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connecting 2 SATA HDD's to an Abit IC7 motherboard, should I use Raid or not ???

Abit IC7-G
P4 2.66GHz (533 FSB)
1GB DDR 400 (4X 256MB)
Ge-Force FX 5900 Ultra (256MB)
SounBlaster Audigy 2
Windows XP SP2

I am currently building a new PC which I mainly use for playing games and can't decide which HDD configuration to go for. The two options I am considering are as follows;

opt 1: connecting 2 drives to SATA1 & SATA2 as IDE Channel 1 master & Slave drives. I am thinking of having an 80GB drive as the master for installing the O/S and programs etc & then having a 200GB as the slave for installing my games and storing all my media etc. That way if I need to reinstall my O/S I can just format the 80GB drive and leave all my media intact on the 200GB drive.

opt 2: connecting 2 identical 200GB drives to SATA3 & SATA4 as raid drives but this is where I get a bit lost as I have never used raid before. which type of raid should I use? will the two drives be seen as one large one? what do I do if I need to reinstall my O/S? what happens if a drive goes down, will I lose all the data on both?

So what should I do folks, connect them both as standard drives or as Raid? which is fastest and by how much? any input would be greatly appreciated !!!

Many thanks in advance...

1 Solution
I have that motherboard, it's a very nice component.  The option to use RAID depends on what your goals are and what you are willing to trade off in order to achieve it.  If you set up RAID 0 (striping), you will have two drives that are seen as one and will get the fastest performance.  However, if one drive goes down, all data is lost, because it is spread across both drives.  RAID 1 (mirror) ensures redundancy and makes a copy of data on both disks.  Other variants are RAID 0+1, RAID 5, etc, which you can see here: http://www.winnetmag.com/Article/ArticleID/218/218.html and here http://www.pcguide.com/ref/hdd/perf/raid/levels/index.htm

I prefer my OS in a separate partition, so that I can back up and restore whenever I need to because drivers and software can be incompatible ofttimes.  The choice of which RAID to use will depend on what you value and how much risk you find acceptable.
In RAID 0 Striping. The Drives are combined. So if you have 2 200GB drives it would show as one 400GB drive.
 RAID 1 Mirroring the drives are mirrored each other. So 2 200GB Drives would show as 1 200GB drive.
I myself have the IC7 MAX3 with 4 WD Raptor drives in a RAID 0. Very fast but very risky. Especially across 4 drives. I back up weekly to a file server because of same reason Callandor said. No redundancy.
You seem to be concered with saving your media so i'd suggest either use Mirroring (RAID 1) or not use RAID at all.

RAID 1 - Mirroring -
  pro: you get that redundency if one drive should fail.  
  con: you get half the storage as non raid

  pro: easier setup, more total storage (vs raid 1), logical seperation of drives.  
  con: no redundency of data, so if one drive fails, bye bye data.

note: RAID 5 is sweet (a combo of mirroring and striping using at least 3 disks, but you'll need a seperate RAID card to get that)

it all comes down to personal choice.  Use everyone's info, and decide whats best for you.  Only use RAID 0 if you want best performance with less regard to data loss

Good Luck!
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charterpointAuthor Commented:
If I use 2X 200GB drives to create a raid 0 400Gb drive can I still partition that 400Gb as you wold a normal drive ? also how much faster is raid 0 as I will mostly be using the machine for games ?
You can partition it but if you lose a drive, you lose all data on all partitions.
< how much faster is raid 0 > 
This depends on the controller, drive specs, etc. If your primary use is for games, RAID 0 would be the way to go. I would probably run smaller drives for your RAID Array and have another IDE drive for backing up. 400GB is a lot of data to be sticking on a RAID 0 Array.
I've had a similar dilemma so rather than choose, I've set up two raid arrays on my workstation, first is RAID 0, second RAID 1.

I have following to share:

1. RAID 0 (striping) is not expensive - you get to use all the space you spend money on. Buy reliable hard drives. Seagate has a good track record. My Raid 0 is 2 X 80GB Seagate. The resulting effect is similar to drinking from a glass with two or more straws instead of one or to pouring into the glass from two or more bottles at once. However, due to some technical limitations, performance doesn't trully double or triple but the increase is noticable. After three drives, the interface could saturate and adding further drives would not result in higher performance or could degrade it.

2. I use RAID 1 (mirroring) to keep my sensitive data (MyDocuments, Favorites, Email, Quickbooks data, and such). I bought IDE RAID controller for my RAID 1 and used older WD 20GB HDDs I had from my previous machines.

Use striped array for your OS and applications but not for data. This way, apps will load super fast, your swap file will be fast, and your data will be safe.

Something else to note is that striped array performance will not be as great if you are playing latest games such as Doom3 etc. Reason for this is significant amount of processing power requried to decompress the data read by the drives. So here bottleneck switches from HDD to CPU and RAM.

I hope this helps.
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