPC or buying a 32GB SSD?"


That has basically been my plan for years now. Part of the reason going forward when I replace a HTPC the replacement is a Chromebox- already a SSD.
Normally I'd agree and say its cheaper to get a 32GB ssd than it is to get 8 or 16GB of ram, but in this case many of my HTPCs, having been cannibalized from discards, have 6-8 GB of ram at pretty much no cost. If I had to buy a setup, 2-4GB of ram and 32GB of SSD would be a better purchase.
 
Jun 30, 2004
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#8
I don't fit your HTPC profile.

My multi-purpose system does HTPC duty, which is like some . . . limp-o background process that barely consumes CPU Usage of 3 to 5% (probably less, though).

The OS and programs are on an SSD (840 Pro). I ABSOLUTELY INSIST that my Media Center buffer and DVR captures are on a run-of-the-mill SATA-II HDD. Currently, it is an SATA-III HDD on an SATA-II port of the onboard Intel controller.

Much of my DVR or movie "archives" are on my server box, which wasn't built for speed, and uses a 7-year-old motherboard.

I don't have any problem with Media Center operating under these conditions. The remote control is as responsive as I would want to expect.

I could SEE how "guide data" and so forth would be slower on an HTPC fitted only with an HDD. So -- given the prices and availability -- I'd think a small SSD large enough to amply hold the OS and any additional programs would be preferred. But for the video/movie files? Use a large HDD. Or even -- a server's disk array.
 
Nov 20, 2005
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#9
Oh yeah, no way anyone should put the actual media on a SSD. That is just silly.

The closest I come to that is that for the retro-console part of my HTPC I put the old cartridge games on the SSD. My thinking is that is as close as I can get to an old SNES cart. I am sure it doesn't matter though.

What matters in the interface, and for that you want a SSD, fast single core performance, and a decent GPU.
 

Binky

Diamond Member
Oct 9, 1999
4,046
0
81
#10
No, GPU graphics on pretty much everything. One has a 6450, one has a 4350, and one has a G210. The sluggish behavior comes from the ones with slower drives (160, 250GB) versus the ones with more modern drives (1TB black).
Yikes. A 160gb or 250gb mechanical drive would feel slow on just about any computer! You should try a few 60gb SSD's on the most used of those machines.
 

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