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Raid, do I really need to bother with it?!?!?!

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October 1, 2007 5:09:33 PM

Hi all, I am thinking about getting a gaming barebones pc. http://www.icubes.co.uk/add/configurator2.asp?m=88&r=1&...

i need to know, are there any significant disadvantages to not setting up raid 1 on 2 hard drives?
i want to get

1. for xp pro, the pagefile updates drivers etc, and all my applications ( i have about 6 heavy graphics ones)
2. for just my files (mp3s films etc etc etc

i wanted to get simply a 250 sata2 seagate for the os ect, and a 450 sata2 for the files

I have been researching the different raid options and after reading for about 4 hours i realise that i dont know the 1st thing about it so i should probably leave it alone. raid1 may be safe and reassuring, but really, i just want to back up externally on an external hdd.

should i just get the 2 hard drives and ignore raid altogether? or should i raid1 them and mirror the os etc (which is complete greek to me.....)

thanks to anyone who can explain any of this or just reassure me that just doing the simple option is ok
(i expect someone to probably say just get one big hard drive and forget the rest)

More about : raid bother

October 1, 2007 5:30:04 PM

In general, Raid is not worth it, IMHO.

RAID-0 ->A bit faster, but no data protection and increased chance of data loss from drive failure and/or raid driver issues. You must be willing to lose all data and/or have alternate data backups.

RAID-1 ->Slower than non-raid, but still does not provide very good data protection. Files can still be accidentally deleted, corrupted via normal use, and Raid problems can still wipe everything.

RAID-5->Needs atleast 3 drives. Same issues as RAID1 but faster.

I normally recommend for home users to have two drives and to automatically backup critical files from one drive to the other. Something like Windows Scheduler can be used to automate this.
October 1, 2007 6:11:18 PM

In general, unless you have a specific need for RAID, it's best to avoid it.
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October 1, 2007 6:15:23 PM

Raid is most definately worth it. I use it myself.

I would say throw in a pair of 500GB WD disks and use Raid 1. The benefit of Raid 1 is that should one drive fail, you don't need to spend several hours pissing around with an OS rebuild, software reinstall, patching, and driver installation. I've done enough that even on basic systems it takes 2-3 hours to get all of that down, with people that have lots of software titles rolling 5+ hours of rebuild time.

Save yourself the potential trouble and Raid 1 your OS drive, and just throw data on their with it. As a bonus though its a solid idea to have an external backup drive for say files that you want to keep, just in case, but remember external backup drives are little more than internal hard disks in an enclosure and some custom software. They can suffer the same mechanical and electrical failures as an internal drive, however they are less suseptable to melting if your PC catches fire or explodes.

Rather than piss around with Windows Scheduler like the above poster suggested, Raid 1 will save you headaches every time, and just don't delete files you might need later, or burn them to a CD or copy to an external hard disk if you want the security of having it if its needed again. These days hard disk space is cheap with 500GB drives going for around $100. You can hold onto old files and not delete them, with little fear that you might run out of space.
October 1, 2007 7:06:54 PM

The option that I chose was a combination of RAID1 and Norton GHOST. My requirements were simple - irrespective of whether it was a HDD failure or if it was a corrupted software install (or virus), I needed to be able to recover my system (including OS and data) with the least amount of downtime (0 if possible) - For this, I built a RAID 1 array and partitioned the resultant 'drive'. Installed the OS and programs etc on one partition (lets call it C: for now) and also installed Norton Ghost (10) on C:. I put the backup destination of Ghost as the 2nd partition (lets call it D: ). There are incremental backups and complete backups scheduled. The advantage here is that if there is a HDD failure, I can just swap the faulty drive and the system runs along with 0 downtime (ok, so it is a little slow when rebuilding, but I can live with it). If there is a software issue (bad install or virus infection), I just use GHOST to go back to a recovery point before this software problem happened and restore from there! Apart from this, I do backup my data onto a NAS to get around the issue of raid controller failure. This setup has saved my neck more than once :) 
October 1, 2007 7:18:43 PM

+1 for avoid it. I have played with it in the past and the benefits do not outweigh the costs in many cases. Get one fast drive for the OS and base the other one on size. I think now that the perp. seagate drives almost negate the need for a raptor in the majority of cases.
October 1, 2007 7:33:32 PM

He can do the same thing by simply using a secondary drive as a backup. Save a bootable image files to the secondary drive, replace the failed drive as necessary, boot to the image and rebuild in about 15 mins.
a c 177 G Storage
October 1, 2007 8:13:17 PM

The mean time to failure of modern hard drives is on the order of 1,000,000 hours. You figure out how many years that is. It is much more likely that you lose data due to a virus, accidental deletion, motherboard failure, etc.. If you care about certain data, you will regularly back it up to an external device. The advantage if raid 1 is that certain HDD failures can be recovered from more quickly.
Unless you are in a time sensitive environment, I would suggest that you avoid raid 1. The performance advantage of raid-0 will only help with certain highly sequential workloads.

I vote to avoid raid altogether unless you know you need it.
October 1, 2007 8:50:04 PM

geofelt,

I agree, and if choosing to go with raid for performance reasons, it would only make sense to buy an addon card and not use the on board solution.
October 1, 2007 8:51:11 PM

ferdia6 said:
i need to know, are there any significant disadvantages to not setting up raid 1 on 2 hard drives?


First, I'll start off by saying there's lots of inaccurate information in this thread.

1) RAID 1 is not always slower. Some controller cards can read off both drives at the same time, improving read speeds, and write speeds may not suffer, considering SATA drives have their own cable. It really depends on several factors. Also bear in mind most people write less often than reads, so it may not matter much even if it was slightly slower.
2) RAID 5 is not necessarily faster than RAID 1. There's a LOT of complicated factors in that, but basically, without a decent controller, you'll be at risk of losing performance due to the parity overhead.
3) MTBF of 1 million hours absolutely does not mean the drive will go 1 million hours between failures on the *SAME* drive. Otherwise, manufacturers would offer 114 year warranties. This number is designed to be used with the replacement lifecycle, and it's even a bit more complicated than that.
4) RAID 1 has some value and is a relatively simple array. If one drive dies, it simply uses the other. If you have need for this, you can do it. It doubles the cost in HDs, and you have to use identical drives for maximum effectiveness (some raid systems can use the smallest drive size).
5) RAID systems never replace a backup policy. If you don't backup because you have a RAID system, prepare for utter disappointment one day.
6) If you don't want to spent much on the RAID (like use the onboard controller), you will likely be using a driver based RAID. Sometimes this can get screwed up when you use another OS which writes to the MBR or something (like installing another OS). Sometimes even booting an OS unaware of your driver raid, can mess it up. RAID 0 is more fragile than RAID 1 in this respect, but it's a factor to bear in mind.
7) If you use a RAID, be aware you may have some extra problems when you restore. If you don't use the identical raid controller, you may need to go through some extra hoops. It just depends.
8) Typically drives don't die that often. I'd consider putting a quiet fan blowing over your drive(s) though, since modern drives warm up nice and toasty.
9) If I had to choose RAID 1 or no RAID and daily backup, I'd choose daily backups anytime. Just be sure you know how to restore the data. Little good it does to backup daily, and have no clue how to restore.
10) If you really want to understand RAID, don't ask in this forum, try someone who knows what they are doing like IBM:
http://publib.boulder.ibm.com/infocenter/eserver/v1r2/topic/diricinfo/fqy0_craidint.html

If you need a decent backup program, I've been fairly happy with Acronis TrueImage.

I also wrote a semi-related article to this:
http://johnhgoodwin.com/articles/Combatting_Viruses_Trojans_Malware_and_Data_Loss

I hope that helps,

John
October 1, 2007 9:15:25 PM

Go John, it's your birthday!

A well written post. People tend to just make assumptions about raid and not really bother to read the actual data.

October 1, 2007 9:41:24 PM

Quite a long winded post John, but why write all that stuff and tell the poster to ignore your post?

And Yes, RAID-1 will be slower.
First, we are not using a "Good Controller" in these types of setups.
Secondly, a multi-Drive configuration like user is already talking about can be setup to balance the load such as temp directories, swap files, OS, program files, etc...

True about RAID 5, but it's not always that complicated and usually at 4 drives it gets faster. But again w/o the poster really going to be doing RAID 5, no point.

For a "Poster" who claims to know little or nothing about "RAID", it's best to keep the answers short and simple. Long Winded posts are often just tend to confuse.

I presume the post was just simply to advertise your web hosting :>

October 2, 2007 11:55:10 AM

weskurtz81 said:
He can do the same thing by simply using a secondary drive as a backup. Save a bootable image files to the secondary drive, replace the failed drive as necessary, boot to the image and rebuild in about 15 mins.



thanks all for your very speedy and informative replies

so, can i forget about raid altogether, get a 250 for the OS, applications and swapfile (maybe partition it twice), then just figure out how to save image of the OS and stuff connected with it (if anyone can explain this to me, what i would need, the files to copy etc etc...) to the 2nd big bastard hard drive for all files, can i replace the OS hard drive by just removing it, putting a new one in......? i mean, i can just get the applications again (they are annoying to get but free....), and i can then save image of the OS back on the new hdd1, and still have all my important files.....

if this makes sense and i can do it please let me know.
i would much rather leave RAID alone, i expect hard drives to fail after 3ish years, and will be prepared when that happens file wise.
basically windows scheduler is about as complex as i could get for arsing around with system settings etc etc, so why not just schedule a backup to something external every week?

so in summary i suppose i have 2 questions.

hdd1............. should it be partitioned? how many? (os, apps, pagefile, 3?)
hdd2.............how i get image of os from hdd1 (and everything associated with it) onto it, and how do i schedule some sort of system restore data disc thing on both hdd1 and hdd2?
October 2, 2007 1:46:27 PM

I agree with zenmaster etc., skip the RAID. As far as partitioning the swap file etc. that's personal choice, I just set a fixed size, a lot of others like to go the extra mile and place it in it's own partition. Again partitioning the drive is up to you. If you didn't have a second backup drive I would say do it, but since you do IMO it is not that big of a deal.

As far as backup software, there are a lot out there. As was said you have Acronis, also Norton Ghost (not really a fan) and Paragon's clone hard drive software: drive image, image backup, system backup plus many others. I have used the paragon software and I like it.

This is just my opinion, but when I load the OS, any MS software and get it all updated and activated. I save a pristine copy of the base OS before any other programs are loaded. That way you always have a clean copy that has been activated. Then I load all the normal garbage on that I use and do another backup. The Paragon will also do sequential (I think that's what they call it) backups that will add to the original second backup.
October 2, 2007 2:33:52 PM

Zorg,

good post, you just saved me the time from typing the same thing. The way Zorg just described doing it is a pretty good one. I would go with that method as it's easy, and quick to restore.
October 2, 2007 3:29:27 PM

thankyou zorg, great advise. i've made my mind up, no RAID for me!
October 3, 2007 4:24:09 AM

I hope it all goes smoothly.
October 3, 2007 9:46:00 PM

Out of all the popular single-level RAID configurations the only one that needs a external controller is RAID5 due to the parity calculations that would bog down the system resources.
RAID0 isn't worth the powder it would take to blow both drives outta my case...
A single drive is better than RAID0; either way you go if a drive fails all data is lost.
If your considering single-level RAID then there are only 2 sensible options for complete redundancy: RAID1 or RAID10 (not to be confused with 0+1 or 1+0)
RAID1 requires a minimum of 2 HDD's compare to RAID10 which requires a minimum of 4; RAID10 combines the benefits of zero and one.
RAID10 also has little or no degradation compared to RAID1 which can be sustantial when data is rebuilt in the case of drive failure.
Each RAID level has it's pros and cons which must be considered when deciding on which RAID level if any is right for you
October 4, 2007 3:07:59 AM

I wouldn't use RAID on a normal desktop, but if you have a lot of media, definitely use RAID.

My gaming desktop is just one Raptor with the OS and a 300GB drive for older games, large random files, toy of the day, etc. All my movies, music, other files are backed up to my 1.5TB RAID 5 server.
October 4, 2007 1:04:52 PM

SInce we're in the topic of RAID, I would also like to ask a question.
I have a 150Gb Raptor for OS and progs and a 500 for media. Soon, I'll be having another 150Gb raptor laying around. I'm interested in performance (which is great atm with the single raptor), so making a RAID array with my current Raprtor and the new identical raptor would make sense or not? What would the gains in performance be and should it be RAID 0 or 1? Is it worth adding another "heater" in my case? (my raptor operates at about 44 degrees C)
October 4, 2007 1:33:29 PM

As long as we're still talking about magnetic drives, RAID is generally a bad idea for an end user... once flash memory drives move more into the mainstream, the idea of disk stripes (essentially RAID 0) will become all too common. Looking forward to it! Improved I/O and no increased risk of mechanical failure... I guess we can have our cake and eat it too.
November 6, 2007 2:27:05 PM

Sorry - I've not been getting notifications for updates lately - hence, this really really late response.
keeping in mind the OPs requirements, I'd agree that he probably doesn't need RAID - just needs good backups instead.

Just wanted to express my thoughts about this..
weskurtz81 said:
He can do the same thing by simply using a secondary drive as a backup. Save a bootable image files to the secondary drive, replace the failed drive as necessary, boot to the image and rebuild in about 15 mins.


You are right about this, but you've effectively lost all changes/updates since the last backup - for most people, that is not critical enough to justify the solution that I use, but for some (incl me), potentially losing system uptime and all work done since last backup is scary enough to justify this solution.
!