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I'm tired of how luggish my developments PC is. It's Core2 Duo, 2GB RAM, Seagate ST3500320AS HDD - not the top model, but quite a decent one.

Typically I open several copies of Visual Studio 2008, lots of tabs in Firefox, Outlook, MSDN, plus the programs I debug are quite huge, plus whatever Windows thinks it can't live without so I end up with Task Manager showing something like 2,5 GB pagefile usage.

All the software above becomes luggish to such extent that it's really annoying. Something like I click on a menubar in Visual Studio - and instead of just opening the menu it works the harddisk for say 10 seconds.

I'd like to have some magic "don't make me think" solution - so that it is installed once and then the lugs disappear or at least decrease significantly. It should not be very expensive - something like the current price of a hybrid drive.

Will a hybrid drive magically help overcome my problem once and for all? Do you have experience using hybrid drives for similar purposes?

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Jeff talked about it on his blog just this week - Revisiting Solid State Hard Drives

His conclusion was yes, hybrid drives bring the benefits of both worlds, improved performance and decent size.

He points to a review that says:

"While the Momentus XT isn't quite as fast as an SSD, it's a significant improvement over the mechanical drives found in notebooks today"..."The impact of adding just a small amount of SLC NAND is tremendous."

Although the ultimate conclusion is that it's great for laptops where you are limited on space, but for a desktop you'd probably be better off getting a smaller SSD for your OS & swap partition and a regular mechanical drive for your data.

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Yeap, I read that. He says he ordered them, but doesn't say anything about actual experience. – sharptooth Sep 17 '10 at 7:48
    
@sharptooth: He links to a review. See edit. – Simon P Stevens Sep 17 '10 at 8:26

Best upgrade I ever did.

Edit Other than maxing out my ram.

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What software do you typically run and what tasks do you typically solve? That's important - maybe your usecase is not relevant. – sharptooth Sep 17 '10 at 10:24
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booting up windows and ubuntu, accessing data stored on my hardrives. – NimChimpsky Sep 17 '10 at 13:29
    
Almost any user does that. Anything dealing with several copies of a heavy development environment? – sharptooth Sep 17 '10 at 13:43
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exactly. My point is its not relevant[what ide/software I use] if you store and access data to your local hardrive. You can be any type of user, you will see an improvement in responsiveness. – NimChimpsky Sep 17 '10 at 13:57
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All applications hitting mass storage have huge gains, specially OS. I recommend HHDD or SSD to all computer users. – bigown Sep 17 '10 at 13:58

It sounds more to me like getting more RAM in your machine would be the best thing you can do.

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Visual Studio is very fond of IntelliSense - so it contributes a lot to actual disk usage. I seriosly doubt RAM alone will help much. – sharptooth Sep 17 '10 at 13:06
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His machine will benefit a little with more memory. Memory is very cheap and I will attach more 2GB, sure. But a HHDD or SSD will bring a huge gain on performance. Try it by yourself. – bigown Sep 17 '10 at 13:31
    
@bigown Why is there not a separate answer from you? – sharptooth Sep 17 '10 at 13:43
    
I preferred upvote NimChimpsky and Simon P Stevens answers which are good ones to me. – bigown Sep 17 '10 at 13:52
    
Opens several copies of VS2008, large solutions - 2G of RAM??? I agree, get to 4G+ first and then start looking at SSDs. – FinnNk Sep 26 '10 at 19:45

More RAM and an x64 OS.

Evidence:

We have two systems with minor HW differences that should account for 10..20% of build speed, one running Vista x86, the other Windows 7 x64, the latter building twice as fast.

I've heard related advice before: using W2K / W2K3 instead of Windows 98 or XP, but didn't have a direct comparison.

My Tests:

VS 2008, W7 x64 system has a 4 core CPU with HT and 8GB RAM, building in 8 processes in parallel.

An SSD (OCZ Vertex 2) does not significantly improve build speed on repeated builds with Antivirus disabled.

                                  SSD          HDD
 1st after boot, AV on            17:14         25:16
 2nd after boot, AV on            16:56         20:59
 3rd after boot, AV on            16:50        
 4th/3rd after boot, AV off       13:07         14:57

(3rd line to test epeatability of results, the last line is the "stable" case where there's not much benefit anymore).

Memory seems not limiting: even in the more taxing release builds with full optimization, "in use" < 60%, most of the rest is on "Standby", i.e. probably used as cache.

I'm planning to run some more detailed tests, (different threads in parallel etc.)


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