Only six sata ports - Four Hard Drives in RAID 10 or Two Hard Drives in RAID 0?
I had to back burner working on the 24 pin cable for now because I found out that the hard drives in my NAS died. I just have a small two drive Qnap NAS with the two drives in RAID 1 mirroring for back up purposes. I have it set up to back up all the computers in the house every night.
The drives were about five years old, and weren’t even NAS specific hard drives, just some plain Seagate drives, so I’m not surprised they died. I picked up a pair of Western Digital Red 4 TB drives to replace the drives in my NAS. Before I install them in the NAS though, I’m going to do some testing on the bench first because I need to decide how to utilize the six sata ports on the motherboard.
My original plan for this build was to put four 8 TB Western Digital Red drives in RAID 10 for mass storage (those were the largest drives available at the time). I also have the four bay SSD hot swap bay that needs four sata ports. Since the build plan was put together long before the motherboard was available I was assuming that it would come with at least eight sata ports.
Unfortunately the Rampage VI Extreme only has six sata ports like most of the newer motherboards. I wish it came with eight sata ports, instead of six sata ports plus the U.2 port. I’ll bet very few people that buy this motherboard actually use the U.2 port. I think in a few years, the U.2 port will go away, kind of like the Sata Express ports all the manufactures were putting on motherboards for a few years there.
Since my original plan requires eight sata ports, and I only have six sata ports available, I had to change my plan.
Plan #2 Use a RAID card
My second plan for awhile now was to use a RAID card. I picked up this Vantec 4 Channel PCIe RAID Host Card which I was going to use for the four hard drives in RAID 10.
This card has four internal ports, and the PCB is black which I like. I don’t need super-fast speed with this RAID set-up, so I figured that a cheap RAID card would be fine for what I’m trying to accomplish here, which is basically just adding more sata ports. I certainly don’t want, or need to buy a big dollar RAID card with an ugly green PCB. With this plan, I can plug the four hot swap bays into the sata ports on the motherboard.
Size comparison to a video card.
I’ve been waiting to buy the hard drives for this build until I’m closer to the end of the build, but since I had to buy two new drives for my NAS, I thought I’d try them out on with the RAID card first to see how it works before putting them into the NAS unit. So I pulled the motherboard tray back out and set the test bench up again. I put the RAID card in and hooked up the two new hard drives.
To make a long story short, I spent most of a weekend messing around with this set up. I got everything installed then the computer would not restart, or go into an endless loop of trying to start. It ended up completely screwing up my Windows install, and I had to reinstall Windows again! I finally got it all up and working, but reliability is very important to me.
After that experience, and reading a bunch of reviews on Amazon about this RAID card, I decided not to use it, because other people have had problems with it, sometimes a month or two down the road. I don’t want to risk that, it’s just not worth it to me.
I did find another RAID card that I considered trying, but it has an ugly green PCB, so I would have to mod it with some black Plasti Dip if I decided to use it.
Another thing I wasn’t crazy about was that I would have to have four sata cables draped across the top of the water block on one of the GPUs. Remember with a reverse build the video card blocks are all going to show.
This is with the RAID card moved in between where the two video cards will go and the Intel 900P drive in the last slot.
Now with the sata cables connected to the motherboard.
Plan #3 just use the six sata ports on the motherboard.
To do this I have to either use just two hard drives with the four other sata ports used for the SSD hot swap bays. Or I can use four hard drives and just use two of the four SSD hot swap bays. I thought it would look cool with four hard drives all fit nicely in the CaseLabs HDD cage. Plus I always wanted to put together a RAID 10 set up.
However, I really don’t need four hard drives because two drives in RAID 0 is the same amount of storage as four drives in RAID 10, I just lose the redundancy. I’ll be backing it up to my NAS anyway, so I’m not worried about redundancy.
Plus I really like the SSD hot swap bay, and I’ve done quite a bit of work modding it, so it is staying in the build no matter what! To start with I’ll just have one 2 TB Samsung 850 SSD installed, but I really wanted to have the extra three bays to expand into. I figured by the time I want to expand the storage it will most likely be SSD storage anyway rather than more hard drives.
I am no RAID expert, but I did find it interesting researching the subject of RAID cards, hardware RAID, software RAID, fake RAID, and setting up the RAID from the motherboard bios, or through Windows and “Disk Management”.
Setting up the RAID 0 with Windows Disk Management
If you want to use the bios to set up the RAID it turns all six ports from ACHI to RAID mode which concerned me since some of the ports will not be used in the RAID array, but apparently from what I’ve read, it works ok to mix other drives with the RAID drives in with the six sata ports.
I’m going to use Windows Disk Management to test out putting these two hard drives in RAID 0, with two extra SSDs just to verify I can run a RAID set up, and separate SSDs all with the six sata ports. Here’s the four drives on the test bench.
This ended up being super easy to set up. I hooked up the four drives, right click on the start button, then opened Disk Management, right clicked on each of the drives and clicked “Delete Volume”. Then right clicked on the first hard drive and clicked “Create new striped volume” this opens up a wizard that walks you through setting up the RAID array.
I was then able to see the two hard drives as one large drive in file explorer and the two SSD separately. I copied and moved some files around in all the drives and everything works great. I even turned the machine off, unplugged all the sata cables from the motherboard and reconnected them to different ports, and everything still works perfectly after a restart. No need to be careful that the cables get plugged back into the same ports if they are ever removed.
I know the newer 10 TB drives are much faster than these 4 TB drives, but I thought I’d run a quick CrystalDiskMark test. Here is just one drive.
Here’s the same CrystalDiskMark test with the two drives in RAID 0. As you can see some pretty good scaling. It will be interesting to compare this with the 10 TB drives.
Now that I’ve done all of this testing, I’ve decided to go with two Western Digital Red 10 TB hard drives in RAID 0 through the motherboard sata ports and windows. This will give me a giant 20 TB drive that will be like “unlimited storage” for me, as well as being nearly twice as fast as a single drive. Then I’ll have the other four sata ports to use for the hot swap bays.
I think this will work great, be more reliable, look cleaner, and show more of the second video card water block as long as I keep the Intel 900P installed between the video cards