Repair or Replace TR4M Raid Tower, or Redesign all?

Posted on 2012-08-19
Last Modified: 2012-08-20
I need a raid 1 array on two 1T HD's for ripped music files. Running Windows 7 pro on HP m8200n, which has 3 HD bays total. My Sansdigital TR4M Raid Tower (w 4 samsung 1 T's- 2 mirrored, 2 JBODs)) worked fine for two years. Now the Tower power supply is dead. ESATA tower hd's were desktop variety, not enterprise. A check w chkdsk (report only, no repairs!) says 1 of mirrored drives is w/o error. while other has minor file errors. The good mirrored drive gives me a  back up of my files, So I can repair/replace the SanDigital Tower or start fresh, with new equipment or a whole new HD layout.

The raid controller I now have came bundled w the tower. It is an ESATA Silicon Image 3132 port multiplier w 2 ports. These pages suggest that these controllers are slow and unreliable. Should I replace it?
I wish I had room for more storage on this PC. As it is, if I give two bays to an internal windows 7 mirrored array, I will have only 1 HD for everything else. For me, it is not just a question of capacity, but of efficiency, as I like to use separate physical drives for music editing, etc. That's why the external tower was so useful..

Please give advice on options out there, including better quality HD's, Controller Cards, Towers, etc. I do not mind paying more for a better, more reliable system, but hard times set some limits.
Thanks for any help with this.
Question by:oliviajones
    LVL 46

    Expert Comment

    The native Win7 software RAID is profoundly faster, more reliable, and has higher data integrity than the low-end controller you bought.

    If you want higher reliability, go with enterprise class disks, not cheap desktop drives.  Enterprise drives are designed for 24x7x365 and have 10X better error correction.  Desktop drives are designed for a whole 2400 hours per year.

    So there you have it. As for a case, go for thick, heavy metal that prevents disks from vibrating.   The ugly heavy bulky ones keep your data safer and generates fewer retries and ECC errors than sleek-looking plastic.

    Author Comment

    If I use a tower with enterprise JBOD drives, can I use those drives for my windows 7 software raid array? I will still need to add some kind of a card for an ESATA port or  USB 3 Port because my PC lacks these. The TR4M has an aluminum frame with a light metal sheathing. Is there another, heavier tower I should look at?  I am disappointed at reports on the reliability of the TR4M's power system and its fan system, but it is very hard for me to know what other brands might be better.

    Other option would be to find a way to squeeze 4 HD's in my m8200n. (I do have an unused bay for a second dvd drive). If I do an internal SATA raid config, I will need a card to add one more SATA internal port, as only 3 ports are available for HD's.  Is there a PCI card that could give me faster SATA IO?  

    I know so little about what hardware is out there now, and really appreciate your advice.
    LVL 46

    Accepted Solution

    Absolutely. Not only that but the Win7 software RAID stack actually works with desktop drives.  certainly enterprise drives are appropriate for the reasons I mentioned, so they are well worth the added expense.

    I'm not up on that enclosure, but if you want something beefy and reliable and inexpensive, go to a used computer company and pick up a good 1U x 4 bay rackmount SATA enclosure.  Many have dual power supplies that run in parallel.

    It may be ugly, but let's face it, this is what the big boys use. If you want big boy data retention and reliability, you need to get the right tools for the job.
    LVL 69

    Assisted Solution

    If you want a case with room to expand, one of these server cases should do:

    I have the Norco and it is great for adding drives.  If you need a hardware RAID card, you should choose the better ones with battery backup to avoid loss when power goes out (or get a UPS for the whole system).  I would recommend Areca, 3Ware, LSI, or Adaptec.

    Author Comment

    Just bought enterprise disks and a new power supply for the TR4M. Sans Digital says that's the problem, and they'll take the part back if it does not work.

    Also found that I had on hand a simple SATA/ESATA Slot Plate, so I can connect tower w/o RAID control card. Sans Digital says this will show as simple HD's that I can set up with Windows 7 mirrored Raid.

    Decided to start slow because of expense. I'll be back at you if things go south. Thanks so much for all your good advice.
    LVL 46

    Expert Comment

    They say the power supply IS the problem, but if it ISN'T the problem, they'll refund your money for buying something they told you to by because what they told you was wrong.


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