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Windows 7: How would you set up this system?

08 Jul 2010   #1

How would you set up this system?

Ok here's the deal, I've got this older, but still holds its own, Home built PC that right now has no OS installed on it. All data has been saved to a 500 gig HD and I'm preparing to reinstall and get her back up and running. But in what configuration should I do?

Thats where this thread and you come in, I need opinions on how you would set up this PC. I have my ideas, but this is the last time I wish to reconfigure this machine, so I wish to set it up to maximize its performance, utilize the hardware I have to there best ability and make it a great video capture/edit and gaming system that it can be.

Here is what I have:

XP MCE 2005 SP3
Gigabyte MOB- GA-P35-DS4 Rev.2
CPU- Q6600 (2.4 QuadCore)
RAM- 2 gig Kingston HyperX 800 OC to 1066
Graphics- Asus nVidia EN-8800GT 512MB Top
TV-Tuner- Hauppauge HVR-1800
PSU- PC Power & Cooling Silencer 610watt
Case- Gigabyte Aurora
Arctic Freezer 7 Pro CPU cooler
LiteOn DL-DVD w/LS (Sata)
MS Media Center Pro Keyboard
22inch Gateway Monitor 1680x1050 PiP DVI-D/VGA/super & composite video in.

Hard Drives, All Sata II Western Digital:
1-1.5tb designed for video DVR use (but most likely will end up just filling it up with movies.)
1-1.5tb standard

Sata II i-Star BPU-230 3 drive hot swap back-plane

Please keep in mind that I can't afford to spend anymore money on this system as I am saving up for some Truck Upgrades.

The motherboard has 8 sata II ports, 6 work under Intel ICH9 control with raid 0,1,5,&10. The 2 other sata II ports work under gigabytes controller and I believe can at the same time or on there own be set up with a raid config of 0,1,5,&10 as well.

So, thats what I have to work with and would like to hear from you as to how you would configure this system and how and what you would use each HD. Of course partitioning is allowed and is recommended as it might be a good idea with the terabyte drives cause if something should go wrong with accessing a drive, I'd hate to loose all those movies I have tirelessly recorded. And yes XP MCE will have to stay. It has been very good to me on this motherboard I would have to say, so it's no biggie to continue to use it. At the time of build, Vista SP1 was out, but I knew enough I didn't want that on this Desktop.

I Look forward in hearing what you come up with. I have some ideas myself, but suggestions from some of the best PC minds we have here are most welcome. Again, its primary use is recording/editing/watching movies & gaming.

Thanks, -OEM

To any Moderators looking in, I wasn't sure where to put this, hardware, installation & setup, so I chose Chillout, although I'm very serious about this thread and hearing from our members. If you think it would be better in one of the other Forum Sections, please go ahead and move. Thnx

My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 Jul 2010   #2
not so gray matter

W7 Ult. x64 | OS X

Using all the hardware isn't really a problem, the only thing you really need to do is make sure that you use a separate partition or hard drive for your operating system installations. One of the 160GB Hard Drives will work just fine. Use one of those as the main hard drive and split it into two partitions use the top half of the drive for the operating system you'll use most and the bottom half for the other operating system.

As far as the rest of the hard drives go, you can install them in any method you like. Make sure that you create a secondary partition for each operating system. This is where you'll install all of your games/media/storage that isn't simply video files, etc. The main 160GB hard drive will only house the operating system and main programs. Everything else will be installed on the secondary partition. Here's a quick run through

Operating System Drive
Main Hard Drive - 160GB
Split into two partitions
Partition #1: Windows 7
Partition #2: Windows XP MCE

Secondary Hard Drive #1 - 500GB
Split into two partitions
Partition #1: Windows 7 Games/Media/Storage
Partition #2: Windows XP MCE Games/Media/Storage

Secondary HD #2 - 1.5TB
Use this drive for your main storage that isn't associated with either operating system.

Secondary HD #3 - 1.5TB
Use this drive for your media storage.

This setup will allow your operating system to load quickly since you will have very little on the operating system hard drive.

The 160GB drive should be used as your operating system drive. It'll house two partitions, one for each operating system. The only things that'll you'll have on this drive is the operating system, programs you use everyday and important system files. Nothing else should be installed/stored on this drive. This drive shouldn't even come close to being full. My operating system drive typically has about 40GB used per OS at any one time. This drive is kept clean so that the operating system can search it quickly and find system files very fast. This makes your operating system run much faster. Most people use this setup, but use an SSD in place of a conventional drive.

The 500GB drive should be used as your storage drive associated with each operating system. This gives you a place to install very large programs, games, and store downloads. This drive shouldn't be filled either. It functions just like the first except for the fact that it doesn't house operating systems.

The two 1.5TB drives should be used to store all of your data, media, downloads, etc. You can fill these drives as much as you want. There aren't any programs that will be running off these drives so it doesn't matter if the data is scrambled, and the computer has to think a bit to find data.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 Jul 2010   #3


Thanks very much for the suggestions, you have some great ideas there. The only thing I need to point out is the system will only be running XP (which is no big deal in changing what you have, just letting you know).

The system in the past has always been setup in a raid 0 config with either 2 or 3 drives, the 160 gigs. I would partition them out with one housing the OS and the other as a Cache for video and editing.

I think the best way I can use the 3 160gig is in a raid config, but like you suggested maybe just put the OS on one partition and applications & data on the 500 gig.

I also would like to designate a drive or part. for system images. Ohh, and then there's VM's I run.
See why I'm asking for ideas and help. There's many different configs to consider, its just laying out where things have there own partitions, setting a raid 0 for speed and what should be used for the back-ups, data, programs, etc. Maybe a raid 5 would be best. That way its like always backing itself up, and allows for fast reads, just not that good on the writes. OK, my brain is overheating, lol gotta take a break.

Thanks again notsogreymatter for the advice, I think you have some good ideas there, specially about keeping the OS and system loading apps on its own, while keeping games and such elsewhere.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

09 Jul 2010   #4
not so gray matter

W7 Ult. x64 | OS X

Just use the principal I suggested with using one partition/hard drive as an operating system drive. Whether you set it up in RAID or conventionally, it'll work. The rest of the drives are storage, other that the one for large programs/games/media. That's the other hard drive that'll you'll run stuff off. Any hard drive which you aren't running any programs off, you can store anything on.

As far as the VM's go, I'd suggest something similar with one of the hard drives. Just partition a space for each VM that way the hard drive stays clean and easy to manage for the operating systems.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
08 Aug 2010   #5

Done and Done!

Resurrected thread from the dead, figure I'd post how the desktop is configured:

Here's what I came up with:

First, the Intel raid bios rom allows for 2 different types of raid configurations, however not every combination is possible.

With the 3-160gig drives, the first Intel rom volume created is a 189gig raid-5. This is for the OS and programs and allows for fast reads, but not so fast write times because every bit of data is written to two drives simultaneously. It allows for a drive to fail without the loss of any data because every bit on the failed drive is written to one of the other two drives. If a drive fails, it basically goes unnoticed without any loss of data, then once the drive is replaced you have to repair the raid-5 structure using Intel's matrix storage manager software from within the OS.

The minimum number of hard drives for a raid-5 is three, more can be used. A three disk raid-5 setup gives you 2/3rds of the total drive space of your smallest gig drive (mixed size drives can be used, but is not recommended). So, with 3-160gig drives, it gave a total amount of space roughly around 289gigs. From the 289gigs, 189gigs was allocated for the raid-5, and the remaining 89gig's will be used as a raid-0 both created using the Intel raid bios rom, also known as hardware based. The three disk raid-0 will be used for a cache with video recording, editing and maybe a virtual machine or two. Most of the time once software is installed like a game, it doesn't do much writing while running it, but will do a lot of reading/loading. So when installing a program, it will roughly take about the same time as a one disk install, but once installed, it will start/load and run very fast, nearly as fast as a three disk raid-0 configuration. If need be, I can always install a program to the raid-0 volume if the program does a lot of writing while in use.

Note   Note
There are two ways raid volumes can be created, first is bios rom based. In my case, its Intel that does all the work of knowing what data to write and read and to what drive it does this. It handles all the load and has all the instructions for maintaining the raid volumes created. This is known as hardware based. The other is known as software based. Software based are created from within a running OS using software installed on the OS. The preferred method is hardware based.

With the OS installed on a raid-5, it is recommended to move the page file from the drives the raid-5 (& raid-0) is running on. It would be great to put the page file on the raid-0 volume, but its on the same drives and so it's not what is recommended. With the 500gig drive, a partition has been made just for the page file, 10gigs has been allocated which is more than enough. The downside to this is that the 500gig will most likely never spin down. While the 3-160gig & 500gig drives are spun up, it does vibrate and hum a bit, but nothing too serious. They are all lined up in the five Internal 3.5" bays. The top bay is left empty in hopes of moving the hot air away as heat rises. And even though the space is tight between the drives, there is 2 80mm fans blowing directly between them.

The 500gig drive has the following partitions and use. As mentioned, one partition for the page file, the rest of its space is used for back-ups/system images, active copies of virtual machines, with 80gigs at the front left empty for possible single disk OS installs like Linux or a copy of MCE2005 (XP Pro). It is possible to go into the bios and change from booting from the raid-5 to the 80gig OS on the 500gig w/o any unwanted quirks. Multi boot OS's could be done as well from the 500gig, with them ignoring the raid volumes as they wouldn't be "understood" or accessible.

Lastly, are the 2 1.5terabyte drives. The standard drive is not partitioned up as it will only have movies on it. The other 1.5terabyte drive is designed to work well as a DVR based drive (good for cache). So a 200gig partition has been made to be used as a second cache if and when it will more beneficial than using the raid-0. Another 200gig partition has been made for whatever, maybe things like VM's, mp3's and pics. The rest will be for recorded movies.

Usually I wouldn't create partitions larger than 500gig's, but when recording to a different drive then having the recordings moved to the 1.5's, the won't be fragmented. When recording, the recording is fragmented on the drive that is doing the capturing. Once the recording is done, it can automatically be transfered to 1.5's and thus not be fragmented. Same for the mp3's and pics, if they are "moved" to their home, and not created on them, they will be defragmented during the transfer.

If editing needs to be done, the movie will remain on the raid-0 cache until finished, then moved to its permanent home. When a movie is being edited, the software usually will make a copy and this copy can be made to another drive which will then defrag it as its being copied. That way even the editing of the movie file will be from a drive that has the movie defragmented. This way there should never be a need to defrag the large partitions as the movie should be kept together.

I decided to go with the raid-5 for the OS and programs because I really have no interest in doing any re-installing on this machine. I'll start off with only updated drivers that I know work well with everything and programs that don't cause any problems. Using a program like sandboxie will help in keeping the system clean while testing new programs that I might want to use, but for the most part the software I have works well and does everything I need it to do. So as long as I keep only pre-tested software and drivers, this machine should run good for a very long time and not need a re-install.

A raid-5 is like running backup software that backs up every change in real time, so back-ups are only really being made to save system images at certain stages of the install in case I'd like to copy the system over to a single disk to be used as a test system for new drivers. They also might be needed should something go wrong with the OS/Programs themselves. MS does allow one to activate copies of the same OS as long as they are installed on the same machine and only one OS can be booted into at a time. So with the 80gigs on the 500gig drive, I could install one of the incremental system image backup of the raid-5 install to it for the purpose of testing new drivers and software. If things do bad, I can just re-install from one of the system images again and not install it on the primary OS.

So thats what I came up with. It should be a great movie machine that can be used as a media server. Currently movies recorded on PC are watched on the systems 22" monitor as I still use an old glass tube TV.

(Update: This was typed up on notepad a few weeks ago. I never turn my TV off because a few months ago I did and when I turned it on there when white lines at the top about 5% of the way down. Well, the other day I turned it off and now all I see is a tiny line of color & light in the middle. So I've got my eye on this plasma: Insignia™ - 42" Class / 720p / 600Hz / Plasma HDTV).

I've been recording movies in "Long Play" which the average hour-and-fortyfive minute movie takes about 4.0-5.0 gigs of space. Now that I have the larger drives, movies that I really like will be recorded in standard (full) play, which will take around 7-9 gigs of space. Currently I have around 100 movies on the PC, with around 50 movies recorded to the satellite TV DVR that have to be re-recorded to PC. Its a bummer that I can't "copy" the movie files over to the PC, but I'll have to record them to PC as they play from the DVR. It's time consuming, but well worth it as I haven't paid to watch a movie on DVD in a long time and most movies on pay per view eventually make it over to the premium channels like HBO, Cinamax, and Stars.

Soon I hope to go HD with everything, including the PC capture card. Right now the movies can be recorded in 16:9 (Widescreen), but its definitely not HD. Its as if they were recorded in 4:3 and then having the HD TV stretch to fit them. Having all the components that it takes to record HD as well as recording them to PC is still expensive right now, and everything has to be HDCP compliant. Video card, capture card, TV, and if you want to make DVD's the Blueray/HD Rom recorder all have to be HDCP compliant. According to the specs of my video card and 22" monitor, they are HDCP compliant, but the capture card I don't think is, and I don't have a Blueray/HD burner/player yet. Still waiting on the cost's to come down, but the first thing to buy would be the capture card so I can at least capture in HD. I would also have to upgrade my Dish Satellite Recv. as its only standard play as well. Going full HD PC recording/burning ain't cheap.

Donations are welcome, just send cash (no checks please) to:
1080 HighDef Rd.
Big Screen, P.A. 17601.

Thanks for reading and I hope it helps others in thinking of what they can do with their pc and what it takes to go full PC HD.
Enjoy and be Well, OEM
My System SpecsSystem Spec

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