Converting a non-RAID disk to a RAID disk can provide improved performance and redundancy for your storage system. RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) allows multiple disks to be combined together into a logical unit. This provides benefits like increased read/write speeds, data protection through redundancy, and the ability to recover from drive failures. However, converting a standalone disk to RAID does require some preparation and steps to ensure the process goes smoothly.
Back Up Your Data
The first and most important step is to back up any data currently on the non-RAID disk you want to convert. Creating a RAID setup will wipe the existing disk, so you’ll want to safely preserve that data elsewhere before getting started. Back up any files, folders, or partitions to an external hard drive or cloud storage. This provides a fallback in case anything goes wrong during the RAID conversion process.
Choose Your RAID Level
There are several different RAID levels to choose from, each with their own mix of benefits. Consider which RAID level best matches your needs:
- RAID 0: Also known as disk striping. Data is split evenly across two or more disks. Fast read/write speeds but no redundancy.
- RAID 1: Disk mirroring. Data is duplicated on two disks, providing full redundancy but requiring at least two drives.
- RAID 5: Block-level striping with distributed parity. Provides redundancy while requiring at least three disks.
- RAID 6: Block-level striping with double distributed parity. High redundancy but slower write speeds.
- RAID 10: Mirroring + Striping. Combines the performance of RAID 0 with the redundancy of RAID 1.
The RAID level you choose will depend on your priorities – whether redundancy, speed, or storage capacity is most important in your use case. RAID 0 and RAID 10 are common for performance, while RAID 5 and 6 offer the best protection through redundancy.
Determine Your Hardware Setup
In order to create a RAID array, you’ll need the appropriate hardware:
- A RAID controller – This can be a RAID card installed in your motherboard, or RAID software built into your operating system or BIOS.
- 2+ matching disks – For most RAID levels you’ll need two or more matching drives of the same model and capacity.
- Available drive bays/ports – You’ll need open drive bays or ports on your motherboard to connect the disks.
Make sure your system has the necessary components to support the RAID setup you want. The non-RAID drive you are converting will become one of the matched disks in the array.
Back Up Your RAID Controller Settings
Before altering your existing controller/BIOS settings, you’ll want to back up the current configuration. This can usually be exported to a file. Backing up settings gives you a restore point in case any issues arise during setup.
Clear Existing Disk Configuration
With your data backed up and hardware verified, you’re ready to clear the existing disk configuration. This will wipe any previous partitions or data:
- Open Disk Management in Windows or Disk Utility on Mac
- Locate the non-RAID disk you want to convert
- Delete all existing volumes/partitions on the disk to remove any formatting
- Unallocate all space on the disk to make it fully blank
This clearing process creates a blank slate to convert the disk to a RAID-ready state.
Enable RAID Mode in BIOS
With your chosen disk blanked, you can configure your RAID controller to enable RAID functionality:
- Access your BIOS settings on bootup
- Navigate to the RAID settings section
- Change the SATA Operation or Controller Mode to RAID (may also be called Enhanced mode)
- Enable your chosen RAID level setting (RAID 0, 1, 5, etc)
- Save changes and reboot
This enables your disk controller to operate in RAID mode and exposes the RAID management tools needed for next steps.
Create Your RAID Array
Now you can use your RAID management software to create the array:
- Open your RAID management interface (Intel RST, LSI MegaRAID, etc)
- Start the wizard to create a new virtual disk
- Select your desired RAID level and the physical disks to include
- Specify additional options like stripe size
- Initialize the array to instantly create the virtual RAID disk
The process looks similar across different RAID software. With the blank disk added, you’ll now have a RAID array running for improved performance and redundancy.
Partition Your RAID Volume
Like an ordinary disk, your new RAID array will need to be partitioned before it can be utilized:
- Open Disk Management or Disk Utility
- Locate your new RAID volume (labeled as a virtual disk)
- Create a new partition on the disk
- Format the partition with a filesystem (NTFS, exFAT, etc)
Your RAID device is now ready to be used like any standard disk volume. Assign it a drive letter and begin transferring your data back onto it from backups.
Monitor and Maintain Your RAID
To keep your new RAID array running smoothly long-term:
- Keep an eye on disk health metrics using your RAID software
- Watch for warning signs like high drive temperatures or increased errors
- Schedule regular consistency checks to identify issues early
- Have spare matching disks ready for quick swap in case of failures
- Back up your RAID configuration settings periodically
Proper RAID monitoring and maintenance practices will maximize uptime and allow you to get the most from your array.
Converting a standalone disk into a RAID array provides performance and redundancy gains to boost your storage capabilities. Carefully back up your existing disk, choose your RAID level wisely, and follow key steps to blank, partition, and setup your new virtual array. Pair your new RAID with robust monitoring and maintenance routines to keep it running as long as possible.