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Old 03-19-2004, 11:22 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default RAID from startup to 5 working arrays(Mirrored WinXP IDE Highpoint)

Didn't see anything like a "What the overall experience starting from Ground Zero?" type post, so here is mine...

My Goals:
Data protection = Mirroring of drives
Easy use, easy recovery on failure of drive or card
Inexpensive large drives: IDE, ATA, 75GB to 233GB+
WinXP all the way, nothing else.
Lots of drives, large drives, many RAID arrays(>4)
Want to use a lot of IDE drives I already have for the most part.
Don't want to have to worry about backing up anything again.

What I got:
Highpoint Rocket RAID133 controller: supports RAID 1 = Mirroring for 2 sets of hard drives, large drives, fast drives, IDE, $75
Highpoint Rocket RAID404 controller: 4 channel card, up to 8 drives for mirroring 4 sets of drives, $133
I set them up as data only drives, no OS on any of them. I plan to use a small, 15-40GB drive just for the OS.
Currently have three cards and 5 arrays setup. (one 73.5GB[IBM], one 76.3GB[IBM], two 160GB[Maxtor, Samsung], one 200GB[Maxtor]) All NTFS.
All systems are WinXP Pro with IDE drives and seem to function fine.

What I know:
You can remove a drive in the RAID array and put it on a standard IDE connector and it will come up and look just like a normal IDE drive. (This is for mirrored mode only, RAID 1, don't know about others) The drivename is the same as the RAID array name, RaidMir1 for example.

Disconnecting the drive from an array get's detected in the BIOS stage and goes into the "array failed" section of the RAID BIOS code giving you choices for recovery.

Have two 75GB arrays, two 160GB array, and one 200GB array, all work fine under WinXP Pro. Various systems.

You can place two drives in an array and have the BIOS duplicate one drive(with data) to another to create the RAID array. This is in the BIOS when you create the RAID array. Just make sure you know which one has the data. Also for large drives this process takes pretty long, like ~2hrs for 160GB.

You can take a RAID array(Mirror at least) and change the Hipoint controller from a 2 channel to a 4 channel and the Array will come up, be
recognized and work just fine. (BIOS recognizes it right away OS, After installing the new controller drivers, of course)

What I don't know:
Looks like the drives don't adhere to power settings in WinXP like spin down after N minutes of non-use. Do other cards support this? Is it a WinXP problem? (Promise controllers claim to do this, but I don't understand them. They have a 4 channel board, says it takes up to 4 drives. With Hipoint it takes up to 8 drives on the 4 channel board, which makes more sense. Does that mean their 2 channel board takes only 2 drives?)

Are cards compatible? I.E. can I switch a RAID array from one card to another and have it work. (different brand/company.)

How do you defragment a RAID array?

Does CHKDSK or SCANDISK actually test both drives? What if there is an error, will it correct the appropriate drive?

How come RAID arrays aren't colored correctly in the MS Admin tools to indicate it's a RAID array? Guess this is cause it's H/W vs S/W RAID.

How do you determine if your drives are still good prior to an unexpected failure?

How do you hook up a LED indicator light so you know when the devices are being accessed?

Might be interested in adding Striping+Mirroring for the perf benefit but don't know about being able to grab a drive and use it as a normal IDE drive. I guess this won't work.

What actually happens when a drive fails? Will reads still work without the annoying delay you get while trying to access a bad disk or will the bad disk slow you down? Same question for writes? In other words can you still get partial protection for the non-failed part of the HD till you get it replaced without perf hits?

Are any other cards, Promise, Adaptec, etc any better than this card for doing what I am doing? Any S/W features that come with/work with those cards that I might want?

There is mention of Perf hit when having to write to two drives in a RAID array. This doesn't make sense to me as I assume that the card can do simultaneous write of the data to the two drives. Isn't this true?

For Reads, is there simultaneous read and verify going on all the time? If not when does a failure get detected?

How do you figure the power requirements for hard drives on a X watt power supply? Just rough estimates to make sure I'm under spec. I have one system with 7 drives and one DVD player. Don't know if I'm over limit or not.

Caveats/Conclusions so far:
RAID works well for protecting against had drive failure and I can't believe the convenience and reduced stress related with having
them setup. I found that I had 2, 3 and 4 copies of things all over the place just because I was paranoid about having copies for
protection. Trouble was most of them were not current and I knew this which added to the stress and effort. Overall this has made my
life much simpler having one "right" location for everything and knowing it's protected.

Having said that there are other worries that RAID won't help with.

1. Stupid mistakes like accidental deletion or overwriting data is not covered with RAID. In fact since you only have one "right" place for data this makes it a greater possibility. (Think carefully about any file deletions or moves.)
2. Double Hard drive failure in the same Array. Well, you can't protect from everything, but this is still a consideration. (Should be mitigated by havingspares around to swap immediately if a failure occurs.)
3. Theft/Vandalism - Another remote possibility, but in the real world something to consider. (Could get locking cabinets and doors, also don't advertise to anyone you have the stuff in your home, a lot of theft/vandalism isn't random.)
4. Hackers/viruses from the internet that deletes the data. (A good firewall should prevent this, never-the-less nothing is perfect.)
5. Fire/flood or other natural disaster. (Never had anything like this happen, have to draw the line somewhere.)

For most of my data these are extreme enough issues that I would probably consider what I have adequate. It's not irretrevable data, just would take some work to recreate. A little common sense goes along way to minimizing these types of problems. For the most importatnt data, stuff that is irreplacable, family pictures, videos, etc I will consider some form of archival mechanism, probably on a large Hard drive that I copy this data on and put in a safe or offsite and offline.

So overall I achieved most of my goals, including the added benefit of simplifying my life. Remaining issues are in the "What I don't know" section above.

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Old 03-19-2004, 11:48 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Man.. you really put some thought into this, Kudos, not many people take the time to setup their arrays (Even though nowadays, they come built into the mobo's - RAID 1 only)

Ok... where to start.......

Lets start with power management functions... since a RAID is designed to always be on.... most RAID controllers don't have advanced power functions. I am not sure if there any out there at the moment... but if there is such a produce, I'd like to find out how it works.. The issue isn't with Windows XP, it is with the hardware on the RAID card.

As far as compatibility is concerned.. NO. You can't take an array from one PC and pop it into another array and simply let it work. When you are building the drive array, it searches through the available hard drives and assign it a unique identification character. This is unique to each manufacturer, and even each card. It might not even work if you have two identical RAID cards, Identical Hard drives and an Identical PC...

You can defrag your array by using the standard windows defrag utility. Remember, to the OS, the RAID assembly (although its seperate drives) is considered ONE hard drive and it will scann through the assembly... same holds true with CHKDSK/Scandisk. The RAID controller card tell the OS that only ONE drive exists... so when you run any of these utilities, on the OS side it will seem like ONE hard drive but in actuality, the RAID controller is fulfulling the taks the OS has requested to each drive on the assembly.

SO..... really its doing both things at the same time... It is running on the computer as one drive (Logically) and at the same time the controllor card runs the specified tasks on the hard drives (Physically)

These specifications work a little differently on RAID 1 vs RAID 5 (stripping/mirroring) but it is the same concept.

I have a Mylex controller card on almost all of my servers. Each server has about 12 SCSI Hot Swapable HD bays. If/when one goes out.. I just pull it a new one.... put the new one in.. and the Array does the rest. When the array sees an new hard drive, it populates it accordingly... and thats it!!

Also, like you mentioned... always stay on top! Keep up to date with the firmware updates..

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Old 04-09-2004, 05:33 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default 4/8 Update

"RAID is designed to always be on..."

Why is this true? Yes, when your using them as servers and 100's of people are banging on them this makes sense. But I am a single user and most of the arrays I use about 20mins/day if that. They should not be spinning 24/7 for this kind of use it just makes the drives die sooner and that kind of defeats the benefit of using RAID in the first place.

"compatibility...can't take an array from one PC and pop it into another array and simply let it work"

Well, I know for a fact that it does work if you are using the same controller. I even changed a pair of drives from a Rocket RAID133 controller to a Rocket RAID404 controller and it came up and worked fine.

Thanks for the other info!

4/8 update of what I have learned:

I had one drive fail on one of the arrays and now I know what that's like. You get this beeping noise from the controller card and if you check status it tells you which drive has failed and the condition of the array. My plan at that point was to throw in a replacement drive, rebuild and continue. Well, this didn't work. The failed drive was 80.07GB and the replacement I had was 80.05GB. Of course it complained that the sizes didn't match and so it couldn't create and duplicate the array. Nuts! I had to copy the data somewhere else, destory the array, replace the drive, create the array, then copy the data back. Not quite what I had in mind, but it worked, I just needed a 80GB cache of free space to do it. Don't know what I'll do if my 200GB Array fails.

Overall I am still quite happy with RAID and the simplicity it has brought to my life.
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Old 04-09-2004, 09:13 PM   #4 (permalink)
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dang....i don't like to read a lot....nor do i like to type a i never even saw this thread.....
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Old 02-13-2005, 04:01 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Another update

Well, in case anyone is interested in "RAID at home" this is an update on my setup. It has been working absolutely flawlessly for months now. As mentioned the only time I have problems with data loss is due to "user error" like mistakes in copying or moving files around. I did come across one problem worth mentioning.

I added 2 250GB Western Digital drives to my RocketRaid404 setup. Should have tested it better before just moving stuff to it, but I was low on filespace. The files copied/moved with no complaints, but later I found that they had data corruption. The weird thing is that they both had the SAME data corruption or else the RAID array would have alerted me. It took me a long time to track it down, but I did find confirmation after googling on it. ROCKETRAID and WD Drives above 160GB DON"T PLAY WELL TOGETHER! I couldn't find a solution, but I found complaints about this. Just wish I would have found the complaints BEFORE I lost a lot of data. Fortunately I only lost a few recoverable files.
The drives are perfectly fine and works in other configurations and the RocketRaid 404 is fine and works with other drives. Just when you put them together you get a wierd situation where files look like they copy just fine, but if you do a file compare, they don't match and have corruption in them. What a pain.

I plan to use the WD drives in a SATA RAID array since I have a ASUS Nforce MB which supports it directly, just have to buy the IDE to SATA adapters. Too expensive at $30+ but that's the plan.

- StereoGamer
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