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Thread: Help! Hardware vs. Software RAID?

  1. #1
    Cabledude Avatar Fan purecomedy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2000

    Help! Hardware vs. Software RAID?

    I was running out of hard drive space so I bought two 1 TB drives to address the situation. A few days before I had an opportunity to install them, I got a blue screen of death in XP (can't tell if it's my other hard drive, or motherboard that is bad).

    So I wanted to re-image with my last backup (Oct 4) but I can't go straight into a Hardware RAID because I needed to install the RAID driver in Windows before installing the drives.

    1. I guess I could try to load my backup non-RAID on one of the drives, install the driver and re-make an image.

    2. I was reading that one con of hardware RAID is that if your motherboard breaks you need to find a Hardware RAID controller of the same version in order to read what is on your disks (or some cute software to read your old RAID image). Anyway, I was just wondering if I should use a Windows software RAID instead of hardware RAID...and what kind of performance hit you take in Windows doing this via software. Also, how well does software RAID work in practice...the theory I've read on it makes it sound bad. In practice hardware RAID doesn't sound as good as advertised.

  2. #2
    Moderator YeOldeStonecat's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    Somewhere along the shoreline in New England
    Hardware RAID is better.

    The difference in performance between the two isn't something easily measured..depends on a lot of factors, including the type of use of the computer.

    If the RAID controller breaks..and you need to replace close that replacement RAID controller has to be depends on the RAID controller itself. Most business grade RAID controllers allow you to use a RAID controller of the same family..including some newer higher level RAID controllers, as they are backwards compatible and will be able to read the drives and pull the info from the RIS file on the drive and put the pieces of puzzle together.

    What is your goal from RAID? Performance? Safety from drive failure?
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  3. #3
    Cabledude Avatar Fan purecomedy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2000
    My goal is totally safety as I've had a lot of hard drive fiascos. Like for instance, how I magically got my PC to boot this time (after BSOD) is safe mode with command prompt where the computer sat on loading AGP.sys for about 5 minutes and then rebooted and loaded windows. I can only assume it ran chkdsk or something. I was pretty ticked off when I loaded Windows XP to try a recovery and my old chkdsk options were to "see" if the drive had problems but no command available to scan and fix the problem. There's gotta be a way to execute a meaningful chkdsk from a command prompt somewhere (capability and me remember might be 2 different things!).

    As this RAID controller is on the motherboard of an older computer your rules for backward compatibility would have to go pretty far back! The Promise 378 doesn't seem to be evident by the stand alone cards on the Promise website (but who knows, magically 1 of the other models might support a 378).

    I did a small amount of reading and it seems like the software RAID takes away some caching ability of your hard drive so it could "feel" slower for a lot of tasks. A guy at work is using software RAID but he has 2 quad core CPU setup so he's not worried about the CPU overhead His hardware RAID horror story is his USB RAID drive that died and he has no way of communicating with (unless he gets the drives out of the box and tries to play around I suppose).

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