If you have 4 drives, is it better to set them up all as masters, 2 on the mobo eide channels and 2 on a pci card, or have them all on the mobo channels in the standard master-slave config. Which way would aid performance?
Always put the fastest spinning/responding HD on the fastest IDE port (PCI or mobo) as a master.
Is the PCI card a RAID card? Two HD's in a RAID1 (striped) will be your fastest reaction times, the other two hold the unused files and storage and Pagefile. Heck, put those other two in a Striped setup as well.
There is negligible speed difference between SATA 150 and ATA133. The most important spec to look for is rpm. Most are 7200 but the faster, more expensive 10000rpm are optimal.
If your motherboard doesn't have integrated RAID then you're going to have to buy a PCI RAID controller. The fastest would be Highpoint RocketRAID. With RAID each HDD can be placed on a separate ATA133 cable for optimal speed (i.e all can be Masters). Striping is RAID-0 and is the fastest RAID configuration. However, if one HDD goes down, everything goes down with it. To back up RAID you will need striping AND mirroring. For every HDD in striped RAID, you'll need another HDD to mirror it. So if you have 2 HDDs striped then you'll need another 2 HDDs to mirror them = 4 HDs in total. If you just want to stripe without mirroring then you may have to consider an external USB or network drive for imaging.
Put your burner/DVD/etc on MB IDE1 (rumors of compatibility issues on CPI cards).
Then put two more HD as master slave on the first MB Raid IDE channel (IDE2?).
Ditch the PCI card unless you have more than 8 HD/Optical drives total.
You can play with striping but after looking at performance numbers, data integrity risk, etc. I don't do any Raid.
Striping increases risk of data loss and has arguable speed improvements.
Mirroring guarantees that you get a virus on your proimary and mirror at exactly the same time. I make a weekly image backup to a normally disconnected HD after defrag and antivirus check. (Well ok, sometimes it turns into monthly.)
The mobo is a soyo KT 400 ultra with onboard Highpoint raid. I have read elsewhere that raid is of questionable value when it comes to speed improvement. That's why I was wondering if there was any benefit in setting all the hard drives to master on seperate channels, instead of the usual master-slave config.