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I just got an older Dell server secondhand. I was thinking of turning it into a file server.

There are currently 3 300GB hard disk drives in the machine.

Not knowing a lot, I am looking to see if there is a way when mounting a network drive to have access to all three drives as if they were one. Meaning I don't have to worry about three network drives on the client PC's, and the client PC's would see the network share as 900GB and wouldn't have to worry about how much room is on each drive. I understand from searches that this seems possible in Ubuntu but couldn't find any info on Server 2003 that suggests I am able to do this (or I am not searching correctly).

Please remember I am a bit of a noob when it comes to this but should be more than capable to follow directions when pointed in the correct direction.

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Just so you know, the suggestions to create RAID volumes are destructive processes, meaning that if you already have data on the drives, it will need to be backed up because the RAID process will need to wipe the drives to create a spanned or striped set. – Wesley Dec 3 '09 at 18:49

There are a few of ways to go about it in Windows:

  1. Create a spanned volume, which essentially takes the physical disks and turns them into one (or more) logical volumes that show up as drives on your server.
  2. Use RAID to create a single volume.
  3. Use DFS. With DFS you can create one folder with sub-folders that are entry points to your other disks.
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You can do this using Windows softrware RAID. Install Windows into a small partition on the first disk-- 20 to 40GB. After Windows is installed, use "Disk Management" to convert all the disks to "Dynamic Disks". You can create a "Mirrored Volume" (RAID-1) for the operating system partition (which I'd recommend, since it protects the OS from disk failure), and then either a "Striped Volume" (RAID-0) or a "Striped Voume with Parity" (RAID-5) using the remaining free space on the rest of the disks. (This will "throw away" part of the last disk, since all the components of a striped volume must be the same size, but it's a small price to pay.)

You can do a "Spanned Volume" to take advantage of all of the space on the disks, but I wouldn't recommend it. Personally, I'd do a "Striped Volume with Parity", because any one of the disks can fail and you won't lose data. You're "throwing away" one disk worth of space doing that, but disks are cheap and losing your data because of a disk failure isn't nice. On top of that, a "Spanned Volume" or a "Striped Volume" (without parity) has increased odds of failure over a single disk.

Nonapeptide is quite right when he points out that what I'm suggesting is a destructive operation for data you've already got on the disks. You should have some place to store the data aside from these disks anyway, because RAID is not backup, and you don't want to lose your data when you accidently delete it (which RAID won't protect against at all).

You should read-up on RAID and Windows Software RAID before you proceed, just so you understand the issues involved.

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Goodness, just how many WPM to you type? =) – Wesley Dec 3 '09 at 19:00
Heh heh... 120+ on a good day. Remember, I'm actually an AI. – Evan Anderson Dec 3 '09 at 19:04
Perchance a touch typist? – Wesley Dec 3 '09 at 19:13
Not in the traditional sense. I learned to type when I was a kid, just doing "hunt and peck". 15+ years of using computers has created a typing style that's uniquely my own, but very fast. I get tripped up when I get put on a new keyboard, but I also tend to learn new keyboards very quickly. I really only hit 120 WPM when typing commands or coding. >smile< – Evan Anderson Dec 3 '09 at 19:30
Heh, I like to throw my ergo keyboard at people like you :) – squillman Dec 3 '09 at 20:00

Share one drive out, and then mount the other two drives to a folder within the first share. Actually, what would be better is to create one main shared folder on the C: drive (rather than sharing out the whole drive), and then within that shared folder create two other folders. You would use the Disk Management utility to take the other two hard drives and mount them to the two folders you created in the main shared folder. Drives mounted to a folder cannot simultaneously have a drive letter, that's why you can't mount the C: drive to a shared folder but will instead host the main shared folder on it.

Windows KB for reference:

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You've still got to worry about space usage in the volumes using that method, though. – Evan Anderson Dec 3 '09 at 18:46
Very correct. The part about wanting clients to see one big 900GB drive escaped me. – Wesley Dec 3 '09 at 18:51

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