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I have a lot of drives and need advice...

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January 17, 2006 2:38:36 AM

I have three 250GB and three 300GB HDs in my tower case. I have 250GBs free at the moment, and 200GB of those are on my C: drive.

I'm using a Promise Ultra TX2/100 PCI controller card. I am not using RAID in any way. None of the drives are SATA.

I have more HD's I could put in the tower (180GB, 200GB, 250GB) if only there was room (on the controller card and in the case). So, I was thinking of getting a new PCI ATA controller card. One with more ports and ATA133. It would be nice if I didn't need to do anything fancy to install it every time I reinstall XP Pro SP2.

With my current Promise Ultra TX2/100, I disconnect power from all but my C: drive, install XP, download the Promise drivers and force XP to update with those. Otherwise, the data beyond 137GB gets corrupted.

My question is which card is recommended highly around here? And will it force me to use RAID? And, should I be using RAID? I don't want to mirror any drives. I don't have the extra GB's for that.

My drives are set as c:D ownloads, d:applications, e:smut, f:tv and movies, g:music videos, h:mp3's. If I use RAID, it would appear as one drive, right? So, if I wanted to take just my 'tv and movies' files with me on a trip, it wouldn't be so easy as just removing one drive from the system anymore. However, if I did use RAID, my disk operation speeds would increase by 40%? If so, I might consider it.

Still, If one drive died on me, wouldn't most of my files turn into trash - having been written over the span of all of those drives? Under my non-RAID system, I'd know exactly what I lost: mp3's OR applications OR smut. Under RAID I'd lose a little of everything, I think. Can anyone here steer me in the right direction? The more I read on the subject, the more confused I get.

-Andrew

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January 17, 2006 12:01:57 PM

Hi,

There are lots of different types of RAID. Some are for speed and some are for redundancy (i.e. if you lose a drive it doesn't destroy your data).

The most common types of RAID are:

RAID 0
This simply lumps all your disks together so that Windows sees one huge drive. Advantage is that data is written quicker to disk and you can create large partitions. Disadvantage is that if one disk fails you lose your data

RAID 1
This mirrors the disks. You would use 2 disk to create a mirror. Whatever is written to the first disk is also written to the 2nd. If disk one fails then you break the mirror and you are up and running again. Advantage is that it provides redundancy. Disadvantage is that you need double the disk space (i.e. if you have 2 x 250Gb drives you only have 250Gb as storage space available)

RAID 5
This uses 3 or more identical disk to spread the data over, with parity information. What is parity information you may ask ? Parity information is a sort of error checking info that allows you to reconstruct missing data if a disk fails. If you have 3 disks configured for RAID 5 and one disk fails then you will NOT lose any data. The parity information spread over the working disks allow your computer to work out what data was lost on the failed drive. You simply replace the failed disk and the PC will rebuild the data 8O Advantage is that you are protected if a single disk fails. Disadvantage is that it is more costly (need more disks)

I personally would go for the RAID 5 option if you don't want to lose any data if a disk fails. Disks do not generally fail very often but I would hate to lose all my MP3 and DivX collection !

You can use software RAID (windows supports it) or hardware RAID (buy a card capable of doing RAID).

To answer your other questions.....
I have a PROMISE card and also recommend them.
40% speed increase sounds rather high. To be honest the most important thing is to have a fast drive for your operating system. I'm not too bothered if my DivX movie takes a couple of seconds more to load. Chose a fast drive for XP and then make a RAID array for all your data

Good luck

P.S> You will need drives with the same specification (speed and size) to make a RAID array. Don't mix them.

Alternative be lazy and buy:

Terrastation
January 17, 2006 2:09:47 PM

Then RAID 0+1 gives the best speed and security...

And RAID 3 cards like NetCell are nice also, since requires no additional drivers with XP and cards start around $180...

RAID 6 is also an option...
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January 21, 2006 9:23:40 AM

Thanks for the advice, all.

I'm thinking that if RAID 5 gets me data security, possibly better transfer speeds, and doesn't reduce an entire drive to a back-up unit - that sounds like the way to go.

However, if the PCI card supports 8 drives, how do I hook up 9 drives to make 3 full RAID 5's?
January 23, 2006 2:12:16 PM

I looked for something that would fit your requirements but drew a blank. I personally would create my own NAS from a PC tower case and RAID card. The solutions I found were either far too expensive or designed to be rack mounted. :evil: 
!