Multiple hard drives and computer games
April 15, 2006 10:14 PM   Subscribe

Is it always best to install a resource-demanding computer game on the system disk?

I have 3 S-ATA hard drives on the same S-ATA controller. Does it affect the performance of games such as Oblivion or Need For Speed if they are installed on one of my secondary drives?
posted by fondle to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
...on Windows XP.
posted by fondle at 10:14 PM on April 15, 2006

It actually makes little-to-no difference.

While the main annoyance, at least for me, would be that Oblivion is taking up 5 GB of space, and my system drive isn't *that* that large, the reality of the situation is that the "system" is doing very little in the "accessing-the-disk" aisle, and is focused on giving you your game.

I have both Oblivion and NFS: Most Wanted installed, but I keep them off my OS drive.

There is absolutely no reason why it should be "difficult" to install your apps anywhere you want to. It's far easier than on a Mac... ;-)
1. Start-> Run-> type "regex", click "Ok".
2) Find your way to:
3. Find ProgramFilesDir whose default should be C:\Program Files
4. Change C:\Program Files to whatever your little heart desires. I use D:\Program Files
I keep almost nothing on my OS drive because I like the ability to reformat at will without having to worry about annoying backups. But it has nothing to do with I/O times or anything like that.

The only resource contention issues come into play when you attempt to do large read/writes off the same drive at the same time, or even the same drive on the same channel. Copying something from one physical drive to another on a different channel (antiquated issue with SATA, really) will work faster than on the same disk, since both disks can do what they need to, instead of queuing and performing the actions on the same disk.

Bottom line? It's loading everything your game needs to play into memory. When it loads, it'll do it damn quickly, if you're able to play Oblivion or NFS. And it'll just refresh whatever's in your RAM, so don't worry about it. If nothing else, add more memory and watch what happens to load times.
posted by disillusioned at 11:12 PM on April 15, 2006

Yes, but as noted above, you can't always change the location of where it is installed.

What is the configuration of your SATA drivers? If case you haven't already, you might want to move your page file to a physically and virtually (in case of mirroring) separate drive. Taking it off the drive that contains your system files will help with performance.

You can also go into Windows environment settings and change the location of your home directory and default directories to a different drive.
posted by gaelenh at 11:14 PM on April 15, 2006

I have the OS on disk 0, the pagefile on disk 1 and I am thinking about installing all games and such on disk 2.
posted by fondle at 11:31 PM on April 15, 2006

Yeah, I'm in the game industry, and have never heard of this mattering. Though, I can't say for sure that it makes no difference, since I've never actually seen a head-to-head comparison. You should try it out and post your findings on a web page. For science!

At least, in armchair-theoryland, the only time you're going to be accessing your system disk during a game is if you have a low RAM situation, and the OS needs to swap virtual memory. In that case (especially if it is swapping during a level load or while streaming assets in,) it would be nice to have the game assets and swap file on different physical disks, but it's pretty much going to suck, regardless.

I can tell you, both as a consequence of the above, and empirically, not to skimp on your quantity of RAM.
posted by blenderfish at 11:43 PM on April 15, 2006

Good answers, thank you all. I shall now happily install games and whatnot on my third disk.
posted by fondle at 11:57 PM on April 15, 2006

In disillusioned's instructions, replace 'regex' with 'regedit'.
posted by matthewr at 4:54 AM on April 16, 2006

Sorry for the hijack, but will the above advice also apply to external USB 2.0 drives? I have a laptop with an internal drive, but a (much larger) external USB drive. Would it be better to install my games there, or keep them on my internal drive?
posted by nervestaple at 10:19 AM on April 16, 2006

I can tell you, both as a consequence of the above, and empirically, not to skimp on your quantity of RAM.

Not everyone can afford to buy more RAM. Don't tell me it's cheap -- college students have to pinch pennies.

But anyway, the main reason you want to avoid resource contention between the game and system drive is to avoid conflicts with the swapfile. (Even computers that have a lot of RAM sometimes use swap, since Windows tries to keep memory free to serve as a disk cache....)

So my suggestion is, instead of moving all your programs to another drive... move the swapfile instead! No registry editing is required either, just go under the System control panel, Advanced tab, click Performance Options, click its Advanced tab, click the Change button in the Virtual Memory section. You should be able to figure it out from there, although I caution not to select a too-small total size, or disable paging failes on all drives, unless you're sure you have more than enough memory to change it back if you have problems.
posted by JHarris at 11:53 AM on April 16, 2006

Not everyone can afford to buy more RAM. Don't tell me it's cheap -- college students have to pinch pennies.

If you want to game 'on the cheap', buy a PS2 or a Gamecube. Seriously.
Even an entire XBox 360 is about the cost of a cutting-edge video card alone.

PC gaming is not for the faint-of-pocketbook.
posted by blenderfish at 6:12 PM on April 16, 2006

« Older "Klopstock!"   |   Strep and/or Pharyngitis Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.