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Old June 4, 2009, 12:07 PM
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Default Raid 0 on the SB750 Chipset Review

I recently purchased a new system and this time around, I decided to finally play around with RAID 0. After assembling the system and figuring out the build in RAID utility, I decided to setup my system in one array encompassing both hard drives entirely and went about installing my operating system and overclocking it.

The system (yes it's in my sig, but it may change eventually):
AMD Phenom II x3 720 Black Edition - OC'd to 3588 MHz (17.5x205 @ 1.475v)
Gigabyte GA-MA790X-UD4P with F5a BIOS
G.Skill Pi 2 x 2GB PC-8500 DDR2
WD WD6401AALS 640GB x2



After running a couple benchmarks I was curious if I could get some better performance out of my array. Last night I decided to try setting up my hard drives in various configurations to see if there was a noticeable difference in performance.

I had been doing a lot of reading regarding "short-stroking" raid 0 setups in order to increase performance, but I wanted to see some numbers that would relate to my specific application. So four windows installs later, I had a bunch of benchmark data that I thought I would share!


Test 1

Here is a diagram showing the configuration for this test:

NOTE: Unused Space in this diagram is space assigned to another partition using the remaining space that is not formatted.

This was the configuration I did by default when I built the system. This being my first RAID array and not knowing any better, I made 1 big array out of 100% of each hard drive and proceeded to make a 40GB partition for Windows XP.

Here were some performance results from the benchmark tools HD Tune Pro 3.50 and HD Tach 3.0.4.0:

NOTE: Some tests were run multiple times for consistency. Where applicable, I have included links to the results of the subsequent tests.



HD Tune Benchmark

Test run 2


HD Tune Random Access

Test run 2


HD Tune File Benchmark

Test run 2


HD Tach Benchmark - Quick

Test run 2 - Long
Test run 3 - Long


Now, compared to what I had been using for windows in my old computer (40GB partition on a Seagate 320GB SATA I HDD), the numbers shown in the HD Tune benchmarks were about triple the throughput of what I had before, so regardless, this was a victory in my books.

Since some people have concerns about failing hard drives destroying their RAID arrays, I decided to see what the performance would have been like if I wasn't using RAID at all in Test 2.
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AMD Phenom II X3 720BE 2.8GHz || Sunbeam CCTF
G.Skill Pi 2 x 2GB PC-8500 5-5-5-15 || Corsair TX850w
Gigabyte GA-MA790X-UD4P || Coolermaster Centurion 534
BFG GeForce GTX 280 OC || Crucial M4 C400 128GB SSD
WD WD6401AALS 640GB x2 || Western Digital Caviar Green 1.5TB
LG L203WT 20.1" LCD || LiteOn 16x DVD+RW DL
Overclock: 3588 MHz @ 1.475v (17.5x205), 2255 CPU-NB @ 1.275v, 2050 HTT, 5-5-5-15-25-2T - 1093 @ 2.1v || GTX 280 @ 635/2302/1391

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Old June 4, 2009, 12:08 PM
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Test 2

Here is a diagram showing the configuration for this test:

NOTE: Unused Space in this diagram is space assigned to another partition using the remaining space that is not in the XP Partition.

This was the configuration I have always done in the last when installing Windows. No RAID, just a single hard drive with a small OS partition and the rest being used for storage in various other partitions.

Here were some performance results from the benchmark tools HD Tune Pro 3.50 and HD Tach 3.0.4.0:

NOTE: Some tests were run multiple times for consistency. Where applicable, I have included links to the results of the subsequent tests.



HD Tune Benchmark

Test run 2


HD Tune Random Access



HD Tune File Benchmark

Test run 2


HD Tach Benchmark - Quick

Test run 2 - Long
Test run 3 - Long


Compared to the results of test 1, you can see that the transfer rates are significantly different when using only one hard drive. Another interesting thing to notice is that the random access time is only 0.5ms worse and the burst data rate is almost the same compared to the single RAID 0 array.

In test 3, I wanted to see if there would be any noticeable improvement by creating two RAID arrays instead of one.
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AMD Phenom II X3 720BE 2.8GHz || Sunbeam CCTF
G.Skill Pi 2 x 2GB PC-8500 5-5-5-15 || Corsair TX850w
Gigabyte GA-MA790X-UD4P || Coolermaster Centurion 534
BFG GeForce GTX 280 OC || Crucial M4 C400 128GB SSD
WD WD6401AALS 640GB x2 || Western Digital Caviar Green 1.5TB
LG L203WT 20.1" LCD || LiteOn 16x DVD+RW DL
Overclock: 3588 MHz @ 1.475v (17.5x205), 2255 CPU-NB @ 1.275v, 2050 HTT, 5-5-5-15-25-2T - 1093 @ 2.1v || GTX 280 @ 635/2302/1391

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Old June 4, 2009, 12:08 PM
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Test 3

Here is a diagram showing the configuration for this test:

NOTE: Blank Space in this diagram is space assigned to another partition using the remaining space that is not in the XP Partition. Also, the other 50GB in the 90GB Array is where I would have Windows 7 installed on it's own partition.

Not thinking about the fact that I had only done a 128k striped array prior to this, I went and set Array 1 to use 64k stripes while Array 2 was set to 128k stripes, but Array 2 was not tested, assuming it would be only used for storage.

Here were some performance results from the benchmark tools HD Tune Pro 3.50 and HD Tach 3.0.4.0:

NOTE: Some tests were run multiple times for consistency. Where applicable, I have included links to the results of the subsequent tests.



HD Tune Benchmark

Test run 2
Test run 3



HD Tune Random Access

Test run 2


HD Tune File Benchmark

Test run 2


HD Tach Benchmark

Test run 2
Test run 3


Wow! Random access times are down to 7.3ms in some of the tests! That's down 4ms from the single array in test 1! Not bad, but then again, I used 64k stripes this time instead of 128k. Could that be what makes up the performance difference?

In test 4, I recreate test 3 using 128k stripes instead of 64k stripes.
__________________
AMD Phenom II X3 720BE 2.8GHz || Sunbeam CCTF
G.Skill Pi 2 x 2GB PC-8500 5-5-5-15 || Corsair TX850w
Gigabyte GA-MA790X-UD4P || Coolermaster Centurion 534
BFG GeForce GTX 280 OC || Crucial M4 C400 128GB SSD
WD WD6401AALS 640GB x2 || Western Digital Caviar Green 1.5TB
LG L203WT 20.1" LCD || LiteOn 16x DVD+RW DL
Overclock: 3588 MHz @ 1.475v (17.5x205), 2255 CPU-NB @ 1.275v, 2050 HTT, 5-5-5-15-25-2T - 1093 @ 2.1v || GTX 280 @ 635/2302/1391

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Old June 4, 2009, 12:09 PM
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Test 4

Here is a diagram showing the configuration for this test:

NOTE: Blank Space in this diagram is space assigned to another partition using the remaining space that is not in the XP Partition.

Since I made two changes before running test 3, from one array to two and from 128k stripe to 64k stripe, I decided to also run test 3 again using 128k stripe on array 1 to see if that made a significant difference or not.

Here were some performance results from the benchmark tools HD Tune Pro 3.50 and HD Tach 3.0.4.0:

NOTE: Some tests were run multiple times for consistency. Where applicable, I have included links to the results of the subsequent tests.



HD Tune Benchmark

Test run 2


HD Tune Random Access

Test run 2


HD Tune File Benchmark

Test run 2


HD Tach Benchmark

Test run 2

Well, the random access times were consistent with the 64k dual array, but the average transfer rate was lower. Still, this type of setup is clearly an improvement over a single array with the same 128 stripe.


The following table compares some of the results shown in most of the tests. The highlighted sections correspond to the highest or lowest value as determined by the column title:




Final Thoughts

Why did I do all this? Curiosity mostly and the fact that I had not set my system up completely, meaning it was the opportune time for some benchmarking!.

Looking at the numbers it is clear that there is an advantage to using multiple arrays between two hard drives with the SB750. A 4ms random access improvement should be noticeable when loading anything. Though Maximum transfer rates were relatively similar between the single and dual arrays, the Minimum transfer rate was almost 40% higher with the dual array. This helps lead to higher average transfer rates on the whole, which of course, is good!

Though the chart shows CPU utilization to be a bit higher, this measurement fluctuated significantly throughout testing. The dual array with 64k stripes varied between 3.6% and 4.4% in HD Tune, while HD Tach reported it to be between 2 and 3% (they also shows it as being +/- 2% though).

After doing these tests, I know that I am going to setup my system with dual arrays and have my OS on a 64k stripe with the rest as storage on a 128k stripe, which seems to give excellent performance.


One More Thing...
Now, here's something that I just can't seem to wrap my head around. Why would there be such a significant difference between test 1 and test 4? I mean, they are both on a 40GB partition at the outer edge of the hard drive. Both of them are using 128k stripe. The only difference is that the one is on a smaller array than the other, but how should that make a difference if it is only ever working within the boundaries of that 40GB partition? Anyone know why this would make a difference?
__________________
AMD Phenom II X3 720BE 2.8GHz || Sunbeam CCTF
G.Skill Pi 2 x 2GB PC-8500 5-5-5-15 || Corsair TX850w
Gigabyte GA-MA790X-UD4P || Coolermaster Centurion 534
BFG GeForce GTX 280 OC || Crucial M4 C400 128GB SSD
WD WD6401AALS 640GB x2 || Western Digital Caviar Green 1.5TB
LG L203WT 20.1" LCD || LiteOn 16x DVD+RW DL
Overclock: 3588 MHz @ 1.475v (17.5x205), 2255 CPU-NB @ 1.275v, 2050 HTT, 5-5-5-15-25-2T - 1093 @ 2.1v || GTX 280 @ 635/2302/1391

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Old June 5, 2009, 09:07 AM
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I've been thinking about trying to set up raid and your benches have convinced me to get motivated. Now I have to find some guides to explain what the terminoligy is. I have 2x250 16MB seagate drives and 1 wd640black 32MB. If you have links to guides on how to setup raid it would be appreciated, thanks.
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x4 965BE 3.7ghz / Tuniq Tower 120/ xfire HD6870s / G Skill 12800CL9D 4x4GBXL/ S12D 850w/ GA 990FXA-UD3 /WD640AALS Black, WD1TB FALS x1, / Dell IPS 1920x1080/ Win 7 64
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Old June 5, 2009, 12:51 PM
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On the gigabyte board it's fairly easy. I could probably make a guide, and considering how much time I have put into this already, I should as i seem to be getting rather fast at it. It's really quite simple but remember, with Raid 0 there is no redundancy so you better hope your hardware is up to the task. I haven't ever had a hard drive die on me so I guess I'm pretty fortunate.

As for your motherboard, in the "Integrated Peripherals" section of the BIOS (Page 74 of the manual), you should see an option called OnChip SATA Type. Most likely this is set to [IDE] (I think). To configure a RAID array, change this to say [RAID].

After saving and exiting the BIOS, after the initial post screen, you will see the Raid Option ROM Screen pop up and scan for drives. It will then say press Ctrl + F to enter the raid utility. Do that. (Page 75 of the manual)

Once you are in, you are given 4 options (Page 75 of the manual). The second option is where you define an array.

Page 76 shows you the setup screen. Highlight LD 1 and press Enter. You will be given a bunch of options. By default, my motherboard is set to RAID 0 and 64k stripe block. The other options were both set to ON and Cache Mode is set to WriteThru. Go down to the list of hard drives at the bottom and when you highlight the "N", press the spacebar to change it to a "Y". This means that this drive will be included in the array.

When you have added all of the drives, press Ctrl + Y to save the array. You will get some message about it destroying your MBR, so make sure anything you had on the drives is backed up. Press Ctrl + Y again to allow it to wipe your MBR.

Now you will have a message that says press Ctrl + Y to specify the array size or press another key to continue with the max size. This is where you "short stroke" the raid. Press Ctrl + Y and then specify the array size you want. As you can see from my testing, the size you choose has a definite impact on performance. Once you choose the size, press Enter and then you will see the array you just made in the list.

You can then press down and go to LD 2 and make an array with the rest of the hard drive if you like. It chooses the remaining storage space by default and will not let you create an array that is anything but the remaining storage space.

Press Esc to get to the main menu, then Esc again and when it says you will reboot, say yes.

Now you will have a short-stroked RAID 0 array ready to go! When you install windows, you can create partitions just like normal.
__________________
AMD Phenom II X3 720BE 2.8GHz || Sunbeam CCTF
G.Skill Pi 2 x 2GB PC-8500 5-5-5-15 || Corsair TX850w
Gigabyte GA-MA790X-UD4P || Coolermaster Centurion 534
BFG GeForce GTX 280 OC || Crucial M4 C400 128GB SSD
WD WD6401AALS 640GB x2 || Western Digital Caviar Green 1.5TB
LG L203WT 20.1" LCD || LiteOn 16x DVD+RW DL
Overclock: 3588 MHz @ 1.475v (17.5x205), 2255 CPU-NB @ 1.275v, 2050 HTT, 5-5-5-15-25-2T - 1093 @ 2.1v || GTX 280 @ 635/2302/1391

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Old June 5, 2009, 12:58 PM
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In search of the Optimal Array Size - Test 5

After conducting many tests implying that the array size making a difference, I decided to try and find the optimal array size to use for my windows installation. Considering the smaller the Array, the better performance I was seeing, I decided to try the smallest RAID 0 array I could install windows to, which was 2GB. This array was also using the 64k stripe.


HD Tune Benchmark

Test run 2
Test run 3



HD Tune Random Access

Test run 2


HD Tune File Benchmark

Test run 2
Test run 2"]Test run 3[/url]



HD Tach Benchmark

Test run 2


As you can see from these results, the random access time has once again improved by 1.8ms down to 5.5ms using the 2GB array size over the 90GB array. The max transfer rate has gone up a bit as well, but the minimum has also gone down a lot. The average has also gone down substantially from the 90GB array while the burst has remained fairly consistent.
__________________
AMD Phenom II X3 720BE 2.8GHz || Sunbeam CCTF
G.Skill Pi 2 x 2GB PC-8500 5-5-5-15 || Corsair TX850w
Gigabyte GA-MA790X-UD4P || Coolermaster Centurion 534
BFG GeForce GTX 280 OC || Crucial M4 C400 128GB SSD
WD WD6401AALS 640GB x2 || Western Digital Caviar Green 1.5TB
LG L203WT 20.1" LCD || LiteOn 16x DVD+RW DL
Overclock: 3588 MHz @ 1.475v (17.5x205), 2255 CPU-NB @ 1.275v, 2050 HTT, 5-5-5-15-25-2T - 1093 @ 2.1v || GTX 280 @ 635/2302/1391

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Old June 5, 2009, 12:58 PM
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Test 6 - 40GB Array and 40GB Partition

After trying the smallest, largest and an array size meant for a dual boot setup, I decided to try for an array size that would encompass only one operating system with enough room for any other programs I could want to install. Note that in the RAID tool, specifying 40GB will only give you around 37.5GB in windows. The RAID tool seems to take the labeled hard drive size into account instead of the actual capacity, so in order to get 40GB in windows you will need to enter at least 43GB in the RAID tool. As you will see in these tests, I chose 42GB which only gave me 39.1GB in windows. oops!

HD Tune Benchmark

Test run 2
Test run 3



HD Tune Random Access

Test run 2
Test run 3



HD Tune File Benchmark

Test run 2
Test run 3



HD Tach Benchmark

Test run 2
Test run 3
Test run 4



Keeping it consistent, performance was better with the 40GB array compared to the 90GB array, but was of course slower than the 2GB array, but the minimum and average speeds were consistently the highest of all the configurations, putting the 2GB array to shame. The random access time was also brought down another 0.5ms compared to the 90GB array and though the 2GB array was even faster than this by another 1.3ms, having less than 2GB in windows is just not that practical.

Considering I will probably still use XP for the majority of what I do, I just may stick with this type of setup and just install windows 7 RC on a small partition on the other array which uses the rest of the hard drive space.

The only other option I may want to try before finally installing my new system for good is with a combined RAID 0 and RAID 1 setup as it appears that the second array can be set to RAID 1 after all. Maybe having both windows installations on the Raid 0 and having the Raid 1 array for storage would be ideal? I'll find out eventually!
__________________
AMD Phenom II X3 720BE 2.8GHz || Sunbeam CCTF
G.Skill Pi 2 x 2GB PC-8500 5-5-5-15 || Corsair TX850w
Gigabyte GA-MA790X-UD4P || Coolermaster Centurion 534
BFG GeForce GTX 280 OC || Crucial M4 C400 128GB SSD
WD WD6401AALS 640GB x2 || Western Digital Caviar Green 1.5TB
LG L203WT 20.1" LCD || LiteOn 16x DVD+RW DL
Overclock: 3588 MHz @ 1.475v (17.5x205), 2255 CPU-NB @ 1.275v, 2050 HTT, 5-5-5-15-25-2T - 1093 @ 2.1v || GTX 280 @ 635/2302/1391

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Old June 5, 2009, 02:18 PM
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Thank you junglebizz for the quick guide, I'll give it a try in a week or so.
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x4 965BE 3.7ghz / Tuniq Tower 120/ xfire HD6870s / G Skill 12800CL9D 4x4GBXL/ S12D 850w/ GA 990FXA-UD3 /WD640AALS Black, WD1TB FALS x1, / Dell IPS 1920x1080/ Win 7 64
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