Is a RAID array useful on a home computer?

  TOPCAT® 20:21 10 Feb 05
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For my next computer I was thinking of going for a RAID 1 array (mirrored) setup, because I would have the best of both worlds using just TWO identical hard drives. Should one drive fail then I would only need to swop out drives to continue without much hindrance. I would have my data safe and an up-to-the-minute backup as well.

Articles I've read on the subject were positive about RAID, but none erred on the side of caution for the home user as this article from Poweroid. Makes very interesting reading and has weakened my resolve in the bargain.

What's your views on using RAID on a home computer and have you had any problems using it? TC.

click here

  Mr Mistoffelees 20:55 10 Feb 05

For every one who says RAID is the best thing since sliced bread there will always be another who says it is a waste of space. I find a RAID 0 setup works very well for me. Two Western Digital Raptors with a 64KB stripe are very fast indeed and much faster than the single drive I had for three months before fitting the second.

  ade.h 16:48 11 Feb 05

Mr Mistoffelees is quite right to recommend RAID 0 for its speed; if you need it, of course. You should, in a decent spec, see an appreciable performance increase.

As for RAID 1; I use it for peace of mind to protect my vital business documents, not to mention all the digital photos that my photography hobby has caused me to accumulate.
I would recommend that you also purchase a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) to protect against damage to your disks or files by power cuts and spikes.

If your budget and case allow, why not go for RAID 0+1; just bear in mind the extra heat that four disks will generate. click here for one of the best step-by-step RIAD installation guides.

  TOPCAT® 18:05 11 Feb 05

Thanks for that link. Quite a helpful website for those wishing to build their own array system. For me it would have to be done by the PC supplier, I'm afraid.

The more I've read on the pros and cons of RAID, however, the more I'm beginning to think of staying with a single disk system. There's much more to RAID than I first thought, and any advantage seems to be outweighed by the risks, let alone the additional disk expenditure. None of the recognised RAID permutations it seems will protect the data should a disk failure occur. In all cases, regular backups are still the order of the day. Oh, well...!! TC.

  fuzzyone 18:19 11 Feb 05

TOPCAT®,

another factor in setting up a raid array, is the time taken in formatting and setting up the array.

I have set up two for friends ( both raid 0), one of which is still running perfect after 18 months, the other which gave so many problems within the first 6 weeks was changed to an ide master and slave.

  It's Me 21:07 11 Feb 05

I have two HDDs, incidently of the same size, but they are not configured in any array, Raid or otherwise. The first HDD is partitioned into 4 drives, (this suits the way my mind works) and the second HDD is used to carry Ghost images of the 1st HDD's drives, updated every 2 weeks or so. This means that I have a very safe backup on tap as it were. I also backup user files to DVDs weekly.

  TOPCAT® 22:09 11 Feb 05

I really envy you guys, and gals, that can accomplish so much on your machines and here's the reason why.

I bought Partition Magic 8 some time ago and eventually plucked up courage to try it out. What a right mess I finished up with! Somehow I managed to shrink my 20GB drive down to just over 4GB and nothing I tried, including the two 'rescue' floppies I made during install, would get my full space back again. And believe me I tried everything, even as a last resort using Maxtor's MaxBlast utility.

I even called upon our flecc to help me out, being somewhat embarrassed by my results to come to this forum for help. What had happened rather stumped flecc himself, but he came to my aid and emailed quite a few 'cures' which sadly didn't work for me.

In the end, and to save bothering him again during the Christmas holiday period, I bought a second, larger drive and reinstalled everything on that. I'm now using the corrupted drive, cleared and formatted by a local computer shop, as my backup drive. So maybe now you can well understand my nervousness on this RAID array business. :o( TC.

  ade.h 23:28 11 Feb 05

Don't be nervous about RAID. You don't know until you try it. I have built a succesion of RAID arrays for myself and friends without any problems (beyond Windows XP's tricky driver installation at the point of installing the OS).

You say that none of the RAID permutations will protect data in the event of a disk failure; where did you read that? RAID 1 (mirrored) would need two near-simultaneous disk failures to lose data, hence my advice about a UPS. Only RAID 0 is high risk without full backups.

  zanwalk 11:30 12 Feb 05

ade.h is quite correct in what he says about RAID 1. The only fly in the ointment is that if you happened to get a virus, it would of course be infecting both disks, and so I always recommend another back up of all important data to safeguard against this possibility.

As ade.h points out, RAID 1 is specifically designed to protect against disk failure, and you are not limited to two disks in the array, so three or four disks can be linked in this way, combined with a UPS to give you peace of mind.

  Totally-braindead 11:49 12 Feb 05

I've got RAID on my motherboard which I've had for about 3 years and have never used it, my computer works fine and I don't feel the need for it. The points made are valid you can either have it set as RAID 1 or RAID 0 both have advantages and disagvantages but as I've said I've never used it. I can reinstall everything from my backups in about 3 hours if needed.

  TOPCAT® 16:48 12 Feb 05

Sorry, I got it wrong (as usual!) that no RAID arrays would keep data secure and I apologise for that. I've had another good read and come to realise my mistake. I do actually have a UPS installed, so that will certainly be utilised on my new PC as well as on this ancient one. :o)

I see from the input, and thank you all for posting, that most use RAID in one form or another with no problems. I hope it continues to serve you all successfully and safely. I will deliberate further on the subject and decide which way to go, prior to placing my order very soon now. I promise you, I will be getting one powerful 64 bit machine which will have to last me a long time. Upgradeability features high on my list, so I could be talking two to three years here, I hope! :o) TC.

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