When building a gaming PC, choosing the right RAID configuration for your storage drives is an important decision that can impact performance and redundancy. RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) allows multiple physical drives to be combined together into logical units to improve capacity, speed, or reliability. There are several different RAID levels to choose from, each with their own pros and cons. So which one is best for a high performance gaming rig?
Key Factors for Gaming RAID
Here are some of the key factors to consider when choosing a RAID level for gaming:
- Read speed – Fast sequential reads to load games quickly
- Write speed – Fast random writes for game file access
- Capacity – Enough storage space for games and other media
- Redundancy – Protection against drive failure
- Cost – Adding more drives increases expense
For gaming, read speed is one of the most important attributes. Higher sequential read performance reduces game loading times. Write speed is also important for accessing game files and saving data. High capacity is also essential to store large game files that can be over 100GB per game. Some redundancy is desired in case a drive fails, but it’s not absolutely critical. And of course, cost goes up as more drives are added, so affordability is a consideration.
RAID 0 – Stripe
RAID 0 stripes data evenly across two or more drives with no parity or redundancy. This results in high speeds, as reads and writes can be done in parallel, but there is no protection against drive failure.
Advantages of RAID 0
- Excellent read/write performance – great for gaming
- Low cost as it uses the minimum number of disks
Disadvantages of RAID 0
- No fault tolerance – total failure if one drive dies
- Low storage capacity compared to other RAID levels
RAID 1 – Mirror
RAID 1 duplicates (mirrors) data across two or more drives. It provides redundancy through drive mirroring, but usable capacity is limited to a single drive.
Advantages of RAID 1
- Excellent read performance – reads can be parallelized across mirrors
- Great redundancy – system survives if one drive fails
Disadvantages of RAID 1
- High cost as it requires at least two drives
- Slow write performance – all mirrors must be updated
- 50% storage efficiency – capacity is only size of one drive
RAID 5 – Distributed Parity
RAID 5 stripes data and parity information across 3 or more drives. It provides fault tolerance with minimal capacity loss compared to mirroring. RAID 5 requires at least three disks.
Advantages of RAID 5
- Good read performance
- Low cost per GB of storage
- Protection against one disk failure
Disadvantages of RAID 5
- Slow write performance due to parity calculation
- Vulnerable during rebuild after drive failure
- Minimum 3 drive requirement
RAID 10 – Stripe of Mirrors
RAID 10 is a nested RAID that combines mirroring and striping for performance and redundancy. It provides the speed of RAID 0 and the fault tolerance of RAID 1. Minimum of 4 drives are required.
Advantages of RAID 10
- Very high read/write performance – ideal for gaming
- Full redundancy from mirroring
Disadvantages of RAID 10
- Very high cost for large capacity
- Minimum 4 drive requirement
- 50% storage efficiency
Comparison of RAID Levels
Here is a summary comparing the different RAID levels in terms of performance, redundancy, and storage efficiency:
|RAID Level||Read Speed||Write Speed||Redundancy||Storage Efficiency|
|5||Good||Poor||Good||67% – 94%|
Recommendation for Gaming RAID
Based on the performance, redundancy, and cost considerations, the recommended RAID levels for a high speed gaming PC are:
- RAID 0 – Recommended for the best read/write speed on a budget. Lacks redundancy but works well with regular backups.
- RAID 10 – Recommended for maximum performance and full redundancy. Ideal for high end gaming rigs despite the cost.
For most gamers, RAID 0 provides the best combination of affordability, capacity, and speed. Two fast SATA SSDs in RAID 0 can deliver incredible loading times at a reasonable cost. RAID 10 is preferred for ultimate performance and protection, but the steep cost makes it prohibitive for many.
A sample RAID 0 array could consist of:
- 2x 500GB SATA SSDs for 1TB total in ultra fast striped array
A high performance RAID 10 array could look like:
- 4x 1TB NVMe PCIe SSDs for 2TB total storage and incredible read/write speeds
There are some additional considerations when selecting drives and setting up RAID:
- Use identical drives in terms of model, capacity, and speed
- Configure RAID in BIOS if using SATA, or in OS/software if using NVMe
- Ensure motherboard chipset and boot support selected RAID mode
- Back up data regularly in case of drive failure
RAID 0 and RAID 10 are the best options for a high performance gaming PC. RAID 0 provides excellent speeds at a reasonable cost but no redundancy. RAID 10 offers maximum speed and redundancy but at a premium price. For most gamers, a two drive RAID 0 array offers the ideal balance of affordability and fast loading times. But serious enthusiasts may want to invest in RAID 10 for ultimate speed and protection. Just be sure to use identical high speed drives and configure RAID properly in BIOS or software.