Radified Guide to SCSI - Boot from a SCSI Hard Drive

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The Argument

No one argues that the SCSI interface is not superior to that of IDE/ATA. The argument is always over, is it worth it? .. which (naturally) involves a value judgment. A value judgment is something only the individual user can make for himself. 

When I first posed the SCSI question (at storagereview forum), I was surprised to see such spirited debate in response. Some people - who obviously knew what they were talking about - said SCSI *was* worth it .. while others, seemingly just as knowledgeable, said it *wasn't*. 

It took me a while to figure out that the proponents of both sides, each in their own way, were equally correct. It was worth it for some, but certainly not for all. But why such differences in opinion? And why such heated debate? Do people really care that passionately about the type of hard drive you install in your system? Let's explore what's behind the value question.

First, let's note that it should be obvious that the cost of a SCSI boot drive & adapter - however large or small it may seem to you - can not be worth it for the person who can't afford it .. no matter what kinds of things that person might do with their PC. Also note that the person who has never actually used a SCSI drive, is probably not the most qualified person to comment on the relative merits of the SCSI interface & its components. Sound reasonable?

The point I want to make is merely that knowledge based on experience is superior to knowledge based on intellect. I don't care how many books someone might've read about how to fly an airplane. When I step aboard, I want a pilot who has real-life, no-shit experience. [And, far as I'm concerned, the more the better.]

It's usually not until we meet Professor Practical Experience that we discover how little we actually know about a particular subject. This is why employers want to see a resume. They want to see what you've actually done. This is also why they'll pay more for those with more experience. If it seems like I'm laboring the point, it's cuz I've had people argue it.

I've found very few people who've actually set-up a SCSI-based system and later deemed it not worth it. I can count them with the fingers on one hand. And the majority of these are people who were comparing 3-year old SCSI technology with contemporary IDE/ATA drives .. which is absurd.

I only know of one person who actually ran 10Krpm LVD drives and didn't feel it was worth it. But this person had purchased multiple first-generation Cheetahs, which are notorious for running hot and loud. (Cheetahs are now in their 5th generation.) They were also very expensive when they first debuted (at 10Krpm).

Consider also the person who can barely afford SCSI. Let's note that SCSI is by no means a necessity. It's a performance luxury - no matter what things you do with your PC. Certainly no one knows your financial situation better than you. So, naturally, no one is qualified to answer the value question better than you. Let's simply close this point by agreeing that luxuries can be tough to justify .. certainly tougher than necessities.

If someone tells you that SCSI drives aren't worth it (for you), ask them if they ever actually owned a SCSI drive. They probably haven't. But if they have, ask them which one. Chances are they've used a model several generations old. Lastly, if they say they've owned a current-generation SCSI, ask them what they did with it. Chances are not much.

A SCSI drive is not going to do much for a person who merely checks their email & surfs the web .. especially if they have a dial-up connection. Their Internet connection is going to be the bottleneck. The difference between today's SCSI & ATA drives - [running the operating system & applications] - is so dramatic that you're not likely to find a single person who has used a current generation SCSI drive with an LVD adapter and found it not worth it. At least, I haven't.

The cool thing is that, even if someone can't afford a SCSI beast (now), they won't even know what they're missing. No one should feel bad if they can't afford a SCSI beast .. even tho they're no longer very expensive. It's hard to describe the difference between a SCSI-based & IDE/ATA-based system to someone who's never experienced a system run from a 10Krpm enterprise-class drive. 

A Toyota will perform just fine. But if your neighbor lets you drive his Porsche for a week, afterwards, the Toyota might seem sluggish. Perhaps even painfully so. Or maybe you have a broadband connection (Cable or DSL), and you've stopped by your buddy's place and needed to use his Internet connection, which happened to be dial-up. Have you noticed how dial-up never seemed so slow until after you've had a broadband connection for a while? 

It's the same way with SCSI. The upgrade is nice, but you notice & appreciate it more when you downgrade. [Note: I'm not knocking Toyotas. We have a Camry. They're great cars, but I wish I'd never drove that Porsche =)

Perhaps you're an online gamer, and have played games over an Internet connection, or maybe even at a LAN party. If so, you're in an excellent position to understand how a SCSI boot drive improves system performance. Here's why:

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