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Query RE RAID 1 / Seperate OS drive / drive speeds

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April 22, 2009 7:51:36 PM

Hi guys

Hopefully you can help. I'm just done building a new PC for home use. I am reasonably computer-aware, built a couple of systems in the fast, which were very fast for your 'average consumer', and spent a lot of time researching my CPU, motherboard, RAM, monitor, etc etc, but for some reason don't really know a great deal about hard drives, and just looked for great reviews and good capacity for what I need immediately (ran out of £££s now!)

My system is the Asus P5Q PRO P45 Socket 775 mobo, Core 2 Quad Q9550 2.83GHz , OCZ 4GB (2x2GB) DDR2 1066MHz/PC2-8500 Gold Memory RAM, XP 32bit & Sapphire HD 4850 512MB GDDR3 graphics card. I went with this and x1 Western Digital WD5000AAKS 500GB SATA II (16MB Cache). My main usage is Adobe CS4 Master Collection - at present using InDesign extremely intensively, and Photoshop moderately intensively, but soon looking at doing some freelance graphics work (my first love), but also intensifying my photography work from home, as well as the video editing I am already doing.

Anyways, idling through the Mobo user guide I started considering RAID for the first time, and kind of off the cuff ordered another WD5000AAKS, as well as a Seagate ST3250310AS - originally intended to backup files off my old laptop (no more than 120GB, but 250GB drive was same price), but now after reading a few threads from here considering this being my OS disk. (I have already installed XP, etc, on the first WD HD, and a few applications, as well as my iTunes library, but wouldn't be TOO much fuss starting this again...)

Okay, questions.....
1) I am looking at RAID 1, so I have extra peace of mind. I lost my external 1TB backup hard drive last week for no good reason, but after spending £1600ish on the new PC can't afford to replace that yet. Is this the best setup, considering what I have? (The x2 WD 500Gb drives RAID 1 for storage + x1 Seagate 250Gb drive for Windows & apps)

2) I hear a lot being said about Photoshop scratch space / swap space, and since I work with large RAW files and oftentimes files with 30 complex layers or more I guess this is something I should figure out. What are my best options for setting this up, based on the drives mentioned above?

Thanks very much to anyone who can give me some guidance here! :D 
a c 359 G Storage
April 23, 2009 4:52:33 PM

RAID1 is a good option for more security that a single drive for your files, but it certainly has limits. First of all, of course, is the good news that RAID1 is something like an automatic backup system. It keeps TWO copies of all your data on that "drive" (although it's really a RAID1 array of 2 disks, Windows only sees it as one drive) and automatically synchronizes them. If one file gets corrupted by a hardware glitch the RAID system may be able to fix it. Worst case it will tell you that one disk has a problem and fall back to using only the good drive. It is then up to you to use the RAID tools provided to repair the RAID array and restore it to normal use.

The bad news is, RAID knows nothing about preventing you from writing bad data to BOTH disks at the same time. So if you delete a file by mistake, or if a virus starts writing bad stuff to your disk, it will be on BOTH of the RAID disks almost instantly. RAID1 does not provide any protection from these events, and in that sense can lull you into a false sense of security.

The other "downside" of RAID1 I presume you recognize is that it does not help you to provide lots of empty space. It takes two 500 GB drives to give you only one 500 GB space for data. Not a big problem - it just means you are spending twice as much for the HDD space, in the interest of a form data backup security system.

As for scratch space and swap files, many people I know suggest that, in Windows, you are best to tell it to place the Swap File on your second drive, and not on the C: drive with your OS. The reason is that both the Swap File and the OS will try to use their respective disks frequently, and having those on different disks will avoid clashes and speed things up. The same may apply to a Photoshop Scratch File. Now, I understand that writing to a RAID1 array MAY be slightly slower than to a single drive because the CPU and HDD controller have to do all the writing work twice (although there's some flexibility in exactly WHEN the second write has to happen). On the other hand, sometimes a RAID1 is a little faster for reads because the controller algorithm tries to pull stuff off alternating disks to reduce the impact of waiting time for head seek operations. On balance, my guess is that putting both the Swap File and the Photoshop Scratch File on the D: drive (really, the RAID1 array) is a good idea.
April 23, 2009 7:35:27 PM

As a fellow Photoshop user in addition to Premiere Pro and After Effects, I can offer some good advice.

Do you use CS3 or CS4? I hope CS4 because of Photoshop going 64 bit. I use CS4 and it is so amazing and fast in PS now. Besides the GPU accelerated functions, I never hit the scratch disk because now I can use more than 3GB of ram. If you are using Premiere also, CS4 adds the ability to use more than 3GB of ram for Premiere also. Using 4GB of Ram on 32bit vs 8GB on x64, encoding times were 50-600% faster.

If you are using CS3, then yes the scratch disk should be on a separate disk from your OS.

For Raid, I know you can use Intel's Matrix Raid as it is part of your motherboard. Matrix Raid lets you create 2 different Raid arrays on 1 set of drives. This means you can create a Raid 0 array AND a Raid 1 array. This is what I would do: put the OS, Apps, scratch disk & media cache on Raid 0 and important data on Raid 1. Use your 250GB to backup your laptop and then use it in your PC and put the page file and/or media cache on it.

You certainly want Raid 1 as the chances drive failure are far higher than anything else.
Related resources
a b G Storage
April 23, 2009 7:44:59 PM

Intel Matrix Raid allows for different raid arrays over partitions and was designed just for this type of thing.

What I would do. (using the 2 500Gb drives)

Create a 150GB raid 0. this would be for the OS swap file and programs.
Create a 425GB RAID 1. This would be for work files.

The raid 0 will give you the read and write performance for the applications that need it the most. While the files in the RAID 1 will be protected by the added redundancy. As a added plus you only lose 45 percent of your total space vs. a full 50% in a pure raid 1.
April 23, 2009 7:49:23 PM

Hey PsyKhiqZero, that's MY idea :p 
a b G Storage
April 24, 2009 2:00:25 AM

then in that case....
+1 to specialk90's idea, i've used the setup before it works wonders. lol
April 24, 2009 10:56:43 AM

Hi guys

Thanks for your input, sounds perfect!! :bounce:  Only... there are no instructions in my mobo manual at how to setup both 0 and 1, do you know of anywhere I can find some help with setting that up? I'm presuming I have to wipe my drives clean and start again. (no real prob, I can move the few data files I have on here to the 250Gb file, then it's just a case of reinstalling Windows, Office and a few small programs)

Also, and I know this is terrible, but what is the OS swap file / page file / media cache, and how do I set where they go?? (doh!!)

RE Photoshop, I have used CS2 Premium Design edition for a couple of years, upgraded to CS4 design standard at work recently, and have a colleague dropping that off at my house tonight to whack on the new PC (I have a broken shoulder, so am stuck at home!). Can't wait to get my teeth into CS4... :D 

Oh, one final dumb ass question, do I need to format my drives before setting up the RAID, or will it do it as part of the process?
April 24, 2009 11:53:49 AM

I'd suggest a raid 10 config which whill provide the benefit of a striped arrayfor speed along with a mirror for redundancy.

The two cons are 1) you need four drives and 2) if you you are using the onboard (software based) raid controller, you'll need to staick with the same controller chipset if you change motherboards. This can be a real pain if you have a failure a year or two down the road when the board is out of production.

You could also toss in a stand alone pcie based raid card which will offer portability between motherboards.

Good luck 8)
G
a b G Storage
April 24, 2009 2:46:06 PM

The swap file (aka Virtual Memory) is part of the hard disk that acts as ram when the system doesn't have enough of it. Right Click My Computer, Properties, Advanced then go to performance settings. If your setting it up like I suggested then there is no need to worry about it. by default the swap file is on the sasme partition as the OS install.

1. Go to intel's site and download the matrix raid f6 floppy. (hopefully you have a floppy drive)

2. Go to your BIOS and disable any kind of quick boot. Restart and Jam CTRL+I during startup

3. Create the RAID arrays in the Intel matrix manager. I recommend using the default stripe size in the raid 0. Make sure to create the RAID 0 first

4. Insert you XP disk, plug in your floppy disk drive and REBOOT.

5. During XP setup press F6 when it ask you. Load the driver you downloaded and continue as usually

Pending no problems this is the general instructions for setting up a RAID w/ XP.
April 24, 2009 4:43:10 PM

Hi PsyKhiqZero

I'll move onto doing what you suggest asap, but just having a problem with the 2nd 500Gb drive - it won't format in Windows. Any obvious reason this could happen? If not, guess I'll be RMA'ing it...

Thanks! (PS, yes I do have a floppy, thanks)
a b G Storage
April 24, 2009 7:13:42 PM

Questions
1. Is it showing up under disk management? (right click My Computer, click management)
2. What is going on? what error does it give you?
3. Does the bios see it? Also disable quick boot in BIOS and see if it reports it during POST.

Download G-Parted ISO. It's a free formatting and partitioning tool. select the option with VESA in it. See if that reports the disk and allows you to format it.

http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=1...

To build a RAID you do no need to format the drive. just FYI. Your motherboard does need to see it though.
April 24, 2009 10:22:54 PM

PsyKhiqZero said:
Intel Matrix Raid allows for different raid arrays over partitions and was designed just for this type of thing.

What I would do. (using the 2 500Gb drives)

Create a 150GB raid 0. this would be for the OS swap file and programs.
Create a 425GB RAID 1. This would be for work files.

The raid 0 will give you the read and write performance for the applications that need it the most. While the files in the RAID 1 will be protected by the added redundancy. As a added plus you only lose 45 percent of your total space vs. a full 50% in a pure raid 1.



the downside of this is you will still have disk seek contention when hitting swap file/temp space and programs. your disks can only seek so fast.

personally id do the pair of 500 gig's as a raid 1, partition it 100gigs/400 gigs. ( this gives you a wipable partition for windows but still have the safety of raid1.

then throw the swap file and the temp space on the smaller drive.

this will give you isolated io for the original/saved versions and the temp space.

mixing raid 0 and raid 1 on the same drives will actually hurt your performance. as instead of the drives being able to seek independantly ( raid 1) they will constantly be seeking for the raid 0.

even with premier and photoshop you really shouldnt be passing 100+MB/s sustained read where the raid 0 would be most beneficial.

April 24, 2009 11:19:28 PM

Do you have Vista x64? You REALLY want Vista x64 for Photoshop CS4 and Premiere Pro & After Effects CS4 if you use those too.

I have step-by-step instructions on how to setup the Raid 0 and Raid 1 arrays. I have 2 different sets of instructions, one for installing an OS and one for after the OS is already installed. Another nice thing about Vista is that it doesn't need Raid drivers when installing. You just update everything after install.

I am finding both sets of instructions so I will post them in a bit.
April 24, 2009 11:25:39 PM

With Photoshop CS4 x64, you don't need to worry about scratch disk since it will never be used, provided you have enough ram. And the page file won't cause much of a problem with x64 and 4-8GB of ram.

Ignatowski, the whole purpose of creating a Raid 0 and Raid 1 is to protect data and improve performance at the same time. There is only one reason to put the OS+Apps on a Raid 1 which is so you don't have to reinstall/restore from a drive failure. However, using Raid 0 for the OS+Apps speeds up just about everything and uses less space.
a b G Storage
April 25, 2009 2:14:10 AM

Ignatowski said:
the downside of this is you will still have disk seek contention when hitting swap file/temp space and programs. your disks can only seek so fast.

personally id do the pair of 500 gig's as a raid 1, partition it 100gigs/400 gigs. ( this gives you a wipable partition for windows but still have the safety of raid1.

then throw the swap file and the temp space on the smaller drive.

this will give you isolated io for the original/saved versions and the temp space.

mixing raid 0 and raid 1 on the same drives will actually hurt your performance. as instead of the drives being able to seek independantly ( raid 1) they will constantly be seeking for the raid 0.

even with premier and photoshop you really shouldnt be passing 100+MB/s sustained read where the raid 0 would be most beneficial.



Mixing the RAID does not hurt performance. In a way it actually can help it. By creating the raid 0 first the data is kept to the inside of the disk where reads and write occur the fastest. that data doesn't wander to the outsides of the disk because thats where the raid 1 is setup. The RAID 1 is used only for storage and since it's not being used while your using photoshop there is no reason for the head to travel over to the RAID 1 section.

Perfomance gains had by putting the swap file on a different disk altogether do not out weigh the cost, or the overall read/write performance hit you'll take ditching the raid 0. especially with ram prices.

If possible I highly suggest moving to windows 7 x64 asap
April 25, 2009 11:33:30 AM

PsyKhiqZero said:
Questions
1. Is it showing up under disk management? (right click My Computer, click management)
2. What is going on? what error does it give you?
3. Does the bios see it? Also disable quick boot in BIOS and see if it reports it during POST.

Download G-Parted ISO. It's a free formatting and partitioning tool. select the option with VESA in it. See if that reports the disk and allows you to format it.

http://sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=1...

To build a RAID you do no need to format the drive. just FYI. Your motherboard does need to see it though.


Hi again

1. It is showing as my F drive under My Computer, also under 'Disk Management'. Correctly identifies its size / product code, etc.
2. If I do the full format, it gets to like 94%, then says 'Windows cannot format this drive'. If I do quick format I get same message but almost instantly.
3. Not looked in BIOS, but presume as it shows in my computer and disk management it will show there?

I suppose I wanted to format the drive to check all disks were working properly before I had to delete Windows, etc...

RAID 1 + 0 sounds absolutely perfect for my needs. Unfortunately I only have 32 bit XP - don't think my mobo supports 64. (Asus P45Q Pro) But considering that until last week I was doing my freelance CS2 work on a Vaio laptop with 1Gb RAM and an old Dual Core 1.8Ghzs processor what I have already will be an enormous performance leap! :bounce: 
a b G Storage
April 25, 2009 4:26:00 PM

RMA the drive if your running out of time to do so. Otherwise try G-parted and see if that will format it.

your system will support x64 just so you know
April 26, 2009 11:18:22 AM

PsyKhiqZero said:
RMA the drive if your running out of time to do so. Otherwise try G-parted and see if that will format it.

your system will support x64 just so you know


Hello again. I can't figure out this G-parted thing. Tried downloading both the .iso and .zip files, and none of what ends up downloading makes any sense to me. Sorry to be a bit backwards!! Don't see anything with the word VESA in it? Help! :o 
April 26, 2009 11:34:58 AM

Erm, ok, strange thing now, since trying to download this G-parted utility, when I click on Start and All Programs, nearly everything has disappeared?! Office, etc, has vanished. All that's left is Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, Remote Assistance, Windows Media Player, WD Diagnostics, Accessories and Startup.

Double help!! Any ideas anyone?
April 26, 2009 12:00:49 PM

Please ignore last message, solved through a system restore more or less, but not too fussed anyhow since I definitely want to start the system from scratch. Off to RMA the hard drive, but still after any guidance on setting up the matrix RAID on my system if anyone gets a spare minute! Never set up a RAID system before, so any pointers / instructions very much appreciated...
April 27, 2009 5:55:41 AM

Here ya go. I just copied this from another thread where I was helping a photographer.

1) When PC boots up, hit 'Delete' or whatever gets into BIOS.
2) Go to the section that has you select "AHCI", Raid" and IDE and select Raid. This is usually on the 1st BIOS page. Then save & exit.
3) After POST screen, another screen should pop up and says hold "Cntrl" + "I"(letter eye) to enter Intel Matrix Raid configuration- do that.
4) Once in, it will ask to "1-Create Raid", "2-Delete Raid", "3-Reset Raid to Non-Raid" and 4-Exit. Select #1.
5) It will ask to add the drives you want to use so add all 4 drives.
6a) Then it will ask what Raid you want. If you want OS/Apps/ page file & scratch disk on Raid 0, then select Raid 0
6b) If you want OS/Apps & photos on Raid 10, then select "Raid 10" (The 1st Raid array created needs to host the OS)
7) Now select "Stripe Size". If OS ->Raid 0, select 16KB; if OS ->Raid 10 select 32KB.
8) Select how much space you want allocated to that array.
9) Select create and stay there to create your next Raid array
(The "Stripe Size" and Space allocation order might be reversed)

A) If OS + Apps + page file + scratch disk are on Raid 0, "Stripe Size" for Raid 0=16KB and Raid 10=32KB; Raid 0 created 1st
B) If OS + Photos are on Raid 10, Stripe Size=32KB & Raid 0=64KB. Raid 10 created 1st.
April 30, 2009 10:41:13 PM

Ok guys, I'm back! thanks for the advice so far, need some more for a bit of trouble shooting...

I RMA'd my HD to WD, got my replacement, which works fine. I copied the Intel RAID drivers from my Mobo CD to a floppy, set up my SATA drives as RAID in Bios, then setup a 120Gb RAID O in the Ctrl+I utility on my x2 500Gb WD drives, followed by the rest taken up for the RAID 1. All seemed to work okay, both arrays then show up as 'healthy'. (I used the default stripe size, wasn't confident enough to fiddle!)

So I reboot from the Windows CD, press F6, push in the floppy, XP ticks away loading setup, I use the 's' key command to specify the floppy, select the relevent option of 4 that show up (the one that includes ICH10R, as specified by my mobo manual), and that's when it all goes wrong! (actually I got a couple of random errors before this point, but I only got each 1 once - I therefore used the non-Windows way of creating the RAID floppy from my mobo CD twice to create 2 new copies - using these new floppies I now always get to this point)

Whicever disk I use I get: "File iastor.sys caused an unexpected error (4099) at line 2113 in d:\xpsp\base\boat\setup\oemdisk.c."

Help! Any ideas anyone????

My only 2 thoughts (based on zero RAID experience and not even fully understanding what it is until this week), are either (a) that both RAID arrays showup when the PC is turning on as 'bootable' - is there a way I should have made the RAID 1 not bootable?, or, (b) the drivers from the mobo CD are duff - I know you can download some from the Intel site instead, would these solve the problem?

The only floppy drive I currently have access to is on the machine in questions, so in order to get to them I'll need to install XP on the 3rd (non RAID) HD and create floppies from them in there I guess. (If I do this, how do I take Windows off this 3rd drive before restarting the PC to install it on the RAID 0 array?)

Really appreciate your help, utterly lost with this one....
May 2, 2009 10:16:21 AM

bump.

Anyone?
May 2, 2009 10:16:38 AM

bump.

Anyone?
May 3, 2009 4:55:49 AM

Sorry Steelercaz. I have been having my own Raid problems since fully moving to Vista x64 from XP 32bit so I haven't been able to come here til today. I'm almost finished fixing my system but I am up and running.

Here are some ideas:
1) Get a copy of Vista from a friend and install without using a serial# so you can download the Intel drivers and make a floppy. If you are using an OEM copy of XP, then you certainly don't want to reinstall several times as MS says there is a limit per every 12 months.

2) Take out the Floppy drive and install in another PC and download from Intel to make floppy. Removing the Floppy drive should be rather easy.

3) I ALMOST didn't think of this: SLIPSTREAM the new drivers with the XP install disc. Download nLite and they provide steps for slipstreaming the drivers and making a installation disc. If you do this, use a DVD because they have far higher read speeds than a CD(which is what XP is on) and the installation should go a little quicker.
May 3, 2009 4:59:22 AM

For Slipstream, you put the XP disc in the drive and copy it to the hard drive and name it "Source". You then use nLite to select the drivers and you can also tweak other stuff, but I would just stick with adding the drivers so you can see if this works. This will do the F6 for you automatically.

I have done this a few times as my floppy drive died and the DVD does make a difference in speed. Also, don't be surprised if the drivers don't load up the first time you make a disc. I didn't follow the directions as I thought I could figure it out on my own so my first couple of discs were no good.


Good Luck.
May 3, 2009 5:24:27 PM

Hi guys, thanks for advice.

So first I tried taking the floppy out but I currently have a badly broken shoulder, and just couldn't do it.

So next deleted RAID 1 and tried install again - same prob.

So then I also deleted the RAID 0 & tried installing XP again, but it got an error part way through. Realised I hadn't set disks babk to IDE in bios, so did that and launched xp setup again & set it up to install on my 3rd, spare hd - which was all going fine until 10 mins ago - when I realised it was stuck on the setup screen with 33 minutes left, and hasn't moved since.

Help!! I'm guessing it has died & I need to force shutdown, but worried what state this might leave the hard drive and cd in...????

I don't have any friends with vista unfortunately...
May 3, 2009 5:33:20 PM

Scratch that, suddenly woke up and hit the regional settings screens. Fingers crossed that's the last hiccup for a while! :-)
May 3, 2009 7:04:53 PM

You guys are stars! Touching wood, it's all looking good.

Got the Intel drivers after re-installing XP on my Seagate 250Gb 'backup' / spare drive, downloading to 7 (yes, seven, just in case!) floppies, re-started PC, turned on RAID again. Re-started PC again, created RAID 0 at 120Gb across my 2 WD 500Gb drives. Re-started again just to check all ok.

Re-started once more after disconnecting Seagate drive which now has XP on it (just felt like a good thing to do, to 'force' XP to choose the RAID 0), installed XP, went very smoothly (and very fast!), and all well. Launched into Windows, and did a reboot just to check all working ok, which it was. Re-started once more, created RAID 1 to take up rest of space on x2 WD drives, booted into Windows, showed instantly in disk management and intialised flawlessly. So, as it stands, currently formatting the RAID 1 partition, and at 4%.

So...., touching very many wooden things, all sorted!! Now the joyous task of re-installing eveything ;-)

But, of course, I still have questions!

There are a few files on my now spare/backup drive which is currently disconnected which I need - my AVG free .exe file, my IE8 favourites, etc. I'm thinking if I re-start after this format, re-connect that drive and reboot it will offer me the choice to boot off my RAID 0 or the Windows installed on my spare drive? (or I dive into BIOS first and change the boot priority?) But...that drive was set up as the C:/ drive, and I'm suddenly thinking that now my RAID drive is also the C:/ drive how will it 'see' the spare drive when I boot up XP on the RAID? Will it cause a problem?

Also, can I remove XP from this spare drive? No real reason for it to stay there, and taking up space.

Also, I am guessing there are things I should know about maintaining my RAID setup - are there any basic things I should be doing?

Finally, could software such as the Acronis software be used to backup my RAID 0, so if the RAID 0 fails I can boot off that drive? Never really used that software much, and the few times I ha\ve its been a much simpler setup.

Thankyou again everyone for your guidance, it has been invaluable!
a b G Storage
May 3, 2009 11:04:46 PM

When you plug in your spare drive it will not give you the option to boot into it. You will be able to pull files from it and should you chose, wipe it clean altogether.

I've had no luck getting acronis to restore an image to my raid drives. Hopefully this has been fixed in newer versions. If you move to windows 7 or even vista make sure to get ultimate version as it has a basic imaging tool that works well.

!