Every time we build a PC without a floppy disk drive (FDD), we end up regretting it when we need to load a driver from floppy. Accordingly, we recommend installing an FDD. At $8 or so, itís cheap insurance.
Floppy Disk Drive If you want an FDD, buy any brand. FDDs are commodity items, and the brand makes little difference.
If youíre short on external drive bays and want both an FDD and a card reader, install a combination FDD/card reader. Weíd use the $25 Mitsumi FA402A.
Itís easy to choose a good hard drive. Various manufacturers produce high-quality drives at similar price points for a given size and type of drive. That said, we use only Seagate and Maxtor drives because we have had reliability problems with drives made by some other manufacturers.
Within a given grade of drive, however, drives from different manufacturers are usually closely comparable in features, performance, and price, if not necessarily in reliability. Compatibility is not an issue. Any recent ATA hard disk coexists peacefully with any other recent ATA/ATAPI device, regardless of manufacturer. The same is generally true of SCSI drives.
Use the following guidelines when you choose a hard drive:
The first consideration in choosing a hard drive is whether to use standard ATA (parallel ATA or P-ATA), Serial ATA (S-ATA), or SCSI. P-ATA and S-ATA drives are inexpensive, fast, capacious, and reliable, and are the best choice for most general- purpose systems. SCSI hard drives cost significantly more and require adding an expensive SCSI host adapter, but provide the best performance, particularly under heavy load.
Choose a P-ATA drive if your motherboard lacks S-ATA interfaces. Choose an ATA/100 or an ATA/133 model. Only Maxtor produces ATA/133 drives, which are no faster than ATA/100 drives. A motherboard with ATA/100 interfaces can use ATA/133 drives and vice versa, but the disk subsystem runs as ATA/100 in either case.
S-ATA drives are generally a bit faster than similar P-ATA models, and use thin cables that improve system cooling relative to wide P-ATA ribbon cables. If your system has S-ATA interfaces and the S-ATA drive you want costs only $5 or $10 more than the P-ATA model, choose S-ATA. But if the price differential is much larger, or if you would have to buy a separate S-ATA interface card to use the S-ATA drive, use P-ATA.
If disk performance is critical, buy an Ultra320 SCSI host adapter and a 15,000 RPM Ultra320 SCSI drive. Note that you will pay a large premium, both for the drive itself and for the required SCSI host adapter. Purchase a drive and host adapter that comply with the SCAM (SCSI Configured AutoMagically) standard. We recommend and use only Adaptec SCSI host adapters.
Itís tempting to buy the largest drive available, but large drives often cost more per gigabyte than mid-size drives, and the largest drives are often slower. Decide what performance level and capacity you need, and then buy a drive that meets those requirements. Choose the model based on cost per gigabyte. You may need to buy the largest drive available despite its high cost per gigabyte and slower performance, simply to conserve drive bays and ATA channels.
Choose a 7,200 RPM P-ATA or S-ATA drive for a general-purpose system. 5,400 RPM ATA drives are a few bucks cheaper, but much slower. 10,000 RPM ATA drives cost much more than 7,200 RPM models and are not all that much faster.
Get the model with a larger buffer/cache if it doesnít cost much more. Some drives are available in two versions that differ only in buffer size. One might have a 2 MB buffer and the other an 8 MB buffer. The larger buffer is worth paying a few dollars extra for.
The quietest mainstream drives, the Seagate Barracuda ATA and SATA models, are literally half as loud as some competing models, and also run cooler. When you have a choice, always choose quiet and cool over noisy and hot.
Hard Drive If you need an S-ATA or P-ATA hard drive, choose a Seagate model of the appropriate size and speed. We use Seagate Barracuda 7200.7 S-ATA drives almost exclusively in our own systems. Maxtor drives are also excellent, although they are noisier and run hotter than the Seagate Barracuda drives.
If you need the faster performance of SCSI, choose a 15,000 RPM Ultra320 SCSI Seagate Cheetah drive and an Adaptec Ultra320 SCSI host adapter.
We no longer use Western Digital hard drives because we have experienced multiple premature drive failures with various models. Although we have never had a premature drive failure with IBM (now Hitachi) ATA hard drives, enough of our readers have reported problems with some IBM/Hitachi models that we avoid them as well. We donít have sufficient data to judge the reliability of Samsung models.
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