RAID 0 Array Performance Test on nForce4 (XPS 600)

On XPS 600, I have always felt that Maxtor 250GB harddrive that came with my Dell XPS 600 was the bottleneck.  Whenever I do any resouce intensive tasks, the harddrive keeps running even if CPU and memory ultilization is very low.  I looked up some specification for the Maxtor and noticed that it was an older generation.  It looked like upgrading the harddrive will be the biggest improvement that I could make the system faster; however, there were a couple of options.  I could purchase a brand new drive with higher capacity, or I could purchase the same capacity drive and configure a RAID 0 stripping array.  I decided to go with RAID route since I have been doing daily backup to another older harddrive – I considered only performance factor.

I made some measurement using HD Tach version 3.0.4.0.  From my research, HD Tach is supposed to provide reliable benchmark numbers because it tries to avoid many factors that can affect these numbers.  For instance, in sequential read test, it tries to read all areas from the disk, instead of some specific areas; therefore, it can avoid some cases where the test file is located closer so it can read faster.

The following is HD Tach results for individual harddrives.  * Tests were done multiple times but there may be many factors that affected numbers

Manufacturer Model Number Capacity Interface Burst Speed  (MB/s) Sequential Read Speed (MB/s)
Maxtor 7L250S0 250GB SATA (1.5Gbps) 130.2 65-35
Seagate ST3808110AS 80GB SATA II (3.0Gbps) 205.4 80-40
Seagate ST3250310AS 250GB SATA II (3.0Gbps) 209.1 90-60

* One thing that I loved about nVidia nForce4 RAID Controller was that it offers RAID migration which allows migration without backing up.  Bascially, if there is an array with one drive, another drive can be merged to create 2 drive-RAID 0 array in real time without rebuilding the array.  It tooks about 12-13 hours to complete this migration but I personally thought this was a cool feature.

The following is the numbers  after RAID 0 is created with 2 250GB drive on the above list (one old generation Maxtor 250GB and new Seagate 250GB).

Manufacturer Capacity Burst Speed  (MB/s) Sequential Read Speed (MB/s)
*RAID 0 (nForce4) 500GB 238.9 150-80

Based on numbers, there is a small advantage of having RAID 0 array.  However, I could not really feel the difference yet.  I may have to use it for a while to really feel the difference.  However, it looks like RAID 0 gives a bit of performance advantage even though it consists of the slower older drive and newer faster drive.  I assume it could give even faster performance when 2 newer drives are configured.  This would be a good candidate for future tests.

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