Does RAID 1 need even number of drives?

RAID 1, also known as disk mirroring, is a common RAID configuration used to provide data redundancy. RAID 1 involves copying data to multiple drives to protect against drive failure. If one drive fails, the data remains intact on the other mirrored drive(s). This leads to the question: does RAID 1 require an even number of drives?

The Short Answer

No, RAID 1 does not require an even number of drives. While many RAID 1 implementations utilize an even number of mirrored drives (two, four, etc.), it is also possible to implement RAID 1 with an odd number of drives (three, five, etc.). The key requirement is that data is duplicated to multiple drives. As long as there are at least two drives, RAID 1 can be implemented.

How RAID 1 Works

To understand why RAID 1 does not require an even number of drives, it helps to look at how RAID 1 works:

  • Data is written identically to two or more drives simultaneously.
  • The drives operate in parallel to enhance read performance.
  • If one drive fails, the data remains accessible from the other mirrored drive(s).

With a typical two-drive RAID 1 configuration, one drive is an exact copy of the other. But RAID 1 can also be implemented with three, five, or more odd number of drives. In these cases, the data is simply mirrored to all the drives. For example, in a three-drive RAID 1:

  • Drive 1 contains the original data.
  • Drives 2 and 3 contain identical copies of the data on Drive 1.

So while many RAID 1 setups use an even number of drives, there is no requirement for this. The key criteria are that data is duplicated to multiple disks.

Advantages of Using Odd Number of Drives

Using an odd number of drives for RAID 1 can provide additional redundancy compared to a two-drive mirror. For example:

  • In a two-drive RAID 1, if one drive fails, there is only one other drive containing the data.
  • In a three-drive RAID 1, if one drive fails, there are still two drives with the intact data.

Adding more mirrored drives can also enhance read performance. With multiple mirrors, reads can be distributed across more drives.

Disadvantages of Odd Number Drives

There are also some potential disadvantages to using an odd number of drives for RAID 1:

  • Higher cost – Additional drives increase the overall storage cost.
  • Increased complexity – More drives can add complexity to management and recovery.
  • Potential performance impact – Writing to an odd number of drives may incur minor performance overhead.

These downsides are usually minor compared to the benefits of the added redundancy. But in some cases, keeping the RAID 1 to two drives may be preferable.

Common Odd Drive RAID 1 Configurations

Here are some common odd drive RAID 1 configurations:

  • 3-drive RAID 1 – Provides an extra drive of redundancy compared to 2-drive RAID 1.
  • 5-drive RAID 1 – Allows for up to 3 drive failures while maintaining data integrity.
  • 7-drive RAID 1 – Primarily used for enhanced read performance from multiple mirrors.

Higher drive counts are less common as the benefits diminish beyond a certain point. Most implementations rarely go above 7 mirrored drives.

Should You Use an Odd or Even Number of Drives?

Choosing an odd or even drive count comes down to your specific needs:

  • If redundancy is critical, an odd number of drives can provide extra protection.
  • For lower cost, a two-drive mirror may be sufficient in many cases.
  • If application performance is paramount, more mirrored drives can help.

Factors like your performance requirements, uptime needs, and budget will help determine the ideal drive count. Using RAID configuration software can simplify setup and maintenance for both even and odd drive counts.


In summary, RAID 1 does not require an even number of mirrored drives. While two-drive mirrors are common, implementations with 3, 5, 7 or more odd drives are also valid RAID 1 configurations. The key is that data is duplicated identically across multiple disks. Odd drive RAID 1 setups can provide additional redundancy and read performance compared to two-drive mirrors. But even drive RAID 1 is also appropriate depending on redundancy needs and cost considerations. With the right RAID controller and management software, both even and odd drive counts can deliver effective RAID 1 storage.

Drive Count Advantages Disadvantages
2 Drives Lower cost, simpler setup Less redundancy
3+ Odd Drives Increased redundancy, better read performance Higher cost, more complexity

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use just one drive for RAID 1?

No, RAID 1 requires a minimum of two drives to duplicate data. With just one drive, there is no redundancy as there is no mirror copy of the data.

What happens if I lose multiple drives in odd RAID 1?

With odd drive RAID 1, you can lose up to one less than the total number of drives and still retain data integrity. For example, in a 5 drive setup, you could lose up to 3 drives and still recover data from the remaining 2 mirrors. However, it’s important to replace failed drives promptly to restore full redundancy.

Is performance better with more mirrored drives?

In general, yes – having more mirrors can enhance read performance by distributing I/O activity across more drives. However, write performance may be marginally slower with higher odd drive counts when duplicating writes to more disks.

Should I use hardware or software RAID 1?

Both implementation options are valid. Hardware RAID 1 uses a dedicated controller card. Software RAID relies on the operating system and drivers. Hardware RAID 1 generally performs better but software RAID 1 offers more flexibility.

Can you have different sized drives in RAID 1?

Technically yes, as the RAID 1 capacity will be limited to the smallest drive size. However, it is best practice to use identical drives to optimize performance, capacity usage, and simplified management.

Key Takeaways

  • RAID 1 does not require an even number of mirrored drives. Odd drive counts like 3, 5, etc. are valid.
  • Added odd drives can improve redundancy and enhance read performance.
  • Two drive RAID 1 mirrors are common for simpler setup and lower cost.
  • Consider performance needs, uptime requirements and budget when choosing odd or even drives.
  • Proper RAID controller and management software simplifies configuration and use.