How To

How to install 2 SSDs as RAID in Windows

When I built my desktop PC last year, I installed the OS on a 120GB SSD and then created a RAID for 2 x 1TB mechanical drives as a secondary drive for photos, music, videos, etc.

All was well but my OS and program installations quickly used up that SSD. I made some temporary changes but they weren’t enough. The answer was to buy a bigger SSD or, possibly, extend the current one. And identical drive, also of 120GB capacity, was now just £55 so adding in another was a relatively cheap option. But how could it be done? There are two potential options under RAID – RAID 0 (striping) and JBOD. Sadly my motherboard doesn’t support JBOD so RAID 0 was my only remaining choice.

With striping, blocks of data are stored on alternate drives. This means when reading or writing both drives can be accessed simultaneously, increasing speed further. Speed wasn’t something I needed here but this was my only option to extend storage space (adding it as a separate drive would cause too many headaches – getting Windows to see it all as the C: drive was much, much easier).

My issue here was that I didn’t know if I’d have to wipe my existing drive and rebuild it from scratch if I wanted to convert it to RAID 0. I asked on the Toms Hardware forums. Nothing. I asked on the Intel forums (Intel make the RAID controller on my motherboard). Nothing. I asked on the MSI forums. Nothing.

In the end I connected the new drive just to see what options I was given. The Intel RAID utility saw the drive so I asked it to combine it with my existing SSD as RAID 0. I was expecting it to tell me what the drives would be wiped. It didn’t. It started a conversion process which took about half an hour. During this time my PC was in use and working normally. When completed, the conversion was done. No rebuilding, no data lost. It just happened.

There was one thing of note though – Windows was still showing the drive to by 120GB in size. A quick Google and I found my answer – Windows doesn’t recognise the extra space without some encouragement. Launch Computer Management -> Disk Management and you’ll see the drive is shown as 240GB in size but the second half is unallocated. Right click on the drive and ask it to expand the volume. That’s it – Windows will now list it as a 240GB drive.

Yes, with RAID 0 the lose of any one drive means the loss of all data. But how is this different to just having one drive? Also, as I only keep the OS and program installations on it, the loss of data is not a concern. Data that is required is on the D: drive and that’s a RAID 1, two drives backing each other up.

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