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The Seagate Barracuda 500GB is a 7200RPM hard drive with five hundred theoretical gigabytes of storage space - the drive also has 16MB of cache. The disk uses SATA, has S.M.A.R.T sensors and is 3.5" in size.
The disk is amongst the faster hard drives, with the capability to go up to 7200RPM - pretty much the fastest hard drive speed for consumer hard drives. You can go higher, but it's uncommon. The hard drive also has 16MB cache, which is used to 'store' regularly used information from computer use for faster access, much in the same way as RAM is used. There are several hard drives with more cache than this drive, but there is rarely a noticeable benefit from anything more than 8MB, let alone 16MB.
In tests performed by benchmarking tool Passmark on my own computer, after a month of near constant usage the drive provided a 'sequential read' (this basically means when reading a single file, how fast can it go) speed of 90.6mb per second. This means that the hard drive could theoretically, on a single file, read 5,436mb in a minute. It's very unlikely that you'll be reading files at such a speed, and if you are, it's very unlikely to be on a regular basis. Amongst the only things I can think of are loading games (large packages stored on the RAM have to be transferred to system and graphics RAM) and watching uncompressed video (such as that captured with real-time, high-framerate recording softwares like FRAPS).
In other tests produced by the same application, it was revealed that the drive could theoretically write 78mb a second - 4,680mb in a minute. Again, it's very unlikely that you'll be writing at that speed. The only time I can think of that this will be used is copying really large files across hard drive partitions - or onto other hard drivers. If you batch process large images, you may also see some benefit here, and you may see a lot of benefit if you use software like FRAPS to record uncompressed high definition video. However, most people will not see the benefit of a hard drive being this speed - but it is nice to have.
However, somewhat more disappointing results in the 'Random Seek + Rewrite' test from Passmark, of just 2.86mb a second - 160.8mb a minute. This test is composed of the application reading many different files from across the hard disk, so if you're copying a large amount of files that total more than 160mb across hard disks or partitions, don't expect it to be done in less than a minute. Sadly, a somewhat disappointing result.
For the normal end user, these results probably don't mean a lot, and it'll more likely than not be more than efficient enough for the regular user. However, despite a single iffy result, the rest of the results compete with the highest tier of hard drives, beaten only by a few - including the more expensive SpinPoint F3. However, the performance of this drive is recommended by me, and I really doubt you'll need a massive amount more.
The drive should also not reach anywhere above 45C with proper case cooling.
==Size and Installation==
Hard disks are amongst the easiest pieces of kit to install when it comes to computers. You simply slide the hard drive into the 3.5mm drive bay (they're pretty obvious, and you'll know it when you see it), and then you plug the SATA cable (it's long, thin and looks like a mini 'L') from the power supply to the hard disk, and then a second SATA cable (included with the motherboard in new situations, should be purchased alongside hard disk if you don't already have them) to the slot on your motherboard. You then simply screw the hard drive to your case (the screws are included with the motherboard), ensure that the hard drive is tightly secured and then reboot your computer.
The hard drive is 3.5", and will fit in a 3.5" drive bay more than easily enough, but that is just expected for hard-drives. The drive appears to be well manufactured, and is tightly packed together, making for a sturdy hard drive. This is all pretty standard stuff for hard-disks, but you never know.
==Value for Money==
This drive is cheap. It's one of the cheapest 7200RPM drives that you can get. One of the reasons for this is because the reputation of the Seagate Barracuda's was destroyed early on in the brands history, as they released a group of hard drives very likely to fail on the user. They have since ironed out the kinks in their product, but the reputation still sits sternly with the brand.
As such, the pricing of the hard drives, regardless of size or speed, seems to be extremely low. While not good for the company, it is good for the end-user that can cast aside the prior reputation of the company and brand of hard drive, because it means that they'll get an incredibly cheap hard drive.
The hard drive is also available in OEM versions, which include no documentation, and are a fair bit cheaper.
Seagate has an application called 'Seatools'. This application runs on your hard drive and determines if there are any faults with the hard disk. If it detects any faults, you can ask it to automatically send a warranty request to Seagate, where they will most likely replace the hard-drive for you.
If you cannot for any reason boot into Windows, or cannot install the application, they also offer a form which you can fill out to act on the warranty of the drive. All you need to put in is the 'Serial Number' of the drive, the 'Model Number' of the drive and - if possible - the SeaTools result, proving that the drive is indeed malfunctioning.
The Seagate Barracuda 7200RPM 500GB is a great hard drive - it's reputation doesn't precede it, and it's running nicely in my computer as we speak, running well above what I was expecting from such a cheap drive. It is currently my primary drive, and I don't think I'll need to change it for a long while. This is a great drive, and deserves to be used, and trusted, regardless of previously dodgy brand name.
I give this Seagate Barracuda four out of five, because the 'Random Read + Rewrite' test could have been a fair bit better.