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SSD Boot Drive and two 1 TB drives in RAID 0 for storage?

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July 22, 2010 3:45:29 AM

Okay, I am new to RAID but am trying to learn how to do it, more for fun than because I actually need a performance boost.
Here is my system:

ASUS P7P55D (Vanilla)
i5-750 2.66 (recently overclocked to 3.71!! I know it's old news to most of you, but it's my first OC so still excited about that..)
8 GBs DDR3 (4 gb 2000 G.SKILLS ram + 4 gb 1600 OCZ ram) - I know this isn't ideal, I think I'm fine with 4 gigs of ram but had the other sticks sitting around for a bit and figured I might as well put them in
Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 SATA 3Gb/s 1TB Hard Drive - More on this below
HITACHI Deskstar 2TB 7200 RPM 32MB SATA 3.0Gb/s - I have an extensive video collection and recently bought this because 1 TB was no longer enough
Radeon HD 5850 - woot
Some sort of DVD Burner or another, doubt it matters
Oh and my power supply is 700 watt Antec so I think it can handle all of this
I run Windows 7 64 bit.

So now that you know what I'm working with, here's what I'm trying to do:
I recently ordered an Intel X25-M 80 gigabyte SSD after doing some research and finding that it seemed to be one of the best out there at the moment. Of course, the next day I see it $20 cheaper on sale, but that is neither here nor there. :D 
My plan is to use this drive as my boot drive, storing Windows 7 on it, maybe Photoshop since it always takes so long to load. One of the questions I would like to get answered here is how many of my applications should I actually put on my SSD? Which ones matter the most? Photoshop is by far the slowest opening program I use. I normally play one game at a time for a month or so and might store that on there as well.
I know there are lots of settings I have to change, changing page file location, turn off defrag, etc. If you have any advice that would be nice but I think I found some decent articles.


Now since I have to reformat and reinstall Windows anyways, I figured I'd take this opportunity to try a RAID set-up. I don't really have any important data to speak of; this would be a RAID 0 for a performance boost and just to learn how to do it.
So I bought a second Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 SATA 3Gb/s 1TB Hard Drive.

I have been reading around and it seems that hardware RAID allows for more performance gain than software. This makes sense, but as I read more I started to have questions. Questions that need answering!
Will I be able to use the SSD as my boot drive, the two Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 SATA 3Gb/s 1TB Hard Drives in a RAID 0 set up for the installation of most programs/games and the 2 terabyte hitachi solo for my media? (Music/videos and a little manual backup)
What is AHCI? Is that what allows software RAID? When I set the hard drives in bios it seems like there is just one setting. How do I tell it that I only want the two drives in RAID configuration?
Which RAID drivers should I use? - since the hard drives I bought are OEM they didn't come with software.
EDIT: Another question, should I update the firmware of all my discs before reinstalling the OS etc?

Thank you so much for your help!
July 22, 2010 7:07:30 AM

What you can do will be determined by your motherboard and chipset. It looks like you can put up to 6 drives in RAID on your system, 2 PATA IDE drives, and one standalone SATA, so you may not be able to have three separate SATA 'arrays.' It might be possible to configure the RAID array to have one disk be a 'non-member' drive; check your manual.

If you can't do that, I'd reconsider the idea of the RAID0 and put most of your apps including your need-for-speed apps on the SSD.

I just upgraded to the x25-M SSD into two systems. You'll love making the move. The whole system seems considerably faster - it put new life into the PC.

AHCI is what enables Windows 7 to use the TRIM functionalities of the SSD.

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July 22, 2010 5:26:57 PM

Quote:
One of the questions I would like to get answered here is how many of my applications should I actually put on my SSD? Which ones matter the most?

That depends on what applications you use. It would help if you listed them out.

Quote:
Will I be able to use the SSD as my boot drive, the two Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 SATA 3Gb/s 1TB Hard Drives in a RAID 0 set up for the installation of most programs/games and the 2 terabyte hitachi solo for my media?

Yes you can. Although, installing only the OS on the SSD will be a kind of waste of resources, since most of the SSD will remain empty. Similarly, imo, 2 TB storage just for applications & games is way too much. I doubt you'd fill even 25% of the capacity.

Quote:
When I set the hard drives in bios it seems like there is just one setting. How do I tell it that I only want the two drives in RAID configuration?

Through the BIOS, select the storage mode as RAID0 & then simply select the drives you want, to be a part of the array. The rest will remain unaffected.

Quote:
Which RAID drivers should I use? - since the hard drives I bought are OEM they didn't come with software.

Check ASUS's website for the Raid drivers. You can install them after the first boot.

Quote:
EDIT: Another question, should I update the firmware of all my discs before reinstalling the OS etc?

There is not such thing as firmware for HDDs. They run just like plug&play.
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a c 180 G Storage
July 22, 2010 5:42:48 PM

If you don't have a good reason for raid-0, and there are not many, don't bother. It looks good in synthetic data transfer benchmarks, but that is not what we typically do.

For storage, just use the two drives individually. Hardware raid involves adding a discrete card with a raid processor on it, a relatively expensive proposition.
On a Motherboard, the performance does not have the same potential.

I would just set sata to AHCI in the bios, and connect everything individually. AHCI stands for advanced host controller interface. It is in contrast to IDE which has been around for a long time. AHCI enables features like S.M.A.R.T which records hard drive statistica, and implements the trim command. The trim command tells the SSD to delete a block of data without having to read and rewrite the data. This keeps your SSD performance good as the drive fills up.
Rebuild with windows-7 which has drivers that pass on the trim command to the SSD.

Put your OS on the SSD, taking about 13gb. Also, go ahead and install all your apps, and at least your current game. Don't worry much about space until you start to fill up the SSD. Don't bother with placing things and tweaking. It isn't worth it. Your system will just naturally feel quicker.
Windows-7 will keep lots of your frequently used apps in that 8gb of ram. When you are done for the day, do not power down. Use the S3 sleep mode that will keep the ram loaded with what you were doing last. Restart is very quick.

The Intel X25-M should come with the current firmware. You may be able to verify the firmware version from the version # printed on the box. I hope you got the G2 version, the G1 version does not support trim. You can download the Intel SSD toolbox which can identify and update the firmware if necessary. Updating the firmware on a device with valid data on it will work, but I would do it before I had invested a lot of time .
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a c 353 G Storage
July 22, 2010 5:45:54 PM


Concur fully with geofelt - very good advice. I use Raid0 on my Vista computer; but on my newer computer with an SSD I did what geofelt discribed

For an answer to your question:
You would need two storage controllers, one that you can set to AHCI (SSDs work best and currenly trim only supports in this mode. And one that you can set to SATA and select enable raid. Some MB have 2 controllers (Mine has Intel, and a Jmicron). Alternative would be to obtain a SATA PCI card that allows raid0 and put your two 1 TB HDDs on that.
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July 26, 2010 9:41:17 AM

Here are a couple of additional ideas:

- you could run a RAMdisk in some of that extra RAM, and on system startup (or on a delay) load it with whatever apps you need to run later so that they're fast to load when you need them.

- you could get a couple more 1TB drives and run RAID10 - that way you get both data redundancy and improved speed. Its costs comes in the form of reduced capacity; if you ran 4 1TB drives in RAID10 you'd only get 2TB of storage capacity out of it, but that should be more than enough for your needs.



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