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Reuse several old hard disks by setting up a Storage Space in Windows 8

Mirroring and parity options to protect yourself from drive failure

Windows 8 Storage Spaces

Our Helproom Editor explains how to reuse old hard drives and create a Storage Space - combining multiple disks so they appear to be a single drive.

QUESTION I've recently upgraded to Windows 8 and I want to make use of some old hard drives by creating a Storage Space. I'm confused about which mode I should use. Alternatively, should I forget about Storage Spaces and use the Intel Raid on my motherboard?

HELPROOM ANSWER Setting up Storage Spaces can be a good way to combine multiple disks so they appear as a single logical drive. It can also give you some mirroring and parity options to protect yourself from drive failure. Storage Spaces are relatively easy to set up in Windows 8, and you can add to or replace the drives in your setup later on.

Storage Spaces do have disadvantages, however. Firstly, you'll need to be running Windows 8 to access the drive. If you ever run another OS, such as Windows 7 or a Linux OS, your data will be inaccessible. The feature can also cause problems during troubleshooting if your system becomes unable to boot and you need to access the data on the Storage Space.

You may be tempted to use the parity mode option within Storage Spaces to maximise capacity while retaining the ability to survive disk failure. However, this results in a large and very noticeable decrease in performance, especially when writing files. This may not matter too much if you're using the Storage Space to hold media files (it will be fast enough for playback), but if you ever need to copy large volumes of data you should prepare for a long wait.

The mirroring modes can also protect your data should one of the disks fail, and offer faster performance, but they provide less usable disk space.

The Intel Raid on your motherboard doesn't require the same level of support from the OS because it uses the board's firmware to create the disk array. However, it doesn't offer the same options as Storage Spaces, and is instead based on traditional Raid setups. You can't add drives to expand the size of your array while it is in use either.

Another possible problem could arise should you need to move your Windows installation to a new motherboard, since it will need to support the same Raid options. So, should your motherboard fail, you stand to lose data if you can't move over your disks to the new system.

In general, for home users who want to protect their data personal backup is a better option than a redundant disk setup that won't protect you from accidentally deleting or overwriting files. In any case, it's important to back up data in a format that remains accessible if your PC fails.

See all How to articles. Get free tech support in the Helproom Forum.

Visit Windows 7 Advisor and Windows 8 Advisor for more Windows advice. Or email our Helproom Editor for bespoke advice.

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