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Author Topic: Mac Pro Upgrade: Most bang for your buck?  (Read 3707 times)
aaronleitz
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« on: June 29, 2009, 06:35:27 PM »
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Hello All,

I've got a 2007 model 2.66ghz xeon quad core Mac Pro with 7gigs of RAM. There are a few internal HD's - one running applications, one for data, and one for PS scratch.

Photoshop runs OK but I'd like to speed things up a bit, especially since I've been working with D3x files recently. So for $500 or so where should I put my money?

* Buy more RAM for a total of 16 gigs or so?
* Get 8gigs of RAM and then a few more HDs and make a partitioned RAID0 scratch volume?
* Get some more HDs and do a partitioned RAID0 scratch and a RAID0 data volume?
* Other suggestions?

I've got a good back-up system in place so I am not too worried about setting up striped volumes for speed. What upgrades will give me the most bang for my buck in terms of photoshop and LR performance? I'm willing to spend more than $500 if it will make a big difference.

Thanks!
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Jack Flesher
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« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2009, 08:13:57 PM »
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Tough call -- it is were me, I'd go 16G ram AND do the RAID-0.  But if I could only do one, I'd choose the drives because at least they'll move to your next system where the ram prolly won't.  My only advice on the RAID is you have 4 bays total, so assuming bay 1 is the OS drive, I'd go ahead and use the remaining 3 for scratch and storage. Make a thin 50G or so first partition off each and striping that afor 150G of dedicated scratch, then you have the remaining large partitions to RAID-0 for fast image storage.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2009, 08:16:11 PM by Jack Flesher » Logged

aaronleitz
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« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2009, 08:29:16 PM »
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Quote from: Jack Flesher
Tough call -- it is were me, I'd go 16G ram AND do the RAID-0.  But if I could only do one, I'd choose the drives because at least they'll move to your next system where the ram prolly won't.  My only advice on the RAID is you have 4 bays total, so assuming bay 1 is the OS drive, I'd go ahead and use the remaining 3 for scratch and storage. Make a thin 50G or so first partition off each and striping that afor 150G of dedicated scratch, then you have the remaining large partitions to RAID-0 for fast image storage.

I could use an external drive as the boot/applications drive which would free up all 4 bays for HDs.  Would a 3 drive RAID0 be noticeably faster than a 2 drive RAID0?

I don't think I'd want to keep scratch and data on the same drives, even if they were partitioned. Wouldn't that slow things down if they're on the same drives?

Another option I didn't think about was to get the adapter from maxupgrades.com that lets you install two more drives underneath the optical drive for a total of 6.
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k bennett
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« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2009, 08:48:57 PM »
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« Last Edit: June 29, 2009, 08:51:04 PM by k bennett » Logged

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michaelnotar
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« Reply #4 on: June 29, 2009, 09:16:35 PM »
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if you add more HHDs and the raid card, the card alone is $700. i would buy an external raid device, you can get about 2x the space for the same price since the card for the apple is so expensive
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Josh-H
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« Reply #5 on: June 29, 2009, 09:33:54 PM »
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Quote from: michaelnotar
if you add more HHDs and the raid card, the card alone is $700. i would buy an external raid device, you can get about 2x the space for the same price since the card for the apple is so expensive

Yes - the apple card is expensive. But its worth it. Its a pro hardware RAID card with onboard battery back-up that gives full RAID status reporting and talks nicely with OSX.

Worth every penny IMO.
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aaronleitz
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« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2009, 09:49:52 PM »
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Quote from: michaelnotar
if you add more HHDs and the raid card, the card alone is $700. i would buy an external raid device, you can get about 2x the space for the same price since the card for the apple is so expensive

I'm going to use software raid. Space is not an issue for me since the raid set ups would only be for scratch and the most recent shoots. I don't need a mutli-terabyte raid array.
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Jack Flesher
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« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2009, 10:23:58 PM »
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Quote from: aaronleitz
I could use an external drive as the boot/applications drive which would free up all 4 bays for HDs.  Would a 3 drive RAID0 be noticeably faster than a 2 drive RAID0?

I don't think I'd want to keep scratch and data on the same drives, even if they were partitioned. Wouldn't that slow things down if they're on the same drives?

Another option I didn't think about was to get the adapter from maxupgrades.com that lets you install two more drives underneath the optical drive for a total of 6.

I use the MaxUpgrades and run 6 drives total and one optical, and I use the software raid built into OSX not a card.  

I have a pair of WD 640 Black drives in the Maxupgrades slots in RAID-0 as my OS.  I then have 4 WD 640 Blues in the 4 main bays in RAID-0, the first partition (fastest) is a small 30G partition of each for a 120G RAID-0 scratch volume, then the remaining 4 main large partitions in RAID-0 for very fast image storage and access.  (I even left 150G at the end of each drive for use as single volume spaces for back-up copies of my OS.)  

Now that we have all that settled (), yes, you will notice a speed improvement going from a two to a three drive RAID-0, and will even notice about half-again as much boost going from 3 to 4-drive RAID-0.  This assumes that your files are large enough to have CS tag scratch regularly, but regardless, the performance boost is noticeable throughout the system.

You could keep data and scratch on one large volume, however over time, performance will suffer.  The reason is disks basically write data from the outer faster part in to the slower part, so over time as you load data on a drive, the I/O performance is slower simply because you are writing to and reading from a slower part of the drive. If your drive is 3/4 full of images, then scratch is going to be occurring on the slowest 1/4 of your array.  Granted, it's still going to be relatively fast compared to a single drive, but nowhere near as fast as if you had dedicated the outer rim area of the array to scratch.

EDit: IMO you do not need to buy enterprise class drives for this either, but all drives in RAID-0 should be the same size and model number.  I happen to use WD 640 Blues in the 4-drive array, and a pair of WD640 blacks for the OS RAID-0. These drives are only about $70 each now.
« Last Edit: June 29, 2009, 11:09:37 PM by Jack Flesher » Logged

Sheldon N
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« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2009, 10:27:03 PM »
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I wouldn't go external for your boot drive, unless it was eSATA. Anything else would slow the entire computer down.

I'd go with one large boot drive and the remaining three slots as a RAID 0 array. For drives, the Western Digital Caviar Black drives are a really good value and are also right at the top of the performance heap. The 640GB and 1TB drives are the ones I would look at primarily.


I'd keep your current fastest/best/largest drive and have it be your OS/Applications drive. Then add three more 640GB WD Caviar Black Drives and put them in a RAID 0 striped array. Partition off the first 30-50GB slice of each drive as your scratch partition. Having a dedicated partition (and the FIRST partition) for scratch ensures that it uses the fastest part of the drive and also helps prevent data fragmentation.

There's no problem at all with using the remaining 1.5TB of the RAID array as a short term storage for images, etc. It would also be good to keep your Lightroom database files on the fast RAID array as well. Typically PS won't need to access the storage portion of the drive while it is using scratch. Just be sure to back up the data religiously - this is RAID 0, after all.

Three WD 640GB drives will cost you $210 at Newegg.com. That leaves just under $300 for RAM, which at OWC (macsales.com) or crucial.com will get you a fair bit of memory. OWC will sell you 16GB of memory (2GB x Cool for $364, which is really close to your budget.

So if you can stretch your budget by just $75 you can have 16GB RAM and a really fast 3 drive RAID 0 array. This should result in a significant performance bump for you!
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mmurph
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« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2009, 10:33:04 PM »
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You are scrambli8ng with all that Raid mostly for scrtatch drivres?

If you can get to 16GB of usable RA<M, you should be able to stay out of using scratch most of teh time with thre 3x files. They are not that big, unloess you are doing massive PS work.

I used to do 100meg "contact sheets" from my 6x7 negatives back in 1998. Still have not hit those file sizes with DSLR captures.

Do the RAM first, then you can play with the other improvements. Good luck

Best,
M.
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aaronleitz
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« Reply #10 on: June 30, 2009, 12:28:20 AM »
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Quote from: Sheldon N
I wouldn't go external for your boot drive, unless it was eSATA. Anything else would slow the entire computer down.

I'd go with one large boot drive and the remaining three slots as a RAID 0 array. For drives, the Western Digital Caviar Black drives are a really good value and are also right at the top of the performance heap. The 640GB and 1TB drives are the ones I would look at primarily.


I'd keep your current fastest/best/largest drive and have it be your OS/Applications drive. Then add three more 640GB WD Caviar Black Drives and put them in a RAID 0 striped array. Partition off the first 30-50GB slice of each drive as your scratch partition. Having a dedicated partition (and the FIRST partition) for scratch ensures that it uses the fastest part of the drive and also helps prevent data fragmentation.

There's no problem at all with using the remaining 1.5TB of the RAID array as a short term storage for images, etc. It would also be good to keep your Lightroom database files on the fast RAID array as well. Typically PS won't need to access the storage portion of the drive while it is using scratch. Just be sure to back up the data religiously - this is RAID 0, after all.

Three WD 640GB drives will cost you $210 at Newegg.com. That leaves just under $300 for RAM, which at OWC (macsales.com) or crucial.com will get you a fair bit of memory. OWC will sell you 16GB of memory (2GB x Cool for $364, which is really close to your budget.

So if you can stretch your budget by just $75 you can have 16GB RAM and a really fast 3 drive RAID 0 array. This should result in a significant performance bump for you!

Thanks for all the good suggestions. I'm thinking this is the way to go.

From what I understand, the boot drive does not need to be fast because Mac OS caches opened application data in unused RAM. Once opened, I usually don't close applications unless I'm rebooting so I don't mind waiting a few extra seconds every few days for an application to start up. Especially if it frees up an extra internal drive bay.



 
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elkhornsun
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« Reply #11 on: July 01, 2009, 02:14:21 AM »
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Best improvement will come from frequent use of a defragging program. I was amazed at how on batch process run could take a defragged drive and re-frag it by 50%. Not sure what PS does but suspect it creates a lot of temp files in batch processing leaving gaps behind when they are deleted.

More than 6GB of RAM the advantage decline rapidly as CS4 does not make use of 64-bit memory space on Macs, only Vista computers - most of which max out at 6GB RAM.
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Sheldon N
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« Reply #12 on: July 01, 2009, 02:18:26 PM »
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Quote from: elkhornsun
Best improvement will come from frequent use of a defragging program. I was amazed at how on batch process run could take a defragged drive and re-frag it by 50%. Not sure what PS does but suspect it creates a lot of temp files in batch processing leaving gaps behind when they are deleted.

While there's nothing wrong with defragging, it certainly is not going to give the best improvement when compared to a RAID 0 array for scratch or more RAM.  Plus, putting the scratch disk on its own partition eliminates this issue.

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More than 6GB of RAM the advantage decline rapidly as CS4 does not make use of 64-bit memory space on Macs, only Vista computers - most of which max out at 6GB RAM.

Actually, there's a fairly significant difference between 8GB and 16GB for operations that are dependent on the scratch disk. The system will use the extra memory for caching data and that results in faster transfers. You ideally want to have as much RAM as the largest size your scratch disk file will be. See some test results on this page...

http://macperformanceguide.com/OptimizingP...estResults.html
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