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I recently bought a new PC with a Gigabyte Z97P-D3 motherboard. One of the things it supports that my old machine didn't is RAID so I had planned to transfer my 2x 1TB hard drives from my old machine to my new, and try to figure out how to setup RAID 1.

I'm running Windows 7 Ultimate edition, and had the two driver setup in a mirrored fashion using the Windows software based RAID. When I transferred the drives from my old machine to my new one they automatically re-synced and were up and running. Based on the fact that I don't know how to setup RAID on my new motherboard I just stuck with that so far.

What I'm wondering is whether I should try to figure out how to setup the one on the motherboard however. Specifically the things I'm wondering are:

  • If one of the drives fails which is simpler to recover data? i.e. Could I just remove the good drive and connect it up to another machine if I needed to?
  • Is one faster than the other? Obviously Windows based RAID is using the CPU, but is this also the case for RAID on the motherboard?

My particular use case for having mirrored RAID is simply that I have a lot of photos/videos of my kids over the last few years that are infrequently accessed, but are starting to take up a lot of space - memories that I wouldn't want to lose. So it's not a drive I'm actively using day to day.

Any suggestions?

  • possible duplicate of Motherboard RAID support or Hardware RAID controller? – Ramhound Jan 22 '15 at 21:25
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    @Ramhound I'm not sure it is a duplicate, that talks nothing abouy windows based Raid – Ian Jan 22 '15 at 21:27
  • You mean a software based RAID solution? Windows RAID isn't an actual thing... – Ramhound Jan 22 '15 at 21:30
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    Even with RAID 1, you still need more then that single copy, I hope you understand that. – Ramhound Jan 22 '15 at 21:33
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    @Ian: I think he means you need to take additional backups even with your mirrored RAID since something could potentially destroy data on both drives, e.g fire, power surge etc. – James P Jan 22 '15 at 21:47
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Software RAID is much simpler to move around from computer to computer during hardware upgrades. It also avoids controller failure possibilities and and controller compatibility issues on upgrade.

You said it, you plugged in the drives, re-synced and were up and going. Simple. Hardware RAID does not work like that across different controllers (or motherboards in your case).

Software RAID and hardware RAID will have very similar performance on arrays without parity (RAID 1, 0, 10, etc). The hardware solutions start to shine on arrays with parity (5, 6, etc). But many techs are moving way from straight RAID 5 arrays because of inherent problems so even if you had the ability/apparent need for RAID 5, RAID 1 or 10 might still be the way to go.

Just make sure you look at a RAID1 array for what it is, a single copy of files with data on two drives that needs backed up. Just because it is two drives, does not mean it is two files. If the file is corrupted, overwritten, accidentally deleted, etc, RAID will propagate such things to both sets of data. Make sure you have a backup first. So to have a RAID, you need 3 drives (2 for array, 1 for backup). If you only have two drives, then simply back up with no RAID.

For simpler setups, software RAID is the way to go. Great price, performance, simplicity, functionality, etc. Hardware RAID does have a place, but is more complex to setup, not as flexible, and cost more for your requirements.

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    OP isn't actually talking about hardware RAID, he's asking about firmware RAID (aka fakeraid). At worst, though, that may make your comments about RAID5,6 a little inaccurate. But so much else in your answer is good, I'm +1'ing it. – ChrisInEdmonton Jan 22 '15 at 22:32
  • @ChrisInEdmonton Your absolutely right. I had not heard the term firmware RAID and I've never been privy to the term fakeraid. As you might be able to tell, I've called both hardware RAID; firmware RAID will help me segregate the two better. Thank you for catching and pointing out that detail; it is an important one. – Damon Jan 23 '15 at 4:26

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