What is a Raid Array: And Why Would I Want One ?

Definition of a Raid Array:

Have you come across the term Raid Array, and are you wondering what is a Raid Array? What is a raid arrayWell your not alone, so I have done some research and this is what I came up with. A Raid is a Redundant Array of Independent Disks (say what?) OK, this refers to a setup of separate drives in a series, to where if one drive should fail, the array will still be viable; thus meaning that if one drive in your system should fail, your system will still be able to function using the other drive or drives. If setup properly this can be used as a fail-safe in the event of hardware failure, allowing your computer to keep functioning.

But this is by no means a setup for backing up your files, and will not protect you from losing your data due to malware, hacker theft, or whatever else that can happen to your data, so you still need to be diligent about backing up your data files.

I can never stress enough about backing up your files, for when I started out with computers I lost a lot of files and time due to not taking a few extra minutes out of my oh so busy life, lol, and backing things up.

OK, now why would I want it?

Fail-safe: Say you have a small business in your home or elsewhere, and you have one main system setup such as a server, or whatever, and you have other people with their own computers that are sharing the same files with everyone else. Well, you would want that main computer to stay on 24/7 allowing access to it at all times, so now you’re going to want some way to keep it functioning in case one of the hard drives should fail. One way for this is to setup a Raid.

Performance: Looking for a way to increase the performance of your computer? Well by setting up a Raid in a way that will allow accessing the data from two separate drives at the same time, and in smaller blocks of data, this will give you faster performance than if you used just one drive. For instance you have a gaming system and you want to increase the speed of your machine you could setup up two ssd drives in a Raid configuration to get the best performance from your drives giving you a better seamless play of your games.

OK, now what are the different ways to setup a Raid configuration?

Raid configuration has several ways by which you can set up your drives to work together, the most popular are Raid 0, Raid 1, and Raid 5. (what happened to 2, 3, and 4? Oh, there around but not near as popular) you can also find raid configuration all the way to a raid 10, but we will cover those latter. OK let’s start with the first one, the Raid 0; this will give you a better understanding in how Raid array’s work and how to benefit from setting one up.

Raid 0- Performance: This configuration will increase the performance of your system by using a minimum of two drives. What is a Raid arrayIn this setup, when the computer is writing data to the drives, it is going to do so in blocks, as in block A1 on one drive, block A2 on a second drive, block A3 back on the first drive, and then block A4 on the second drive and so on. This allows the system to access the drives at the same time in retrieving or writing the data, thus faster performance than if it where accessing the data from a single drive.

Say you have two drives both are 1 TB in size, the combined size will be recognized as a single 2TB drive, so if one drive fails you will lose your entire array due to the fact that your data is spread across multiple drives, something to keep in mind when thinking about setting up a Raid 0.

Raid 1-Data Redundancy: Also know as mirroring, this is where you will have two drives containing the exact same data. So if one drive should fail, you will still have your data on the second drive allowing you to continue working on your computer and giving you time to replace the bad one before any damage to your files.

This is the easiest and simplest one to set up in providing a fail safe disk storage system. What is a Raid arrayThis can be done with a two drive setup so that when data is being written to one drive it will also write the same data to the other drive. In this setup you will only have the storage capacity of the smallest drive, say you have 1TB drive and a 2TB drive, with the same data being wrote to both drives (block 1 on first drive, block 1 on second drive, bock 2 on first drive block 2 on second drive, and so on) this way you lose the extra TB of storage on the 2TB drive.

So as you can see you are not gaining any extra storage from the larger drive. In fact even though you have two drives, you still only have the storage capacity of the smallest drive, but you have the advantage of being able to continue operating in the event of one of the drives going down.

Raid 5-Data redundancy and Performance: Here you can have the best of both Raid 0 and Raid 1, this setup will cost some extra dollars, why? Because you are going to have to come up with at least three drives all the same size. Now your storage capacity is going to be the total of all three drives used in the array, minus the capacity of one. For example you have 3 1TB drives, taking the total of the three, minus the one will leave you with a total capacity of 2TB.

What is a raid arrayOK, here is how your drives will handle the writing and reading of the data blocks between them, starting with block A on drive one, block B on drive two, block A&B on drive three, then block C on drive one, block D on drive two, block C&D on drive three, then on to block E on drive one, block F on drive two, and block E&F on drive three, and so on, and so on. So, you can see from this that you will achieve the performance that you get in using two drives, and the data redundancy of having three drives, so if one fails you still keep right on rolling.

 Now here’s what happened to Raid 2, 3, & 4:

Raid 2: This one is similar to a Raid 5 giving you performance and redundancy but uses up to 10 drives, so here the cost in drives does not compensate for the performance of the setup. It exists, but is hardly ever used by us home computer people.

Raid 3: This one is also similar to a Raid 5;What is a Raid array here you will find it uses a dedicated drive, and then several more drives like in the Raid 2 to accomplish its task. You will never find this used in home or office application.

Raid 4: Now this one is configured in a way that processes the data blocks at the byte level and not like the Raid 3 where is does it at the bit level, and again not used except in large database servers.

So now you know why I skip over those three at the start of this article, and if you want further explanation on any of the three you can visit (PcMag). Here are a few more arrays that again are not used in the home system; they are Raid 6, 7, & 10. A little bit more popular than 2, 3, 4, but again are used only in high data storage systems.

Getting down to Business; Setting up a Raid Array:

There are two ways to go about setting up a Raid system, and one works just as well as the other one, they are done using a Hardware configuration or a software setup. In either case before you attempt setting up a Raid, you will want to back up your files, and if you don’t have an image of your system stored on a separate drive, you should do that also. You can find out how to do this by following this link where I will go over the steps in making an image of your hard drive. Setting up a Raid Array is a relative simple procedure, and there should be no lose of data, but you just never know what unforeseen misshape could accrue, so back up your files.

Now if your just setting up your system for the first time all you need to do is make sure you have your drives connected in the right ports according to the motherboards manual, and if you installed a raid card you will connect your drives to that card, and continue with the (setting up process) of your system.

Setting up a Raid using hardware:

Most all motherboards on the market today have built in support for a Raid setup, but if your’s doesn’t, all you need to do is install a Raid card. The first step to take in setting this up is to power down your system, (duh 🙂 ) and install your drive or drives, making sure you connect them to the right ports on your motherboard (referring to your motherboards manual), or on the Raid card. Now if you’re going with the Raid card, all you will have to do is install the card, connect your drives, and power up your computer and then follow the steps that came with the card, simple, yes.

Now if you’re using the motherboard, install your drives, connect them to the ports specified in your motherboards manual. Then power up your system in the Bios setup utility, (refer to your motherboard manual for this) from there navigate to the SATA menu or Integrated peripherals and enable the Raid option, save and exit. When your system boots back up you will see a prompt to enter the Raid controller’s option, here you will see a menu where you can set up and manage your Raid drives. The exact steps will vary with every controller, but they are all simple to follow and requires little effort, after you have configure the setup the way you want, save and exit, and you will be all set to go.

Setting up a Raid using Software:

Here we will use the Disk Management software of your Windows operating system, to get started, enter Disk Management into your search bar, in the disk management menu, on the left hand side mouse over your main drive and right click, then in the drop down menu select New striped volume, a wizard will appear, from there follow the instructions in setting up the drives you want to use in your array. After completing the wizard, your system is ready to use.

So what is a Raid Array?

Well, you now know what the term Raid stands for (redundant array of independent disk), you have a general idea of why you might want to use a Raid setup, maybe for better performance, or as a fail-safe system to where if one drive fails you have another drive to keep you operating. And you know how to go about setting one up, whether using a Hardware configuration or Software configuration.

All in all, you now know a little more about computers than the average Joe does. I hope you have found this helpful in further understanding a Raid system, and if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask them in the comment box below, or if you have any comments to share with us I would love to hear from you.

Thank you for stopping by, and have a great day. 🙂

Kim

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About Author

Kim
Hello, my name is Kim and I am the owner of this site. I have been working with computers since they first became available to the public.I have built several computers over the years and enjoy helping others with their everyday computing. Should you have any questions about using your computer, or any other device, please leave me a note below in the comment section and I will be more than happy to help you out. Come back often for more tips and solutions to your every day computing.

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