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Instead of having a bunch of separate drives to deal with, why not put them together into one big drive? Windows has built in functionality to set up a software RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) without any additional tools. The first step you need to do is backup your information on the disks you want to use in the RAID. Once all of your information is backed up, open your start menu, right click on computer and open manage.
Once they are deleted you should only be left with disks you do not want included in the RAID. A spanned volume will create a single partition that will literally span all of the included disks whereas a striped volume will deliberately break up files across multiple disks in an attempt to improve read and write performance.
A mirrored volume and RAID 5 both have some redundancy but you lose storage space to create the parity files needed for recovery.
Right click on the first disk you want included in your RAID and select new spanned volume.
The final step just reviews all of your settings before the disks are formatted and the new volume is mounted. You should also receive a warning letting you know that if your operating system is on one of these volumes you won’t be able to use it because the volume is now a dynamic volume instead of a logical volume.
Finally the disks will be formatted and once the drive is mounted you should be welcomed with the familiar AutoPlay prompt. If you browse to Windows explorer you should also see that the new volume has the combined storage space of the three individual disks used to create it. There should be a guide following this to be able to recover files when one drive in a RAID Array goes kaput.
Great article but no matter what I read I still can’t understand what a RAID array is. In retrospect, showing a spanned RAID as the example was probably confusing, but the setup for all of them is the same—you can just choose a different option from the menu when you’re prompted to choose between Spanned, Striped, Mirrored, etc. Even in any other case, including having redundancy in your disk array, you need to create backups. Also I think the article should have pointed out that RAID 5 is not available in Windows 7. I have one hard drive (C:) with all my data and OS, another identical new one that is blank. From Wiki: RAID, an acronym for Redundant Array of Independent Disks (formerly Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks).
I am thinking of spanning the 2 drives together but, like one user said before, what happens when 1 of the drives go bad?
With Windows7, rather than a RAID setup for a home PC, I use a 2TB drive, from a HDD dock and create a disc image once a week or so. Back in the last century, in the 1980’s when RAID was invented by Patterson, Gibson and Katz, commercial drives were expensive slow and low capacity. Each disk has different information in it, and is the same size, except the last in the chain, the one used for redundancy. Ok, one point that could be argued about is Intel’s creating of the Intel Matrix Storage Technology, which allows you to create, at the BIOS level (or rather a ROM chip that runs as port of the boot process) these RAID arrays.
RAID 0 – get the full usage of disk space, you get the fastest read and write speeds of all the mentioned arrays, but you also get the highest chance of catastrophic data loss. This was very helpful, Justin, despite all the blah blah from the wanna-be nerdo wags who commented off topic … and there are a lot (get your own blogs).
BigB – Your comment was awesome (I’ve copied and pasted it into a text document so I can refer to it later)!
My solution to this issue is to put windows on a non-raided SSD and create a windows based software RAID for your remaining drives. I hope I’ve added a little tidbit of newly acquired information to your mind’s internal RAID storage solution and good luck to anyone out there who might be trying to make the same decisions as I have!
I’ve been using Windows RAID for a long time, RAID 1 mirrored non-boot drives under Win XP (patched for RAID) and Win 7.
DID YOU KNOW?To break free from Earth’s gravitational field, objects need to achieve a speed of 25,000 miles per hour. Disclaimer: Most of the pages on the internet include affiliate links, including some on this site. Software RAID 5 is a fault-tolerant volume that stripes data and parity across multiple dynamic disks (from 3 to 32).
Software RAID-5 volumes can not be expanded with Disk Management snap-in, but you can use AOMEI Dynamic Disk Manager Server to expand RAID-5 volume.
As award-winning and full-featured Software RAID management solution, AOMEI Dynamic Disk Manager allows you to resize dynamic disk, extend dynamic system partition, convert dynamic disk to basic without losing data, expand RAID-5 volume, extend mirrored (RAID 1) volume, add drive to RAID 5 and remove drive from RAID 5, etc.
I've just ordered two new hard drives for my main desktop and a copy of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.
My understanding is that Windows 7 Pro can do software mirroring, but can I set this up directly at install time? Would it be better (more reliable or faster) to use my motherboard's hardware RAID support?
Your nVidia nForce board probably has a software RAID too, so it might not matter that much.
I think performance wise, your best bet is to try both and benchmark, and share the results here for everyone to see! Sign up for our newsletter and get our top new questions delivered to your inbox (see an example).

Mirroring on your motherboard usually retains a compatible structure on the disk, meaning as long as your onboard sata drivers are also loaded in the OS, you can move either of the mirrored drives to the regular sata port, and boot into the OS just fine, so your not really sticking your neck out in terms of recoverability. Performance wise, they are probably both about the same: both use your CPU to do all the work. Having had my primary IDE controller crash on a running Windows system with Software RAID -- and with my disks on separate controllers -- I'm sold on that being the right choice. Compare this to the case with Hardware RAID where, if you lose the controller, you've lost both disks and the system obviously crashes. To the best of my knowledge setting up software RAID in Windows 7 can only be done after install, but it's a painless process even on the boot drive (convert the disk to dynamic under the disk management snapin, reboot, setup mirror).
Motherboard RAID controllers (Intel, nVidia or AMD) are not true hardware RAID controllers.
Also, a hardware RAID will be handled using your motherboard, and therefore can become tied to your motherboard. In this circumstance, unless your motherboard has actual hardware RAID (not the standard fake hardware RAID) you are much better off sticking with Windows 7 RAID. The likelihood of whether you will ever need to run things like disk imaging software: some can't see through a hardware RAID controller when it is enabled.
You just purchased two drives - presumably identical drives - almost sequential serial numbers? On some of the systems I've worked with, the hardware raid had to be accessed through its own pre-boot program.
I could help here - I've been on the phone with Microsoft's support people and the Western Digital people. You can setup mirroring to happen (which is like RAID 1) but not really by doing the following - with a pitfall. I typically like to partition off my disk 0 into a C and D where C is for OS stuff and programs and D is for data. Right click on drive D from disk 0 and left click on Add Mirror - when you do this you will see disk 1 appear and click on it.
Click OK and in a few moments you will see the same drive space allocated for disk 0 drive D on disk 1 and it names it the same - drive D and resynchronising with a percentage showing progress.
When the resynchronising is complete - no further action is needed - except you might have to rescan the drive by left clicking it and choosing Action from the menu then Scan Disks - takes just a moment and you're done. That's all I got - took me antire day working with Microsoft an Western Digital do get this information.
I have a hunch that Windows wants the mirrored boot partitions to be on the same sectors on each drive (for bootability reasons, perhaps). I have just gone through 3 months of drama with a software RAID 5 and Windows 7 (64-bit Premium). I'm planning to install my retail copy on Windows 7 x64 and I think I'm going to switch from hardware RAID 0 to Windows mirroring.
This makes it easy to turn your existing spare hard drives into massive storage or even redundant backups.
While it is not required that you format your disks for some of the RAID options, don’t take the chance and make a backup. Any disk you want included in your RAID you need to delete them from the top area of disk management. The other disks will still be there but they will show up in the lower pane and show their spaces as unallocated.
Instead they use spanned, striped, and mirrored as the options for creating software RAIDs. For this example we are going to go with the simplest volume type and create a spanned volume even though it isn’t technically RAID. There are a lot of Raid options but there are just a few that are used normaly like Raid 0, 1, 5, 6, 10 or 01. If I use a mirrored volume across 2 USB hard drives and later plug the two drives into another computer, will the new computer recognize the raid setup? About then the first SCSI (Small Computer System Interconnect) drives started coming out at a reduced price and initially it was believed that they were much less reliable. There’s several ways I could go about repairing the computer in a drive failure disaster using different types. If you want performance boost, go for stripped volume or if you want data redundancy, go for mirrored volume. And thanks for the in depth article as well – there are still alot of people out there who need to read it. Works fine, drives have failed with no down-time, also unplug from XP, plug into Win 7, ready to go. Parity, a calculated value that can be used to reconstruct data after a failure, is also striped across the disk array. Thata€™s because Software RAID 5 only can be implemented in Windows Server operating systems, including Windows 2000 Server, Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008. Software RAID-5 volume provides fault tolerance at a cost of one additional disk for the volume. I'd like to do a clean install of Windows 7 onto the new drives (leaving my old Windows XP Professional boot partition around for a while in case something goes disastrously wrong, etc.). I'm still unsure whether Windows software RAID or my motherboard's hardware "fake RAID" function is a better choice, though. In the past, this has introduced all kinds of headaches due to compatibility with other disk utilities. However software RAID allows you more portability between different hardware setups with the same drives. A lot of cheaper (read: no-server) motherboards require you to install software RAID drivers within Windows anyway. In this example we are going to set up a spanned disk that takes three 2 GB disks and creates one 6 GB disk using Windows 7 Professional.

If you want to have copies of your files on a hdd you could simply copy stuff from a to b, which is pain in the ass, because everytime you change data you must change it on the drive where your backup-copies are too. These are drives that will step in in the event of a drive failure of the main RAID drives, so as an example 4 or 5 drives in the setup means 3 will be used for the day-to-day working and 1 or 2 drives sits idle. I also didn’t like the idea that if I accidentally deleted something, it would also delete in the backup drive. So if you have 5 1TB drives, 4 will be active and the fifth waiting to be used if one of the four goes down.
The SATA disc prices have dropped to an economical level that makes it an inexpensive alternitive. The only real disadvantage of using a software RAID is that you cannot use it to boot windows. If the machine is powered down without shutting down, it always resynchs – I think Windows is worse in this respect than it could be, too cautious, but adds chance of data loss if a drive fails while resynching. When a disk fails, system uses the parity information to re-create the data on the failed disk. This means that if you use 3 x 1TB disks to create a Software RAID-5 volume, the volume will have a 2TB capacity. Note that I'd like the disk to be split into three partitions (OS, applications and data, and bulk data), all of which should be mirrored. Remember, I'm only interested in mirroring -- not the more complicated striping or parity operations that generally show the poor performance of crappy motherboard RAID solutions. Also, dynamic volumes are very easy to mess up, if you ever have to do disk recovery operations. Whether or not they are faster than Windows 7's implementation depends on how good a job Microsoft has done. Back ups would be challenging because you would have to back up everything at once, probably to another RAID array. You end up with redundant data, nice speed (2010 disks!) and no more 1990 hard drive noises!!! When a drive fails 1 of the 2 drives will become active until the failed drive is replaced. If the main drive crashes, just run the recovery disc and put the image back on the new drive. So if any one disk fails, the rest of the chain can be used to reproduce ALL of the data on the missing disk. The purpose of this post: I had a lot of resynchs, and it always resynched after sleep or hibernation. Benchmarking did reveal one thing, though: with hardware fake-RAID on, the system takes ~15 seconds longer to boot, which makes software RAID the more appealing choice.
I've had to resilver the mirror four times now -- once at creation, once at re-creation (caused by me), and twice now for seemingly random reasons (maybe related to crashes?). The last straw was when 2 hard disk drives were dropped, leaving the system in a very poor state. You tell your software or hardware to mirror the content from one disk to another, so everything is done by hard- or software.
If you write data the soft- or hardware desides to split those drives to little spaces, so called block.
There is 1TB of parity data spread around (very precisely) across the 4 drives so if one dies, the data on it can be reconstructed from the other three.
This minimizes data loss without taxing the power supply and other resources of your main system.
Soon enough the big old disks got left behind, and the small disks quality improved and the name became RA Independent D. Rather than having to have a backup of each disk, you can protect against the failure of ANY of the disks in the chain. Win7's resilvering code is retarded -- it tries to resilver all mirrored partitions on a disk at once, which absolutely kills performance. I have just de-RAIDed the system now and have 3 x 1 TB hard disk drives there (as b4 with the RAID) and the system is no slower and much more reliable.
So if you search for your stuff on 2 harddisks, it would take a while to find the data you wanted (sequential search), if you use striping the search action would be performed parallel, which is way more faster. Now some system (mostly those using a Hardware RAID card) will do this automatically), some you have to control via the software. When one dies then a background operation recreates the the data of the dead drive and writes it to the spare.
If two disks fails at once, you loose everything, but this is such an unlikely event, it can safely be ignored.
I get one shot on the system partition (1 drive fails, system partition is failed)… but I can have a disk fail and still have the RAID 5 array intact, albeit slower until the drive is replaced and rebuilt.
So, essentially, by using that fake RAID, you are creating an array that’s only advantage is that you can boot windows with it. Of course the striping is also a benefit; it effectively makes the transfere rate the total of the transfere rates of all of the drives added together. Creating a true hardware RAID will remove the burden from your CPU, but the boards to do this typically cost more than $300 a piece. There is a simple chance of restore data that was stored with this raid, depends on the block-size. Of course 2 GB drives are worthless, but marginally useful drives can be usefully employed this way. Windows will load its own AHCI drivers (in my case drives clicked constantly, though not faulty) – replace them with the AHCI drivers for your motherboard.

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