[SOLVED] Software RAID

I've got an old P4 (non-HT) running Windows 7 Enterprise filled with several (8) IDE drives. Up until recently I've been spanning drives without much fuss. But of course when one of the spanned drives tanks, and it has, I'm in bad shape.
Sure I can mirror drives, and I do, but then I'm capped at the size of the smallest disk and can't take advantage of pooling the rest of the available storage space.

For those who are going to jump down my throat: This isn't mission critical data but very useful data (utilities & apps, scripts I've written etc) and a few important things like backups of ghost images for some unsupported systems we still have to support/maintain. So for the 'important' stuff I have a robocopy /MON job that keeps things reasonably up to date elsewhere.

In any event, I found this old article here which allows one to breathe RAID 5 life into Windows XP: Using WindowsXP to Make RAID 5 Happen

This made me curious: Does such an article or fauxlution (faux + solution) exist for Windows 7, be it Pro or Enterprise or Ultimate?

If not: Is anyone aware of or can anyone recommend a decent [free] software RAID 5 application/suite/service?


Two things for what its worth
1) I'm not interested in unsubstantiated theories and solutions, which forums are notoriously filled with. I'm looking for an actual step-by-step or documented solution, preferably based on experience. Responses like "Yea its easy just mirror spanned drives" are equally useless. So, if you don't know, or haven't done this, don't answer. :)

2) I'm not interested in a solution that involves spending loads of cash. Realistically I'm not likely to spend even $20 on this rapidly aging system, especially not on 4 PCI ATA RAID Cards (1, 2).
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More about solved software raid
  1. I have an old slim HP D530 with a p4 3.0 with HT and 2gigs of ram. I use it as a home nas file server. I have 1 ide 80 gig boot drive and 2 640 sata drives in raid 1. I used the XP trick to add the windows server raid support. It worked ok but the array would often mess up and have to be repaired. So I tried Win 7 ultimate 32. Raid 1 is built in, no need for hacks or cracks. That old machine has been up for about 1 year now and I have only had to rebuild the array 1 time, which windows 7 did for me automaticly.
    Setting up a raid in win 7 is the same as extending a disc. You highlight both HDs in the Disk Management utility, right click and select new mirrored partition. Its just that easy.
  2. Hey bucknutty
    Thanks for taking the time to review & respond to my post. Glad to hear read I'm not the old one with a P4 running Windows 7!

    Mirroring is, as you said, easy in Windows 7, but I don't want to mirror:
    1 drive 6 times
    2 drives 3 times
    3 drives twice

    I'd rather have a pool of storage with some level of redundancy. I'd settle for mirroring spanned drives (e.g.: span 3 drives, span the other 3 then 'Add a mirror' to the first span with the latter span) but that does not seem possible since the 'Add a mirror' option is grayed out.

    I'm of the opinion that for day to day use and the everyday lay, the built-in mirroring and spanning is great but it doesn't do it efficiently (in terms of use of space) and redundantly (allowing to 1 drive failure).

    Thanks again!
  3. Why not mirror 1 drive 6 times? What if 5 drives fail at one time... then you are still protected? That would be sweet!
    Seriously though being able to have a spanned drive mirrored on a similar spanned drive would be cool, but I don’t know of any way to that. I don’t even think a cheap software raid card would help. I tried to get a software raid 5 to work on windows 7 but after about a month of failure I gave up. I don’t understand why something so simple that works on all the older server versions of windows can’t be used on win7?
    There are lots of people on this forum smarter than me, I’m sure someone will have an idea. Good luck.
  4. Thanks again for your response! Yeah I'm sure there are loads of people on here way 'smrt'er than I so I hope someone'll have an interesting idea!

    Its such a simple thing we're trying to do here - the functions already exist, why can't we marry them together! What a bummer.
  5. W7 can create software raid using a combination of jbod+raid 1, All handled by the Logical Disk Manager. The only downside, is that the cpu overhead might be a bit too much for an old Non-HT P4.
  6. hey das_stig - thanks for the reply

    The objective is to make full use of the storage space available to me. If I had a RAID card that did 3/4/5, I could get an array of about 300GB of which only about 280GB will be usable. I've got 6 available drives in there so there's plenty to do this. Presumably one would span 3 drives for storage, then span the remaining three then use that span to mirror the first span. But that's not possible.

    I'm also not concerned about CPU overhead since its not used as a desktop - its just there for convenience.
  7. I posted elsewhere (TechNet forums) and received an interesting response.
    In short, we all know that software RAID 3/4/5 is not supported on Windows 7, and there isn't a suitable Microsoft or third-party software suite/utility solution for this.

    However, they did link me to a rather very creative workaround:
    http://log.bthomson.com/2009/09/software-raid-5-in-windows-7.html

    Bad ass - I just might do it.
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