The Best RAID Levels for Home Users

RAID – or redundant array of independent disks – is a way to link multiple drives together for improved performance, capacity, redundancy, or combination.

In the past, RAID required expensive hardware purchases, and was difficult to configure. However, most modern desktop systems and laptops are now capable of supporting RAID, making it accessible to anyone running Windows or macOS. This can be done through software RAID, built into your OS, or as hardware RAID, with the controller built into your drive.

For home users, there are a number of considerations when choosing a RAID level. What are your performance needs? Some applications can put strain on your system storage, so make sure you choose a RAID level that can handle your workload. Do you need a large amount of storage space? Different RAID levels result in different amounts of net usable storage space, so bear in mind how much you’ll need in the long run. How important is the data on your RAID? RAID can provide varying levels of parity, allowing easy data recovery in the event of one or more failed drives. If the contents of your RAID are valuable, pick a RAID level that provides a sufficient level of redundancy. For beginners at home, RAID 0, RAID 1 and RAID 10 are three easy-to-use configurations.

RAID 0 is perhaps RAID in its purest form. Also known as striping, RAID 0 turns two or more hard drives into a single drive, providing increased capacity and performance. RAID 0 is the sum of its parts; if you use three 2TB hard drives, you end up with a single 6TB storage unit with three times the number of read/write heads. However, because data is striped across all the disks in the array, if one drive fails, your data is lost. The more hard drives that make up a RAID 0 array, the higher the chances of failure. RAID 1, or mirroring, provides increased read speeds along with data redundancy. With RAID 1, data is mirrored across all drives in the array, so there will always be a copy of the data as long as one drive is operational. Because multiple heads are working in tandem, read speeds are faster. However, because data has to be written to each drive in the array, write speeds are slower.

RAID 0 and 1 can be combined to form RAID 10, or RAID 1+0. RAID 10 requires at least four hard drives, and data is striped and then mirrored to the paired drive, providing enhanced speeds and data redundancy; capacity is limited in RAID 10 due to the mirrored element.

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