As you've gathered, a RAID setup will allow you to clone your hard
drives, thereby creating redundancy in your data in case one of the
drives should fail. There are various different RAID levels, each
with different advantages and disadvantages, but I don't think it's
necessary to dig in to the details here. If you want to read up on
all the RAID levels and how they work, you can check out this site:
In your case you want to set up a disk mirroring system. Everything
that gets written to one drive gets written to the other drive at the
same time. This is RAID Level 1. It requires that you have two
drives of the same size connected to a RAID controller. This card is
nothing more than a special IDE controller. Good entry level
controllers are available from Promise, and should sell for under
$100. One site with a well-reviewed Promise card, capable of ATA133
is this one: http://froogle.extremecomputech.com/pmoreinfo.asp?iid=1356
but obviously there are many retailers for such cards. I've had very
good experiences with Promise cards in the past, though cards are also
available from manufacturers like Adaptec and 3Ware. In your case the
Promise cards will be perfectly suitable and probably the cheapest way
Installation of these cards is really very simple. You'll need to
install the controller into an empty PCI slot, then boot Windows and
install the driver for the card (the exact procedure depends on the
card you purchase). Once that's done, disconnect the hard drives from
the IDE connectors on the motherboard and connect them to those on the
Setup varies from card to card, but generally configuration is
accomplished by hitting a key combination at boot time and going
through menus. You'll configure the attached drives just like you
would in the motherboard BIOS setup, and then you should find an
option to create the array. Again, the exact procedure varies from
card to card, but after establishing how you want the array to work
(for instance, which is the source of your existing data and which is
the empty drive to which it should be copied) the drives will be
mirrored. When you reboot, the RAID controller will take care of all
your data access and will mirror your information without you having
to think about it. There should be no noticeable performance hit. In
fact, because it's able to read from two drives at once, on some
things you'll actually notice a speed increase.
It's really not a difficult task, and if you are comfortable doing
basic computer hardware work you'll be just fine. If not you should
probably take it to a computer shop to have it done.
I hope this proves useful to you. Let me know if you need any clarification.
Request for Answer Clarification by
09 Feb 2004 16:03 PST
Thanks a lot Hibiscus,
However, I am still fuzzy about one thing. Since I have data on both
drives, how do I go about hooking them up to the RAID controller? I
really do not want to risk losing the data. Would I have to format
the backup drive before I connect them both to the RAID? What will
happen to the data?
Also, about purchasing the RAID card, I have looked on
www.pricewatch.com, and , under I/O >> Controller Cards, I see a
category for "RAID" and one for "Array RAID", with prices in the
"RAID" category starting at $17, and in the "Array RAID" category
starting at around $62. Now I do not want to get something of bad
quality, but I do not want to spend too much money if it is not
necessary. I even see Promise RAID cards starting at $60. What advice
could you give on what card to buy?
Clarification of Answer by
09 Feb 2004 23:09 PST
Hi again Garbonzo,
I think I misunderstood how your data was stored. You will need to
clear the data off one of the drives in order to create the mirror.
Any data that gets mirrored on the drive will overwrite what exists
there now. So before you plug in the RAID card you should transfer
all the data off your D: drive (for instance) on to C:. You probably
won't need to format it first, but it might be necessary (the RAID
controller might not want to allow you to overwrite data).
As for the categories on Pricewatch, I'm a bit puzzled. RAID setups
are always arrays of drives, be it two, three, five, or however many
drives in the configuration. My first thought was that maybe the
controllers there could handle RAID 5, or perhaps two channels of RAID
1 (so four hard drives, two mirrors) but this also isn't the case.
There also appears to be overlap between the two, since the same
controllers that appear in the RAID category for $60+ also appear in
the RAID Array category. It's very strange. However, I really
wouldn't suggest opting for the cheapest option here. A $17 RAID card
may work, but support for it will probably be horrible. You're best
off sticking with a reliable brand with good driver and setup support.
I would suggest Promise, Adaptec, LSI, or AMI. All of these have
been good to me in the past. Beyond that, make sure the controller
you opt for has support for ATA133. An ATA100 interface won't use the
full potential of your drives. Finally, if you're sticking to only
these two drives (one mirror) you can go with a single channel
controller, but if you think you might add another mirrored set later
you should get a two channel card. It looks like the cheapest card
that meets all these specs is probably the Adaptec 1200A.
And finally, jumper settings are usually you're standard Master/Slave.
If you've got the two drives working on the same IDE channel right
now you shouldn't have to make any changes to the jumpers. The manual
that comes with the card will tell you if it's otherwise.
Hope this helps,