Hard Drive Configuration for Video Editing

I’m often asked what’s the best way to configure your hard drives for video editing and how many hard drives do you need? I use four (4) drives not counting backup drives. I have my Operating System and all of my Applications on the C: drive. My D: drive is stock media which includes stock footage, media assets like Digital Juice backgrounds and music, as well as sample data for my VST Instruments for music composing. I also backup my C: drive to a folder on my D: drive. The E: drive is my project drive. All of my active video and audio projects are kept there including all of their media. Finally my R: drive is a RAID 5 that I use for archiving all of my projects and media once they are complete. I also keep my captures on this drive since I am now working tapeless and there are no longer tape backups. The RAID 5 consistent of 12TB WD RED drives that are specifically designed for Network Attached Storage (NAS) applications. You actually loose one disc worth of storage for redundancy so 4 x 3TB = 12TB – 3TB = 9TB of usable storage. Note: a RAID is not a backup so even though it can withstand one drive failing without loosing data, the RAID 5 is still backed up to several off-line hard drives.

The “rule-of-thumb” for a video editing workstation is to keep all of your video work off of the C: drive. If you have a C: and D: drive, create a project folder on D: and place all of your captured media in it, and save your project veg file to it, and do all of your work in it. You may ask why?

The “why” has to do with the way Windows works. The Windows OS keeps it’s swap file and temporary files on C: by default. It is constantly writing to them which requires hard drive activity. If you run low on real memory Windows will swap memory out to the hard drive. You don’t want windows swapping out to the same hard drive that you are trying to write to for your video work to because it causes contention for the drive heads. Other applications like Vegas are also writing temp files too to keep track of undo buffers and such which causes contention for the drive heads. All of this drive access could cause dropped frames during a real-time DV or HDV capture. It could just slow things way down for other write activities that are also memory intensive like rendering.

Vista was notorious for having a particularly poor an aggressive file caching scheme that seemed to always be accessing the hard drive. You just don’t want any of this OS housekeeping to interfere with your video work so the “rule-of-thumb” is to keep your work off of the C: drive for best performance.

It is important to note that we are talking about real physical C: and D: drives here and not a single drive that is partitioned as C: and D:. What we are after is two sets of drive read/write heads that can work independently. Partitioning a single drive is the same as having one drive in this case. You need two “physical” drives.

Some even suggest three physical drives with the third being dedicated to render. The idea is that during render you read from one drive and write to the other simultaneously which is quicker than doing it synchronously on a single drive for high speed transfers. This is particularly useful during smart-rendering when source is simply being copied to

John Rofrano

About John Rofrano

John Rofrano is a Senior VASST Trainer and the author of Instant ACID, a book on Sony ACID Pro software, from CMP Books. He is also the developer of Ultimate S Pro, Vegas Pro Production Assistant, Mayhem, and other software plug-ins including the FASST Apps for Sony Vegas Pro NLE software. John has been a performing musician, singer, songwriter for over 40 years, and programmer and computer architect for the past 28 years. He is also a forum moderator at the Creative COW.