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Single Hard Drive(s) Vs. RAID?

Opting for RAID Level Migration
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Installing a single hard drive and the operating system is a quick and easy process. However, a RAID configuration requires a disk with appropriate Windows XP drivers, such as RAID drivers or AHCI drivers (more on this later). You can also use USB memory sticks in floppy emulation mode. In any case, you need the requisite driver. You have to choose the adequate RAID mode in your BIOS submenu before you start the system, so you can install Windows on the RAID array.

Users who are in favor of or against a RAID setup usually desire two things: Either they prefer maximum performance over data security or vice versa. RAID 0 uses two or more hard drives and cycles reading and writing block-wise across all hard drives. Ideally, you can almost double data transfer rates (using two drives). For RAID 1 you don’t need more than two hard drives; data will be written on both drives simultaneously. So, if one drive fails you can rely on the other one as a backup. The risks of data loss thus improve, since one malfunctioning drive does not have a direct impact anymore. RAID 0 provides much higher read and write transfer rates, while RAID 1 writes at the speed of a single hard drive. During the read process, some controllers are able to use both hard drives and hence can boost performance, even in RAID 1.

The third option involves performance improvements combined with increased data safety. You can combine RAID 0 with RAID 1 by mirroring two RAID 0 arrays, or by putting two mirrored RAID 1 arrays in a RAID 0 stripe set. At first, one failing drive will not have consequences except from a possible drop in performance. But many users might not tolerate the fact that you need at least four drives for this option.

RAID 5 and its minimum of three hard drives are yet another option. RAID 5 creates parity data and distributes it with user data across all available drives. This way, you can restore your data in case of a defective drive. RAID 5’s total capacity is a result of the total capacity of all but one of the drives (this is the storage needed for parity data). RAID 5 makes for a heavy workload on your CPU, since parity calculation takes place in real-time and means a lot of basic math for your processor. Professional RAID controllers come with a coprocessor to take care of these calculations. In this article, we stick with on-board solutions today’s motherboards offer. For the most part, they come with four, sometimes even six Serial ATA ports. With this, you should be able to set up decent RAID configurations.

Imagine the following scenario: Overnight, your computer becomes more important than you ever thought. Your small business suddenly needs a data server in addition to the PC you’ve been using as a workstation. Backups are often hopelessly obsolete or not available at all. You either work with numerous separate hard drives or external hard drives to backup data on a regular basis - or you can transform the system into a secure RAID.

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