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SSD + Raid 1 HDD questions

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June 18, 2011 6:36:39 AM

Sorry in advance if some of these questions seem amateur/obvious, but this will be my first attempt at SSD and raiding, so I certainly have a lot of questions to try and get it done right.

I currently only have one HDD, but I am about to buy a new 900 series amd mobo and plan on buying an SSD along with another HDD for raid 1. However, I have several inquiries on the best way to go about doing this.

1) I'd imagine the first thing is to just install the SSD on the new mobo in AHCI mode and install win 7... Or do I need to install it in raid mode for the incoming raid array? Can the SSD be in AHCI with the HDD's in raid?

2)When installing the HDD array, is it as simple as plugging them both in, going into the BIOS and setting them both to a raid array? Or is there some other stuff that needs to be done?

3) When I first got my hard drive, I had to do several cmd prompt commands(format?) in order to get Win 7 to recognize it (something with disk in it followed by partitioning it and ntfs etc etc...) will I have to do that again or is it just a one time thing intrinsic to completely new hard drives?

4)Will I be able to just copy all my current HDD data onto an external (games, music, etc), and then just drag+drop it onto whichever new drives I have?

5) Will there be any tangible benefit to having a separate raid card, or do these motherboards handle these types of setups with as much ease/efficiency?

Thanks in advance to anyone who can help a noob out with this. I really want to learn this stuff, but there is just a lot of different (and rather intimidating) methods online of doing things with no real straight forward answer. Thanks again!

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a b G Storage
June 18, 2011 9:55:48 AM

1) I'd imagine the first thing is to just install the SSD on the new mobo in AHCI mode and install win 7... Or do I need to install it in raid mode for the incoming raid array? Can the SSD be in AHCI with the HDD's in raid?
Most motherboards have more than one disk controller. For instance, the ASUS Sabertooth 990FX ( http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... ) has two disk controllers; one has two SATA II (3GB/s) connections and the other has six SATA III (6GB/s) connections. Each disk controller can be set to run in a particular disk mode (IDE/AHCI/RAID). There are a number of ways you could set this up. One way you could set this up is by setting the SATA II disk controller to AHCI in the BIOS and connect your SSD and your DVD/combo drive to it while setting the SATA III controller to RAID mode by which you can connect your HDDs to be used in a RAID array. Another way you could set it up is by setting both controllers to RAID mode. A third way, you could connect all the disks to the same controller set to RAID mode and just build the RAID array with the HDDs. By default, if a disk is not part of a RAID array and the controller it's connected to is set to RAID, it will run in AHCI mode.

2)When installing the HDD array, is it as simple as plugging them both in, going into the BIOS and setting them both to a raid array? Or is there some other stuff that needs to be done?
After you change the disk mode for the controller on which you'd like to create the RAID array, you have to create the array. Once you enable RAID on the controller, you'll have a boot option just before Windows loads. Often it's a control-I to enter RAID setup. Once you hit controller I, you create a new array by choosing the disks you'd like to use and the array type (ie RAID 0). Then, when you install Windows, at the beginning of the install, you'll be prompted to insert a disk with the RAID or SCSI drivers. These will be on a disk that came with your motherboard.

3) When I first got my hard drive, I had to do several cmd prompt commands(format?) in order to get Win 7 to recognize it (something with disk in it followed by partitioning it and ntfs etc etc...) will I have to do that again or is it just a one time thing intrinsic to completely new hard drives?
You don't really have to do the command prompts. Even though you don't see the disk in Windows Explorer, Windows knows it's there. You go into 'Disk Management' and everything you did with the command prompts is available with a GUI tool.

4)Will I be able to just copy all my current HDD data onto an external (games, music, etc), and then just drag+drop it onto whichever new drives I have? Yes. Most games have a data file or files with your saved game info available so you can keep your info if you have to reinstall or install on a new machine.

5) Will there be any tangible benefit to having a separate raid card, or do these motherboards handle these types of setups with as much ease/efficiency?
For home use, I don't really see a benefit. Most separate cards should provide a higher degree of reliability, but they are also more expensive. The only issues I've ever had with a home PC regarding reliability, and these occured when they first put RAID controllers on the first gen Pentium 4 motherboards (ICH5R? I think) - was the array would disappear on me. I was running everything (OS, Apps, Data) on one RAID 0 array. The first time it happened, I was completely freaked out and thought I lost everything. I figured out that I merely had to recreate the array and everything was back to normal. I would have to recreate it every so often. I would think the on-board RAID controllers have come a long way since then.
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June 18, 2011 5:57:10 PM

Thanks tremendously for the reply - that cleared up alot of my questions (and anxiety) about putting this together. I just have a few quick questions regarding specifications about what you've just elaborated on:

For the answer to 1), you said I could have all my sata devices on the SATA III controller in raid mode. Is there any difference between raid mode and AHCI mode other then raid allowing to set up raid arrays? I ask this because I was under the assumption that for SSD's, it's better to have them in AHCI mode, while having other HDD in ahci/ide mode unless I wanted to raid them. So, for my setup (one SSD boot drive/games + a raid 1 array with 2 HDD for data storage), would it be more benefical to connect the HDD's to the SATA II controllers in raid and then connect my SSD to the SATA III controller in AHCI? Or is there no tangible benefit when compared to just setting them all to SATA III under raid?

For the answer to number 2), I was planning on executing the install by first installing my OS on the single SSD drive, and then attaching the raid drives. I assume this is the optimal route? If yes, when setting up the raid array after having installing my boot drive SSD, do I just need to create the raid array in bios and it will automatically be recognized by windows(or do i also need to insert the motherboard disk with the raid drivers?)? Or will I need to install windows 7 onto the raid array as well and then go about with the installation of the motherboard disk drivers?

Thanks again for your help. Very quick and informative!
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a b G Storage
June 18, 2011 6:17:21 PM

The SSD will run in AHCI mode if you don't add it to a RAID array.

As far as which one's should be plugged into which controller, it's just a matter of availability and bandwidth of the disk itself. If you're not dealing with any SATA III devices, the only thing that matters is that you have the HDDs on the same controller.

Depending on your motherboard, if I weren't dealing with any SATA III disks, I'd set the controller with the east number of connections to AHCI mode and I'd throw the SSD and my DVD/Combo drive on that controller. I'd set the controller with the most available SATA connections to RAID mode and throw the HDDs on this one.

I would install all the disks, create the RAID array, and then install the OS with the disk containing the RAID controller drivers for windows handy for the initial part of the OS install requiring them.

You'll need to create the RAID array. Depending on your BIOS, you'll be able to do it right though the BIOS' integrated peripherals screen (where you set the disk mode) or there will be a boot option just after the BIOS loads that says press ctrl-I for RAID setup or something along those lines. Either way, you'll set up your RAID array before you even put the Windows 7 install DVD in the drive. Once the array is setup, you can reboot with the DVD in the drive.

Are all your disks SATA II?
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June 18, 2011 6:51:20 PM

ubercake said:
The SSD will run in AHCI mode if you don't add it to a RAID array.

As far as which one's should be plugged into which controller, it's just a matter of availability and bandwidth of the disk itself. If you're not dealing with any SATA III devices, the only thing that matters is that you have the HDDs on the same controller.

Depending on your motherboard, if I weren't dealing with any SATA III disks, I'd set the controller with the east number of connections to AHCI mode and I'd throw the SSD and my DVD/Combo drive on that controller. I'd set the controller with the most available SATA connections to RAID mode and throw the HDDs on this one.

I would install all the disks, create the RAID array, and then install the OS with the disk containing the RAID controller drivers for windows handy for the initial part of the OS install requiring them.

You'll need to create the RAID array. Depending on your BIOS, you'll be able to do it right though the BIOS' integrated peripherals screen (where you set the disk mode) or there will be a boot option just after the BIOS loads that says press ctrl-I for RAID setup or something along those lines. Either way, you'll set up your RAID array before you even put the Windows 7 install DVD in the drive. Once the array is setup, you can reboot with the DVD in the drive.

Are all your disks SATA II?


Ahhh okay, understood about the raid controller. I just realized the new motherboard I plan on getting only has SATA III connections (this one: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... ) , so when hooking up all of the drives, I'll want to select raid mode. All my disk's will be SATA III, although the HDD's don't don't even come close to saturating the alloted bandwidth of SATA III so I'd imagine it wouldn't have made any difference for those (when compared to the SSD).

So, quick recap of what I should do:

1) Hook up all three devices ( SSD + 2 HDD's) to new motherboard SATA III ports
2) Select raid mode instead of AHCI/IDE.
3) Create the raid 1 array in the BIOS with the 2 HDD's.
4) Set the boot drive disk priority to the SSD
5) Reboot with the windows install disk in the dvd drive.
6) Install windows 7 on SSD
7)When prompted to load the Motherboard driver disk (beginning part of the OS install), insert disk, load drivers, carry on with windows install
8) ????
9) profit?

Hope that's right! Thanks again!

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a b G Storage
June 19, 2011 12:53:38 AM

salokin said:
Ahhh okay, understood about the raid controller. I just realized the new motherboard I plan on getting only has SATA III connections (this one: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168... ) , so when hooking up all of the drives, I'll want to select raid mode. All my disk's will be SATA III, although the HDD's don't don't even come close to saturating the alloted bandwidth of SATA III so I'd imagine it wouldn't have made any difference for those (when compared to the SSD).

So, quick recap of what I should do:

1) Hook up all three devices ( SSD + 2 HDD's) to new motherboard SATA III ports
2) Select raid mode instead of AHCI/IDE.
3) Create the raid 1 array in the BIOS with the 2 HDD's.
4) Set the boot drive disk priority to the SSD
5) Reboot with the windows install disk in the dvd drive.
6) Install windows 7 on SSD
7)When prompted to load the Motherboard driver disk (beginning part of the OS install), insert disk, load drivers, carry on with windows install
8) ????
9) profit?

Hope that's right! Thanks again!

You probably won't need to do step 4. But it seems like you definitely have the idea. It's only the RAID drivers you'll have to install from the driver disk.

Also, I read the RAID setup section of your motherboard's manual:

http://download.gigabyte.ru/manual/mb_manual_ga-990xa-u...

You'll have to use ctrl-f to get to your RAID setup. Page 76 in the manual is where the RAID setup instructions begin (your choices should mirror those in the yellow rectangle on this page). Page 81 tells you the location of the drivers on the disk. You'll only need to load the RAID drivers appropriate for your OS before you get Windows installed. The instructions pretty much mirror the steps you've summarized above. Good luck.
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a b G Storage
June 19, 2011 1:28:59 AM

You only need to install the raid drivers during install if you plan on installing the OS onto the raid. If you plan on installing the os on the ssd, there is no need to install raid drivers at this point. Wait till windows loads and use the motherboard supplied cd then.

edit: to access disk managment start -> run -> compmgmt.msc *enter* select disk management on the left. As ubercake said, you will have to setup the raid in the bios most likely prior to being able to format it in windows. Again this can be done after windows has been installed.
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a b G Storage
June 19, 2011 1:35:52 AM

I just say do it all up front and you're good to go.
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June 19, 2011 4:36:06 AM

Okay will certainly try it out then! Thanks tremendously again for the help and quick responses!
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!