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Looking for HDD and RAID controller advice

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April 30, 2010 5:12:06 AM

Rethinking my new build.

I am an independent software developer. I work mostly in MS SQL, VB.net, MS Access, Delphi and do some web work in ASP.net, Dreamweaver. The web work requires me to do some work in CS4 tools like Flash, Photoshop and Aftereffects. I do work with pretty large files sometimes. Most of the databases I handle are not huge. I think the biggest one is just shy of 1GB right now with the largest table having around 1/2 million rows. I also use this machine for some personal things like watching movies (I have a pretty good size DVD collection that I'd like to put on the computer) and some not too hardware demanding games. I don't do much with the game end of things. This is primarily for my work. I'm not a hardware expert but know enough to be dangerous as they say.

My original plan was to set up a fast boot OS and fast load Programs drive(s) in RAID0 (need about 80GB for that right now) (actually I had originally purchased 2 WD6402AAEX 6GB/s drives for the OS RAID on the jMicron controller until I found out that this was much slower than the SATA 3Gb/s on the Intel controller - which I did set up and test with HD Tach and proved to myself that this was true) and a large array (originally thought to use RAID5 until I learned that writes in onboard RAID 5 are very slow so decided for now on a 4 drive RAID 10) for about 3TB total space. I was going to partition the 3TB array into 3 parts. First part around 2.5 TB for all my data. The 2nd and 3rd would divide the remainder in 1/2. I'd use those spaces for clones of the OS array so that if one of the RAID0 drives fails I can boot from the clone and still be up and running while I correct the problem (I keep good backups so that is not really the idea here, just to have the spare OS drive available quickly if needed). I want the OS and apps to load quickly. I also want my work to go quickly. I do a lot of testing with the database work in that I'll write a procedure and test it on a good chunk of data which sometimes can take some time. That gets old. Testing over and over while developing can take time so I'm trying to get that down a bit. I some of that isn't drive/controller related but the speed issues that are drive/controller related are what I'm addressing in this thread. I'm just trying to provide enough information so the gurus can help :) 

Here's the hardware I'm locked into now (I have all these, opened and installed and tested to some degree):

Motherboard = GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD5 (BIOS v 5)
CPU = (1) Intel Core i7-930 Bloomfield 2.8GHz LGA 1366 (with plans to OC at some point when I learn more about that)
RAM = (12GB total but only testing on 6 for now until I learn how to tweak it to run stable on 12) CORSAIR XMS3 6GB (3 x 2GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM DDR3 1333 (PC3 10666) 7-7-7-20 Model TR3X6G1333C7 G
Cooler = Noctua/XION NH-U12P SE2 Universal CPU Cooler (2 fans)
Video = (1) EVGA 512-P3-N871-AR GeForce 9800 GTX+ (I don't do any high end video or 3D work so I don't need that type of card)
Sound = HT | OMEGA CLARO Plus+
Case = LIAN LI PC-P80 or PC-A77F (this is a very cool [temp wise] case with 3 120mm front fans, 2 140mm top fans and 1 120mm rear fan)
PSU = CORSAIR CMPSU-HX1000 (yes, I know, probably overkill and I need a new UPS anyway so this forces me to look for a better one)
Optical = (2) LITE-ON DVD Writer - Bulk - Black SATA Model iHAS224-06
OS = Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit

Storage: not really figured out yet but I have 2 Intel X25-M 80GB SATA II for the OS RAID 0; the rest I still need to figure out.

I have 4 WD1001FALS that I was going to use until I recently discovered that the WD1001FALS are not TLER and the versions I have can't be enabled (I tried it) and so are a bad idea for RAID. Fortunately I am able to return the drives for a full refund. When I first thought up this new build a few months ago I was wanting to go separate RAID controller and run RAID 5 (for the data side) rather than onboard for the following reasons: portability in case of mobo failure (is this really a plus or just a misconception?), possibility of more ports than are available on the motherboard, speed (if using RAID 5), reliability (if using a good controller), SMART and other diagnostics that can be done with a separate controller where onboard can't see the SMART data. But I had trouble finding a motherboard and card that made sense. One of the problems was that I soon discovered that Areca, 3Ware, etc expect you to use a good server board and not a desktop board. I started looking into Supermicro and Tyan but felt that my choices were limited as this is not a server system that I'm building.

So one of my questions is are there any RAID controllers that are worth buying that can be used reliably on the GIGABYTE GA-X58A-UD5 board? If so, what and should I put the RAID0 and the RAID10 (or 5) on that card ro keep the RAID0 on the motherboard. Or should I rethink the storage altogether? I'm flexible at this point since I found out I can return the drives.

I also thought to keep one of the 1T drives and put my movies on that not RAIDed because of course I have the DVD's anyway and can put a backup of them on a spare drive and from what I understand playing movies on the computer doesn't require anything special hard drive wise.

Anyway, that's my situation. Looking for advice on what to do next. If I'm making any incorrect statements above, feel free to correct me (nicely please, there's no room for being mean on the forums IMO). I've already learned a lot on Tom's in the last several days and am grateful for all the good advice.

Oh, cost. I'd rather not spend much over a grand (USD) for the rest of the hardware I need. 4 of the WD RE3 drives would come to about $640 USD and a $400 controller brings it in right around there. I know the RAID controllers can get up there (well over $500) and I could go SAS but I know those are pretty pricey too. I still have to spend about 400 or 500 on a good sinewave UPS and around that amount for MS Office 2010 when it comes out this summer. I'm way over budget as it is! :) 

I should mention noise is an issue. I don't want a bunch of noisy drives. I like quiet computers.

Thanks very much.

A.
a c 93 G Storage
April 30, 2010 6:13:43 AM

Would you consider using Seatage drives 1TB 7200.12 for about $80 and can be used for RAID.

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April 30, 2010 5:05:41 PM

Possibly. But I want high reliability. There are a lot of pretty negative reviews for that drive on Newegg; quite a few of them regarding RAID.
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May 2, 2010 3:08:12 PM

Anyone? Any ideas on the issue of separate controller vs onboard RAID? My OP was pretty thorough and full of questions.

I'm leaning toward just sticking with onboard and getting 4 WD RE3 750GB drives (WD7502ABYS) for the RAID 10. That'd give me plenty of space. Then getting a 500GB WD5001AALS as a stand alone that I can partition for the clones of the OS drive rather than putting them on the RAID 10. And I've already hooked up a single 1T WD1001FALS and ripping my DVD's to that.
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