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Testbed and Methodology

The following testing utilities were used:

  • IOMeter version 2003.02.15
  • IOMark 0.30b14
  • FC-Test version 1.0
  • PCMark Vantage
  • Windows 7 Disk Defragmenter
  • WinRar 3.91

Testbed configuration:

  • ASUSTeK P5WDG2 WS Pro mainboard
  • Intel Pentium 4 620 processor
  • IBM DTLA-307015 system disk (15 GB)
  • Radeon X600 grpahics card
  • 1GB DDR2-800 SDRAM
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate

The HDDs were tested with the generic OS drivers and formatted in NTFS (wherever formatting was required) as one partition with the default cluster size. 32-gigabyte NTFS partitions with the default cluster size were created for FC-Test. The HDDs were connected to a mainboard port and worked with enabled AHCI.

The most dramatic change in our test method is the transition from the outdated Windows XP to Windows 7. Our testbed includes a mainboard with an Intel ICH7 South Bridge. ICHx controllers are widespread and do not have bandwidth problems typical of standalone disk controllers.

There are some changes in the list of our tests, too, although it is based on the old one. First, we have finally got rid of PCMark 2004 and 2005, leaving the Vantage version only. These tests largely duplicate each other or other tests and produce similar results. Besides, we have some suspicions that the next version of this benchmark is about to come out, 3DMark 2010 having been announced already. Then, we have abandoned the Workstation pattern because PCMark Vantage provides a better picture of an HDD’s workstation performance. We now use WinRar version 3.91 and have replaced Perfect Disk with the Disk Defragmenter integrated into Windows 7.

Finally, we have adjusted some of the IOMeter tests. For example, we now test the HDDs in more detail under random-address loads, using a step of 2 rather than 4. The maximum data block size is now 2 megabytes, the largest that modern Windows OSes employ. If the disk request is even larger, the performance becomes influenced by the HDD’s sequential speed. Thus, we only compare HDDs in terms of operations per second in this test.

Another important change concerns the multithreaded tests. The distance between the data threads used to be 8 gigabytes so that the threads did not overlap and all the four threads could fit within the same hard disk. Today, considering the increased speed and capacity of modern HDDs, we increase the distance between the threads to 100 gigabytes, which is enough for the load to become more real (it is like reading simultaneously two files that were written to the disk not one after another, but after a while) and the threads still fit into all existing HDDs. When reading multiple threads, the HDD’s heads have to move a lot now and any peculiarities of its behavior get more conspicuous. We will have to use the older method for SSDs, but the distance between the data threads is unimportant for SSDs.

As for Western Digital drives with Advanced Format technology, we align the load in IOMeter tests that include write operations in such a way that the LBA addresses of data requests are multiples of 4 kilobytes and correspond to the physical structure of the HDD’s platters. This helps avoid the extra load we saw in earlier tests. We do not do any additional aligning because it is unnecessary in Windows 7.

 
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