HDD / SSD Caching still a thing?

Brian_B

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So I remember things like Apple's Fusion Drive and AMDs StorMi used to be a thing - where you used an SSD as a cache for an HDD. The theory was that it would get you SSD-like speeds for most of your stuff, but still give you the storage advantage of HDDs.

Did these die off? Are there any recommendations for one?

I've got a 10TB drive about 80% full of games. I had (love saying "had") slow internet so I just never deleted anything if I downloaded it. I've played the SteamMover game for years, shuffling whatever game I happened to be playing at the time to the SSD, then shuffling it back when I'm ready for the next game. Just curious if a good caching program couldn't mostly automate this process.

This isn't for my boot drive - that stays SSD-only.
 

Space_Ranger

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I use PrimoCache for my spindle drives in my Office machine. Same concept. I have an SSD dedicated as a R/W cache for the spinning disks. Works good enough for me.
 

Brian_B

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Thanks for the posts. So I went to play with this.

I have an older Z87 motherboard. Supposedly it supports Intel SRT acceleration. My original configuration was one SSD (Samsung 850 - my boot drive), and my bulk storage drive (WD 10TB Spinner). Both with just a single main partition (apart from the various hidden partitions Windows 10 likes on the boot drive). So I started by downloading the most recent Intel SRT drivers.

So, Intel SRT needs the SATA controller to be in RAID mode. No problem - set it to Raid from AHCI , and it still saw the drives as non-RAID drives and booted fine. Intel SRT would start up, but would not present any Acceleration option per any guide I was able to find. Ok.. well, maybe it needs it's own partition or drive.

So, in an effort to not spend any money up front, I split the partition on the SSD, and split off a smaller partition for just the cache. Intel SRT still wouldn't show the Accelerate option -- it's not greyed out or disabled, it's just not there at all.

So I downloaded PrimoCache (thanks for the suggestion @Space_Ranger), and it has a 30-day trial. That -- I was able to configure that and work with the partition just fine.

Undaunted by my apparent success, I still wanted to see if I could get SRT to work like it was supposed to. I went ahead and dropped in a new SSD (Samsung 870) on the system. SRT still didn't show.

Given the new SSD was better than my original SSD, I went ahead and cloned the 850 to the 870. Wiped the 850, and tried SRT one more time - still a no show.

Apparently, if I wanted to re-install windows (rather than clone), with the controller in RAID, then maybe SRT would work - but as of right now everything I tried was bust for Intel. Not sure if that's just because my system is older and the software has moved on assuming Optane, or if it needs a clean Windows install, or what. But at this point, that sounds like more work than just paying $30 for PrimoCache, which seems to work just fine without jumping through all that.

I'll let the cache run for a couple of weeks and see if I can notice the difference. If I can tell it's faster by my reasonably subjective opinion, I'll pay up and keep it. If not, at least I got some more SSD space to play with and will just keep playing the SteamMover / SymLink game.
 

LazyGamer

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About the only good recommendation I can make is to run far, far away.

PrimoCache would be my second vote, but generally speaking, you're best off just leaving it alone. Move over what you're using, leave the rest on the spinner.

If it's really inconvenient, buy more SSDs. US$100/TB ain't bad to pay just just have something available.
 

Stoly

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About the only good recommendation I can make is to run far, far away.

PrimoCache would be my second vote, but generally speaking, you're best off just leaving it alone. Move over what you're using, leave the rest on the spinner.

If it's really inconvenient, buy more SSDs. US$100/TB ain't bad to pay just just have something available.
he can buy a really cheap SATA SSD, pretty much all of them do 500GB/sec speeds and games dont really benefit much from M2. Well at least not until DirectStorage comes to play.
 

LazyGamer

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he can buy a really cheap SATA SSD, pretty much all of them do 500GB/sec speeds and games dont really benefit much from M2. Well at least not until DirectStorage comes to play.
Yup. Only reason I have more than one M.2 (and more than one NVMe) is that that's what's available on the board. SATA ports actually get disabled, so I'm maxed out using two of those for 8TB spinners separately alongside three NVMe drives.

Of course, NVMe isn't that more expensive (or even isn't at all) if that's what you can use, it's more up to the expansion options available than the performance delta IMO.
 

Brian_B

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This will sound pretty stupid, but the main reason I was asking about caching:

Going game by game is ok. The games weren't really the biggest sticking point though. My biggest hangup was Steam. Just loading the Library page: scrolling through that the first time was painful. All the icons never seemed to get cached properly, since most of the games were installed on the HDD. Similar thing on EGS - the Library page.

Unless I either ditched the HDD entirely, or found a way to cache the HDD better than title-by-title manually, I fear that was always going to be slow.

My motherboard is old enough it doesn't even have M.2.

Yes, I did just throw another SATA SSD at it. Or rather, I upgraded my Boot SATA SSD to a 1TB (seemed to be the best $/GB), and then used the old one (500G) as PrimoCache L2 Cache. It's overkill for what is being used right now, but I just threw the entire SSD at the cache and figure I'd let it fill up.

Seems to have fixed my library scrolling problem, and games are getting cached as I load them. I don't have to juggle titles back and forth any longer. And since I'm only using Read caching, if the cache craps out, I didn't lose anything, it just goes back to being slow again.

So far, so good. Kinda nice. And total cost was a heck of a lot less than a 10TB SSD. Granted, I could have just got a 2TB drive (not bad $/GB really) and just started over on my library and download what I'm playing... but I think upgrade cost I'm still well under that- given that I already had the 10TB drive - the upgrade cost will just be the second SSD + PrimoCache license.
 
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