Windows 8 and 8.1 Forums

Upgrade from 2TB to 4TB, or time to go RAID?

  1. #1

    Upgrade from 2TB to 4TB, or time to go RAID?

    Hey gang,
    I'm a creative professional and music producer. My current setup on Windows 8.1 involves a 240GB SSD for C:, and then I have a WD Black Caviar 2TB which is split in two equal partitions (1TB for Design Arts, 1TB for Music Studio), and finally a small 250GB drive which I use as Adobe scratch disk.

    The issue I'm about to face is that my 2TB drive now has less than 60GB free so I'm going to soon run out of space. Currently I mirror this 2TB drive to an external 2TB WD Passport so that I always have a backup and a portable version of the projects that I can take with me. This has worked beautifully up to now.

    So my first instinct is to replace my current 2TB with a WD Black 4TB (or leave the 2TB there in addition to the new 4TB). This way, I should be good for a while... also seems like this is probably the top performing 7200 RPM drive for creative workstations at the moment.

    However, I know there is such a thing as RAID. Particularly, I think RAID-1. Would it be better for me to scrap my configuration of 1 drive for C:, 1 drive for projects and recording, 1, drive for Adobe scratch... and instead setup a RAID for projects and recording? If so, what does it imply? I wasn't looking to spend much more than the cost of the 4TB.. so if I would have to buy 2 of those, its probably off the table. Also, if RAID-1 only provides a solution in case of HD failure, well, I already own external drives that I can use for backups.

    Any advice/suggestions would be immensely appreciated...

      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  2. #2

    It is important to understand what RAID is, and what it is not.
    The purpose of RAID 1 is to maintain access to your data in the event of a drive failure. Drive replacement can then be deferred to a more convenient time. This is a big deal on a busy server, not so much on a workstation. Of course there are exceptions. If that is your reason for using RAID 1, then great. The downside to RAID 1 is cost. You need 2 drives to provide the storage capacity of 1.

    But no form of RAID ever devised is a replacement for maintaining regular backups. It only offers protection from drive failures and even that cannot be relied on. For all other causes of data loss it offers no protection whatsoever. All files of any importance need at least one backup copy, 2 or more backup copies for files of particular importance. Having no backups is asking for trouble. Data recovery cannot be relied on.

    RAID 0 is different in that it provides no redundancy at all. It's purpose is increased performance but under real world conditions this is often rather modest. The downside is that if 1 drive fails you loose all data. Maintaining regular backups is even more important.

    There are other forms of RAID but they require 3 or more physical drives.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  3. #3

    Thanks for the reply. I guess in that case I'd be looking more into a RAID 0.... however, I wonder just how much more performance I would get... and do the drives need to be identical size, or can I combine a 4TB with a 2TB?

    I wonder if this is what more creatives do, or if they just use a standard configuration of the fastest drive they can buy? I know lots of them use Macs. Can RAID be done on Macs?
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  4. #4

    The maximum theoretical gain would approach double the transfer rate. In the real world it will be considerably less. The actual gains depend primarily on the nature of the files and how they are accessed.

    In theory you could combine a 2 GB and 4 GB drive in RAID 0 but the array could only use 2 GB of the larger drive. Whether or not it would work depends on the controller. Using the remaining 2 GB for other purposes could compromise the performance gains.

    You really need to research RAID 0 before proceeding. I am not a big fan of RAID 0. In most cases it is more trouble than it is worth.
    And as I mentioned previously, backups are essential. If 1 drive fails you loose everything.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  5. #5

    Hafnarfjörđur IS
    Posts : 4,374
    Linux Centos 7, W8.1, W7, W2K3 Server W10

    Hi there

    Instead of implementing RAID - why not have a look at STORAGE SPACES - with RAID you have to have all HDD's in the pool the same. With Storage spaces you can pool as many (different size) HDD's as you like (and you can have SEVERAL pools).

    The Windows built in software will handle the mix and you can dynamically add and delete volumes (unless you choose to use the WHOLE pool as a gigantic HDD).

    I've been using Windows 8.1 Storage spaces for a long time now --works brilliantly and I've loads of 320 and 500GB HDD's that I've usefully combined into a nice large storage space -- great for large multi-media directories etc.

    Beware though if you don't select "Parity Mode" or a "Raid 5" type of choice then if any HDD fails you lose the lot. Parity mode works best when the HDD's are of similar size. Parity mode is best when you are doing many reads but not so many writes.

    It's a longish article but well worth reading -- The storage spaces discussion is towards the end. IMO this is a great solution for your type of situation and it's amazingly cheap -- FREE in fact !!!.

    Windows Storage Spaces and ReFS: Is it time to ditch RAID for good?

      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  6. #6

    This has worked beautifully up to now.
    Then why change it - other than "adding" more disk space? No where in your opening post do complain about "performance".

    I agree with all of the above and think you should stop thinking about RAID. As noted, RAID1 (mirrored) takes two drives to provide the same capacity of one drive, and provides no beneficial gains in performance. RAID0 (striped) spreads your files across two drives, doubling the risks with two potential points of total failure, instead of one - again with little to no beneficial gains in performance - ESPECIALLY compared to your SSD.

    Yes, RAID1 provides redundancy and a real-time backup should one drive fail, but not if lightning, flood, fire, malware, a home burglar, or a spilled cup of coffee takes out your computer!

    RAID0 provide no redundancy whatsoever, increases risks of data loss due to drive failure, consequently requires very frequent (at least daily!) backups. Yes, you get a little performance gains, especially with reads - but that is with disk intensive scenarios - like busy file servers with multiple users simultaneously accessing data files. And those gains ONLY affect disk performance - nothing else.

    I recommend you simply add more space (add another drive), then organize it to best to suit your needs. Your 240Gb SSD should be plenty big to house Windows, hardware drivers, and ALL your applications too! And accessing those files is where speed is really important. Then store all your documents, music and other "user" data files on your slower HDs.

    finally a small 250GB drive which I use as Adobe scratch disk.
    A scratch disk? That seems like a huge waste of potential SSD performance to me.

    Finally - you did not mention how much RAM you have installed. If performance is a concern, and if you have 4Gb or less currently installed, then for the most bang for your money, bump your RAM up to 8Gb (assuming 64-bit Windows). This will provide significant "across the board" performance gains - not just disk drive performance. If you already have 8Gb or more (6Gb with a triple channel memory architecture motherboard), then look at upgrading your graphics solution - but note a new graphics card often requires a bigger PSU to support it.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  7. #7

    Posts : 132
    Windows 8.1 Pro WMC

    I set up an old system to test the Windows 10 preview and because I am using old slow hard drives that may fail at anytime I set up a raid1 (mirrored) drive not just to protect against one drive failing but to provide a bit better performance. Am I wrong thinking I would get better performance when it comes to reads?
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  8. #8

    In theory RAID 1 can provide a modest performance gain, depending on the controller. But my understanding is that with most consumer grade controllers there will be none. See my post #2 for what RAID is and what it is not.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  9. #9

    Am I wrong thinking I would get better performance when it comes to reads
    As LMiller7 noted, "in theory", yes. But will you notice it? Not likely.
    • Today's hard drives are pretty darn quick, compared to drives of yesterday,
    • Plus they tend to have big integrated buffers compared to drives of yesterday, with 32Mb - 64Mb common,
    • Plus computers tend to have more RAM so Windows will not need to stuff and access the Page File (on the slow HD) as much,
    • Today's modern operating systems are already very efficient when they do need to use the Page file,
    • Also, hard drives have next to nothing to do with Internet content - that is, data that comes through (downloaded from) the Internet instead of off the HDs - which is much of what we do these days.

    Remember - we are talking about a couple 1000ths of a second (milliseconds) here.

      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  10. #10

    Thanks to all for your input, and especially Jimbo45 for introducing me to a modern alternative to RAID.
    I am definitely NOT going to do RAID. I will definitely get the 4TB added to my system. I just don't know if I'll use it with a standard setup (plug in, partition it, etc), or if I'll do storage spaces. I did read the article completely but still have a few questions:

    Seems to me Mirror mode has better success than Parity mode. While I understand the concept of mirroring, I dont understand what Parity is. Could you please expand?

    I realize that I wont be able to continuously add drives inside my system - I think I only have a few SATA rev 3 ports on my Asus Z77 board. As much as I love the idea of setting this up as a mirror and not have to worry about hard drive failures, my current solution of mirroring to an external/portable USB drive also allowed me to take my work on the road when using my laptop. If I start mirroring inside the desktop on internal drives, I'll have to manage it differently, not to mention my portable drives are only 1.5TB and 2TB.

    Any suggestions from people who work mainly on desktop but occasionally want to take the bulk of their projects and assets with them while traveling or working remotely?

    Finally, if you set up Storage Spaces in Win 8.1 using drives that already contain data, will all that data be lost (as in reformatted)? Or can one try out storage spaces and revert back to the old way if its not working out as expected?
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

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Upgrade from 2TB to 4TB, or time to go RAID?

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