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Mac Pro Drive Configuration - Home User

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Hi all
I'm trying to determine the 'best' drive configuration for my needs... I'm not a pro-user (although, I do use DVDSP and Motion for some DVDs I make from EyeTV) and so I don't think I want to set up a RAID or anything like that... here's a little background
I was recently having my MP operate really slowly (in terms of disk paging) because of my boot drive (a Seagate ST3500630AS at 3.AAC) was
1) Rather full - < 100GB free - lesser impact, I think
2) Some directory corruption - drive stopped booting from diskarb error
I was able to resolve the issue by wiping out the drive and it's working much better now.... but the whole thing got me thinking about my config... I had pretty much just been 'slapping' drives in as I needed drive space (I have the shipping 250GB, my old 200GB Seagat, a new ST3500630AS and a FW800 500GB Maxtor)
I've been doing some reading and it seems that it's optimal to not have one's boot drive have anything but the OS (w VM swap files too, right) and Applications... it seems that the two best options are either a WD 'Raptor' (either 74GB or 150GB) or a Maxtor Maxline III to serve as the boot drive... I understand why the 'Raptor' is a better option (compared to my ST3500630AS - faster RPM) but why is the Maxtor (laying aside the firmware issue on the ST3500630AS)? Is it because the Maxtor's are supposed to be better at handling small files (the OS and the swap files are that, right?)? It seems to me that the 'Raptor' isn't the option I want to choose because I don't think I actually 'need' it... 74GB seems a little small to me (but perhaps not) while the 150GB seems a bit expensive when considering if I even 'need' the 'Raptor'
I'm anticipating that the Maxtor MaxLine III will be what I want to get for my boot drive... how would I want to back that up? Does it really matter if it's external? Someone had mentioned that you can do it to a disk image but then how do I boot off of that if I have an issue? Or is that just for the purpose of 'snapshotting' the system?
As I mentioned, I have the ST3500630AS and the external FW800 500GB Maxtor... they're a perfect match in size and I like having access to all of my home data on an external drive... that way if my MP dies (as my old G5s did), I can simply connect my FW drive to my old PBG4 and I'm up and running without a hitch... but I'm a little peeved about the whole firmware thing and the handicapped performance (is there anyway I can address this or should this drive be relegated to a backup status?)...
Another question - the Seagate's have the new perpendicular technology... it seems to me that people aren't that concerned about it - I thought it was supposed to be a really good thing?
What would people do in my shoes? If a solution needs more than one additional drive - I am game for ditching my smaller existing SATA drives.... Any and all suggestions would most appreciated...
The best answer: The only real answer to your question is to do what you want. There is no such thing as an "optimal" configuration or "best" drive because what's optimal is dependent upon what you do and need. The best drive depends upon what you want from the drive.
The Raptors are very fast but also very expensive. About twice the cost of a Maxtor Maxline Pro. However, if you feel the need for speed on your startup drive, then the Raptor is what you want. If you would rather compromise between speed, storage space, and noise then the Maxtor is a good choice. However, Seagate purchased Maxtor some time ago. The Maxtor Maxline Pro drives are being phased out (in the 300 GB and larger sizes) so as not to compete with Seagate's line of products.
You can find useful benchmark tests on hard drives at http://www.barefeats.com/ and http://www.storagereview.com/.
Personally, I would configure the system in such a way that you have sufficient storage space on one or two separate drives that can be used to backup the rest of the system. As an example, in my system I use three 300 GB Maxtor Maxline Pros (this system was setup last September.) One drive is used as my main startup drive. The other two are configured as a mirrored RAID. I use the RAID as the backup for the main startup drive. The mirrored RAID provides both backup and redundancy for added data protection. I use backup software (Synchronize! Pro X) to perform automated backups on a daily, weekly (entire Users folder,) and monthly (entire drive) basis.
Of more importance than drive configuration is maintaining your system for optimal performance:
Kappy's Personal Suggestions for OS X Maintenance
For disk repairs use Disk Utility. For situations DU cannot handle the best third-party utilities are: Disk Warrior; DW only fixes problems with the disk directory, but most disk problems are caused by directory corruption; Disk Warrior 4.0 is now Intel Mac compatible. TechTool Pro provides additional repair options including file repair and recovery, system diagnostics, and disk defragmentation. TechTool Pro 4.5.2 is Intel Mac compatible; Drive Genius is similar to TechTool Pro in terms of the various repair services provided. The current version, 1.5.1, is Intel Mac compatible.
OS X performs certain maintenance functions that are scheduled to occur on a daily, weekly, or monthly period. The maintenance scripts run in the early AM only if the computer is turned on 24/7 (no sleep.) If this isn't the case, then an excellent solution is to download and install a shareware utility such as Macaroni, JAW PseudoAnacron, or Anacron that will automate the maintenance activity regardless of whether the computer is turned off or asleep.
OS X automatically defrags files less than 20 MBs in size, so unless you have a disk full of very large files there's little need for defragmenting the hard drive. As for virus protection there are few if any such animals affecting OS X. You can protect the computer easily using the freeware Open Source virus protection software ClamXAV. Personally I would avoid most commercial anti-virus software because of their potential for causing problems.
I would also recommend downloading the shareware utility TinkerTool System that you can use for periodic maintenance such as removing old logfiles and archives, clearing caches, etc.
For emergency repairs install the freeware utility Applejack. If you cannot start up in OS X, you may be able to start in single-user mode from which you can run Applejack to do a whole set of repair and maintenance routines from the commandline.
When you install any new system software or updates be sure to repair the hard drive and permissions beforehand. I also recommend booting into safe mode before doing system software updates.
Get an external Firewire drive at least equal in size to the internal hard drive and make (and maintain) a bootable clone/backup. You can make a bootable clone using the Restore option of Disk Utility. You can also make and maintain clones with good backup software. My personal recommendations are (order is not significant):
1. Retrospect Desktop (Commercial - not yet universal binary)
2. Synchronize! Pro X (Commercial)
3. Synk (Backup, Standard, or Pro)
4. Deja Vu (Shareware)
5. PsynchX 2.1.1 and RsyncX 2.1 (Freeware)
6. Carbon Copy Cloner (Freeware - 3.0 is a Universal Binary)
7. SuperDuper! (Commercial)
The following utilities can also be used for backup, but cannot create bootable clones:
1. Backup (requires a .Mac account with Apple both to get the software and to use it.)
2. Toast
3. Impression
4. arRSync
Apple's Backup is a full backup tool capable of also backing up across multiple media such as CD/DVD. However, it cannot create bootable backups. It is primarily an "archiving" utility as are the other two.
Impression and Toast are disk image based backups, only. Particularly useful if you need to backup to CD/DVD across multiple media.
Visit The XLab FAQs and read the FAQs on maintenance, optimization, virus protection, and backup and restore.
Additional suggestions will be found in Mac Maintenance Quick Assist.
Referenced software can be found at www.versiontracker.com and www.macupdate.com.