Hmmm…Where to begin. I know that indecision is hardly an encouraging place to start a review of a new (to me) product. But somehow it seems appropriate, especially in that this IS where I began.
I’d been using a 9.1 Gig, 7200 rpm Western Digital hard drive for about six months. I’d received excellent service from it. It’s reliable, pretty fast, and overclocks without complaints. And yet… well, it’s a hard drive…..which is to say it’s slow by comparison to other basic elements in my system. Then one day a few months ago I came across a post in the forum asking about “Striping” – hard drive striping. News to me. The post was seeking info. A respondent said that you could take two hard drives, link them somehow and end up with twice the Gigs, and – get this: twice the speed.
Now I know that a hard drive only accounts for a small percentage of a system’s overall performance, but what could it hurt to double it? 18 Gigs is hardly extravagant by today’s standards. But my “E” chip was new and so was my GeForce. Striping got shuffled to the back of my mind, where it remained as something I could look into when I felt the need to explore new possibilities for hardware disasters.
Then one morning I woke up and realized that nothing had screwed up on my home-built in over a week…..a sure sign it was time to try something new…..something I was completely ignorant of, (as opposed to merely uncomprehending). Something I could pretend my box really needed.
I posted in the forum asking about HD striping. Days went by. Had I managed to annoy every one all at once? Surely the AMD and Celery people couldn’t be mad at me. I hardly ever get a chance to burden them with my interfering ignorance. I’d not been flamed in over a week! No, it MUST be that people, (at least a lot of the more forgiving people), just didn’t know all that much about striping.
Let me say at this point that it did occur to me, however briefly, that this just wasn’t something of interest to my forum fellows. I dismissed this thought for the rubbish it so plainly was! After all, the subject concerned itself with gratuitous speed. Hadn’t this always gotten their attention before? Then 2 whole people responded. I WAS on the right track after all! Did it really matter if 1 of them told me to get a bigger HD? – and the other asked, “Who cares?” ?
Why, not at all. They must have been interested or why would they post? I ran a search on R.A.I.D. (The one who pretended not to care had told me that striping had to do with something called R.A.I.D.) I could sense that secretly he wanted me to find out more and perhaps write an article about this wonderful new set of letters! R.A.I.D.!
The first thing I came up with that remotely resembled what I was looking for was The Promise Fasttrack 66. I went at once to the Promise site. I knew of Promise from having bought their Ultra 66 IDE card. (Sadly no longer in use on my machine because my Soyo 6VBA comes with the Ultra 66 IDE standard, standard.) There I learned Everything I needed to know. They said that their R.A.I.D. controller was faster, easier to use and CHEAPER than Ultra Wide SCSI (small computer system interface). They said I NEEDED RAID because CPU’s were faster than ever and HD performance was rapidly falling behind.
AHAH! I thought so! They said I could use any two hard drives but things went best if they were exactly the same. I could do that! They said that The controller card would only cost $160.00 + shipping….. WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU GREEDY #$^%&(#@!@^& TALKING ABOUT!!!! I only paid $30.00 for my Ultra 66 IDE card. I could tell from the picture they were pretty much alike, a bunch of chips and stuff. IF they wanted that much money they should have made a bigger #%&* card!!! Forget it. Who cares? I’ll get a bigger HD!!!!
That night I kept thinking about RAID. Like a mantra, it echoed in my mind. REDUNDANT ARRAY of INDEPENDENT DISKS. (sigh)…. I had already ordered my second WD HD. NO! I’d give Linux another try. Having two hard drives didn’t mean that they had to be linked by a controller card so that Win 98 or NT would see them as a single drive that was twice as big and could run twice as fast. It didn’t mean (necessarily) that I …I…I got up dragging my slippers across the floor to my computer and ordered the #$&&* thing. I was a beaten man… To alleviate my guilt and let Promise know who’s boss I use standard delivery! No 2nd day for this card, No. Standard was needed to demonstrate my mastery over all things hardware!!
The Card went into my fourth slot. It didn’t like the fifth slot but the second or third would have been OK. I choose the fourth to give my GeForce breathing room. I cabled over to it from my two hard drives and hooked up. I booted. Up popped a Promise BIOS setup. I choose not to mirror my hard drive. I wanted speed and space. Promise explains how you can do both, with a second Fasttrack card and a third or fourth HD. But I’m stronger than that. I have the shipping receipt to prove it!
I watched with joy as my Zip and CD showed up on my monitor posting away undisturbed by the new hard drive setup. I opened the new hardware wizard and choose from the list “S.C.S.I.” and pointed Windows off in the direction of the CD-ROM disk that came with. Windows wanted a reboot. Windows Re-booted and opened, HuH? Windows done booting? Norton done checking? ALREADY?!! I was starting to like this! I went straight to SiSoft Sandra. I popped open the Hard drive bencher. I benched and benched. Five times: the best was 20,468 the average was 18,682.WOW a little over twice as fast! But was it worth it, you say?….I don’t consider that a question a man of obsessive/compulsive disorders even asks himself. But I will say this: I was momentarily sated.
After two weeks I can say that the Fasttrack is completely transparent and trouble-free. You would love to watch the way it tears thru a hard drive de-frag! This is a product I can recommend to anyone seeking a larger drive and not wanting to give up their current drive. The extra SPEED, well that speaks for itself does it not?
NOTE: In addition, a RAID card can be used to mirror two drives so that you have a “hot backup” in case one should fail. It is not faster.