7200 rpm or 5400 rpm laptop drive.
December 5, 2008 10:31 AM   Subscribe

7200 rpm or 5400 rpm laptop drive, that is the question.

I've got a pretty dang nice Dell laptop, 2 year old Inspiron E1505, top of the class when I bought it; OS -- XP media center (MCE), intel T2300 core duo 1.66GHz. The best lcd Dell offered then, it's perfectly beautiful, great for watching DVDs or whatever. A nice machine. I upgraded/updated from one to two gig of ram recently.

But -- I am the last person on the planet to buy a laptop with a 40gig hard drive. Seems that it's choking and gagging and I'm thinking that the stumbling point is the bitty drive, considering upgrading to a faster and larger drive (250 gig 7200rpm hitachi) and reloading the OS and other software that's on the machine.

It'd be nice to have all the mp3s local and some of the other media also, make it easier to keep track of it in one place. Maybe dual boot with some linux OS, find out what all the fanboys are jumping up and down about, maybe even get myself a linux hat or t-shirt or something to make certain that I'll never get laid again... so maybe I won't get the hat or tshirt after all and won't talk about it to anyone other than online people and this one techy buddy of mine.

But the question for the hive -- replace the drive with the faster one or not? Is it eighty bucks well spent? (I could easily get 250gig for fifty bucks or less but not as fast, 5400rpm rather than 7200rpm, so I guess it's really only an extra 30 bucks, as going with a larger drive really is inevitable.)

Thanx in advance.
posted by dancestoblue to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Unless the machine has RAM pouring out it's ears, a faster drive makes everything faster. And programs load faster, files save quicker. It just makes the machine more responsive overall. So I suggest spending the extra $30 - it'll boost performance across the board.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:37 AM on December 5, 2008

Also - the machine boots quicker ;-)
posted by -harlequin- at 10:37 AM on December 5, 2008

7200 rpm is so fast, it'll even drain the battery faster.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:38 AM on December 5, 2008

If you plan to run Linux, a faster hard drive will make a huge difference. With Windows, I have no idea.

But, with Linux, I'd take the faster drive over the RAM. I upgraded both in my T20, and the hard drive made a bigger difference.
posted by QIbHom at 10:47 AM on December 5, 2008

Blazecock Pileon has it... A 7200 rpm drive will drain the battery considerably more quickly than a 5400 rpm drive. So you've got a choice: better performance or better battery life?

Is it possible that the 40GB drive you have already is a slow-as-molasses 4200rpm drive? Even if it isn't, you still may see better performance out of the new 5400rpm drive (higher density platters = lower seek times, and it might also have a larger cache on the drive).

Unless your laptop has amazing battery life now and you're willing to sacrifice some of it, I'd would personally recommend the 5400rpm drive. On the other hand, if you use your laptop plugged into the wall all the time anyway, go for the 7200 rpm and marvel at the performance difference.
posted by XcentricOrbit at 10:48 AM on December 5, 2008

IIRC, most benchmarks on the topic indicate that the increased speed and increased battery usage of a 7200 RPM drive largely cancel out. That is, yes, it drains more, but it also finishes up and stop draining sooner, in roughly equal proportion.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:19 AM on December 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

Does Dell offer a 7200 RPM drive for your laptop? The reason I ask is that things are not always cut and dry when it comes to upgrades. 7200 RPM drives are faster, yes. They also require more power to function. What has not been mentioned is the heat factor. 7200 RPM HDDs also release a tremendous amount of heat, so much, in fact, that many manufacturers do not offer 7200 RPM upgrades. You should contact Dell about this and ask the following questions:

1.) Are the fans capable of disipating the additional heat?
2.) Will the additional heat cause your system to overheat and shutdown?

Your system may be suffering from something called Windows rot. Perhaps you should purchase external drive storage (which incidentally is much easier to recover in the event of a catastrophic system failure) and simply reformat your computer. If you are prepared to reinstall your OS and applications with the new drive what's the harm in doing it now and seeing if there are any performance improvements?
posted by murp0837 at 11:39 AM on December 5, 2008

Before cloning or upgrading your drive I suggest you read this thread, I'm still in the process of trying to upgrade my Inspiron 9400.

These two links really helped me understand what the problem is and how to try to fix it.

Hope this helps.
posted by WilliamWallace at 11:51 AM on December 5, 2008

I'm not entirely sure that the problem is your hard drive. You might just do some general maintenance, clean some cruft off, and see what happens.

That said, yes, many bottlenecks in CPU performance these days are caused by disk I/O. Whether you're running into those with your daily use will depend on what exactly you're doing. A 7200 rpm hard drive may make things a little zippier though.
posted by chrisamiller at 1:08 PM on December 5, 2008

If you are doing any video work, especially capturing from a camera, you definitely want the faster drive.
posted by trinity8-director at 5:43 PM on December 5, 2008

Check the transfer rates on the two drives you are considering. A 5400 RPM drive may actually be faster than a 7200 RPM drive depending on the former's density.
posted by kindall at 6:36 PM on December 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by flabdablet at 11:22 PM on December 5, 2008

Western Digital do a 500gb 5400 rpm drive that is super fast - mostly down to the higher density compared to a lower capacity drive. I chose that over their 320gb 7200 drive as it should be quieter, use a bit less power, will only be slightly slower and has more room.
posted by JonB at 5:15 AM on December 6, 2008

Seconding checking the actual specifications of the drive(s) in question. I was thinking the same thing, and the 7200 rpm drive I almost bought had the exact same performance specifications as the one it was to replace.

If the computer WAS fast, and isn't now, it's not a hardware issue. It's some kind of software issue- the OS is clogged with programs running that you don't need most likely.
posted by gjc at 6:26 AM on December 6, 2008

Loud. Definitely loud-er at any rate. If you don't mind listening to that - then disregard my vote for 5400 rpm.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 1:02 PM on December 8, 2008

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