Setting up a RAID 0 array with solid state drives (SSDs) can provide increased performance and storage capacity. RAID 0 stripes data across multiple drives, allowing for faster read and write speeds. However, it does not provide any redundancy. If one drive fails, all data will be lost. RAID 0 SSD arrays are best suited for non-critical data where performance is the priority.
What is RAID 0?
RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks. It is a method of combining multiple physical drives into a single logical unit. RAID 0 is also known as disk striping. It spreads data evenly across two or more drives in blocks. By distributing data across multiple disks, RAID 0 improves performance by allowing simultaneous disk access.
When data is written to a RAID 0 array, it is broken up into strips and written across the drives simultaneously. For example, drive 1 gets strips 1, 3, 5 and drive 2 gets strips 2, 4, 6. This allows for faster writes since the data is split up. On reads, the stripes are combined back together from each drive for faster access.
The main advantages of RAID 0 are:
- Increased read and write performance – data is split between drives for faster IO
- Combined capacity of all drives – 2 x 1TB drives = 2TB total space
The disadvantages are:
- No fault tolerance – if one drive fails, all data is inaccessible
- Decreased reliability – greater chance of array failure
Overall, RAID 0 provides faster speeds but no redundancy. It is ideal for non-critical storage that needs high performance like gaming PCs or video editing rigs. The lack of fault tolerance means it should not be used for important data.
Why Use SSDs in RAID 0?
Solid state drives provide much faster read/write speeds than traditional hard disk drives (HDDs). SSDs have no moving parts and use NAND flash memory to store data. This allows very fast random access times since data does not need to be mechanically seeked like on a HDD. Typical SSDs can have sequential read speeds over 500MB/s and writes around 300MB/s.
When configured in RAID 0, SSDs can offer incredible performance. Combining multiple SSDs doubles, triples or even quadruples the read and write speeds depending on the number of drives. This makes RAID 0 SSDs well suited for tasks like:
- Video editing – Faster rendering and encoding times
- 3D modeling and CAD work – Decreased time opening/saving large files
- Gaming – Faster level loads and reduced texture pop-in
- Database access – Improved query response times
The much faster speed of SSDs compared to HDDs provides a bigger performance gain when combined in RAID 0. The one downside is the higher cost per gigabyte of SSDs. But the speed benefits usually make RAID 0 SSDs worth it for performance-focused use cases.
RAID 0 SSD Requirements
There are a few requirements to set up a SSD RAID 0 array:
- Motherboard with RAID support – Most modern motherboards support RAID. Just ensure it specifically mentions RAID 0 support.
- 2 or more SSDs – A minimum of 2 identical SSDs are needed for RAID 0. Using different SSDs can cause performance issues.
- SSDs connected to RAID-capable SATA ports – Some motherboards have specific SATA ports for RAID.
- Power and data cables – Individual SATA power and data cables for each SSD.
Matching SSDs from the same brand and model are ideal to ensure maximum performance. The SSDs will also need to be the same capacity when configuring RAID 0 for full combined capacity.
BIOS RAID Configuration
The easiest way to set up RAID 0 SSDs is through the motherboard BIOS. Here are the general steps:
- Plug in the SSDs to the supported SATA ports.
- Boot into the BIOS, usually by pressing Delete or F2 on startup.
- Navigate to the RAID configuration menu, often under an “Advanced” tab.
- Select the SSDs and choose the RAID 0 option.
- Adjust any RAID settings like stripe size if shown.
- Save changes and reboot the system.
The steps can vary slightly depending on the specific motherboard BIOS. Refer to your motherboard manual for details on entering the RAID BIOS and selecting drives. Some key things to watch for:
- Make sure the SATA mode is set to RAID if the option exists.
- If prompted, select which drives to include in the RAID array.
- Choose RAID 0 as the desired RAID level.
- Confirm any changes before exiting the BIOS.
After rebooting, the BIOS should automatically build the RAID 0 array. The SSDs will show up as a single large volume in Windows Disk Management or disk utility tools. The array is now ready for use as a high performance SSD volume.
RAID Controller Card Configuration
Dedicated RAID controller cards can also be used to create a SSD RAID 0 array instead of the motherboard BIOS. These add-in cards connect via PCIe and handle the RAID configuration. They provide more customization options than BIOS RAID. Follow these general steps when using a RAID card:
- Install the RAID card in a PCIe slot and connect the SSDs.
- Boot into the RAID controller configuration utility.
- Select the connected SSDs and choose Create RAID 0 array.
- Adjust strip size, caching options and other settings.
- Save the RAID 0 array configuration.
- Reboot for the OS to detect the new array volume.
High end RAID cards like those from LSI and Areca allow tuning the RAID options for optimal performance. Useful features include:
- Setting stripe size – Lower is better for random IO, higher for large sequential IO
- Enabling write-back caching – Faster writes but risk of data loss on failure
- Configuring hot spares – An unused SSD that can rebuild the array if a drive fails
The RAID card will handle the configuration and OS detection. After a reboot, the RAID 0 SSD array can be used like any other storage volume.
Software RAID Configuration
Configuring RAID through Windows, Linux or other OSes is also an option. This uses software RAID without special hardware. The steps include:
- Connect the SSDs to SATA ports on the motherboard.
- Boot into the operating system.
- Open the software RAID management utility (Disk Management on Windows).
- Select the SSDs and create a new stripped (RAID 0) volume.
- Adjust any options like stripe size and perform initialization.
Software RAID is the most flexible option but comes with a performance penalty. The CPU has to handle the RAID duties rather than dedicated hardware. This can sap anywhere from 5-15% of CPU resources. Software RAID 0 SSD arrays work well for general desktop usage though. And configuration is easy through the built-in OS tools.
Verifying RAID 0 Function
To confirm everything is working correctly, here are some things that can be checked after creating the RAID 0 SSD array:
- Array shows in BIOS/RAID tool and Disk Management
- Matched capacity of combined disks is shown
- Drive letters are assigned to the array volume
- Disk benchmark speed matches expectations
- Writes and reads to files match SSD specs
Running a disk speed benchmark like CrystalDiskMark is a good idea.Sequential and 4K random read/write speeds should show massive improvements over a single SSD. For example, two 500MB/s SSDs in RAID 0 should produce about 1GB/s sequential reads and writes.
If the benchmark speeds are not doubling, make sure the SSDs are connected to RAID-capable SATA ports. Reconfiguring the array with a smaller stripe size could help as well. Expect faster boots, app loads and game levels when everything is setup properly.
RAID 0 SSD Failure and Recovery
The lack of fault tolerance means RAID 0 arrays will fail with the loss of even a single drive. There is no redundancy. This makes drive failure recovery impossible for RAID 0 – all data will be lost if any SSD fails or becomes corrupted.
To protect against failure, follow best practices like:
- Use enterprise grade SSDs designed for 24/7 operation
- Monitor SSD SMART attributes to catch issues early
- Keep backups or mirrored copies of critical data
- Set up monitoring and alerts on the RAID volume
Having hot spare drives and immediately rebuilding the array if a disk fails can minimize downtime. But restoring data will require backups or starting from scratch. Regular backups are mandatory when using any RAID 0 arrays.
RAID 0 arrays also risk data corruption if drives are disconnected during operation. Always make sure to stop IO to the array first before removing any SSDs when attempting recovery. Sudden drive removals outside of maintenance windows can cause irreparable data loss.
Setting up a RAID 0 array with SSDs offers big performance benefits thanks to split data across drives. But the lack of fault tolerance means no protection against hardware failure. Use RAID 0 SSDs for non-critical data where speed matters most. And be sure to have good backups!