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I'm building my first home NAS right now, and I have a Mini-ITX motherboard with 4 SATA connections. I'd like to connect 6 hard drives in total and (preferably) use software RAID.

My question is: Will a SATA expansion card allow me to use all of my SATA connections together in a software RAID configuration, or will I need to put the entire array on the motherboard or controller?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

To the best of my knowledge, you cannot combine motherboard SATA with an expansion card's SATA to create a single Hardware RAID set. But, consider that each drive is going to add about 30 watts draw at spinup. So, right there, that's about 180 watts for just the 6 drives. If you are using a Mini ITX board, you probably aren't using a large power supply... what... 160 watt at most? So, before trying to RAID across two different controller chips, power is going to be a major issue.

EDIT As Journeyman Geek points out, you should still be able to set up a software RAID. Which is what you asked about...

Software RAID has one further important distinguishing feature: it operates on a partition-by-partition basis, where a number of individual disk partitions are ganged together to create a RAID partition. This is in contrast to most hardware RAID solutions, which gang together entire disk drives into an array. With hardware, the fact that there is a RAID array is transparent to the operating system, which tends to simplify management. With software, there are far more configuration options and choices, tending to complicate matters.

Doing it across the expansion card bus will also affect performance.

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He could, in theory use a full sized PSU with the right case, but even those usually don't have that many sata power connectors. He can use softraid in that scenario though, i think – Journeyman Geek Jun 13 '12 at 5:35
@JourneymanGeek good point. A software RAID would be OS dependent though and would affect performance. But that is an option. I'll edit for that. – Bon Gart Jun 13 '12 at 5:48
The question does say software raid, so, yeah, its in serious consideration i'd think – Journeyman Geek Jun 13 '12 at 5:54
@JourneymanGeek yeah, I felt like a schmuck for not putting more emphasis on that. Just didn't want the power issue to be overlooked. – Bon Gart Jun 13 '12 at 7:02
I have a 300W PSU, so that should (hopefully) support 6 harddrives without trouble. Thanks. – Blake Jun 13 '12 at 11:46

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