While CPU and memory chips and video cards got faster, IDE hard drives have proven to be a rock of
stagnation stability: 7200rpm.
Now, finally, XBitLabs reports that Western Digital will announce 10,000 rpm IDE hard drives next Wednesday.
Why Is This Important?
It will instantly bring up the baseline performance of IDE hard drives up almost 40%.
(Now that’s not the same as bringing up performance by 40%, and we’ll explain why below.)
SATA has hardly gotten off to a rousing start. Bringing 10K drives into the picture means you’ll have drives that will at least sometimes start approaching the limits of ATA100.
10K drives means that the day when hard drives can exceed the ATA limit for more than just bursts are on the horizon.
When 40% Doesn’t Equal 40%
When these drives get tested, they’ll probably not generally show a 40%, but something less than that.
The reason for it are the caches built into hard drives, 8Mb caches nowadays for the better hard drives. When they do their job right, they anticipate the next files who’ll need, and have them ready to go when you ask for them. In those cases, 10K doesn’t help much.
Where the improvement will occur is when you access data that isn’t in the cache; when you do something that can’t be reasonably anticipated by a cache, like opening up a new application.
Then again, if the hard drive needs to bounce around all over the place to get the necessary data, the time spent by the head physically moving around is the big factor, not the time spent grabbing a little data here, data there.
Will It Make My Machine Boot Faster?
When U.S. forces were operating in Afghanistan, they found out something very interesting. They found that inexperienced troops weren’t terribly afraid of precision-guided weapons, even though those were the weapons that were killing them.
Instead, inexperienced forces got really unnerved by B-52 attacks with fairly dumb bombs. Since they were delivered from very high altitudes and thus invisible to those on the ground, the bombs seemed to come from nowhere. The bombs weren’t very accurate, but they sure wiped out whatever it was they fell on, and gave a very impressive light and sound show doing it.
It’s like that for hard drives. A lot of people measure speed solely by how fast their machine boots up. While boot-up time has very little to do with the overall speed of a computer or hard drive, it’s the one thing a typical computer takes long enough to do for people to notice.
Microsoft made special efforts in WindowsXP to speed up boot times. For a whole lot of information and tips on this area, go here and download the white paper.
The paper does indicate that going from a 5400 to a 7200rpm drive does quicken boot time by a few seconds, so presumably, so going from 7200 to 10000 probably would also.
Cost: The Decisive Factor
We don’t know how much of a premium these drives will demand. It could be a little, could be a lot.
However, this isn’t a “drop everything and buy it now” situation. It will not change your life, even if you have no life.
Some of you with SATA attachments and no drives for it may much rather buy these than buy IDE-to-SATA adapters for them, but if you have fantasies about RAID, this February 4 item from Storage Review should cool your jets (or at least succinctly tell you what RAID is and isn’t good for).
Buying these fall into the “consider this when you were going to buy a new one, anyway” category. Probably makes more sense to buy this for a new machine than to think of replacing your old ones immediately.
Yes, it’s a significant advance, a long overdue advance, and those interested in performance in the future should probably expect to buy these when they need a new hard drive.
But it’s not an instant miracle worker.