Radified Guide to SCSI - Boot from a SCSI Hard Drive

Conclusion Major Premise The Argument Argument-Part 2 Minor Premise
Seek/Access Tekram/Adaptec This vs that Misc Misc config
Misc config 2 Config/Compare Comparison Linkage Home
The Argument - Part 2

Online gamers are especially suited to understand how a SCSI beast improves system performance, cuz they're familiar with the concept of ping. For those who don't know, ping is a term used to measure how long it takes (usually measured in milliseconds) for a small chunk of data to go from your computer, to another computer (usually a server) and return to your PC. 

Online gamers typically tweak their Internet connection to make their ping as small as possible (data makes the fastest round-trip) .. which makes their game-play more responsive. That's what a SCSI boot drive does. It makes your PC experience more responsive. [I'm starting to get excited now. =) ] 

Dropping your ping from 300ms (dial-up) to 30 (broadband) to 3 (LAN party) makes a huge difference in game-play responsiveness. You'd think that such small differences wouldn't be noticeable, but they are .. dramatically so. Yet you don't notice the higher pings *until* after you've played at a lower ping. All of a sudden, you realize how bad it was before. Same thing with SCSI. 

Suddenly the higher pings become annoying. You might ask yourself, "How can anyone notice a 6 milli-second difference in access times between SCSI and IDE drives?" Consider that your system often has more than a single file to fetch. Add up 6 millisecs many times and you'll see how small differences soon become amplified.

I'm getting ahead of myself. I address the importance of low access times later. But you may have anticipated the question. My response is, "Once you experience it, you'll see what I'm talking about. Some people who play at LAN parties, with single-digit pings, get so spoiled that they never want to play on the Net again. Same thing with SCSI.

Getting back to the value question: Is SCSI worth it for you. Let's talk about the person who can afford it. That's the real question: Is booting your system from a snarling SCSI beast worth it for the person who can afford it? 

Anyone reading this far probably has the financial wherewithal to afford a SCSI. This was my case. For me, the real question was, "What does SCSI buy me?" I already knew that I could afford it, but I didn't want to waste my money if the gain wasn't noticeable. You might feel the same. So let's use the format I learned in a Logic class to look at the question a little closer, and answer your questions.

But before I do, let me clarify one thing. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the IDE/ATA interface, or ATA drives. No, no, no. A thousand times, no. I love ATA drives. I have 3 of them myself (IBM 75GXP series) in my system. They rock. ATA drives provide great bang-for-your-storage-buck (key word: storage). But they simply don't compare in performance with current-generation SCSI drives .. at least not when we're talking about running your operating system & applications.

A drive's seek/access time spec is the most telling metric for determining how well a drive will run your OS & apps. Lowering a drive's seek time is both difficult & costly. This is why the seek/access times of ATA drives have remained essentially constant for the last few years. In fact, in the last year or so, they've actually worsened (for IDE drives).

SCSI drives are designed (primarily) with performance (not value) in mind, while IDE/ATA drives are designed (primarily) with value (not performance) in mind. I contend that both performance and value are important, and that, in order to make the best decision, you must first decide what you want to do with the drive. Someone who makes a blanket statement like, "SCSI is better than IDE" .. or .. "IDE is better than SCSI" .. without addressing what the drive is to be used for, exhibits a lack of understanding. 

If you own a farm, and drive off-road a lot, you don't want a Ferrari (no matter how fast it goes). If you want a vehicle to win the Indy 500, you don't want a truck (no matter how many bales of hay it can carry). Make sense? 

I tell people who ask about the real-world difference between SCSI & IDE drives, "SCSI accelerates the time between when you click the mouse, and stuff starts to happen - it minimizes the delay." The typical response from someone who has never booted from a SCSI drive is, "What delay?" That's the thing: you don't even notice it .. until ... It's not until that first beast-powered boot that you can say, "Oh, that delay." It's most noticeable after you've used SCSI for a few weeks, and then go back to IDE.

One of the things that the hardcore-ATA group sometimes claims against SCSI-users is that those in the SCSI camp (sometimes) come off as holier-than-thou snobs .. that they feel they're somehow morally superior cuz they boot from a SCSI drive. 

Sadly, this is (sometimes) a valid point. I have witnessed it myself, yet only to a small degree. Naturally, those in the SCSI camp tend to better understand the finer points disk drive performance factors. Not always, but more often than not. Depending on how their argument is presented, it can come off as pedantic, or snobbish. Hopefully you understand what I'm saying, cuz people get fired up over the SCSI vs. IDE/ATA point.

What I'm against, is someone claiming that SCSI isn't worth it for someone else, simply because it may not be worth it for them. This happened to me. Consequently I passed on SCSI's performance cuz I'd heard it wasn't worth it. Someone with no SCSI experience isn't best qualified to tell you that SCSI isn't worth it for you. 

After a while, I wanted to see for myself what all the hoopla was about. I planned to install a SCSI drive, see for myself, and then sell it. But when I saw what a difference it made, I not only kept the drive, but bought another. So I'm here to proclaim that (for me, anyway) it was well worth it (and it costs less now) .. which bring us to my next point.

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