It is not a mystery to performance enthusiasts that hard drives are typically the slowest part of any computer. I’ve always been curious about the Western Digital Raptor series of hard drives. The original series was released in 2003 which makes this technology six years old. Being “old” technology one can now purchase WD Raptor hard drives on eBay for a very reasonable sum, which I recently did. These drives being “old” technology I was curious if they still hold up against the current crop of 7200 RPM hard drives.
I was using two test beds for this particular round of tests. A 2006 Mac Mini running Snow Leopard and an Intel D945GCLF2 Atom 330 board running CentOS 5.4.
The hard drives tested were the aforementioned Western Ditigal Raptor, Western Ditigal Caviar Blue, Western Ditigal Green and an OEM Toshiba 2.5″ 5400 RPM drive.
The tests carried out were very simple, I used dd to write out a 4 GB file and then used dd to read it back. Each test was carried out 3 times after a clean boot once the system had settled down. The three passes were averaged to produce the final results. Here are the dd commands I used:
time dd if=/dev/zero bs=1024k of=tstfile count=4096
time dd if=tstfile bs=1024k of=/dev/null
Throughput was calculated using base 2 (i.e.: divide by 1024)
I also decided to add a couple of tests using mdadm raid 0 sets on the Linux test host. raid was created with mdadm and formatted ext3 – I didn’t bother aligning the partitions.
The results are really quite surprising. First and foremost it is quite refreshing to see six year old technology still holding its own. Though the WD Raptors are no longer setting speed records they are certainly fast enough to be usable. We can also see that 7200 RPM hard drives have come a long way as far as performance goes. Secondly we can see that the results varry quite a bit between the Mac Mini and the Intel D945GCLF2 motherboard. Now it is impossible to compare the two directly due to OS and file system differences but we can certainly put come credibility in the results since both platforms are based on the Intel 945 chipset.
All in all the Raptors are impressive considering their age and will be used.