IDE RAID – Is There A Benefit?

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Summary

Well this started out to answer those who asked ‘what about RAID 0 and ATA/100’, but to do that I needed to take a long hard look at RAID. From what I see, the difference between ATA/66 and ATA/100 under RAID 0 is at best the same as the difference between ATA/33 and ATA/100 on a non-RAID system. It is so slight you’ll never notice the difference, except if looking at actual benchmarks.

But what I did find out and now have a better understanding of after looking at the data is what RAID 0 offers. To the average user whose system usage is profiled by Winstone, it offers nothing, really. To be honest, it’s what I expected. What I was surprised to see is the significant gain in actual data transfer rate, which actually approaches double (!) of what a single non-RAID drive can achieve. I can think of a number of applications that would benefit from the high sustained data transfer you can get from a hard disk setup under RAID 0…video editing being one, along with a number of other multimedia applications. So don’t rule out RAID 0…

This is an interesting pair of charts. Visually they both show a good spread between using RAID 0 or a single drive. But then look at the actual numbers on the left side. Disk transfer rate shows a significant gain (close to double), but the Winstone scores are at best a point different, or about 4%. As usual, I don’t feel 4% is enough to even notice. But remember, the overall performance of a system is a sum of it’s parts, so if you are looking for every bit of performance then using a number of components that give you a few percent gain each will add up, and your overall gain may be noticeable. You also need to look at your actual system usage and see what components suit your needs best.

So, if you are thinking about using IDE RAID 0 for better system performance, my recommendation is take a good hard look at your system usage. If you play games, perform normal home or office use, or cruise the Internet, RAID 0 will most likely offer you nothing (other than more setup and maintenance issues). But if you know you have an application that constantly steams large of amounts of data to or from your hard disk, then RAID 0 may be worth looking at.


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