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I am building a new PC, I am a developer of whatever people want me to make, but I personally like to code games.

To do this, I have a simple set of requirements:

  1. Machine must run Windows 7, to run recent AAA games, some old games I have projects (and require DX7), and install lots of versions of MSVC (and related tools)
  2. Machine must run Linux, it is my desktop of choice, and has the best dev tools in general (Valgrind for example), also is an obvious POSIX platform to develop POSIX stuff.
  3. Machine must run OSX, because my most profitable contracts are for iOS and OSX... (no matter how much I insist clients to accept projects for other platforms).

I don't care about OS boot time, or application launch times, but I DO care about compilation times, time to launch stuff I am debugging, being able to record videos fast, being able to run Windows Performance Tools and dump several gigabytes of performance data without degrading the performance of whatever I am profiling.

This is my first time with a multiple-HDD machine.

Ideas so far:

  1. Split each HDD in 3, OS, SWAP, DATA, but install the OSes "interleaved", for example OSX "/" on HDD1, OSX SWAP on HDD2, OSX "/home" on HDD3. This theoretically allow me to use all 3 HDDs at once, and allow me to use the bios boot selection to boot OSes (instead of needing some funky bootloader). But it probably wastes space, as OSX /home probably will be used for 3gb, while Windows data partition would need more than 1TB.

  2. split HDD1 between 3 OSes, and hope I can figure how to boot them... And use the other 2 HDDs for RAID0. Sounds hard to do and risky, but maybe is faster than 1

  3. Same as 1, but use some tech to create a raid-like data partition out of the "data" part of the 3 HDDs. I don't even know if that is possible...

  4. RAID5 all 3 HDDs, use as if it was just one giant HDD, partitioning it between the 3 OSes (sounds hard to do).

  5. Use VM to boot OSes? I have no idea how that works, I tried to find out but only got confused, I DO know that the motherboard+CPU support Intel VT-d

I can't afford an SSD now, also the HDDs are 1TB WD Blacks from 2013, that have notoriously bad random seek times (16ms, while older WD HDDs had 12ms or less) but is one of the fastest sequential read/write speeds available (160 megabyte/s is common, some people reported more).

But I DO plan in buying SSDs later, but I don't know if an OS can be easily moved to an SSD later, also I never saw an SSD in person, I don't know their performance characteristics, or if they can be merged with HDDs (using RAID or something similar) to improve HDD performance directly (using SSD as some kind of cache to speed-up random read/write).

  • Question originally was on SuperUser, but people there said hackintosh is not allowed there and offtopic, and instead that I should ask here. – speeder Apr 19 '16 at 17:00
  • Instead of using real harddisks, allow booting from USB and run any OS. – ott-- Apr 19 '16 at 17:27
  • is that reliable? also USB write speeds last I checked used to be really slow, and OSes do tend to write in their own partition a bit. And how much is a big enough USB, the same as an SSD no? – speeder Apr 19 '16 at 18:03
  • went to read some benchmarks, seemly with USB 3.0 even the read performance is not that good, with the average pendrive peaking at 100 megabytes per second (slower than WD Black 160 megabyte per second), and random seek time being better than HDD, but not much. USB 3.0 has the same theoretical capacity (per the standard) as SATA 3.0 As for price, a 128gb Kingston USB 3.0 pendrive here costs 170 USD – speeder Apr 19 '16 at 18:17
  • Don't do that @speeder. If your setup is intended to last for some time a hard drive is the solution of choice. – Thorian Apr 19 '16 at 18:51
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Another suggestion:
You can also just buy a second hand brand name workstation (or build a custom one but I think it's not worth it) with 32/64gigs of ram and 2 x 8 core Xeon E5-2670s for instance (+hyperthreading, thus having 32 CPU threads), with 3 drives in RAID5 and install an OS as a hypervisor and have your 3 OS's in virtual machines. This way you can have them up and running all 3 at a time if you wish and this kind of rig is powerful enough for mostly anything. In case you need more power for a machine, you can reassign the hardware also.

  • that is ludicrously expensive... O.O and here I was thinking my build was already kickassing enough (i5 with 32gb of ram) – speeder Apr 19 '16 at 20:49
  • not necessarily.....for max 1000 bucks you will surely find depending on your location also (I just bought one myself on an ebay auction) and IMHO that is affordable – mazs Apr 19 '16 at 21:25
  • Where I live importing a 1000 USD machine will cost about 100% of the value+shipping price, thus to ship and pay customs of an 15kg machine it can easily cost me 1000 USD (for the machine) + 1600 USD, crossing a threshold that make insurance necessary, bumping total price to 3000 USD+ – speeder Apr 19 '16 at 21:37
  • oooops that's not nice...... – mazs Apr 19 '16 at 21:54
  • mind, you, keep your answer, it is a good one for people reading from more sane countries :) – speeder Apr 19 '16 at 22:22
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I of course can't give you the answer to your situation, but I wan't to try and give you some ideas on it.

First of all: use SSDs!

I understood that you can't affort them yet, but you will definitely love them once you have them. And I assume it is a better idea to do this whole setup once and for all, not now and in a few month you have to do it all over again.

My idea on your setup:

  1. Get at least one big SSD as your system drive
    • Put your OSes on this drive and configure it for multiboot
    • Also put the swap partitions there
  2. Use your HDDs with RAID 5 as a data drive
    • Format it as you like with one big partition for everything or separated by OS

As an alternative for the 1. solution use an HDD, preferably the same size of the planned SSD and set everything up. Later you can clone the drive to your SSD using Clonezilla for example.

Miscellaneous

As cas said in his comment you don't have to worry about heavy I/O on your SSD, as this article shows.

  • Ideally this is what I want to do... but I sadly can't :( Thus why I made the question in first place. (also, doesn't swap quickly destroy cheaper SSDs?) – speeder Apr 19 '16 at 19:21
  • I don't know your situation but I would assume it's worth waiting until you can afford the SSDs. And someone correct me if I am wrong, but as long as you don't extensively use swap, I don't see a problem. Mine is running since one year without a problem. And if you happen to use all of your RAM, let's say for a VM for example, the swap on SSD will save you from a system lockup. – Thorian Apr 19 '16 at 19:35
  • I can't "wait" to afford SSD, the machine I am building is my work tool (I am a programmer), if I "wait" I will have zero income, and will never afford it ;) EDIT: about swap: windows write to swaps a lot, windows is very swap-write happy – speeder Apr 19 '16 at 19:40
  • I hate Windows... Well you don't have a fourth drive have you? My idea would be to use a small HDD (same size as the to be purchased SSD) and simply clone it once you have the SSD. EDIT: HDD to SSD cloning is no problem. – Thorian Apr 19 '16 at 19:43
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    the days are long past when SSD write endurance was an issue for any kind of normal (or even absurdly excessive) use. Modern SSDs are specified to be capable of multiple complete rewrites every day for many years....far more than any normal usage will be. Here's an article from March last year on stress-testing SSD writes until they died - it was hard work, and took deliberate effort: techreport.com/review/27909/… – cas Apr 20 '16 at 0:32

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