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Old 03-30-2006, 08:40 PM   #1
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Question SATA-300 PCI Cards worth it (for this setup)?

I posted this in the OT forum accidentally but it never got moved and never got any replies, so I'm posting in the appropriate place hoping for some insight.

I'm looking to upgrade my HTPC which I built circa three years ago with the following basic specifications.

Originally Posted by Current System
Antec Sonata (with the 380W PS) Case
P4 2.4ghz HT (800mhz FBS) on ASUS P4P800 (info here)
1gb PC3200 Corsair RAM
128mb ATI Radeon 9600 Pro
AOpen AW850 Deluxe
NEC 3500A 16x DVD-RW
No floppy drive (might be a problem installing SATA drivers?)
The specific information for my motherboard is as follows:

Originally Posted by Motherboard
ASUS P4P800, Socket 478, FSB 800
North Bridge Intel 865PE | South Bridge Intel ICH5R

Number of DDR Slots 4x 184pin DDR
DDR Standard DDR 400 (PC 3200)
Maximum Memory Supported 4GB
Dual Channel Supported Yes

Expansion Slots
AGP Slots 1x AGP 4X/8X
PCI Express x16 None
PCI Slots 5

Storage Devices
SATA 1.5 Gb/s 2
My concern is that even if I buy an additional SATA-300 PCI Card, I wouldn't be able to do a RAID5. I currently have two PATA drives (WD 80gb [OS] and Seagate 160gb [Media]).

System Purpose:
I'm looking to upgrade this machine to a media center / fileserver. I'd like to deploy some sort RAID system primarily for redudency and performance. The problem is I am not entirely sure this is possible given my current motherboard (though I am more than willing to buy any sort of SATA PCI Cards). Also, I have MCE 2005 / Vista UE which I would like to deploy as my OS (if it matters at all).

Basically, I just want to have this machine be on 24/7 so I can store music and movies to share it across my home network (which is gigabit with CAT6 and all).

Tentative Plans:
3x Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 300GB (Note: I've heard that for RAID5 systems, I probably shouldn't order the same HD from the same merchant in case I get a bad batch where it would be counter-productive to the RAID system. How much validity does this mindset have?)
1x Promise Technology PRO SATA300 TX4 (4-port) OR 1x PPA Int'l 2-Port SATA150 PCI Card + the 2 SATA-150 ports on my mobo.
1x Antec TRUEPOWERII TPII-550 ATX12V 550W.
1x Antec 75003 120mm Ball Case Cooling Fan - Retail.

[1] Is getting a SATA PCI Card the best way to do this sort of upgrade without having to buy a new motherboard? Does anyone have any other recommendations?

[2] Given that PCI can push ~266mb, it would be my belief that a SATA-300 although not fully maximized might be worth the cost of getting it over a SATA-150 PCI Card. Is this true? Should I just save the money for my already sub-optimal system and simply opt for an additional 2-port SATA-150 PCI Card (~$25) and use it inconjuction with the 2 SATA-150 ports already available on my motherboard? Could I still do a RAID5? What's the better alternate? Ideally, the more parts I can re-use 2-3 years down the road, the better. Intially, I was thinking about buying a 4-port SATA-300 PCI Card since I was planning on grabbing SATA-300 hard drives. Can someone please enlighten me if this is an obviously poor decision?

[3] Given the relatively cheap cost of 512mb PC3200 RAM (~$55 from Crucial), should I fill up the last two slots on my motherboard for a total of 2GB of RAM? How important is the extra 1gb of RAM for this type of system?

Thanks in advance. I'm not sure what I would do without you folks.
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