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About a year ago when I was researching how to set up some drives using RAID on a PC I was planning to build, everyone said I would need to purchase a hardware RAID controller, the decent one was around $300 I believe. Now when I ask similar questions, people are saying all I will need is a motherboard that has built in RAID support.

So here are some related questions.

1)
If my motherboard has built in RAID support, should I use it instead of an aftermarket one?

2)
If I have built in support for RAID but "acquire" a nice hardware RAID controller (Highpoint 3510 or Adaptec 5405 raid controller), would there be ANY benefit of using it instead of using the motherboard built in support?

3)
I am planning on running my OS and all other programs from an SSD drive. I will then have regualr old school spinning disk for all data (movies, music, photos, files). IS it possible to have 2 seperate RAIDs? Example, have 2 SSD drives in RAID-0 for programs and OS and then have 3+ more spinning disk in RAID-10or even 2 in RAID-0 for data. So my PC would have a set of drives for programs, applications that would be 1 RAID. Then have another set of drives for data be a seperate RAID?

4)
If it is POSSIBLE to do what question #3 ask, would it make a difference between using a hardware RAID controller or the motherboard built in RAID support?

Thanks for any info on this, I have never used a RAID setup but have been dreaming of doing it for YEARS and it's about time I do it!

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Nowhere in here do you specify why you want to use RAID? –  Diago Feb 20 '10 at 20:24
    
FYI, you list a 3 disk RAID 1+0 as a possibility, you need to have an even number of disks for 1+0 –  MDMarra Feb 20 '10 at 20:33
    
@Diago I would like to use RAID-0 for my OS and programs to inprove speed even more then tyhe SSD already does by itself. I would then Like to use a RAID-10 or other RAID for my Data disks for speed and still have it be somewhat more reliable –  jasondavis Feb 20 '10 at 21:03
    
I can confirm that putting the SSD's into a RAID does not improve the performance by much more then 1%. We just upgraded a client with RAID-10 to SSD and the speeds match 100% to what we got when the SSD's ran by themselves unaided. The technology is overall much faster then even RAID. As for the reliability of RAID 10, in your case it's overkill. The RAID 10 we just completed consist of 24 drives. My answer covers why in much more details. –  Diago Feb 20 '10 at 21:10
    
@Diago - 24 drives in a single volume? Are you saying that a single SSD matches the performance of a 24 disk RAID 10? –  MDMarra Feb 21 '10 at 2:18

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Since you don't specify why you want RAID my answer is going to include a link to this brilliant article from one of WHS team members here with regards to why WHS doesn't use RAID, however it covers the advantages and disadvatages of RAID very well.

RAID-0 is solely for speed, and since you already have the SSD drives, the only real advantage it is going to give you is? I am not sure to be honest. RAID needs power and any person that has managed RAID server will tell you it is heavy on drives themselves hardware wise.

If you using RAID for backup purposes, well then your doing the wrong thing and rather invest in an external backup solution or alternatively a server like WHS for example.

Very few power user need RAID even at home. The performance impact is minimal when compared to hardware life.

If you however do choose to go this route, it really depends how much your spending on the board. a high performance server board with RAID compared to a desktop board with RAID will always be a better option, depending on who makes the chipset. If you are going to buy a cheap board, which you shouldn't anyway, I would suggest looking at an external card. Most of the top RAID cards have their chipsets available standalone or on the motherboard, so it may be wiser to investigate what card you want and see if it is available on a motherboard already.

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First of all, thanks for the info! Second, in regards to the commnet you posted under my question at the top, you put "I can confirm that putting the SSD's into a RAID does not improve the performance by much more then 1%" I am confused, if you look at this photo from a benchmark test, it shows a single OCZ Vertex SSD @ 247MBps read speed and when 2 of these are in RAID-0 it shows the read speed @ 504MBps. here is the photo i365.photobucket.com/albums/oo94/eeemolly/… I am not saying it is a GREAT idea, I am just trying to learn more about it –  jasondavis Feb 21 '10 at 0:08
    
@jasondavis To be honest I don't have much faith in benchmark tests and I am not sure what they used to benchmark the drives with. We are using it in a live environment running Linux, serving a FirebirdSql database as well as other files. The actual benchmarks we used against the system live, was first done by placing two drives into the raid standalone and testing transfer and write speeds, after which we replaced the drives and then ran the same tests. This is in a new HP Rig and we saw a 1MB/s difference. We are getting 430Mb/s on the raid but it is still restricted by a 100Mb/s network. –  Diago Feb 21 '10 at 1:19
    
We are using the X25 drives which is pretty much on par with the OCZ drives. I repeat again for a normal home user you rarely if ever needs this level of performance. We use it in a very active database server and file server. I would much rather spend the money on memory and even bigger data drives and an external backup solution. Please note this is based on my experience and opinion. At the end of the day it is your time and money to do this, but do you really need that level of performance compared to wear and tear? The company we did this for had money to burn. Do you? –  Diago Feb 21 '10 at 1:23

Having different RAID's depends on your raid controller. The higher-end ones generally have more speed/features/support more drives. Motherboard RAID controllers are still considered 'hardware' RAID solutions, and usually have dedicated silicon for that purpose.

Usually how RAID's work is you build a 'span' or 'volume' across your disks from some BIOS pre-boot menu system. When you get an operating system installed on your computer, these volumes show up as a harddrives. The hardware-based RAID hides the underlying disks from the OS and you only see the volumes you built. You then install normally.

Sometimes this requires special drivers, but I believe that most RAID controllers are usually visible to the modern preinstall-phase of an OS (at least with Windows Vista & 7).

RAID tends to work better when you use matching drives in any particle grouping -- here's a good tool to calculate the space you get from a particular RAID type & number/size of drives.

Raid Calculator

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+1 Nice technical explanation. –  Diago Feb 20 '10 at 20:33
    
Thanks for the Raid Calculator, very nice! –  jasondavis Feb 20 '10 at 21:05
    
Onboard RAID may have its own hardware, but it's very thin and still offloads most of the processing to the CPU. An actual hardware RAID controller has its own dedicated processor. –  Brian Apr 27 '10 at 21:00

I've been using onboard RAID on my motherboard (Intel P55 chipset) and I can tell you from experience with a handful of different intel-based motherboards that that it depends on how you intend to use it. You should note that the Intel RAID seems to be a variety of RAID called "hardware-accelerated". It's not hardware RAID, so uses a bit more CPU time than you'd expect.

I was planning to use it as a RAID-1 (mirror). And I can tell you for certain that you should avoid the Intel-based motherboard RAID solution. Whenever your PC bluescreens, reboots unexpectedly, or looses power (in a power outage) or you press the reset button, then the RAID array must rebuild itself entirely. If you have 1-TB drives, this can take 6-8 hours sometimes of the computer acting VERY slow. Completely defeats the purpose of using RAID.

If you use the Intel-based RAID solutions in a RAID-0 (stripe, no redundancy) it will probably be better, because there will be no rebuilding.

If you're planning to use the onboard RAID to do RAID-5, give up now. It can take days to resync/rebuild.

Hardware RAID adapters are coming down in price. I'm looking into one for myself right now (replacing my motherboard-based controller) and cross-my-fingers that I can find one that won't have the same rebuild-issues that my Intel controller has. And it gets even more complicated when looking for a RAID controller that is SSD-friendly (TRiM support) or has the latest SATA3 (6 gbps) connections and fits in your available slots. I've seen cards for PCI-E 1.0 x1, x4, x8 and others for PCI-E 2.0 x4 or x8.

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