How much free space to leave on an external HDD used for storage? + Corruption multiple backups?

Discussion in 'SSD and HDD storage' started by 321Boom, Nov 21, 2017.

  1. 321Boom

    321Boom Member

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    Hello gurus,
    2 questions about HDD storage for the paranoid/ocd users out there! (like me :p)

    I have been reading that it is usually recommended to leave 10%-15% free space on a HDD due to fragmentation. Does this also apply to external HDDs used for backups/storage? If not, how much free space should be left?

    On a different note, will copying the same files over and over increase the chance of corruption? I take a manual routinely back up every month or so of this folder I constantly save/add images to (it's easier just taking a full backup of the whole folder rather than pinpointing the new stuff I saved), will the old files getting repeatedly copied every month have a chance of corruption due to being copied multiple times?

    Thanks for any help and advice gurus :)
     
  2. jbmcmillan

    jbmcmillan Ancient Guru

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  3. D3M1G0D

    D3M1G0D Master Guru

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    For your first question, fragmentation isn't really much of an issue for backup/storage (it's a performance issue mostly). For your second question, copying files over and over again won't lead to corruption.
     
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  4. 321Boom

    321Boom Member

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    Thank you both for your replies :) Thank you @jbmcmillan , that SyncToy you suggested could prove useful.

    My question on the corruption of copying files over and over came from here:

    'The more you insist of transferring data around the disk and data pathways of the computer (and the less reliable low speed buses used by many external hhds) by needlessly defragging, the greater the danger of data loss.'
    https://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/2451721
     

  5. mbk1969

    mbk1969 Ancient Guru

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    No defragging then. Defrag only "needed" for HDD with programs and data in active usage.
     
  6. A2Razor

    A2Razor Master Guru

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    Nothing bad will happen due to repeatedly re-copying the files (unless the source is damaged), however that also takes up alot of time unnecessarily.

    --Use robocopy with the mirror command (/mir) instead. If your backup folder is massive, this will save enormous amounts of time in incremental backups.


    For example, I usually do this to sync back my RAMDISK copy of MinGW should anything be changed.
    robocopy Z:\MinGW\ C:\MinGW\ /mir


    Adding a bit more clarification (EDIT):

    There is indeed a risk "if" you routinely defragment files. Without ECC memory, the following can happen:

    -Read from disk (to memory), bad-RAM (errors) and or alpha particle collision with memory, write back to disk.

    ^ Memory errors can be propagated in to files in the process of moving them. If those errors get in your source-files, and you routinely are re-copying them back to the destination, then both your copies of data could become damaged. Similarly, the source disk can go bad, and errors from the bad-disk are copied to the backup. (not good)


    If your data is very important, it's best to mix ECC, RAID, a stable system (no overclock!), and backups. Namely, if the source becomes corrupt, then backups that are copied from the source will also become corrupt. (== you're screwed silently)

    In the case that the source is stable, then re-copying is never a danger. If the source "might" become corrupt, use robocopy to reduce the risk: as robocopy mirror won't re-copy files (even if they change) as long as the timestamp and size are the same.
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2017
  7. 321Boom

    321Boom Member

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    @A2Razor Thank you for your reply, so you're saying if RAM is not ECC it isn't safe? I have 4 x 8GB HyperX Fury. How do those fare?

    No RAID system but planning on building one in the future. No overclock, so system is stable. As for back ups, I keep 3 sets of my data: 1 in the PC on a 4TB drive dedicated solely for storage, and a copy in 2 separate 4TB external drives that mirror each other and my pc's storage drive

    So the less I defragment my storage drive that's in my pc, the less the chance of corruption will be? Will the storage drive experience any benefits of being defragmented anyway if it's just used for storage?

    So with Robocopy, if I just add/change a few words for example to a text file, and this would still leave it at the same KB size (since it's just a few words of text), or rename a file, would those changes be backed up as well?
     
  8. A2Razor

    A2Razor Master Guru

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    Right, non ECC memory is not safe, especially in a RAID backed system. The best way to look at this is that there's many causes for data corruption beyond disk-failure. While non ECC memory typically doesn't have many memory errors, they naturally do occur (seen or unseen, for instance an error may occur in a section of RAM that's not even in use and thus having absolutely no effect). While most of these won't be propagated to the disk statistically speaking, and while most memory errors are harmless to the operation of a PC (may be in some temporary / volatile section of RAM) -- the big problem is that you have absolutely no warning when memory goes bad.

    --A DIMM can fail and you can be operating your machine with bad RAM (without knowing), and that's talking beyond just the naturally occurring errors. The way that I like to look at this is the common saying of people have of "I've been running non ECC for years and I never had any errors.". That's the thing, you simply don't know. Systems these days have more memory too, and like with adding drives, the more RAM you have, the higher the odds of errors or something going wrong.

    ^ You don't want to find that you have to run memtest86 on your RAM because you notice some instability problem... Then find yourself wondering if this has caused corruption that you've copied in to a few weeks of backups.


    ECC is in a sense a failsafe in that uncorrectable errors = halt (Windows case BSOD -- you want this to happen). When a system has RAM go bad, the system is stopped to protect your data. You inspect your Windows Event log (or Linux log files) and immediately see that the DIMM has gone bad without having to run memtest86.

    So, in jist, yes ECC is a very good idea in any storage critical system.

    Every operation of moving files (from one part of the drive to another), tends to involve copying through memory. If the originals are physically moved around, each move incurs a risk.

    -A defragment that's only dealing with file-fragmentation is probably safe as long as the disk has a good deal of free space (won't have to move around files repeatedly once defragged). If you use a tool such as PerfectDisk, you might want to make sure that your defrag tool isn't also tightly packing data together (free-space defragmentation). Usually you can tell these programs what you want them to do.

    For a backup volume, there is almost no reason to defragment it. Only bother with your active drives.

    Yes, these changes would be caught by robocopy.

    In the case of editing a text-file, a new timestamp will be written to the file even if the size doesn't change. The renamed file will be seen as a new file, and the original will be deleted in the sync operation, with a new file being copied under the new name.
     
  9. D3M1G0D

    D3M1G0D Master Guru

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    I think it should be noted that ECC RAM is typically not supported on consumer motherboards. It's usually for servers or workstations, which require 100% data integrity.
     
  10. A2Razor

    A2Razor Master Guru

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    Yep, also worth noting.

    Though this only applies on the Intel side of things. Cheap AMD chips like the X4 955 support ECC, provided that you have a board that supports it of course. They make good cheap sub 300$ storage servers.


    Be especially careful with AMD boards. When a manufacturer lists "ECC / Non-ECC", this doesn't give you a guarantee that it actually supports it funny as that sounds. Companies list ECC if their board will post with it and operate in non-ECC mode.

    Best way to for sure know is to find reports on forums by users, ask the company, or dig through the manual for "scrubbing" settings. If those settings exist, the board has ECC support.
    --ASROCK is one of the more honest companies, that said, for never doing that type of stuff in their spec listing.
     

  11. 321Boom

    321Boom Member

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    Thank you both for your informative replies. A quick Google search shows that ECC memory could affect gaming performance though (because of different timings due to the error-correcting), and most gaming rigs get built without ECC RAM (according to a list of gaming builds on Tom's Hardware). I use my PC mainly for gaming and recording gameplay, and of course other general stuff like saving images and music.

    Since my PC is mainly used for daily gaming and recording, would it still be recommended to use ECC memory in it? Or should I leave my gaming rig as it is, and build a server to store my backups in with a RAID system and ECC memory? Anything else I should know for a server for the best ways to keep my data safe?

    Btw thank you @A2Razor for further information on Robocopy. If it will mirror my storage drive exactly even with the slightest of changes (like a few words of text in a text doc), then I will definitely look into it more. Thank you.
     
  12. A2Razor

    A2Razor Master Guru

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    ECC in itself doesn't effect performance much, however you won't find ECC memory rated at the high end OC'd speeds.

    I mean, aggressive scrubbing options can hurt performance (in reducing throughput), yet in general you'll find that like everything else in a computer "it depends". Some games are latency sensitive, others are bandwidth sensitive. Some games like really strong single cores (eg, where you're basically best off with an overclocked 7700k), others (though rare) prefer 6-8 cores.

    --I've gamed on work-grade non overclocked machines for years (with ECC), and my framerates were honestly comparable to the non Xeon counterpart in most of the online games that I played. It's anecdotal of course, since that's my experience, but real-world is much different than synthetic benchmarks.

    RAM matters alot less in games than people make it out to.


    If your primary use of a machine is "gaming", I'd go for a second rig. That said ... Having a diversity of machines is never a bad idea, and having an ECC + RAID backed NAS is extremely worth it for peace of mind (you sound like you care about your data).
     
  13. 321Boom

    321Boom Member

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    Awesome, thank you for the information. So I'll look into building a second rig then to use with ECC + RAID. What is the difference between a server and NAS? I hear lots of people say a server should always be left switched on, would this be necessary if I have a copy of my data in the gaming rig already, so I wouldn't need to access the NAS/server to access it? (I'm asking this because I'm concerned about heat, power outages, and lifetime of the hdds)

    So, would it still 'not be safe' if I first save new data (images, music, etc) onto my gaming rig, then copy them onto the NAS/server? (since my gaming rig doesn't have ECC). I guess this question could be asked vice versa too, would there still be a risk of corruption copying from the NAS/server to the gaming rig, since the NAS/server will be with ECC but the gaming rig without ECC?

    Would Robocopy also work to keep my storage drive in my gaming rig, and the NAS/server mirrored exactly, or is it only for external drives?

    Haha yes, the peace of mind would be worth it. My data is the most precious thing in the world to me (seriously, I live on my pc).
     
  14. A2Razor

    A2Razor Master Guru

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    NAS = Network Attached Storage Server. Or simply a server that hosts some network-volumes / drives, anything can be a NAS, even a Windows PC.

    Most of the cheap NAS servers on the market use dinky ARM processors (like you'd find in a cellphone) with no ECC memory -- they're basically gimicks (with arguably low amounts of usefulness). Not only do they perform poorly (processor choke rather than disk IO or network-choke), but they also don't really protect your data very well (for obvious reasons).

    ^ Ideally you would build your own Server-PC (with many disks and ECC memory), and purpose it to serve as your NAS. (keep in mind that because this machine is just acting as a storage server, it actually doesn't need that much RAM to function and its price shouldn't be too bad)


    FreeNAS is one of the most popular ways to go about doing this. You'll find that there's many FreeBSD and Linux based distros that are pre-setup out of the box to run a web-configurable storage server, with RAID. If you install something such as FreeNAS, soon as you get it up and running after installation, all of the rest of the configuration you'd do from your main desktop. At that point you don't need access to the server (can put it somewhere in another room with no monitor) until something fails down the road.


    Far as power-failures, yes, this can be a problem. If you live somewhere with a shotty power-grid, I'd recommend getting a UPS to power your NAS, so that it can cleanly shutdown.

    Abrupt power outages can get the disks in your RAID array out of sync. Software RAID can deal with this, but it puts the array in to a degraded state while the drives are basically 'scanned' and integrity is verified. When that happens, performance will go down the toilet for many hours each-time (or over a day depending how large the drives are in the array -- eg, how much of the disk has to be checked).

    One reason that people prefer their server to be always running is so that the drives in the machine can be constantly verified. If the machine is off and you have disks sitting there, a core problem is that you have no idea if they'll come back online or the state they'll be in. (for instance, with SSD's, putting them in cold-storage is risky ... flash storage can "rot" when not powered [for a long time] )

    The other incentive is just convenience. That your files are always there when you want them.

    Only if you're copying data back to the server. For accessing your recordings, pictures, music, or whatever else locally (just reading them) you should be fine.

    Yes, you can mount a networked volume and use robocopy to the networked volume just like a local-drive.



    --- All said, while a storage server is fantastic, make sure that you also have a copy of critical-data that you absolutely can't afford to lose (anything your life depends on) in another physical location.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2017
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  15. 321Boom

    321Boom Member

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    Awesome, got it, so I'll definitely go with a server. I'll have to create a separate thread once I actually get around to building it (could be a while till I scrounge up the cash haha), but thanks for the information nonetheless, always good having a plan in mind backed with information. So I guess since the server would be used for storage, it wouldn't need a graphics card, or maybe just a low end one?

    That FreeNAS program sounds amazing. Thanks, I'll definitely have to test it out once I get the server up and running. Lol 'don't need access to the server (can put it somewhere in another room with no monitor) until something fails down the road' doesn't sound too reassuring :p

    Yes I would DEFINITELY have a UPS for the server, my ocd wouldn't let me sleep at night if I didn't haha :p Well we do get around 5 - 8 power outages a year where I live. Hmm so it sounds like it's better leaving it powered on all the time, why wouldn't some of the discs come back online after a normal safe shutdown though? Why would it matter if 'performance goes down the toilet' if it's just being used for storage?

    So just to make sure I understood this correctly, if for example, I am saving an image from a site, or downloading a new music track, it's more recommended to save directly to the server, rather than on the gaming rig and then making a copy in the server, correct? Regarding your comment 'Only if you're copying data back to the server. For accessing your recordings, pictures, music, or whatever else locally (just reading them) you should be fine., I would like to have a direct copy of my data in my gaming rig as well though (it'll serve as another back up also I guess) rather than just accessing it on the server, so copying data from the server (which will have ECC memory) to the gaming rig (which doesn't have ECC memory) is safe, but the other way round isn't?

    That's awesome about Robocopy. Sounds like a very handy tool for back ups. Thanks.

    Yes that's a definite, my mind will not be at ease just because I have the back ups in the server (something could go horribly wrong, like it catches fire or something), so I will still be taking back ups into 2 external hard drives. Never could have enough back ups I say :) (and there's no healing for a twisted mind either haha :p)

    Thanks once again for all your assistance and time taken in all these replies :)
     

  16. D3M1G0D

    D3M1G0D Master Guru

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    For your backup drive you should also consider turning off write-caching (this can be found under the Policy tab in the drive properties in Windows). This reduces performance but will prevent data corruption when power is cut to the drive unexpectedly. I do grid computing on my PCs so it's constantly writing to disk, and I've had numerous instances of corruption due to power outages. I've since moved the data folder for my computing app to an external drive with write-caching disabled so that I won't lose my progress next time.

    Of course having a UPS also helps for power outages but it's not a foolproof solution (I use a CyberPower 900 watts UPS, and it once left my Threadripper system in an unstable state when the power went out), and it won't protect you in the case of a crash or an accidental reset.
     
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  17. A2Razor

    A2Razor Master Guru

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    Only needed for installation and bios setup (unless the bios requires a videocard to post the machine -- some do). Motherboard integrated graphics is just fine.


    Right, yet while not sounding good phrased that way, typically servers are intended to be that way. Set it and forget it.
    --aka, check in on server logs, make sure that everything is running OK. Get email alerts or Phone SMS's when things go awry.

    If you shutdown normally, there's no problem. You can power down the server anytime that you want, so long as you do so cleanly. The issue is abrupt shutoffs whilest the machine and drives are in the middle of a write. Or put another way, one disk may complete a write operation and another hasn't yet.

    Power failure, crashes, etc, are all causes of RAID desync. Pretty much you can count on any abrupt shutoff (for any reason) with a software RAID being detected, as they will check and log starts and stops of the system. The problem with a degraded array is strain on the disks. Like with most hardware, drives are no exception to the "they're going to break when pushed if there's anything wrong" motto.


    --Beyond that, unscheduled halts of a system are not good for data. The whole "if the OS is moving around data" ... you just really don't want to interrupt these operations if possible not to.

    Yep, the goal is to minimize the amount of passing data "through" non-ECC systems. Once archived, as long as you keep the files on your storage server, and avoid unnecessarily copying them back and forth -- that's the best way to take advantage of your "reliable machine" for protecting your long-term stored data.

    --Data copied to an "unreliable machine" (eg, a gaming machine without ECC) then pushed back to the reliable one, is a chance for the unreliable one to inject some errors in the data it touched.


    The longer a file is stored locally and then pushed back, the greater the risk. However, since robocopy won't re-upload even if corruption gets in the local copy (as long as the timestamp isn't corrupt), the risk is a bit lower that way.

    Fortunately, in the nix-OS's, you have rsync, which is just like robocopy. You can archive your storage server to external disks 'from' the storage server itself. :)


    This is VERY good advice.

    Any idea what your power consumption is like during your crunching? Alot of the problem with UPS's is their efficiency "trick". They don't have instantaneous power-transfer and rely on the hold-time of the PSU until the inverter kicks in. The PSU caps have to last until that happens (and they only hold a fraction of a second).

    --Getting a beefier PSU might solve your problems.


    If it doesn't, another option is building your own "always on" UPS through a trickle charger, car batteries, and a pure-sine inverter. You get far higher run-times (car batteries rock for life), yet of course it'll constantly make noise and waste some power thanks to the always active nature. A bonus is you get much more clean (filtered) power though than from the wall.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2017
  18. 321Boom

    321Boom Member

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    @D3M1G0D Thank you for your suggestion about turning off write-caching on the external drives. It sounds like very helpful advice in case of power outages. I'll definitely set this up.

    That's quit worrying that not even the UPS managed to protect you from the power outage :/

    @A2Razor Yeah I know what you mean, my gaming rig won't post if the graphics card isn't installed either.

    I'm assuming that you get the server logs, phone and email alerts from the server as an option in FreeNAS? So, could I check the server logs through the gaming rig? (since you said I could just put the server in another room, even without a monitor, and I'm on my gaming rig most of the time)

    Got it, it sounds more and more like it's better advice to keep the server always on then. Wouldn't want to strain the discs if they have my sensitive data on them!!

    By the sound of it, it's like I won't even need to store anything in my gaming rig then, not even as a back up (could do more harm than good since it doesn't have ECC, to avoid less moving back and forth through non-ECC channels), making the 4TB storage drive I have in the gaming rig redundant (I play games off of the SSD), right? So, I should save everything directly onto the server, and for safety measures take back ups into my 2 external drives connecting them directly to the server (not through the gaming rig since no ECC)?

    This is what still confuses me: If I'm using the gaming rig (without ECC) as my main desktop (since you told me the server could be in another room without a monitor), browsing through sites and saving new images and music, if I set the default download location for the images and music to be the server, aren't they still passing through the non-ECC channels of the gaming rig since I'm using it to do the saving?

    Similar to the question above, if I'm using the gaming rig to view a word document that's stored on the server, and I make changes to it (like add more words), wouldn't the changes have been made through a machine with non-ECC memory, so risking corruption of the file?

    That would be a very desirable feature that rsync has. That way I could have a back up of the server tucked away safely in external drives which won't need to be connected to a power outlet all the time, so they'll be safe from power outages that way :D Could Robocopy do the same thing? Rsync is just for Linux users right?

    So basically I won't even need Robocopy on my gaming rig then, if everything will be being saved to the server directly? I'll need it installed on the server to mirror into the external drives, right?

    On a completely different note, will having the server and the gaming rig connected increase DPC latency in my gaming rig? I play fast reaction based games (bullet hell shmups), so it's important to have my machine running with as low input lag and latency as possible.

    Thank you to both of you, and sorry for all the questions and sounding like a noob, I've never had a server before :/
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2017
  19. D3M1G0D

    D3M1G0D Master Guru

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    It was about 680 watts, full load on all components (CPU + 2 GPUs). The UPS had saved it before several times but in one instance it was left in a half-on half-off state - the fans were off but the RGB LEDs on the memory were on. It wasn't responding at all and the reset/power buttons weren't working, and I had to turn off the PSU to turn it off. Thankfully, there was no permanent damage. I still use the UPS for my system, it's just that I'm aware that it won't always save it.

    Edit: FYI, I use a 1200 watt gold 80+ certified PSU for this system.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2017
  20. A2Razor

    A2Razor Master Guru

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    Keep in mind that your power-draw from a file server will be far lower than what he's doing. A file-server probably won't be drawing more than 100 watts (full system measured at the outlet) during normal operation.

    Pretty much exclusive to server-boards, yet these are expensive. Some of them will have remote-KVM style management built in, but overall I'd just pick a system with an IGP as having the ability to attach a display is kindof useful.

    Yes and yes. FreeNAS supports full remote management (web-based) and alerts right after installation and network-configuration.

    On networking: If you go with a FreeBSD based distro (like FreeNAS), I strongly recommend getting a system with an "Intel" NIC. Intel NIC's tend to have the highest compatibility with BSD, and the best chance of "just working".

    That's the idea of having a centralized storage server, less plugging in external drives, and less hassle moving them around from machine to machine. (takes the place of it)

    -Of course you'll still need your game storage, OS storage, and a place to first 'record' and edit your videos locally before archival. Essentially your storage server will become the go-to for managing long-term archived data.

    If you downloaded files from your local machine, like music, videos, etc, to your NAS (via pointing the download location as the networked-volume) -- yes, the machine doing the download is your gaming-rig / non-ECC. However, right after you download the files to the server, unpack them, or whatever else you're going to do, that's basically it for write access.

    You play your videos back streaming them from the server, and after streaming them once, you know that they're "intact" on the server machine (working). After that point, the server is managing the data, and you know the server has a good copy of it. The idea is that your non protected (no RAID, no ECC) machine is now only reading the files back each time that you play them, so in a sense these are fairly well protected from hardware failures.

    Yep, though the file is only local on your machine during editing it for a few moments probably while you update the file. This is still much-much-better than having the file sitting on a machine with no redundancy for months or years. (risk of errors has still been significantly reduced)

    There's actually ports of rsync that "can" (quotes mean --sortof kindof-- here) run on Windows. Windows disk formats don't have some of the filesystem attributes that Linux does, and they're also "case insensitive" [meaning you can't have a file named Hi.txt, and a file named hi.txt, or a file named hi.Txt] (nix filesystems are generally case-sensitive -- those would be legal), so rsync is less effective copying data back and forth between Windows and Linux. (sometimes it can work, other times there will be complications)

    --rsync on Windows works fine as long those attributes aren't used, as long as the files are case insensitive, and so long as they don't contain symbols (in their naming).

    Note: This is a super-set type problem, there's no issue copying files "from-Windows".

    Yeah you've got it, the two can be used interchangeably in that rsync and robocopy have the same purpose (copying & syncing files and preserving attributes of them). The two are very similar, but of course also both equally destructive in that both can "delete files" in a mirror operation.

    ^ Pay close attention to the command line syntax (re-read) and once you have a working backup command, put it in a bash-script (so that you don't have to type it out again).
    --It's like the saying in SpiderMan: "with great power comes great responsibility"

    rsync and robocopy are "to be used carefully" types of tools.

    I've never personally felt any performance impact of networked-volumes in Windows (as in, from having them mounted) provided the game isn't launched from them.

    You'll find FreeNAS and the other distros very user-friendly overall. If you can build a machine and install Windows, don't fret it -- you've got what it takes to install Linux or FreeBSD. Just take it slow and read through everything.

    Also, no reason to apologize there. You're jumping in to the unknown of a non-Windows setup, probably for the first time. Yet servers aren't scary, they're just computers built for specific-roles and to be reliable, and you've been using computers for ages as you've mentioned in the thread (with all of your life being in that data).



    Sadly my machines that I've on UPS's aren't that power-hungry, so you're probably screwed in this regard (no supply that's going to have sufficient hold-time). Switching times are listed usually in the UPS spec sheets, you might be able to get a slightly faster one and be ok, but it's pretty hard to say with drawing nearly 700 watts.

    With my "gaming machine" (to be cheaper than dishing out a grand in a big-ass-UPS), I wound up going with the ghetto setup (self built) of an always on inverter. [hasn't failed me yet, though the inverter "does" whine]
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2017

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