RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) is a clever technology that can be used to increase hard drive performance, protect data, or depending on the number of disks in the “array”, both. For network storage its recommended that RAID is used to protect data, with the cheapest solution being RAID 1 type storage.

RAID 1 requires a minimum of two similar hard drives, preferably identical that are converted into a mirror, like it sounds all data on a drive has an exact copy on the other, any changes made are made to both disks simultaneously. If one drive fails, the other can keep the system running and files safe until the failed drive is replaced at which point the replacement drive is “re populated” and a mirror of the surviving drive can be made.

RAID can be achieved in two ways, software raid is low cost option that is managed by either the operating system or sometimes built into the motherboard. Secondly is hardware RAID where it is handled by a dedicated RAID card or built in to the motherboard, this is more expensive but has speed advantages if it's intended to be used on a workstation and adds an extra layer of integrity as the work is done at hardware level before even the operating system knows about it.

Setup Guide

To keep costs at a minimum and for more compatibility this guide will show how to create a software RAID 1 using Disk Management, available on all modern incarnations of Windows.

Open Disk Management by pressing Windows Key and R key, in the Run window type diskmgmt.msc .

Disk Management Console

Here Disk 0 is the system drive storing the operating system, Disk 1 contains important data that will be converted to RAID, and Disk 2 is a new blank hard disk.

Right click Disk 2 (where its says Disk 2 on the left hand side of the window) and click Initilize disk, the pop up window will ask you to choose again, click OK. The disk will then be online.

Right click Disk 2 again and click Convert to Dynamic disk, at the next pop up window check the box of Disk 1 and Disk 2, as they both need to be dymanic disks before mirroring.

Convert Disk

Read the following notifications and if happy proceed with converting. When converted they will be labelled as Dynamic.

Simple Volume

To begin mirroring, right click the partition (right hand side) of Disk 1 and click Add mirror. The popup will display suitable drives, choose Disk 2 and click Add mirror.

Add Mirror Dialog

Disk Management will now start syncing the drives, the time to complete syncing depends on the size and amount of data on the first drive and could take many hours.

Resynching Drives

During this time its best not to intensivly use this drive to speed up resyncing and the system needs to remain powered on, but it is fine to close the Disk Management window and log off the machine.

When done, the system will report as healthy and the drive has redundancy.

Healthy Mirror