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Mass Storage Performance Questions
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ghporter
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Dec 1, 2023, 05:55 PM
 
I’m getting a new computer to replace my ultra-tiny Core 2 Duo Linux machine (one internal SATA drive, 8GB of RAM max). The new computer has a i7 processor, goes up to 32GB of RAM, and has space for several internal drives, which is why I now have questions.

My primary question is would it make a functional difference on a LAN-only web server to have my (internal only) web content on a physical drive versus an SSD.

Second, with an i7-based computer that does not natively support M.2 NVME drives, would there be a benefit to adding a PCIe M.2 adapter and a/some M.2 drive(s)? It appears that this kind of adapter would be very close to adding a “native” M.2 slot to the motherboard - please illuminate me on this. I also assume that using such an adapter would allow me to connect more drives than the number of SATA connectors on the mother board (keeping in mind that I’m going to use a Linux OS), but that’s not something I can verify easily.

I would appreciate any education my more up-to-date-with-hardware friends can provide.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
reader50
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Dec 1, 2023, 07:37 PM
 
I recently saw a SATA 6G card used on eBay for $25 ($200 new). Snapped it up, for my 2009 Mac Pro. While waiting for it to arrive, I got curious about the whole NVME thing, and ordered an (under $20) PCIe adapter that holds one M.2 stick. Bought one M.2 stick - it cost more than the PCIe adapter.

For reference, my 2009 Mac Pro has SATA 3G bays.

Moved my SSD drives to the SATA 6G card. POST and boot selector take the same amount of time, but once the OS starts to load, it went faster. Not in a flash, but faster. Once you reach the desktop, involved apps like the GIMP did load notably faster, but everyday activity wasn't affected much. Benchmarks confirmed I was getting 500+ MB/s.

Installed the M.2 adapter, did OS migration, then repeated the tests. Booting went notably faster again, but only after POST and OpenCore drive selection. After reaching the desktop, things seemed a bit improved, but not like I'd been hoping. Benchmarks confirmed I was getting 1300+ MB/s write, 1400+ MB/s read. More advanced M.2 cards could reach 3400 MB/s ($200-300 cards) or 7400 MB/s ($800 card).

But I wasn't seeing a snappy improvement in practice. It took awhile to figure it out. My MP has 64 GB RAM, and was using the unused space to cache drive reads. So bootup is accelerated by faster drives, as is the first time you open a particular app. After that, you mostly get RAM cache speed, until you load enough files to purge an app from cache. Only then would you see the faster drive speeds again.

My recent upgrades weren't worth it, maybe not even the SATA 6G one. Back when I first jumped to an SSD boot drive, I did see notable performance improvement - though I remember thinking it wasn't as much faster as I'd hoped. Didn't dig into it at the time, but it was the same effect.

My suggestion: max out the RAM and use an SSD. Hold the other upgrades until you run into a bottleneck, or until the upgrade hardware goes on sale. Personally, I'm holding off on the faster M.2 cards.
     
ghporter  (op)
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Dec 1, 2023, 09:57 PM
 
I was thinking in this direction. The computer has an i7 4770 processor (10 years old at this point), and the appropriate chipset to go with it, so even if I did get “PCIe-level” data transfers from an M.2 drive, the rest of the system would need to be able to keep up, and it probably wouldn’t be able to.

On the other hand, an SSD can beat the crap out of even a fast HDD for initial reads, sustained reads, and so on. So keeping up with the SATA data flow might be slower, but it should be more consistent and sustained.

Now I feel that I have to find a decent 2TB SSD to stick in this machine for the “not boot volume” stuff - it comes with a 1TB SSD, and the full 32GB of RAM the machine can handle.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
reader50
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Dec 1, 2023, 11:09 PM
 
I do still use HDs for two items:

• Media storage - SSDs bigger than 4TB get ridiculously expensive. 16TB: HDD ~$240, SSD ~$2000.
• Backup drives. SSDs are rated to hold their data for 1 year unpowered. Going beyond that is a gamble. HDs can often go 10 years and still be readable.
     
ghporter  (op)
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Dec 2, 2023, 06:26 PM
 
I recently bought a 2TB hard drive to back up the images I have already scanned/digitized for that very reason. A back up device doesn’t need to be lightning quick, but it does need to be totally reliable.

I had eyed a 4TB SSD to add to the machine I’m getting, but with gift-giving upon us I’ve decided to hold off for a while. Or scale back to a 1- or 2TB drive; I’m not sure at the moment. But the mechanical drives I have on hand WILL be installed to give me elbow room.

For the moment I’m working out what to leave on the smaller machine. And I might just wind up only leaving the AirPrint server there. I’ve seen how Debian gets wonky when you overtax the processor, and it ain’t pretty, but a Core 2 Duo only running AirPrint should not be challenged at all.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
   
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