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Should I bother with RAID?

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March 26, 2012 1:48:23 AM

I'm currently piecing together a gaming rig, EXCLUSIVELY for games, at a budget of around $1800 mid-late summer. I asked my friend who has already built his own PC to give some advice, and he said I should definitely go for a RAID 0 setup with two 500GB Seagate Hard Drives, but I really have no idea what RAID is. I did some research, but I don't get it, and it seems kind of complicated.

I was wondering if it is really worth the added performance? And a side question: would it be possible to combine RAID 0 and RAID 1 so that I could use three hard drives: the two in RAID 0 and then the third being a 1TB backup in case either of the other two fail? Is there a way to do this without combining the two RAIDs, or should I just get two 1TB hard drives and setup in RAID 1?

Please give advice and info, because I really want to learn this stuff, it's just any explanation I get is definitely not in layman's terms, and I am very new at all this. I've also been told that BECAUSE I know little about it, I shouldn't bother with it, but if that's the case, then what should I do?

Thanks in advance!

The one thing I could find that also has to do with RAID is the motherboard, and I was thinking of either this Asus P8Z68 or this Z77 board once Ivy Bridge is released, since I will probably be building this summer.

Update: After some reading, from what I understand, RAID 5 is putting two drives into RAID 0 (striping) and then using a third for a copy. But I also read, even if the motherboard supports it, I should get a controller for it (and I don't really know what a controller is). Is all of this right? What are your guys' suggestions?

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March 26, 2012 2:07:00 AM

Na: Put the money into a good-sized single SSD.

RAID 0 is kind'a nice for sequential reads and writes, but even stereo VelociRaptors aren't as good at that as a well-reviewed SSD, nor is there a HDD on the planet, in any RAID setup you care to name, that will come close to the random IO of a SSD.

You could make a case for RAIDs 1, 5, and 6 if you where trying to protect something, but going to RAID for speed is a miss allocation of funds.
a b G Storage
March 26, 2012 2:15:21 AM

RAID0 is generally a bad idea. All data is split across all drives in the array. When it goes to read or write data it theoretically would double performance because 2 drives are each writing/reading half the data. It also doubles your chance of failure because you have 2 drives and if EITHER fails ALL data is lost.

If you wanted to combine raid levels you would use RAID1+0 with 4 drives. First each pair of drives is setup in raid 1. then the two raid 1 arrays are setup in raid 0. this gets you the speed of raid 0 plus up to one drive in each pair can fail with no data loss.

That being said neither are worth doing with those drives. Maybe when those drives were 50 bucks but not now. With your budget and the cost of those 4 500GB drives you could instead get a 240GB SSD and a 1TB drive(or two if you wanted to put them in raid1 for data security) The SSD will be much faster than those drives in raid0 and data/backups/programs that dont need the speed can be stored on the data drive. Games can be swapped on and off the SSD with steammover. Really can't believe anyone would recommend raid0 over an SSD.
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March 26, 2012 2:54:55 AM

unksol said:
The SSD will be much faster than those drives in raid0 and data/backups/programs that dont need the speed can be stored on the data drive. Games can be swapped on and off the SSD with steammover. Really can't believe anyone would recommend raid0 over an SSD.

I guess I should have mentioned this in the original post, but I also have a 128GB SSD for the OS and games that I want to boot fast. The HDDs are for mass storage. If that's the case, should I just use the SSD for the OS and games to boot fast and then RAID 1 two 1TB HDDs for storage and backup?

And what is RAID? is there a simple way to explain the different levels and their pros and cons?
March 26, 2012 3:06:08 AM

Personally I wouldn't bother with a RAID configuration at all. I would buy a 128GB (or larger) SSD for OS/boot/Applications and add additional hard drive(s) for data. I would then use a good backup application or even Windows Backup itself to backup my system disk and associated data libraries to a network attached storage device,external hard drive or additional internal hard drive. Thats just me but personally I would just not use RAID at all.
a b G Storage
March 26, 2012 3:22:24 AM

llguitargr8 said:

Update: After some reading, from what I understand, RAID 5 is putting two drives into RAID 0 (striping) and then using a third for a copy. But I also read, even if the motherboard supports it, I should get a controller for it (and I don't really know what a controller is). Is all of this right? What are your guys' suggestions?


This is incorrect. RAID 5 uses parity striped across all drives. 3 drives of the same size are used. There is no "copy", instead if a drive fails the parity bits are used to rebuild the lost drive. performance is heavily impacted while this occurs. Performance is also affected during normal use because the parity bit must be calculated and written everytime you write data. RAID5 is used in servers. I can't think of any reason I would ever use it in a consumer machine.

A controller card is not necessary. they offer some performance benefits in servers but are expensive. The main benefit is if the motherboard dies the card can still be used with the raid array on another machine. I would NEVER recommend using raid 0 on a storage partition because of the failure issues, and inability to recover data. If you want data security you can use raid 1, and not worry about the controller card because the drives are just copies and data can be accessed like any other drive without the controller, and can be rebuilt into a new raid1 array on a different controller.

Raid0, 1 and 1+0 are all that shoukd be used in a consumer machine and raid 0 should almost never be used for mass storage/backup. If you want data security raid1 is OK and can give a boost reading data. If you are going to backup regularly then don't worry about raid at all.
March 26, 2012 3:37:29 AM

unksol said:
This is incorrect. RAID 5 uses parity striped across all drives. 3 drives of the same size are used. There is no "copy", instead if a drive fails the parity bits are used to rebuild the lost drive. performance is heavily impacted while this occurs. Performance is also affected during normal use because the parity bit must be calculated and written everytime you write data. RAID5 is used in servers. I can't think of any reason I would ever use it in a consumer machine.

A controller card is not necessary. they offer some performance benefits in servers but are expensive. The main benefit is if the motherboard dies the card can still be used with the raid array on another machine. I would NEVER recommend using raid 0 on a storage partition because of the failure issues, and inability to recover data. If you want data security you can use raid 1, and not worry about the controller card because the drives are just copies and data can be accessed like any other drive without the controller, and can be rebuilt into a new raid1 array on a different controller.

Raid0, 1 and 1+0 are all that shoukd be used in a consumer machine and raid 0 should almost never be used for mass storage/backup. If you want data security raid1 is OK and can give a boost reading data. If you are going to backup regularly then don't worry about raid at all.

So if I were just using one 128GB SSD for the OS and games, and then the HDDs for storing everything else I don't need to be booted quickly, what do you suggest I do? Just get a single 1TB disk?
a b G Storage
March 26, 2012 3:54:58 AM

llguitargr8 said:
So if I were just using one 128GB SSD for the OS and games, and then the HDDs for storing everything else I don't need to be booted quickly, what do you suggest I do? Just get a single 1TB disk?


With prices the way they are thats what I would do, as long as you have a backup solution in place for anything important. I have RAID1 on my drives but I paid 50 bucks for 1TB 7200RPM and 1.5TB 5200RPM samsung drives. And while RAID1 provides uptime for drive failures that's ALL it does. There's no compression for backups, if corrupted data is writen or you delete something its done to both drives, and if the machine is stolen, destroyed, or the PSU goes and takes everything with it then RAID1 does nothing for you. So you still need a backup plan for important things even with it.
March 26, 2012 4:00:42 AM

unksol said:
With prices the way they are thats what I would do, as long as you have a backup solution in place for anything important. I have RAID1 on my drives but I paid 50 bucks for 1TB 7200RPM and 1.5TB 5200RPM samsung drives. And while RAID1 provides uptime for drive failures that's ALL it does. There's no compression for backups, if corrupted data is writen or you delete something its done to both drives, and if the machine is stolen, destroyed, or the PSU goes and takes everything with it then RAID1 does nothing for you. So you still need a backup plan for important things even with it.

So basically, if it was security I'm concerned about, I should invest in an external or internal backup instead of a second hard drive for raid?
March 26, 2012 4:03:24 AM

Why is everyone so against raid 0? Granted you can get a 120GB SSD for $180 or 2 x 500GB hard drives for the same price. Do you really want to keep un-installing games and re-installing them when you run outta space?

I myself use an SSD for OS and Applications and it gets slower the more you put on it (only slightly). I also have 2 x 1TB hard drives in RAID 0 for games only (around 250GB of games). From experience, I would never fill up my SSD with games and it's definitely not big enough.

The RAID 0 performs great for loading and saving game data. I treat both drives as one, I know one will fail one day. If I only had one, that might fail too, so it's the same thing.

For the amount of storage you get and nice speed increase over one drive, a raid 0 is fantastic. I couldn't be happier with with raid 0, over 4 years and going strong.
a b G Storage
March 26, 2012 4:21:59 AM

pezonator said:
Why is everyone so against raid 0? Granted you can get a 120GB SSD for $180 or 2 x 500GB hard drives for the same price. Do you really want to keep un-installing games and re-installing them when you run outta space?

I myself use an SSD for OS and Applications and it gets slower the more you put on it (only slightly). I also have 2 x 1TB hard drives in RAID 0 for games only (around 250GB of games). From experience, I would never fill up my SSD with games and it's definitely not big enough.

The RAID 0 performs great for loading and saving game data. I treat both drives as one, I know one will fail one day. If I only had one, that might fail too, so it's the same thing.

For the amount of storage you get and nice speed increase over one drive, a raid 0 is fantastic. I couldn't be happier with with raid 0, over 4 years and going strong.


You don't uninstall and reinstall games you swap them on and off. How many games do you really play at once? Nevermind for the cost of 2 1TB drives you could easily get a larger SSD that would hold your small amount of games or RAID0 two SSDs for OS and games. Or spend that money on a GPU. If you care about load times you run them off the SSD.

The SSD wont get signifigantly slower if you are using TRIM. And always way faster then RAID

You are using your RAID0 for games only, not data that actually matters. And its not the same thing. The failure rate statistically doubles with 2 drives in the array and gets increasingly worse with each added drive. On top of that if a single drive fails you can recover data. You can not recover any data from a failed RAID0 array.

The storage space is the same as using independent drives and the speed increase is not needed for storage.
a b G Storage
March 26, 2012 4:33:49 AM

llguitargr8 said:
So basically, if it was security I'm concerned about, I should invest in an external or internal backup instead of a second hard drive for raid?


If its important data an external drive or removable drive in a caddy that can be stored off site or in a fire safe is a good way to go. Its all about how much data, how important it is, and how often you change it. Family pictures that you only look at, tax documents, home movies, financial records... things that don't change often are easiest to store this way. For stuff changed daily that's very important a NAS with nightly backups is good. If the backup drive is in the computer or attached/with it then what ever happens to the computer can happen to the backup.
March 26, 2012 4:40:16 AM

Well that's your opinion.

Just stating my opinion as everyone doesn't think the same and different things work for different people. Data security is obviously very important to you where as I couldn't give two hoots. I backup any documents every few months.

I also couldn't be stuffed moving games across drives. When I have a limited number of hours a week, I want to know that I won't run outta space and I can install games / play games without running into issues. That's my logic, nothing will change.

I'm all for keeping your most used game/s on the SSD but my raid 0 doesn't require me to do that. I think of it as a "set, forget and keep gaming" approach :) 

And I agree storage is storage, a standard drive is fine for that.
March 26, 2012 4:45:17 AM

unksol said:
If its important data an external drive or removable drive in a caddy that can be stored off site or in a fire safe is a good way to go. Its all about how much data, how important it is, and how often you change it. Family pictures that you only look at, tax documents, home movies, financial records... things that don't change often are easiest to store this way. For stuff changed daily that's very important a NAS with nightly backups is good. If the backup drive is in the computer or attached/with it then what ever happens to the computer can happen to the backup.

Well, in the original post I said that I would be using this PC for games only. Everything else, like music and office programs and school documents, I have my laptop for. The desktop will be exclusively for gaming and MAYBE some internet, but that's it. All stored data would be the OS, game data, and any drivers for any of the components. I know I want to put the OS on the SSD. That's a given. I just don't know if I should use RAID for the hard disk. The HDD would be for mass storage. I would put only games I frequently use on the SSD, and then everything else to the HDD. I just want to know, with that being the case, would RAID be worth it? I'm leaning towards no and just getting a single larger disk, but I will do it if it is. Again, I AM getting an SSD for booting the OS and using it to quickly boot the games I will be using frequently, and then everything else to the HDD(s).

Thanks for all of the responses though! Any extra info on RAID would be super helpful, too.
March 26, 2012 5:35:45 AM

If you are happy to move files around and want to save money, then go with the 120GB SSD + 1TB HDD and put your most used 3 or 4 games on the SSD. Older or smaller games should be fast enough on the 1TB drive.

RAID can be tricky to setup if you haven't done it before and you need an extra hard drive. Can you list what games you will be playing most? I think if you are going to be playing a bunch of different games (like me) and it goes beyond 200 or 300GB then 2 x 500GB drives on the cheap would be great. I remember back in the day I got my 1TB drives for $70 each then stuff flooded :) 

RAID 0 theoretically doubles read and write performance. I set mine up using a hardware raid which is setup using your motherboard (you will need to check your manual how to access raid settings). Then you want to setup STRIPE, I did a 16KB stripe size which was recommended on some sites (it's too complicated to explain, go to wiki :p ). Initialize the disk in Windows and off you go. I was amazed when I started playing games, but I assume an SSD would be quicker still.

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a b G Storage
March 26, 2012 5:54:41 AM
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As I said RAID 0 for JUST games wouldn't bother me. I think we've shifted a little bit since your original post.

RAID0 for the OS drive implies greater risk of failure. Since you are new to RAID I would not recommend it, but that's not an issue since we now know you have an SSD.

RAID0 for GAMES ONLY like pezonator is doing is not a big deal. save games are almost always stored in user documents on the OS drive and you can always reinstall the game files. I never use my laptop at home though, a desktop is just so much better to work on when its right in the next room. But if you wont put anything important on it nothing wrong with RAID0. I don't know that speed/cost merits the hassle though if you're just using if for "mass storage". Where you got me was you asked about RAID1 at the same time which implies a desire not to lose data.

So you don't NEED RAID. A single drive IS easier. But if you don't care about being able to recover data from it, and want to spend the money RAID0 with the motherboard controller is perfectly fine.

Wikipedias RAID article is a bit of a read but its pretty decent if you're curios about the concept and levels
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAID
March 26, 2012 7:21:25 PM

So I guess it comes down to security. I already have been using my laptop for the important stuff, I just want to build this rig for my own entertainment, so I won't be storing homework or other important files on it.

pezonator said:
Can you list what games you will be playing most?
I will be playing games like Crysis, Battlefield 3, Mass Effect, GTA, basically most fps or action-adventure games.

I'm already going to get the 128GB Corsair SSD for the OS, at least, so I'm guessing I should put the game(s) I'm going to be playing most often on that until I want to switch the games, and then use a single 1TB HDD for storage of everything else. Easier than setting up RAID (which I could do in the future once I'm more knowledgeable on it). Is 128GB enough for the OS and maybe 2-3 games? What do you recommend?
a c 279 G Storage
March 26, 2012 7:33:11 PM

To the original question "Should I bother with RAID."

Each RAID level, even the b*stard RAID0, is there to address a specific set of needs. If a builder doesn't have a problem that one of the RAID levels would address, I would recommend against using RAID. After all, why put a helicopter landing pad on top of my house if I don't have a helicopter?

RAIDs can give you faster performance, more resiliency in case of a single drive failure, or the ability to build very large storage chunks out of not-very-large drives. If your machine has enough space, is fast enough that it satisfies you, and is backed-up regularly, than why add a complication?

Of course, one good reason for any RAID level is the fun and experience of playing with it.
a b G Storage
March 26, 2012 8:50:49 PM

WyomingKnott said:

After all, why put a helicopter landing pad on top of my house if I don't have a helicopter?

Of course, one good reason for any "helicopter landing pad" is the fun and experience of playing with it.


You answered your own question :D 

There's also the zombie apocalypse. Where's the evac helo gonna land?
March 26, 2012 10:14:17 PM

Let's not forget the undead uprising!

At the end of the day I think we can all recommend the SSD + 1TB hard drive. That would be the easiest and still provide great performance. Can someone confirm this: Can you install games to the 1TB drive, then copy them over to the SSD and they should work as normal?
March 27, 2012 12:00:37 AM


Now that my original question is basically answered, I'm curious as to the answer of pezonator's question on transferring games between drives.

pezonator said:
Can someone confirm this: Can you install games to the 1TB drive, then copy them over to the SSD and they should work as normal?
a b G Storage
March 27, 2012 8:13:11 AM

llguitargr8 said:
Now that my original question is basically answered, I'm curious as to the answer of pezonator's question on transferring games between drives.



It would depend on the game, if the game registers DLLs with the OS then additional steps might be required if game directory is no longer in the same location. It might be as easy as change the shortcut or it might require an uninstall/reinstall.
a c 279 G Storage
March 27, 2012 1:04:13 PM

I just recently learned that Steam games can be moved with the Steam Mover, whatever that is.
a b G Storage
March 28, 2012 12:43:32 AM

llguitargr8 said:
Now that my original question is basically answered, I'm curious as to the answer of pezonator's question on transferring games between drives.

-
Steam mover handles steam games, but my understanding is that it fixes the registry links and
therefore works with any file. I have never used it though so can't swear by it. you'd have to look into it
March 28, 2012 3:06:42 AM

unksol said:
-
Steam mover handles steam games, but my understanding is that it fixes the registry links and
therefore works with any file. I have never used it though so can't swear by it. you'd have to look into it

So what about Origin games do you think? Cause one main game I would be playing is Battlefield 3, and that's only on Origin
a c 279 G Storage
March 28, 2012 1:14:24 PM

llguitargr8 said:
So what about Origin games do you think? Cause one main game I would be playing is Battlefield 3, and that's only on Origin

"Steam Mover works amazingly well on games downloaded through the Steam client (which it was designed for), but as it turns out, it works well with other applications, too."

From http://lifehacker.com/5626931/steam-mover-relocates-app... .

From my cursory reading, it doesn't really relocate the app to the other drive, but makes it appear to be on the system drive by using junction points. The purists among us might object, but it seems pretty useful to me.
a b G Storage
March 30, 2012 3:15:28 AM

My rig is SSD with RAID 0 and that is faster then single SSD.
March 31, 2012 2:26:48 AM

leandrodafontoura said:
My rig is SSD with RAID 0 and that is faster then single SSD.

I'm just worried, because a lot of people complain about a higher risk of failing when it's in RAID0, and Idk if RAID would be worth it, since the SSD would be plenty fast already right? I'm new to this, so I would rather do whatever's the best combination of easiest and highest performing.
March 31, 2012 9:04:31 PM

Best answer selected by llguitargr8.
!