What advantages does RAID 5 have over RAID 1?

RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) is a data storage technology that combines multiple disk drive components into a logical unit. Data is distributed across the drives in one of several ways called RAID levels, depending on the required level of redundancy and performance. RAID 1 and RAID 5 are two common RAID levels with differing advantages and disadvantages.

Overview of RAID 1 and RAID 5

RAID 1, also known as disk mirroring, provides redundancy by writing identical data to two separate drives simultaneously. If one drive fails, the data can still be accessed from the other mirrored drive. RAID 5 provides redundancy by striping data and parity information across all drives in the array. The parity allows for the reconstruction of data if one drive fails. However, if a second drive fails before the first failed drive has been replaced, all data will be lost.

Advantages of RAID 1

  • Simple implementation
  • Fast read performance – data can be read in parallel from both disks
  • 100% redundancy – if one disk fails, a mirror is still available

Disadvantages of RAID 1

  • Very high cost – the total storage capacity is cut in half due to mirroring
  • Slow write performance – every write operation must update both mirrored drives

Advantages of RAID 5

  • Good read performance – data is striped across multiple disks
  • Low cost compared to RAID 1 – capacity is only reduced by 1 disk worth
  • Single disk failure tolerance

Disadvantages of RAID 5

  • Slow write performance – parity must be calculated and written with each operation
  • Long rebuild times – if a disk fails, rebuilding the data and parity can take hours or days
  • Vulnerable to data loss during rebuild – if a second disk fails before rebuild completes, all data will be lost

Comparing RAID 1 and RAID 5

When choosing between RAID 1 and RAID 5, some key considerations include:

Storage efficiency

RAID 1 cuts storage capacity in half due to mirroring, while RAID 5 only requires the capacity of 1 disk for parity. For large storage requirements, RAID 5 provides much greater total capacity.

Read performance

RAID 1 provides excellent read performance since data can be accessed simultaneously from both mirrored disks. RAID 5 read performance is also good due to striping, though not quite as fast as RAID 1.

Write performance

RAID 5 has much slower write performance than RAID 1 since parity information needs to be calculated and written with each operation. RAID 1 write performance is slower than a single disk due to the need to update both mirrors.

Number of drive failures tolerated

RAID 1 can tolerate the failure of 1 drive completely with a mirror still fully operational. RAID 5 can only tolerate a single drive failure – if a second disk fails before the first failed disk has been replaced and rebuilt, all data will be lost.

Rebuild time

RAID 1 rebuild time is faster than RAID 5 since the data can simply be copied from the intact mirror. With RAID 5, full parity calculations and drive rebuilds can take hours or even days for large disk arrays.

Specification RAID 1 RAID 5
Storage Efficiency Low – 50% capacity utilization High – (N-1)/N capacity utilization
Read Performance Excellent Good
Write Performance Moderate Slow
Drive Failures Tolerated 1 1
Rebuild Time Fast Slow

When to use RAID 1 vs RAID 5

There are some general guidelines on when to choose RAID 1 or RAID 5 based on usage scenarios:

Use RAID 1 if:

  • Maximum read performance is critical
  • Small number of drives – the capacity inefficiency of RAID 1 is less impactful
  • Application requires high redundancy and availability
  • Faster rebuilds are needed after a disk failure

Use RAID 5 if:

  • Large storage capacity is required
  • Slower rebuilds are acceptable
  • Cost needs to be minimized
  • Application can tolerate slower write performance


In summary, RAID 5 has advantages in storage efficiency and cost over RAID 1. However, RAID 1 provides faster read/write performance and better redundancy with dual drive mirroring. RAID 5 allows for large disk arrays while tolerating a single drive failure, though at the cost of slower writes and long rebuild times.

The choice between the two RAID levels depends on the specific application requirements – RAID 1 for maximum performance and redundancy or RAID 5 when large capacities, slower writes, and single drive fault tolerance can be tolerated.

RAID technology provides powerful options for improving storage reliability through redundancy. Both RAID 1 and RAID 5 have their advantages and choosing the right RAID level is an important consideration when designing storage systems.