Software Based RAID 0 - Worth It?

I've been running two 80GB Western Digital hard disks on my nForce 2 mainboard in RAID 0 for about three years now. I decided to go that route because I had heard it could bring up to a 20% speed boost. They're running on an on-board RAID controller which is software based with no on-board RAM like most enterprise grade controllers.

I am planning a pretty significant upgrade and this time around, I'm more concerned with keeping the system quieter and cooler so it isn't like having a second furnace in my small office. I've been reading several articles that say particularly with new 16MB cache drives, software RAID 0 gives almost no noticeable increase. Obviously, having one hard disk instead of two will significantly cut down on heat. I don't want to spend the money on a hardware RAID controller so I'm wondering if you guys think that software RAID 0 is worth doing or if I should just get a fast single hard disk?

Raid 0 speed increases are pretty much a myth.. sure in some specific benchmark tests you can see higher "ratings" but for general usage they are basically as fast a single drive. I do Raid 0 my Raptors though simply because its easier to have a single large drive for OS and games instead of many small drives..

I noticed a definite speed increase by RAID-0ing my 36g Raptors for working with big files, like RARs and PARs, but that was about it. It's been a long time since I tested, but at the time I thought it was a pretty big deal.

A few game levels seemed to load faster too, but that was more a just noticeable difference than a major speedup.

My single 150g Raptor seems faster than the pair of 36s were, but I have a lot more RAM and 4 procs instead of 1, so it's... not a terribly fair comparison. I have no complaints about the drive speed at all, and that's coming from a faster setup than what you had.

If you do run RAID-0, remember your chance of failure is twice what it otherwise would be... adjust your backup strategy accordingly.

I currently do a complete system backup to an external hard disk on a nightly basis so there's no concern there. I have heard that RAID-0ing Raptors can be beneficial because of their rotational speed. The main reason I did the RAID was for level load times, but my tenant has a similar system to mine (slightly better, but mostly in video card only) with a single SATA drive and his loads as the same. Obviously, taking out a hard disk will make a huge difference in both heat and noise.

(I have a sort-of-related question, but I've started enough new help threads in the last week. Sorry, PA, but I'm going to hijack yours.)

I currently have two SATA drives in a RAID 0 array and, due to my insatiable hunger for terrible anime, HD television shows, and/or porn, they're quickly approaching critical mass. I'd like to slap in another drive, but I don't have an available SATA port on the motherboard. I realize the "S" stands for "serial," which leads me to believe I can just piggyback the new drive onto one of the existing drives, but the hardware confuses me. Is there a port on the drives themselves into which I can just plug the new one, or will I need to get some kind of fancy y-cable to which to attach the new drive cable? In either case, will adding a non-identical drive to the RAID array bork it?

Razorgrin wrote:

(I have a sort-of-related question, but I've started enough new help threads in the last week. Sorry, PA, but I'm going to hijack yours.)

I currently have two SATA drives in a RAID 0 array and, due to my insatiable hunger for terrible anime, HD television shows, and/or porn, they're quickly approaching critical mass. I'd like to slap in another drive, but I don't have an available SATA port on the motherboard. I realize the "S" stands for "serial," which leads me to believe I can just piggyback the new drive onto one of the existing drives, but the hardware confuses me. Is there a port on the drives themselves into which I can just plug the new one, or will I need to get some kind of fancy y-cable to which to attach the new drive cable? In either case, will adding a non-identical drive to the RAID array bork it?

no.. no..and no.

You need available SATA ports on your motherboard or controller card.. there is no daisy chaining of SATA ports. And you cant expand a Raid 0 drive for the most part.. unless your SATA controller and Software supports that.

It's as I feared!

Well, crap.

Remember that you may still have PATA ports if your need is dire. And Gigabit Ethernet is cheap nowadays... build a server!

If you're out of SATA ports on your mainboard, don't forget that you can always add in a cheap stand-alone controller. They're like $30 and you can usually get them in two and four port varieties.

You could also get a USB-interfaced external hard drive. My dad obtained one of these made by Lacie and I was pleasantly surprised at its access speed. I'm sure it's not as fast as PATA or SATA connected drives, but while moving movies around on my dad's comp, I didn't notice.

If you have a good USB controller, they can be just as fast as a regular hard disk. I have a Maxtor 250GB external that's almost as quick on my nForce 2 USB controller.