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Testbed and Methods

It’s the first time I am going to use our new testbed for hard disk drive tests. Everything’s changing and we can’t resist the progress.

We got dissatisfied with the old testbed due to the fact that we had built it exactly like an average computer system of that time. And our testbed has remained intact all through the following time, through the change of chipsets, processor sockets, memory types, etc. On one hand, that was good because we could accumulate a large database of results for comparison and analysis, but on the other hand, we were getting each day farther from the average computer configuration of our readers (or rather, our readers’ computers were getting more and more advanced in comparison with our testbed) and the results of our tests were beginning to lose touch with reality.

When we were selecting benchmarks to be used in tests of hard drives on our site, we did try to stick to those of them which did not depend much on the CPU performance or the amount of system memory. And our trial runs of the new platform have showed that the hardware configuration has a much smaller effect on the test results than the operating system used.

Yes, the main innovation of the new testbed is the operating system installed on it – Windows XP SP2. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to Vista because the implementation of the new WinFS file system in the OS known under the codename of Vista has been postponed for an indefinite period of time.

And this is how our new testbed is configured:

  • Foxconn 945G7MA-8EKRS2 (i945G + ICH7R) mainboard
  • Intel Pentium 4 521 CPU (2.8GHz, 800MHz FSB)
  • IBM DTLA-307015 15GB system hard disk drive
  • Radeon X300 128MB graphics card
  • 512MB DDR2-533 SDRAM
  • Microsoft Windows XP SP2

The hard drives were tested on a Promise SATA-II 150 TX2 Plus controller:

This way we put hard disk drives with ATA and SATA interfaces under the same conditions since the employed controller supports both interfaces. The reason why we took an external controller at all is quite simple. Thanks to Intel, there’s only one connector for PATA drives on mainboards based on the i945+ICH7R chipset and this connector has to be occupied by the system HDD.

The following benchmarks are used in our tests:

  • Intel IOMeter 2003.02.15
  • PCMark05 Build 1.1.0
  • WinBench 99 2.0
  • FC IOMark 03b15
  • FC-Test 1.0 build 13
  • FC-Test 2.0 build 1005

The tested drives are formatted in FAT32 and NTFS as one partition with the default cluster size. In some cases mentioned below we used 32GB partitions formatted in FAT32 and NTFS with the default cluster size.

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