Do all drives have to be the same for RAID 10?

As an experienced SEO writer, I can provide a quick answer upfront that drives do not need to be the same for RAID 10 configurations. There are some considerations around performance and disk space utilization when mixing different drive types and capacities, but it is possible to combine heterogeneous drives in a RAID 10 array.

Quick Overview of RAID 10

RAID 10, also known as RAID 1+0, is a nested RAID configuration that combines both mirroring and striping for redundancy and performance. Here is a quick rundown of how it works:

  • RAID 10 requires a minimum of 4 drives
  • Data is mirrored across 2 drives (RAID 1)
  • The RAID 1 mirrored pairs are then striped together (RAID 0)
  • This provides fault tolerance from drive failures within a mirrored set
  • And performance benefits from striping across multiple drives

The key benefit of RAID 10 is increased performance paired with good drive fault tolerance. The downside is that it requires a minimum of 4 drives, and only stores the equivalent capacity of half the number of drives. So 4 x 1TB drives would only have 2TB total capacity.

Mixing Drive Types and Capacities

When constructing a RAID 10 array, the drives do not need to be identical in terms of type, speed, or capacity. However, there are some caveats to keep in mind:

  • For optimal performance, all drives should have the same rotational speed (RPMs) and interface type (SATA vs SSD).
  • Mixing drive capacities can lead to wasted space on larger drives.
  • The array capacity will be limited to the size of the smallest drive.
  • Mirroring a fast drive with a slow drive will lead to the faster one waiting on the slower drive.

Mixing SSDs and HDDs

One common scenario is creating a RAID 10 array with both solid state drives (SSDs) and traditional spinning hard disk drives (HDDs). Here are some things to consider:

  • Use SSDs for improved performance and HDDs for larger capacities
  • Put the most frequently accessed data like OS/apps on the SSD mirrors
  • Use the HDD mirrors for mass storage and backups
  • The SSDs will need to wait if paired with much slower HDDs

Mixing Drive Capacities

You can combine drives of different storage capacities in the same RAID 10 array. However, there will be wasted space on the larger drives equal to the size of the smallest drive. For example:

Drive 1: 1TB
Drive 2: 1TB
Drive 3: 2TB
Drive 4: 2TB

With the above drives, the total usable capacity would be 1TB, not 4TB. The extra 1TB space on the larger drives goes unused. So mixing capacities results in wasted space.

Performance and Disk Space Considerations

To optimize performance and disk utilization when combining different drive types and capacities, keep these guidelines in mind:

Match the Drive Speeds

For the best performance, match the rotational speed and interface types of the drives. Avoid mirroring a fast SSD with a slow HDD, as this will cause delays. Some combinations to consider:

  • All SSDs for an all flash array
  • All 10K or 15K RPM HDDs
  • Group 7200RPM HDDs and group SSDs into separate mirrors

Pair Drives of Equal Capacity

To minimize wasted disk space, mirror drives of the same size whenever possible. If you must mix capacities, try to calculate the optimal arrangement to maximize disk utilization across the array.

Zone Drives by Usage

If combining SSDs and HDDs, make sure to assign the faster storage where it will make the most impact. For example, mirror the SSDs for OS, apps, and frequently accessed data. Use the larger HDDs for mass storage and infrequent access.

Examples of Mixed RAID 10 Configurations

Here are a few examples of valid RAID 10 setups combining different drive types and capacities:


  • 2 x 250GB SSD
  • 2 x 2TB HDD

This setup provides faster SSD performance for critical data, while using HDDs for increased overall capacity. Total usable space is 250GB.

Mix of HDD Speeds

  • 2 x 10K RPM 300GB
  • 2 x 7200 RPM 2TB

Grouping the 10K RPM drives into a mirror maximizes performance for frequently accessed data stored on those drives. Total capacity is 300GB.

Different HDD Capacities

  • 2 x 500GB HDD
  • 2 x 1TB HDD

500GB of the 1TB drives will go unused, but this allows combining different capacity drives. Total capacity is 500GB.

Configuration Best Practices

To ensure proper configuration when building a mixed RAID 10 array, follow these best practices:

  • Use RAID controller hardware with dedicated cache memory
  • Enable write-back caching on the RAID controller
  • Use drives with similar rotational speed and interface
  • Mirror HDDs and SSDs into separate drive groups
  • Avoid spanning drive sets across multiple controllers

Proper RAID configuration is also crucial for achieving optimal performance. Consult your RAID controller documentation for specific configuration instructions.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Mixed Drive RAID 10

Combining different drive types and capacities provides advantages and disadvantages:

Potential Advantages

  • Combine fast SSDs with high capacity HDDs
  • Group fast HDDs (10K, 15K RPM) to improve IOPS
  • Maximize utilization of existing drives
  • More flexibility and potentially lower costs

Potential Disadvantages

  • Performance bottlenecks if speeds not matched
  • Wasted storage capacity
  • More complexity planning and managing array
  • Additional RAID configuration considerations


In summary, it is possible to create a RAID 10 array combining SSDs, HDDs, and drives of different speeds and capacities. Doing so provides more flexibility, as all drives do not need to be identical.

However, there are performance and wasted disk space trade-offs to consider. Match drive speeds whenever possible, plan drive capacities carefully, and utilize faster storage appropriately. With proper configuration, mixed drive RAID 10 can offer the best of both performance and storage capacity.