Faster Hard drives

You may know that the hdparm tool can be used to speed test your disk and change a few settings. It can also be used to optimise drive performance, and turn on some features that may not be enabled by default. Before we start though, be warned that changing drive options can cause data corruption, so back up all your important data first. Testing speed is done with:

hdparm -Tt /dev/hda

You’ll see something like:

/dev/hda:
Timing buffer-cache reads:   128 MB in  1.64 seconds =78.05 MB/sec
Timing buffered disk reads:  64 MB in 18.56 seconds = 3.45MB/sec

Now we can try speeding it up. To find out which options your drive is currently set to use, just pass hdparm the device name:

hdparm /dev/hda
 /dev/hda:
 multcount    =  16 (on)
 I/O support  =  0 (default 16-bit)
 unmaskirq    =  0 (off)
 using_dma    =  0 (off)
 keepsettings =  0 (off)
 readonly     =  0 (off)
 readahead    =  8 (on)
 geometry     = 40395/16/63, sectors = 40718160, start = 0

This is a fairly default setting. Most distros will opt for safe options that will work with most hardware. To get more speed, you may want to enable dma mode, and certainly adjust I/O support. Most modern computers support mode 3, which is a 32-bit transfer mode that can nearly double throughput. You might want to try

hdparm -c3 -d1/dev/hda

Then rerun the speed check to see the difference. Check out the modes your hardware will support, and the hdparm man pages for how to set them.

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