I've got a server at home running Windows 2003 Server. I use the server to house my media collection and backups from other PCs on my LAN. The server has 4 1TB drives along with a smaller system disk where the OS resides.

I'm sick of having my media and files scattered around 4 disks and I want a single volume for it instead. Having some redundancy as well is a plus. So I thought RAID 5 would be the way to go.

I believe I can use the RAID 5 functionality built into Win 2k3 server, but I'm concerned about it's reliability/performance. Write speeds are not that important to me, read speeds are much more important. I've got a Gigabit LAN and I frequently stream high definition media from the server. What kind of performance can I expect? The server has a Core 2 Duo E6800 CPU @ 2.66Ghz and 4GB of RAM.

Then it's the reliability, as a RAID 5 solution it should provide data redundancy, but what if my OS disk fails and I need to reinstall Windows, being software based, will my RAID 5 array still be functional with a new installation of Windows?

Any other general thoughts/recommendations? At first I was looking into getting a cheap RAID controller card, such as the HighPoint 2300/2310 but if I can get away with a software only solution which works adequately, I'd do that. Would I be much better off with a card like the HighPoint ?


Personally, I'd stay with the software RAID 5. I've got 3 disks in software RAID 5 (on Server 2008, admittedly) even though RAID5 has a performance hit on writing I've not really seen that much of a difference. The only time I would want a hardware RAID is in a dedicated server box, and also rember RAID is not backup, just redundancy.

In theory, yes, you can migrate a software RAID to another machine (although I've yet to try it). I would, however, unplug the RAID'd hard disks as I've acidentually nuked a mirrored set of disks when doing a re-install (which is what I said above RAID is not backup) and is just as well I has the stuff in a second place.

I could say try it, but RAID 5 resync with 4 1TB disks is going to take a while. I mean, probably more than a day.

  • It should take about half a day. +1 for raid is not backup. – psusi Jun 16 '11 at 15:21

Go for RAID10 in stead (2 mirrors, striped: that way you can also keep adding mirrors to increased capacity), it's more robust for software implementations, and offers better performance than RAID5.

If you get bigger hard disks, you should think about RAID6, which has been 'invented' to deal with huge hard disks and higher frequency/likelyhood of RAID repairs.

  • Last I heard, Windows didn't support software raid10. It also only slightly outperforms raid5 on random reads. For writes and sequential reads, raid5 is faster. It also gives more capacity. Disk size also does not matter at all; raid6 is for a many disk raid array where the likelyhood of multiple failure is higher. – psusi Jun 16 '11 at 15:19
  • @psusi is correct, Windows doesn't support software RAID 10. 0, 1 and 5 is all you're going to get. – tombull89 Jun 16 '11 at 15:23
  • Yes, so my recommendation does imply getting a RAID card, and RAID6 does matter for rebuilding on huge hard disks. – DutchUncle Jun 16 '11 at 16:01

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