I'd like to weigh in on this. I've been a computer consultant and technician for almost 20 years.
- What type and speed of drive you have generally isn't the issue. All are fast enough for this sort of work. What does matter, though, is reliability, because failures are a major problem. Now, you can do backups and the like, but you really should be running two drives in RAID1(redundancy). That way if one dies, you can either add another drive in and rebuild, or run good remaining drive by itself. This also Gives you two chances to recover data in theory, which is good. The real failure rate for drives across the industry is roughly 1/500 per day. Now this includes big server farms, as well as individuals, as well as data corruption issues and hardware ones, but 1.5-2 years seems common now between major incidents.
Running RAID1 or a large RAID array(raid 5 or similar) makes this number jump to 1/250,000 that two drives brick at the exact same time.
- Data recovery generally costs $300-$500 plus media charges of $5 per GB(total drive capacity, not recovered data!). A 300GB drive can easily run upwards of $1500-$2000 to recover. A second drive is $60-$80 by comparison. Even tape backups aren't as inexpensive as a second drive, currently. Smaller here is better.
- You only need to run redundancy on your boot drive. 99% of the time, a large data drive is easily fixable since the FAT table isn't getting hammered and the OS doesn't reside on it. Usually you lose a single directory or have one file that is affected. I usually recommend a pair of small drives in Raid 1 for the boot, then a huge data drive. This is all of your applications that you can reinstall easily(programs folder) and temporary data.
- Raptor drives are a bad choice as they run hot and fast. They are made specifically for RAID/server environments as well and most people don't know that RAID drives and single user drives have different specs and drivers/software on the controller board. You can run RAID drives in a pinch as single drives - and many people don't have a problem, but not the other way around. Single user drives tend to have problems in a RAID array due to the poor quality on-board controllers most people use(a good RAID card is $300-$500, typically) The least expensive Raptor costs almost double as well compared to 7200rpm drives.
- Heat is a killer. You want a computer case that has an intake fan blowing air over the drives. You want slower drives, within reason, or possibly laptop drives, since they generate far less noise and heat. the reason Maxtor drives failed and most external ones do as well is because they run hot. If you can't put your hand on it while its running because it's too hot, it needs to be cooled down.
- If you are running a system where speed or large data files are required, the issue isn't the computer here but the swap files. You would then want a ram disk to put the swap/virtual memory file into or a third small drive just for swapping. If you are running a 64 bit OS, that's easy - just add another couple of sticks of memory or a SSD or something similar for the swap space. Use it, abuse it, and expect it to die every 6-12 months.
That said, ram disks are fastest, followed by SSDs, and then hard drives. But running a ram disk as a small swap drive is astounding, because average memory is now hundreds of times faster than any drive, and is random access as well, so no cueing or spinning up or other issues, either. But they are pricey, running about $250 for a dedicated box (ACard) or at the least, $50-$100 or so more for a typical motherboard with 8 ram slots in it(requires 64 bit OS). Plus the cost of ram, of course. A SSD is almost as good but much cheaper. But even moving the swap to its own drive is a nearly 100% speedup in most cases.http://forums.techpowerup.com/showthread.php?p=1192476
The OS really isn't doing a lot when Photoshop or similar programs are grinding away. It's either swapping files or running the program and its associated files. Disk access is minimal otherwise. As he noted, putting CS3 and the swap on the thing was a huge speed boost. Because it is backed-up, you could install CS3 on it and the swap file(doesn't have to be on a second drive)
whew - sorry it is so long...
2 Western Digital RE2 160GB drives for just the OS and secondary apps(email and other stuff) Fast, less heat, two platter design. Plenty for most normal installs. Also, under $1000 to do data recovery on in case of a disaster. http://www.wdc.com/en/products/products.asp?driveid=403
5 year warranty.http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx...N82E16822136200
- 2 of them are only $120. The 320GB drives are $80 each, but not worth it. My apps, a few games, and OS only uses 60-80GB anyways. I wish they made 80GB single platter models.
1 ANS-9010 ($369) or 9010B($239) with 16-32GB on it. Photoshop, Window's swap file, and Photoshop's swap space all on this. The stuff you want and need to speed up. 16GB using cheap 2GB modules is a good cheap way to fill in up. No need for a 64 bit OS as well, which is possibly some costs savings. You can run a 64 bit OS on it, of course, just it's not required. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx...N82E16820227291
- $90 for 8GB, high quality RAM. 4GB modules are almost $60 each by comparison.
1 large data drive if you need it for longer-term storage. Anything will do here. 1-2TB drives are cheap enough.