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2 SATA drives - is RAID necessary?

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May 20, 2009 4:38:33 PM

Hello, Forum :hello: 

A hard disk of 4 years has recently died, and I have thus been researching new storage options. The drive failure turned out to be a blessing because over the years I have begun to use my PC for audio recording and video editing, and now I have the opportunity to have an ideal setup -- namely, a working drive and a storage drive.

I have purchased:
WD Caviar SE 160GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache SATA2 (working)
WD Caviar Black 500GB 7200 RPM 32MB Cache SATA2 (storage)
2 SATA2 cables

I will have the OS (Windows XP) and all other software installed on the working drive, and all of my audio and video files stored on the storage drive. So, no software will be running from the second drive.

So, I am replacing one, 160gb Maxtor drive that was setup on IDE with 2 SATA2 drives. This is where my question comes into play: after I install the drives, is it necessary to set up the drives in a certain RAID configuration? Specifically, for two SATA drives?

Each drive will have its own direct connection to the mobo, unlike 2 IDE drives on one cable (master and slave). This further complicates my situation. :pt1cable:  I looked at the sticky RAID FAQ, but since I'm not really familiar with RAID at all (4 years with 1 IDE drive), I'm not sure where to begin and need to understand this before I install my new disks.

Either an explanation on here or a referral to a site with a clear tutorial/explanation of SATA2 RAID setup would be great! :) 

More about : sata drives raid

May 20, 2009 4:43:27 PM

Here are the specs for my mobo, if needed:

ASUS P4SD-LA PES revision 0.01
Intel ICH5 supports two UltraDMA/150 SATA connectors

(I know the 3.0gb/s SATA2 should automatically downgrade to 1.5)
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May 20, 2009 5:25:21 PM

Not really an expert at all but am doing a 3 drive set up in my box

1 x 500gig as the working disk and 2 x 1tb disks in raid1 configuration for storage

raid1 basically has 1 disk redundant which its sole purpose is to mirror the other disk so if one should fail, you still have all of your data on the other.

I also use Acronis true image home to back up the working disk to cover my butt should anything go wrong with the working disk which is NON raid.

if your system supports doing that, then could be something worth thinking about.
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a b G Storage
May 20, 2009 11:41:19 PM

You don't need to use RAID, no. In fact, in your situation, I would probably recommend against it. RAID is used when you want multiple physical drives to show up as a single logical drive to the OS.
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a c 342 G Storage
May 22, 2009 4:41:38 PM

No, you do not need RAID. As CJL said, RAID is actually a bad idea for you. The confusion starts because so many mobo makers now include RAID controller capabilities in their on-board SATA controllers, but they normally are off by default and need to be turned on to the RAID setting if you want them.

First, one important difference from IDE is this: IDE was created to run two devices on one port and cable, so each device needed an identified (as Master or Slave) on the shared port. SATA only allows one device per port, so there is no such thing as Master / Slave in SATA. And Master etc. has NOTHING to do with which device you boot from.

Some SATA drives (Seagate does this, I'm not sure about WD) have a little jumper on the drive. This is solely for forcing the drive to run more slowly for compatibility with the first version of SATA if that's what your mobo does. If you have SATAII, set the drive that way. Seagate's system was: drive arrives with jumper installed by default for slower original SATA, and SATAII users just remove and discard the jumper. Check what WD does with your drives.

When you install your drives, technically it does not matter which SATA port you connect to. However, many put the one you expect to use for the OS on Port 0, and the other on Port 1, etc. Go into the BIOS Setup and look for three things.

1. You may need to Enable the SATA port(s), especially if you were not using them before.

2. For each port you may have some options for its operating mode. Possible choices are: Native SATA, AHCI, IDE (or PATA) Emulation, RAID. Don't choose RAID. IDE (or PATA) Emulation is a good choice. Windows does not know how to handle SATA drives all by itself, but it does know everything about IDE devices. The Emulation mode has the mobo take control of the SATA drive and make it appear to the world outside (read, Windows) as if it were a simple IDE drive. Windows is happy and blissfully unaware of the situation, and everything works. Alternatively you can have the mobo use either Native SATA or AHCI modes, but each will require a driver loaded into Windows. Well, I understand that VISTA has SATA drivers built in and this may not be an issue for that case. AHCI has a few advantages, but likely they don't matter for you, so you have little need to go that way.

3. Eventually you will need to specify a new Boot Priority Sequence in the BIOS. However, that may come AFTER you move all your stuff onto the new drives and remove the original IDE drive. When you get there, I suggest a priority like: CD ROM drive first, then SATA 160 GB drive, and no other options. (My own case has a floppy drive ahead of these two because I have one of those.)

Hmmm! I see you say your old drive failed. Maybe that means you are doing a complete fresh XP install to new drives and not cloning from the old drive. In that case, be aware of some wrinkles in this process. It is not related to SATA - this is a drive size issue only linked to "48-bit LBA Support". The original LBA system from the '90's allowed addressing of hard drives up to 137,000,000,000 bytes or, in M$'s terms, 128 GB. A newer version with longer addressing called "48-bit LBA" moves the limit into the petabyte region which is so big I'll never see it! To use that system you need both hardware and OS software to support it. ALL SATA hardware does this. Windows XP did NOT support it in its original version - it was added with Service Pack 1 and later. So, if your Windows XP Install disk is the original version with no Service Packs included, you will not be able to use you new large hard drives as single large disks. Well, at least not for the boot disk with the OS on it. However, if your Install disk has SP1, 2 or 3 included, this is NOT an issue for you, so skip the rest!

IF you only have original-release XP on your Install disk, you have about three alternatives:
A. Buy a newer Windows XP OS which includes one of the Service Packs and use it. Costs you money but is simple.
B. Learn how to Slipstream your existing original version. This costs you nothing but takes time and understanding. It is a perfectly legal process to take your fully licensed Win XP and upgrade it to a new Install Disk (you end up making it on your own CD burner) that includes all the latest upgrades to XP. Microsoft's website will outline how and provide you with downloadable files and instructions for upgrading your software. There are also good step-by-step instructions and tools for the process on several websites.
C. Use what you have and live with the limit - also free, and relatively simple to do. In this scenario, here's the sequence. You Install XP to your new OS HDD - the 160 GB one. But in the first stages it will Partition and Format your disk at only 128 GB and install to it. That will leave some Unallocated Space on your hard drive that can be set up later as another Partition of about 20 GB and used as a completely separate "drive" with its own letter name. Right away after installation, you should go to the M$ website and download and install all the updates, starting with Service Pack 3. When you're done, your XP will be fully able to use large hard drives. But your C: drive will still be 128 GB and you can't change that easily. Now, with this new large drive capability you can install your 500 GB data-only drive and use tools to prepare it for use as one large drive. By "tools", I mean either the WD Data Lifeguard software free-to-download on their site, or the tools built into Windows Disk Manager. Basically in a 2-step process (the WD tools make it even simpler) you create a Partition of specified size on a hard drive (in your case these will NOT be bootable partitions - you already have one called your C: drive), and then you Format it with an NTFS File System. You can do this for your 500 GB drive, and separately also do it on the Unallocated Space left over on your 160 GB drive.
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