I am looking into building a cheap RAID 5 for my home rig.
If you are interested in my motivation, read on, otherwise skip to the asterix. :-)
It all started when I considered buying a new hard disk to get some capacity for all those... digicam shots, you know. ;-)
I had quite some trouble choosing the most reliable drive. Of course I checked the reliability survey here on SR, but the number of reports is still quite small for some of the drives I am interested in. So I thought "Why not put that SATA-RAID controller on my Mobo to good use and do some mirroring?" This would ease the fear for a loss of my valuable data (is it only me, or is it quite impracticable to backup 200GB hard drives using 4,7GB DVD-Rs?) and make the choice for the "best" hard disk a bit easier, since reliability would not be that much of an issue (unless I get unlucky and both drives fail almost at the same time).
Thinking again, I didn't like the idea of loosing 50% of all capacity in a RAID1, so I checked prices for RAID-5-controllers. Prices vary widely, I could not find any good reviews so here I am, asking the experts out there. :-)
To save me some trouble when routing the wires in my tower case, and of course as it is the latest technology, I would prefer SATA over PATA, but it is not an absolute must.
The only hard disk I owned, that ever died on me is a 40GB Toshiba notebook drive. It bit the dust after running in 45Â°-tilted position for almost 1.5 years of an average 14 hours power-on hours a day. Since unlike the Toshiba I normally treat my desktop drives well (cooling-wise) I don't want to take any chances.
BTW: I am well aware that RAID5 won't protect me from file system/OS errors, viruses, or my own stupidity when handling files.
The prices of RAID-5-capable (P/S)ATA-controllers vary widely, some are below 100â‚¬ (about 120$), like the HighPoint RocketRAID 1640, but as it seems it doesn't do parity calculations in hardware, leaving the job to the host CPU. Not good.
Adaptec Serial ATA RAID 2410SA is about 250-300â‚¬, as is LSI Logic MegaRAID SATA 150-4 controller. Both of these bring 64Megs of cache and appear to be native SATA, i.e. no nasty Marvell PATA-2-SATA converters (at least not apparently visible on the photos of the boards I found). However, for my purposes, 300 bucks is a tad too much, in addition it is hard to get a hold on the LSI controller.
So I searched on and stumbled across the Promise FastTrak S150 SX4. Its only about 160â‚¬, has a hardware "XOR-Engine", comes without cache, but with a slot to put a PC133-SDRAM into. I got one of those lying around anyways, so I could save about 100â‚¬ here. Alas, as it seems, Promise only took its old ATA-RAID-5-board (SX4000) and added Marvell converters to jump on the SATA bandwagon. I am not sure how much of an issue this is in practise (i.e lower bandwidth, higher latency, compatibility issues with certain drives?), but it will definitely loose me Native Command Queueing, which alone wouldn't be that bad, as neither LSI nor Adaptec nor most of the current drives seem to support NCQ anyways.
3Ware is recommended in some postings in this board. I have not heard much of this company before, but its 3ware Escalade 8506-4LP adapter fits my needs, but is almost 300â‚¬ aswell. From the images alone I cannot tell whether it uses PATA-2-SATA-conversion, but the specs do not mention any cache (neither cache already included nor added using a free SDRAM socket like the Promise controller). As I understand, a cache is almost a must, and therefore I would have to go for the 3Ware Escalade 9500S-4LP, which includes 128MB, but approaches ~350â‚¬. A bit pricey.
So which of the adapters I mentioned (3Ware, Adaptec, Promise, LSI) would you choose when it comes to price/quality ratio? I do not need the ultimate performance, any benefit compared to a single drive would be a nice add-on, but my main concern are drive failures. Troublefree operation under common operating systems (Windows, Linux) is very important, I don't wanna loose any data to crappy drivers.
As I still have unused RAM lying around, I would prefer the Promise controller, as it is considerably cheaper. Just how bad is its PATA-2-SATA conversion? What about its reliability, driver support etc.?
Should I consider PATA instead? The drives and controllers are minimally cheaper, but are not really future-proof.
Some of the controllers are 64Bit-PCI. My board only offers plain-old standard 32Bit-PCI, but if I understand correctly, a 64Bit-card will still work in a 32Bit-slot, unless the extra pins do not colide with any protuding elements on the board. Is this correct?
Buying the "right" drives, is another issue, here I am equally undecided. As I am opting for a minimal solution for starters, I plan to go with three drives, which should also save me some noise and heat issues (my case is well ventilated though)
- When it comes to performance, the Hitachi 7K250 appears to be the current king of the hill. Knowing of IBMs bad reputation with its Deathstar-series, I am a bit uneasy going with former-IBM-now-Hitachi-drives, but RAID5 would let me sleep easily anways. Unfortunately, the 160GB variant (at about 85-90â‚¬) is in short supply by all my favourite web shops, while the 250GB variant is available but considerably more expensive when comparing â‚¬/GB, costing more than 150â‚¬.
- Seagate's Barracuda 7200.7 SATA 200GB (ST3200822AS) seems interesting, good â‚¬/GB-ratio (its about 110â‚¬ here). Seagates have a record for being cool and quiet (which is confirmed by the "hard drives 2.0" review here on SR), while not performing as good as Hitachi.
- What about the Maxtor DiamondMax 10 160GB drive (6B160M0)? I have two Maxtors (one 27GB, the other 80GB) still going strong in my older desktop, what about performance, heat, noise?
-Western Digital? The current 250GB version is quite a screamer (in the true meaning of the word) according to the SR review. Its not that fast either, still an option (in its 160GB or 200GB variant)?
I am no big fan of Samsung, I met some Samsung hard disks that had gone belly up back in the hard disk dark age (2GB). Current models appear to have quite a record in terms of reliability and noise, should I consider them instead of the above drives.