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  • What is Software RAID

Many RAID (redundant array of inexpensive disks or redundant array of independent disks) setups are implemented at the hardware level. Since it involves multiple hardware components, it's traditionally viewed as a hardware-based solution of data protection and redundancy.

However, software RAID - also known as virtual RAID - is growing in popularity. Since modern operating systems are equipped with a lot more processing power than in decades past, it's now possible to simulate a hardware RAID setup via software.

But is RAID right for you? How does RAID benefit you and, perhaps most importantly, how can you setup RAID on the system you already have?

Primary Uses of Software RAID in Modern Computing
In modern computing, RAID - either hardware- or software-based - is often reserved for large-scale operations that require the maximum amount of data protection, security, and redundancy. This typically includes server farms, data centers, large enterprises that maintain their own multi-user servers, and SMBs (small and medium-sized businesses) for data backup purposes. However, RAID is sometimes used for personal computing, too.

Software RAID Pros & Cons
There are many advantages to using software RAID over a hardware implementation, including:

  • Cost: By eliminating the need for a hardware RAID controller, software-based RAID is significantly more cost-effective than hardware RAID.
  • Reconfiguration: Software-based RAID is much easier to reconfigure than hardware RAID.
  • Reusing RAID drivers: Users only need one functional RAID driver to implement software RAID across multiple client workstations or devices that use the same operating system.

Implementing Software RAID on a Windows Computer
Software RAID is easy to implement on Windows 11, Windows 10, and even Windows 8. Thanks to Microsoft's Storage Spaces, the process of combining multiple hard drives into a disk array is rather straightforward.

To do so, navigate to Windows Storage Spaces, which is located in the Control Panel, and select "Create a new pool and storage space." Next, select the drives you with to include and click "Create pool." From here, you'll be able to name your software RAID array, choose the resiliency level, and set the maximum disk size. Once you're happy with your choices, click "Create storage space" to create your new software RAID array.

When using Windows Storage Spaces, the available resiliency options include:

  • Simple (RAID 0)
  • Two-way mirror (RAID 1)
  • Three-way mirror (another instance of RAID 1)
  • Parity (RAID 5, only works on Windows Server)

It's important to note that all of the data on the selected drives will be deleted when the RAID array is created, so make sure to backup any important information before performing the operation.

Implementing Software RAID on a Mac Computer
Mac users can setup software RAID via the Disk Utility program. Once the app is open, choose RAID Assistant from the dropdown File menu. From here, you can select a type from the following options:

  • Striped (RAID 0)
  • Mirrored (RAID 1)
  • Concatenated (JBOD)

From here, select the appropriate checkboxes to indicate which drives to include, enter a name for your software RAID array, and choose the volume format. Next, choose a disk chunk size and click "Create." Finally, click "Done" to finalize your software-based RAID array.

You may read more about Apple software RAIDs in the article on the Apple support center: Create a disk set using Disk Utility on Mac.

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I`m an IT professional who has worked from home for over a decade. Early on in my career, I configured an HP ProLiant Server (Raid 1+0) as a workstation that I would remote into from my laptop. As technology evolved, I began to use it only for email and as a config file repository.

A short while ago, one of the drives degraded, but the HP ProLiant Server (Raid 1+0) still functioned fine on the remaining drive. I was complacent and didn`t replace the ...