Ask the Doctor: Storage Cloning, Slow SSD, and Other Issues Tackled

Maximum PC Staff

This month the doctor tackles HDDs and SSDs, Ripping Woes, XP Drivers and many more

Slow Raptor

I just bought a WD Velociraptor WD1000DHTZ hard drive from Newegg. The performance of this drive is not what I expected it to be. I have an Asrock 870 Extreme3 R2.0 motherboard. When I bought this board on Newegg a year ago it was advertised as a SATA6 motherboard, but when I check the Asrock website it states that it is a SATA3 motherboard. Does the underperformance of my Velociraptor have something to do with this, or did I just expect too much?

- Gary Davidson

The Doctor Responds:

This is the trouble with SATA's naming scheme: It's confusing. SATA 3.0 is the third revision of the SATA spec, the one that works at 6Gb/s. SATA II is the one that works at 3Gb/s. Your motherboard and the Velociraptor both have SATA 6Gb/s ports, so you have not been misled. Without any solid benchmark numbers it's hard to tell if your Velociraptor is underperforming, but keep in mind that although it is a fast mechanical drive, it's still a mechanical drive and so its random-access times will be a hundred times slower than an SSD's, and its sequential speeds are still half or a third what an SSD's would be. You won't get SSD-like speed from it; all you'll get is a really fast mechanical drive.

Slow SSD RAID

My boot drives are a pair of identical, fairly early 128GB Fujitsu SSDs that are booting Win7 in a RAID 0 configuration, and all my documents and programs are in a pair of 3TB Seagates in RAID 1. Crystal-DiskInfo can’t see past the Marvell controller on my Asus P6X58-E Pro but CrystalDiskMark ’s report is a little disappointing, showing sequential read/write of 295MB/s and 116MB/s, respectively. Would I get similar results if these SSDs were stand-alone? My machine is completely ready in one minute from a cold start. Booting from the platter disk that I cloned takes 4.5 minutes.

- Dave King

The Doctor Responds:

The 6Gb/s Marvell 9128 SATA controllers on X58 boards are not very fast, at least not compared to the Intel native 6Gb/s controllers from Sandy Bridge and later chipsets. This is partly because they connect to the motherboard via a single PCIe 2.0 lane. Secondly, your RAID controller can't pass Trim commands from the OS through to the drives, so they are slowing down as they run out of fresh sectors, though if those are SandForce drives, as the Doc suspects, the onboard garbage-collecting algorithms should help a little.

If you really want faster performance, you'd actually be better off cloning your RAID 0 to a single 6Gb/s SATA SSD, or re-creating your array using a PCIe RAID card that uses four or more lanes. That said, there's no need to take drastic action if you're happy with the current speed of your drives.

Movin' on Up

If I have a 20GB boot drive, can I move the stuff on it to a bigger drive? I read that cloning even copies the partition. So if I cloned the 20GB drive to a bigger one, the bigger one would act as a 20GB hard drive. How do I get past this?

- Joseph

The Doctor Responds:

You can clone that 20GB drive to a bigger one, then increase the partition size to take up all the empty space on that larger drive. There are several ways to do this, but EaseUs ToDo Backup Free ( www.todo-backup.com ) is a good one-stop solution that makes it pretty easy. It'll let you clone your existing drive image to a larger one and adjust the partition size, either as you clone it over or afterward.

Clone your drives with EaseUs ToDo Backup

Can’t Rip It

I have AnyDVD HD and HandBrake. I want to back up my movies but I am having issues with HandBrake: No matter what settings I choose, HandBrake always makes the file 4GB and it is never playable. Any help or guidance on what my settings should be would be great.

- Karl

The Doctor Responds:

Karl, first, make sure you have the latest version of AnyDVD HD as well as the latest build of HandBrake. You might want to look for firmware updates for your optical drive, as well. You also didn’t say what player you were using. The Doc recommends VLC Player ( www.videolan.org ) for a free player or PowerDVD 13 ( www.cyberlink.com ) for a paid, but prettier player. You didn’t say what operating system you were running or what file system you're writing to. If you are running, say, Windows XP on a hard drive that is formatted with FAT32, you should know that FAT32 has a maximum file size limit of just over 4GB. A HandBrake encode of a 1080p Blu-ray will typically exceed that size. When HandBrake hits the file size limit of FAT32, it may just stop the encode, leaving you with a video that won’t play because the file is essentially corrupt.

We Blame Apple

I just finished building a rig that dual-boots OS X and Windows 7. The system in general works just fine, but I have one problem that’s been nagging me for the past week: my BIOS. For the first three boots or so on my system, the BIOS startup screen came up cheerfully for two seconds, and then went directly to my boot loader. Next boot, the startup logo decides to stay around for another 20 seconds, until my internal speaker beeps, signaling POST has finished. I'm rocking a Gigabyte Z77X-UDH5 Rev. 1.1 board, and I'm pretty disappointed to see my boot times rising from 10 seconds to around 30. I checked the debug LED codes, and found out that the system was hanging on code 64, or "CPU DXE initialization has started." I have tried updating, resetting, and adjusting the BIOS with no luck. If I want better boot times, would I need to RMA it?

- Derek Werbowy

The Doctor Responds:

Contacting Gigabyte support for help is a good idea but there are a few other steps you might want to take. You’ve updated the BIOS, so you’re good there. First, disconnect any external drives or USB devices. External USB devices can on occasion play havoc with boot times and may react differently depending on the USB port they’re in.

Still whacky? Make sure all of your mobo power connectors and SATA connectors are firmly connected. You may even want to try to unplug and replug them until you are sure they firmly in place. Reset the CMOS manually, or remove the coin cell with the system PSU switched off for 10 seconds. Before you do that, make sure you take detailed notes on your UEFI settings.

Now, try reseating all of the RAM, and if that doesn’t make a difference, try running each DIMM individually. If that doesn’t work, start unplugging SATA drives to see if the system is maybe hanging on one of the drives. Your last resort is to consider a CPU reseat, as well.

XP Drivers on New Mobos

I am using an older AMD computer running WinXP and I want to try building a new one all by myself. Just as I was ready to order the parts, my son said, "Whoa, if you want to keep WinXP" (which I do), "the motherboard must support WinXP." I think he mentioned the chipset. Does the Gigabyte Z77X-UP4 TH support WinXP? If not, which Z77 motherboard still supports WinXP? I plan to use an Intel i5-3570K CPU and GeForce GTX 660 GPU.

- George Pieper

The Doctor Responds:

As long as there are Windows XP–compatible drivers for your motherboard, you'll be fine. According to Gigabyte's support site ( www.gigabyte.us ), there are indeed WinXP drivers for that mobo, so you're good to go. If you want to do any gaming with that computer, you should consider upgrading to Windows 7 or 8. If you stick with Windows XP, you won't be able to take advantage of the DirectX 11 capabilities of that GeForce GTX 660.

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