Configuring two or more hard drives in a RAID setup can speed up hard-
drive performance and provide automatic protection against data loss
from a drive failure. RAID used to be expensive, hard to implement,
and limited to businesses with dedicated IT departments, but now even
the motherboards on most budget PCs support it, making RAID easier to
install and well within the price range of most tech-savvy PC users.
What level of RAID do I want?
RAID comes in a number of flavors--or levels--that offer data
protection, enhanced hard-drive performance, or both. In addition to
the seven core levels of RAID (RAID 0 through RAID 6), you'll
encounter a slew of variants and combinations. Following are the RAID
levels you'll find on affordable, consumer-level RAID adapters.
RAID 0: This setup increases hard-drive performance by spreading, or
striping, data over two drives so that it can be read and written more
quickly. Unfortunately, such an array provides no data protection--in
fact, it actually increases the chances of data loss since the failure
of any one drive in the array results in the loss of all data stored
on both drives. RAID 0 setups are standard on high-end gaming and
graphics PCs, and provide a measurable albeit modest performance boost
for games, graphics applications, and other hard-disk-intensive
RAID 1: A RAID 1 setup protects data from a drive failure by
simultaneously writing data to two hard drives: a master drive and a
backup (or mirror) drive. Since the second drive carries an exact copy
of the first, it provides no usable storage capacity. RAID 1 offers no
gain in drive performance.
RAID 5: Though you get both faster disk performance and data
protection from this setup, it requires a minimum of three hard
drives. Instead of using an entire hard drive as a backup, RAID 5
spreads redundancy information--called parity bits--across all of the
array's drives, increasing the proportion of usable disk space. A
three-drive RAID 5 setup presents two drives' worth of storage
capacity, a four-drive array offers three drives for storage, and so
on. If one of the drives fails, the data content of that failed drive
can be recalculated from the parity bits on the surviving drives and
written to a new, replacement drive.
RAID 1+0 or 0+1: Some adapters support combinations of RAID 0 and RAID
1, which provide both data redundancy and increased disk performance.
Since these nested implementations are not standardized, names and
functionality can vary from vendor to vendor. RAID 10, RAID 1+0, RAID
01, and RAID 0+1 are all common names for nested arrays. These RAID
combinations require a minimum of four hard drives.
What hardware do I need to set up RAID?
RAID controller: You probably already have a RAID adapter in your PC;
many midrange and high-end motherboards come with a built-in RAID
controller. Check your PC or motherboard documentation to find out if
your motherboard supports RAID (and if so, which levels it supports),
and consult any specific installation instructions.
If your PC doesn't have RAID support built in, you'll need an adapter
card. Adapters supporting RAID levels 0, 1, 10, and sometimes 5 can be
found online for around $100 or less. Adaptec and Promise offer a wide
selection of RAID adapters.
Two or more hard drives: In theory, most RAID 0 setups can be
configured with hard drives of different sizes from different
manufacturers. In practice, you'll save yourself a lot of time and
grief by building your array with identical hard drives--meaning
drives of the same make, model, and size. At the very least, use two
drives from the same manufacturer.
Floppy drive: If you plan to install Windows XP on your new array, you
will need a floppy disk with your RAID adapter's Windows drivers, and
a floppy drive to read it--Windows' installation won't install the
drivers from an optical drive. Thankfully, this incredibly annoying
quirk of Windows XP goes away in Windows Vista.
Tools: You need a small, nonmagnetic Phillips screwdriver to remove
and replace the fastener screw that secures the adapter card to the PC
chassis, as well as to install any new hard drives. You'll also want a
simple grounding strap that attaches to your wrist; look for one at
your local computer store for less than $15.
How do I install and configure a RAID setup?
The exact procedure for installing any RAID adapter varies from
manufacturer to manufacturer and even from model to model, so
thoroughly read all of the documentation accompanying your adapter (or
motherboard if the adapter is built in) before starting the
installation process. Still, the overall procedure is generally the
same for all RAID adapters:
1. Install the adapter card and hard drives in your PC.
2. Configure the adapter card and hard drives in the PC's or card's
3. Install the controller's drivers in Windows.
> If your PC doesn't have RAID support built in, you'll need an adapter
> card. Adapters supporting RAID levels 0, 1, 10, and sometimes 5 can be
> found online for around $100 or less. Adaptec and Promise offer a wide
> selection of RAID adapters.
Totally rediculous. You don't need any built in raid support to use raid.
And you don't need a raid adapter card either. This is just typical fud.