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In a few months, I will be building a custom desktop computer. The purposes of this computer will be playing Minecraft, recording HD video, editing HD video (and ofc compressing/rendering it), and possible animation using Blender.

My initial question is this: would a RAID setup even benefit me enough to be worthwhile?

Because I will be doing HD video recording, I was curious whether I should invest in using a RAID system instead of the standard single HDD. I was also wondering if it would be possible to install Windows 8 onto the SSD (as I have heard it increases boot time) and put everything else on the HDD(s)/RAID.

I do not know much about RAID, however, from what I have read, I should use a RAID 1/0 combo instead of a RAID 5, being RAID 5 uses the computer's processing power if you do not have a RAID controller card.

Any additional information to add to my lack of information would be greatly appreciated as well, as will any hardware recommendations. Thank you for your assistance!

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Ƭᴇcʜιᴇ007, Tog, Olli, David, Joe Taylor Feb 4 '14 at 9:25

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RAID will introduce a speed decrease but introduce in data integrity. Most modern motherboards have raid controllers btw –  Ramhound Jan 30 '14 at 1:28
A good question to ask is why raid, and looking at the You're best off using the SSD for boot and anything that needs fast random access, and your hard drives are mainly for bulk storage. I do believe intel/windows systems also have an option of using a small SSD for caching. –  Journeyman Geek Jan 30 '14 at 1:34

1 Answer 1

up vote 1 down vote accepted

It is a great idea to put windows on a smaller SSD and then run a RAID for your working or scratch disks. RAID gives you the best bang for you buck right now in size vs performance vs price. A 4 drive RAID 0 with some used 160 GB HLFS drives on ebay will run you about $120 giving you about 600GB usable space and very fast throughput; probably in the 200-300 MB/s range. But a RAID 0 with 4 drives will probably run a single failure every 1-3 years that you need to plan on so just buy a fifth drive for a spare for another $30.

HDD's do well when you read and write larger files like video files. SSDs work good at that as well, but they really shine when accessing 1'000's of small files like windows has. And when there is that much of a price premium, you don't want the performance potential to go to waste like on larger files that can be efficiently served by spindle HDD's properly setup.

The biggest caveat of the RAID 0 is if ANY drive fails, you lose the array. So you need another drive as a backup drive that you sync daily or more often via a program like sync toy or free file sync so when you lose a drive (it will happen) you do not lose your work.

Even with a quality used RAID card and a 1TB drive to backup the raid, you still are upwards of 1/3 the price of a comparable SSD. And a 1TB+ usable array using 300GB HLFS drives would only add about $80 more.

RAID 5 is great for read speeds, but writing is slower because of the parity it has to update and/or write so it would not fit your needs well because you will have both alot of reading and writing. A RAID 10 would give you redundancy so you could backup or sync less often but the number of drives doubles for the same performance. And not many computer cases have room for 8 drives; also a typical 4 drive RAID 10 will give you half the throughput of a 4 drive RAID 0.

As a note, to keep throughput at its maximum, you will want to purchase drives as identical as possible, at least using the same model of drive. When performance isn't an issue, you can mix drives but performance and life of the HDD's will be slightly degraded. And from my research, used HLFS drives are about the fastest (throughput, not spindle speed alone) cheapest drives that can be had right now.

SSD in the corporate IT world are being adopted for their performance, but they still are too pricey to be viable for mass storage needs so spindle hard drives are still the the norm. So unless you have money to burn, get some fast used HLFS hard drives and a quality 3 ware, Areca, or similar 4-8 ports used raid card.

Then don't forget the Firepro or Quado graphics card and lots of RAM!

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Thank you, definately the answer I was looking for. One more question though, it is my understanding that most motherboards have built-in RAID controller cards, is this true? Do they have their own seperate processing power, or do they use the CPU? –  Jesse Aaron Bellas Jan 30 '14 at 13:16
Most use the processor for any calculations, but with modern processors, the amount is of processing power is very small compared to what processors are capable of. An integrated controller should probably give you good throughput. Just try it and test. –  Damon Jan 30 '14 at 17:14
The big caveat of an integrated controller comes in if you have redundancy like a RAID 5 or RAID 10, and you have controller failure. To get your data back you have to replace the controller with the same controller. This means replacing your mother board with the SAME motherboard. With an enterprise controller you would have to find the same controller as well but, it is easier to find the same controller than the same motherboard. –  Damon Jan 30 '14 at 17:18
As a note, parity RAIDs like 5 or 6 might not give you the throughput the drives can handle without a dedicated controller, but you probably would not run a parity RAID for video editing scratch disks so that should not be an issue. And sometimes integrated controllers actually DO have the throughput. Consumer processors and buses are pretty speedy these days. –  Damon Jan 30 '14 at 17:21
Thanks for the added information. Helps out a ton! Hopefully this will help someone else looking for this same information one day. –  Jesse Aaron Bellas Jan 30 '14 at 20:33

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