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RAID Setup Guide

RAID Setup

If you are looking to increase performance, provide protection against data loss and improve your computer in general, you should be looking at implementing RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive/Independent Disks).

For a long time RAID setup was a difficult process to implement, it was expensive and it was primarily used by businesses with huge IT departments.

Today, nearly all PCs support RAID and newer versions of Windows provide software RAID that does not even require any special hardware. Thanks to all of this, RAID is now more accessible to computer users than ever before. So, how do you go about performing a RAID setup on your computer?

Which Type of RAID Setup?

In order to properly complete a RAID setup, you need to decide what type of RAID configuration you need. We will not go into great detail with the various types here (see RAID Levels page for detailed breakdown), but will provide a quick overview:

  • JBOD: Just a bunch of disks is literally what this is called. Data is written to one disk until it is full, then it is written to the second disk and so on.
  • RAID 0: This strips data across two drives, increasing performance.
  • RAID 1: This protects data from drive failure by writing data of the same type on two different drives.
  • RAID 5: Distributed Parity allows for faster disk performance and data protection.
  • RAID 1+0, 10, 0+1: This combines RAID 0 and RAID 1, giving the mirroring abilities and the increased performance.

What You Need

The first thing you need is a backup of all your important data. If you are putting it on a fresh system with no OS, or you are putting disks together for a separate array, then you don’t need to do that.

Depending on your software, there are further considerations:

  1. Windows XP allows you to span volumes, which is JBOD.
  2. Windows Vista allows for JBOD or RAID 1.
  3. Windows 7 Home allows for JBOD or RAID 1. Professional allows for RAID 0.
  4. Windows Server, beginning in the year 2000, allows for JBOD, RAID 0, RAID 1 and RAID 5.

You will need to have a RAID controller, which is probably already installed on the motherboard of your PC. If your PC does not have integrated RAID, you can use an adapter card, which typically sell for around $100.

You will also need two or more hard drives. It is important to note that using drives of different capacity only gives you double the capacity of the smallest drive. So, if you have a drive that is 500 GB and a drive that is 750 GB, then the total space will only be 1 TB. You will save yourself a lot of time and effort by just using drives that are exactly the same, including in model and size.

Install RAID

In order to do a physical install of a RAID adapter, do the following:

  1. Unplug the PC and open the case.
  2. Ground yourself to protect against static electricity.
  3. Locate an open PCI or PCI expansion slot.
  4. Get the adapter card from its packaging.
  5. Align the card’s connector with the expansion slot and put it down so it is secure.
  6. Connect the hard drives to be used in the array.
  7. Close up the computer and turn it on.

Configure RAID

If you already have a RAID adapter on your motherboard, you can skip to this point.

  1. Press CTRL-R or CTRL-A to launch the setup program of the RAID during the boot process. If RAID is integrated into the BIOS, you need to launch BIOS setup by hitting F2, CTRL-S or Del.
  2. Choose the drives and create the array.
  3. When you boot up the computer, watch the bottom of the screen. Hit F6 when prompted.
  4. Wait for the screen that says “S=Specify Additional Devices”. Press S.
  5. Insert floppy disk with adapter drivers into drive. Once done, the setup process will continue. (This setup is for Windows XP).
  6. For Windows Vista or 7, choose Custom Advanced Installation.
  7. When asked where to setup Windows, click Load Driver.
  8. When prompted, insert setup CD or flash drive with adapter’s drivers and driver installation.

Install Windows

  1. When you boot up the computer, watch the bottom of the screen. Hit F6 when prompted.
  2. Wait for the screen that says “S=Specify Additional Devices”. Press S.
  3. Insert disk with setup adapter drivers into drive. Once done, setup will continue. (This setup is for Windows XP).
  4. For Windows Vista or 7, choose Custom Advanced Installation.
  5. When asked where to install Windows, click Load Driver.
  6. When prompted, insert CD or flash drive with adapter’s drivers and driver setup.

This is only a basic overview and guide for RAID setup and should work for most scenarios, but because of many system configurations available today, it is possible that your particular situation might be different.