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Looking for PCI-E RAID Card Recommendations & Advice.

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December 29, 2011 2:29:16 PM

I've been slowly but surely saving up money for a new personal machine for a while now. I've built countless machines for business and personal use, but I've never had the opportunity to build a machine with a PCI-E RAID Adapter. I've set up a handful of consumer and business-level machines with SSDs as the main Windows disk, both with and without RAID options. Sadly all of them have utilized on-board software RAID solutions (mostly Intel/Marvell controllers).

I have all the components sorted out with the exception of the PCI-E RAID Adapter. I'm looking to stripe 4x Corsair Force GT 120GB SSDs to serve as the Windows OS disk, and to utilize my existing RAID 5 eSATA standalone storage box for paging operations, temp files, and for general use as a storage hole. I realize how risky it is to rely on RAID 0, so please spare me those warnings, I have that contingency covered! ;)  I've been using RAID 0 for the better part of a decade on each of my personal machines, with WD Raptors/Velociraptors, and have a weekly backup script dump a system image to my RAID 5 box.

I've been eyeballing quite a few different RAID Cards from a handful of different vendors: Arcea, LSI, and Adaptec. Reviews and information on them are scattered and often convoluted. It's not exactly what you want to witness when thinking about dropping hundreds of dollars on one of these things. I've read a lot of horror stories about various cards not recognizing, or working properly with a lot of non-server motherboards. LSI, for example, offers compatibility lists which wholly neglect all types of motherboards save server boards. I don't understand why these companies don't comprehend that people may want to use their RAID cards in things other than servers.

I like the price-point and features of this LSI card, for example, but I'm worried it'll be $225 wasted on something that may not work at all. On Newegg's product page for that card, one individual mentions that the card refuses to recognize on Gigabyte motherboards, which is a problem as I was eyeballing a Gigabyte x79 board in the first place.

If anyone out there has any stores or experiences they can share about hardware RAID and SSDs, please share. :D 
December 29, 2011 2:45:01 PM

This might not be want you want to do, but have you considered software raid. windows 7 professional and ultimate support the windows software raid. ive never messed with it but in benchmarks it does better than most controllers and you dont need to worry about losing your raid if your controller card dies. just plug them into any windows pc and it sees them. or so the review said. i didnt find the article i once read but i did find a howto
http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/36504/how-to-create-a-so...
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December 29, 2011 3:01:21 PM

Yep, that's what I've been running for the last decade or so. Software RAID via onboard RAID controllers. right now I'm using 3x 300GB Velociraptors in RAID 0 on Windows 7, before that it was 2x 74GB Raptors in RAID 0 on Windows XP.

I'm trying to move away from Software RAID for maximum performance. I've never liked the idea of losing CPU clocks to RAID management, not to mention (what I at least understand to be) lost throughput on an over-saturated SATA 3 bus with four SSDs attached.
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December 30, 2011 6:25:11 AM

in that case ive always liked promise controllers. though i havent checked them out since sata came out.
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a b G Storage
January 1, 2012 9:57:36 PM

Hi rageaholic!

LSI controllers are not compatible with all motherboard so I suggest you to buy intel raid controller!

Intel controllers are carbon copy of the LSI's. the only difference is firmware, and the performance is very close.

but if you can afford around 300$ you can buy awsome raid controller! unbeatable in that price range!

AND yes it is risky to use 4x SSD in raid 0 but you can avoid that risk with buying Battery Backup Unit (BBU) but if you want more performance and Avoiding the risk i suggest to use FastPath instead of BBU!

For using Fastpath you set the caching mode to write through. This cuts the odds of loosing arrays exponentially. The LSI controllers are very very stable in this regard.
the write through that you use with fastpath will reduce the odds greatly of data loss in power outage. not entirely of course, but if you have a backup regularly, dont worry about it.

here is the difference between fastpath enabled and disabled:

enable:
http://assets.overclock.net.s3.amazonaws.com/a/ae/ae340...

disable:
http://assets.overclock.net.s3.amazonaws.com/9/91/91db5...

read more about fatpath:
http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/servers/raid/rai...

Intel RS2BL040 (LSI 9260-4i) controller:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
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