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HOW TO

Hard Drive Selection
By: Jase Dow
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    2004-12-12

    Table of Contents:
  • Hard Drive Selection
  • The "buffer" I'm...
  • Notice that the...

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    Hard Drive Selection - The "buffer" I'm...


    (Page 2 of 3 )

    The "buffer" I'm referring to is the transfer buffer that temporarily stores data to read from or write to the hard drive. The reason for this is that the bus (data channel between the hard drive and the motherboard) can only handle so much information at a time, and it takes a long time for the data to be found and retrieved from a platter (random seek time), so it takes a big chunk of the requested data and stores it in a very fast data buffer to be sent at the bus's convenience. So with a larger buffer you can queue more data for transfer over the bus without having to keep sending requests to slowly find more data from the platters. Some newer drives come with as much as 8MB of buffer capacity, but it is more common to see 2 or 4MB. Usually a drive with a large amount will use that as a selling point and print it on the box/website, otherwise you can assume it has a 2/4MB buffer. My advice is to find one with as much as you can afford.

    Now for the transfer rates you're going to need to do some searching, the best way to find these numbers is to go to the manufacturer's website and look at specification sheet for the model you're looking to buy (actually this is the best way to get all the information I've talked about so far). One thing to look out for is that you may read something that says 133MB/s or ATA/133 or SATA150 or 150MB/s, and these are not the numbers you are looking for, those numbers describe the bus connecting the hard drive to the motherboard, and are theoretical peak numbers, which tell us virtually nothing. Also, if you are buying a Maxtor, don't bother looking up actual transfer rates, as Maxtor is apparently afraid to release such information. Not to say Maxtor's are bad drives, actually Maxtor has risen to the top in terms of technical support and they are much more willing to replace broken drives than some other companies, which is important since some ridiculously large amount (something like 10 or 15%) of hard drives are either dead on arrival or die within the first few weeks of use. As with the last two points, when looking at transfer speeds (if you can find them) always try to pick the one with the highest numbers you can afford.

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