Setting Up OS RAID With Windows 7 Ultimate

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One question you might have is, “Can Windows 7 be setup to run RAID?” The answer to that question is YES! Before we begin, let’s go over what RAID stands for: Redundant Array of Independent (formerly Inexpensive) Disks.  There are three different types of RAID:

  1. OS RAID
  2. Firmware RAID
  3. Hardware RAID

We are going to look into OS RAID, as this is the least expensive option.

All you need is two or more hard drives and you’re a few steps from setting up RAID on your desktop. The operating system will control the entire RAID setup. If you have a motherboard without the ability to do RAID within the BIOS, then this guide is for you!  The southbridge I’m using for this test is the ICH9. If you have a trailing R, then you can run firmware RAID; however, you can use either when setting up an OS RAID.   These are the ports I’ll be using for my RAID:

 

OK, let’s get started. Right click ‘Computer’ and select Manage. You should see something like this:

 

 

Right click any one of the unallocated drives, and you see this:

 

 

Note that RAID 5 is grayed out as it is not supported in Windows 7 (although it is available in Windows Server 2008).  There are four options: Simple, Spanned, Striped, and Mirrored:

  • Simple uses one drive.
  • Spanned uses as many as you select, but uses only one drive at a time. Imagine a glass about four feet tall and draw a line at each one foot marker. Each segment represents another drive. As each drive fills up, it just goes to the next drive in the spanned volume and uses one disk at a time until the volume is full. This is also known as JBOD – Just a bunch of disks.
  • Striped or RAID 0 offers the best performance but lacks redundancy. A single drive failure means total loss of all information stored on the volume. If you want this, you really would not care if you lost your RAID array.
  • Mirrored is just what it sounds like, mirroring the contents of one disk onto another.

Let’s select mirror.  You can only select two drives, as shown below:

 

 

If you wanted to short-stroke the mirror, change the value of Select the amount of space in MB to 20000. This will take 10 GB per drive and mirror them; otherwise leave it alone.  After you click next, you will see this:

 

 

In order to make any type of RAID, the drives need to be dynamic. You can convert them manually; however, if you don’t perform this step, you will be prompted with this message above and it will convert all drives that you are using to Dynamic after you select YES.

 

 

I have four 80 GB drives available, which is the reason you see two more unallocated.  Now that I have an 80 GB RAID 1 partition, I will use this for mission critical data. If only one drive fails, my data is safe.

Now let’s set up a RAID 0. Right click any one of the unallocated drives and select Striped.  The color coding helps determine what types of RAID arrays are currently configured.

 

 

All of the drives are set to dynamic except the boot drive, and now I want to mirror that.  I’m going to clear away all of the RAID volumes and set the boot drive to dynamic. Each partition will need to be mirrored independently.

 

 

Select Add Mirror; it will then look like this:

 

 

However, we want to mirror all of the partitions and make it look neat in the process.

 

 

Try not to restart the system during the re-syncing of the boot drive. I’ve had it where it did not reboot and crashed my entire system. I setup all four drives in RAID 0. I short stroked them and made a 40 GB partition. These are the results of the hard drive benchmarking:

 

 

Firmware RAID such as Matrix raid is very popular with the Intel chipset. The ICH9R or the ICH10R are associated with the P35 / 45 chipsets and the P55 handles RAID on its own. Hardware RAID can be very expensive and might not be for everyone.  As you can see though, running RAID right in the OS is very simple and extremely cost effective.

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