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Supercharge your PC's storage with a RAID setup: Everything you need to know

Marco Chiappetta | Nov. 20, 2014
Configuring multiple drives in RAID can protect against disaster and provide face-meltingly fast transfer speeds.

After entering the RAID controller's option ROM, you'll be presented with a menu with the RAID management tools. It's here where you can create an array, name it, select the drives and RAID mode, and configure options like the stripe size or total capacity. The exact steps will vary from controller to controller, but the process is usually quick and easy.

When you've completed configuring the array, save your changes, and it should be ready to use.

Setting up software RAID
Using Windows' built-in support for software RAID is simple. Assuming you've already got your drives connected, launch the Disk Management utility by right-clicking in the low-left corner of your screen (Windows 8/8.1) and select Disk Management from the menu. In Windows 7, click your Start button, right-click on Computer, choose Manage from the menu, and in the window that opens, click on Disk Management in the left column.

If your drives are brand new, you'll be presented with the option to initial the drives. Do so and you'll be brought to the main Disk Management menu, where all of the drives are listed.

To configure a software RAID, right-click on one of the drives you'd like to include in the array and select the option to create a new Striped (RAID 0), Mirrored (RAID 1), or Spanned (JBOD) volume. RAID 5 may also be an option if you've got at least 3 eligible drives installed. After selecting the volume type, a wizard will launch to walk you through the rest of the steps.

In the second part of the wizard, you'll be asked to select the rest of the drives to include in the array. The drive you originally selected will already be added. To add more, simply highlight them in the left pane and click the Add -> button.

Once you've added all of the drives and continued through the wizard, you'll be asked to select a drive letter and format the array. After it's formatted, the array is ready to use.

Side note:  Windows 8 also has a feature dubbed Storage Spaces that allows you to pool multiple drives into a single large volume, complete with some optional resiliency features. It's kind of like RAID light and is dead simple to set up.

OS installation considerations
If you're planning to create a new RAID array to install a fresh OS, follow the steps outlined in the hardware RAID section and then begin your OS installation as normal. Windows may recognize the array without any intervention because Microsoft includes drivers for many RAID controllers, but if the Windows installer doesn't find your storage, you'll have to install your RAID controller drivers manually.


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