A Faster Hard Drive Makes Your Computer Slower

i5 with super floppy
January 9, 2021

It sounds like the most counter intuitive statement one could make. A faster hard drive makes your computer slower. If you understand how and why you will understand it is a fact. A faster hard drive really can make your computer slower.

This is more fallout from my Manjaro experiments. You really should read the previous post about the resume error on boot to get a full background no how we got here.

I’ve always loved this little i5. I don’t use it for much in the way of development, just writing books. The rest of the time it crunches numbers for BOINC helping to cure cancer and solve the COVID-19 pandemic problem. Whenever I’m going to embark on a really big writing project I try to find a desk or table to set this up on along with a couple of monitors.

The machine may weigh a ton, but it has a balanced feel when I’m using it. Hard to put that into words that describe it properly. Just that there is a comfortable set of expectations.

System as seen by Manjaro

During my install and configuration I stuck in a reasonably fast 1TB drive with a not tiny cache/buffer. The machine ran like shit. Took 2-3 times as long to boot as it did previously and that was using a Linux distro that made no claims to being “fast.”

Given there is a “new to me” motherboard showing up for a case I was trying to get rid of, I decided to put my little buddy back in the “BOINC Rack.” When I put a machine over there I put one of the oldest/slowest drives I have in it. Why? I want to get the last bit of life out of them while helping to extend/better my and everyone else’s life.

Those disk drives defied the odds and are still functioning. I, and I’m sure you, have had many drives that didn’t make it two years into the five year mean time between failure. Some of these old clunkers are more than ten years old. I mean ATA-150 was introduced in 2000.

Yeah, that’s where we are going. I still had a 300Gig ATA-150 sitting on my spare drives shelf. I put it in a BOINC machine, then later need the BOINC machine for actual builds/development so it goes back on the shelf.

With a SATA-3 6Gb/s 1TB drive this machine really ran like shit. The drive ground endlessly during any and all I/O operations. Nothing wrong with the drive. I’ve used it in many machines and stuck it in another just to be sure.

After completing the restore and resizing, this machine got new legs and new air. It boots quick. Yes, the drive is a little noisy during I/O, but they all were back then. It’s like an extra processor got added to the beast though.

You see, the I/O controller was trying to drink from a fire hose.

The disk drive could literally drown it with data. As I’m typing this post I’m reminded of why I loved this machine over the years. Not the fastest. Not the slowest. Just a comfortable and reliable set of expectations. In short, optimum technology for the task.