Highpoint Rocket RAID

Discussion in 'General Hardware' started by coathanger007, Nov 16, 2003.

  1. coathanger007

    coathanger007 Tomorrow Tweaking Today

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    I've decided to upgrade from software RAID to Highpoint ROcket RAID. Never done this before. Notice Highpoint has software that allows RAID creation in Windows. Does this mean I can have OSes on striped volumes while setting up in Windows OS? I have triple booting system. Any tips/suggestions?
     
  2. coathanger007

    coathanger007 Tomorrow Tweaking Today

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    Fine - self help to the rescue. Quite tricky to set up - literally bled all over the back of my hard drive pushing in all the cables. Now that's what I call effort. Hope this story will help some of you guys move over to RAID and learn not to make the same mistakes I made. I used the Skymaster Ultra ATA 133 RAID with striping.

    First changed all jumpers on HDDs and Atapi Drives and switched cables around. I had a separate cable for each drive - all Masters. This is he optimal setup. MAKE SURE COLOUR CODED RAID CABLES PLUGGED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION. Make sure RAID BIOS detects installed drives properly. If it doesn't probably haven't pushed in cables hard enough or jumpers incorrect. This caused me one big headache - stressful situation. Enter RAID BIOS setup and follow self explanatory instructions.

    I have Dual Booting (XP Pro and ME) system atm but will add Linux soon. Use Fdisk to partition (on ME bootdisk). NOTE FDISK ONLY DETECTED 15GB INSTEAD OF 120GB (2x60GB HDD) - IGNORE THIS. Partitioned 5GB for ME and 10GB for XP (can always resize with Partition Magic later). Format both then install Win ME as per se. Make sure install on C:\Windows (else you'll have problems with XP automatically recognising Dual booting configuration). Once installed install RAID drivers under Add New Hardware in Control Panel. Now that full 120GB recognized, use Partition Magic to partition the rest of the unallocated space including NTFS partitions (for XP). Manually copy RAID drivers from CD to floppy - for XP installation (next).

    Reboot off XP CD (change BIOS to do this) and install XP. Press F6 to install RAID drivers and insert the floppy drivers created above. Once XP installed go to Disk Management. DO NOT CONVERT BASIC TO DYNAMIC DISK !!! If you did you'll have to start from scratch as you can't revert back to Basic without formatting everything (trust me - I learnt this the hard way). Problem is that with a single striped volume the System partition can't be converted. With mirrorring you can at least back up to one disk while reverting the other to Basic - still a lot of hassle.

    Why do I stress this point? Dynamic disks aren't recognised by Partition Magic and Ghost will only restore to Basic disks hence the importance of staying well away from dynamic disks. Dynamic disks are only useful for setting up software RAID but is useless if you have hardware RAID. In Disk Management you can play around with partitions etc. LEAVE PARTITIONS YOU WANT WINDOWS ME TO ACEESS AS FAT32!!! It takes a bit of planning to know the size and File system of your partitions. So THINK before jumping head first into set up else you'll end up starting from the beginning like me on my first attempt :D

    Unfortunately I don't know an effective way of backing up striped volumes with 2 disks. You need 4 disks to have mirroring and striping simultaneously - not for me (my case doesn't support this and too costly). May have to get external Drive for Backup. No point having Ghost image on same striped volume because if any drive fails all is lost. :(

    Partition Magic 8 comes with Bootmagic for multiple OS installations (e.g. Linux). If you want a challenge try what my IT Pro Uncle did - he striped 6 HDDs together with multibooting system (I think) :) With 2GB of RAM and a case with 8 fans and all top of the range compnents, his system is invincible :)

    Well worth switching to RAID - can feel speed difference - may post benchmark results later though you can easily google these yourselves.
    :)
     
  3. coathanger007

    coathanger007 Tomorrow Tweaking Today

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    I don't believe it. Just as my Dual booting system was perfected the worst thing that could possibly happen happened ! One of the HDDs in my striped array had motor mechanism problems ! I'm not kidding. I got numerous errors and Windows XP was corrupted to the extent of unusability. It's as if my PC has been cursed. And this all occurred as I was considering backup options! I'm stressed, overworked and at breaking point.

    I've just gone to the store to get a replacement. Because a striped array only functions with both HDDs, I couldn't remove the faulty HDD for exchange with a replacement until I imaged both striped HDDs first. So, if you're still following, I had to buy 2 Hard disks in advance (one replacement HDD and another for backing up). Ghost supposedly supports striping on basic volumes. Yet it refused to image on all my attempts. So what I'm going to do is connect the backup drive as a slave then use the Western Digital software to manually copy striped volume to the backup. Hope this works. Problem is that my case doesn't support more than 2 drives - so my backup drive is hanging out precariously :( HEAD ACHES...
     
  4. Erbmaster

    Erbmaster Moderator Folding Team

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    Awwwwww m8, feel for ya. :(

    I had umpteen setup problems the first time I tried to create a striped array.

    Later ,when I came to insert my other two disks (to facilitate RAID10) the drive on the primary master channel failed (damn IBM) and I was stuck back at square one, with no way of booting without a format. Grrrrr!!

    I couldn't agree with you more re: the importance of checking cable connections are good.
    Due to (in my experience at least!) the space constraints with RAID 0, 1 or even 10 mean cables are often straining to make good contact with the drives.

    I had major troubles with my RAID initially due to interference/crosstalk from the power cables touching my IDE cables - Poor sheilding , I know - but until i'd established this, I just thought my RAID was up the spout. If you are still in need of decent cables mate, I can heartily recommend these beauties....
    IOSS RD3-XP Gladiator Cables
    My data transfer speeds are noticibly faster too since using RD3's. Expensive cables but really worth it!. Plus they improve airflow around your drives, and that's never a bad thing with RAID :)
    My fragile RAID array has had no problems since!. *touches wood*

    Hope ya get ya kit sorted soon. I know the trials of finding a good backup solution to huge amounts of RAID data. (120GTB RAID here m8 :D )
    Never enough cables/bays. I've recently been enquiring about USB2 and firewire drives, they're coming down in price (at least they are in the UK) might be a viable option.

    IMHO The best thing you could dop to save your sanity though is to ditch yer case and purchase a bigger one. They ain't expensive nowadays, and at least then you'd probably find your problems halved with the mirror running too.

    Good Luck m8, and hang in there...chin-up ol' bean etc, etc....:p
     
  5. Zedric

    Zedric NTFS Guru Folding Team

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    Interference by touching power cables? I don't think so, power cables have steady current, so they won't interfere in the same way a fluctuating current cable does, like a data cable. Also, for the same reason, rounded cables are normally more prone to cause interference problems than a flat cable since all the wires are close together instead of spread out. But they do improve airflow somewhat. :)

    Giga-Terra-Byte? Wow, that's big! :p
     
  6. Erbmaster

    Erbmaster Moderator Folding Team

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    I was using some p1ss-poor round asaka cables....booooo!
    Soon sorted once changed.

    If the power cables don't interfere with the IDE cables then you had better start educating the cable designers then m8.
    According to IOSS (followed the link? you'll find a metal, mesh around the cables....??) ergo they do!.
    Eksitdata (a Swedish company i might add :p) sold the cables to me, and they come with small insulating stickers to help reduce interference between the two. Why bother eh? Go figure!.:p

    Oh yeah, and why would you want copper at the sleeve ends to insulate if they do such a good job all by themselves ?:p

    *throws sarcasm prod stick down and hides*

    lol my typo :eek: Yeah, shoulda read 120GB
     
  7. coathanger007

    coathanger007 Tomorrow Tweaking Today

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    Thanks or the advice Erbmaster. I confess I have little idea of distinguishing between a good cable and a bad one though your link certainly looks top of the range. I'm currently not mirroring so the dangling HDD is only temporary (once I've backed up I'll disconnect it and shelve it). Changing the case is a very good idea, but at this point in time, I just want to get what I have to work and not pay the store a third visit or spend more time then necessary though I'll definitely consider your advice for future upgrading.:)
     
  8. Erbmaster

    Erbmaster Moderator Folding Team

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    You're welcome coathanger007.
    Hope you get your situation resolved soon. :D
     
  9. Zedric

    Zedric NTFS Guru Folding Team

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    Ah, that explains it. =)

    I can't find any reference to power cables, only other data cables. Afaik, it's only AC-like currents that can cause interference this way, not DC currents.

    I can only find references to "we user aluminum, not copper".

    But there is of course alot of other stuff interfering inside the computer, so shielded cables are never a bad idea. :)
     
  10. Erbmaster

    Erbmaster Moderator Folding Team

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    Perhaps I shoulda clarified this earlier.
    I have RD-3 cables. I posted a link to RD-3XP cables (better, new improved etc)
    My cables were supplied with copper sleeves not aluminium- didn't even know the new ones were aluminium :eek:

    On the power issue, i'll take your word for m8.
    I only know that when I received my RD-3's they had the stickers to insulate against any power cables that could possibly come into contact with the braid - They were specific....then again they are Taiwanese lol.
    Could just be pigeon-English? Who knows.

    All I know is that they can increase data transfer speeds by up to 30% by reducing crosstalk etc also
    Anyhow, were agreed on one thing mate, and that's sheilded cables are never a bad idea. :D
     
  11. coathanger007

    coathanger007 Tomorrow Tweaking Today

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    Finally - it's over. Found out that shopkeeper ripped me off by swapping my faulty Western Digital HDD with 8MB cache with one with only 2MB cache (refurbished). Dodgy Indian smoothtalker tried to give me a IBM deskstar (deathstar).Tried to overcharge me $50 Aussie until I showed him the advert and he went silent. There's just no such thing as good customer support these days.

    Anyway, I backed up by using Partition Magic 8.1 then using Western Digital Data Lifeguard for Windows v11 to copy existing partitions for backup. Now backup drive has been shelved until something breaks down.
    What a relief that everything's now under control :)
     
  12. Erbmaster

    Erbmaster Moderator Folding Team

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    :eek: That's shocking...If the shop deals with e-tailing, please disgrace this store by letting us know who they were.

    It'll save any other Aussie NTFS.org members getting ripped off by the slimy Asian. :p

    I dare say I preach to the converted here....but
    avoid H1tach1/1BM drives like the plague....
    they may have decent sized buffers, but they are about a stable as a one legged clown on a unicycle.
    I speak from bitter experience.

    Nice to see you got that sorted m8 :)
     
  13. coathanger007

    coathanger007 Tomorrow Tweaking Today

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    There are good Asians out there mind you (myself included). The store was called Landmarks computers. I've also had warranty issues with PCworld - they made me buy a drive in advance then after 3 months had passed refused to give me a replacement drive! The branch closed shortly after! My worst store was Infinity computers. So angry I wrote to Aussie papers (top opinion):
     
  14. coathanger007

    coathanger007 Tomorrow Tweaking Today

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    Here's the article:
    Penny Wise, Pound Foolish – An Extended Account

    Ever pondered whether paying a premium to a well-established big-name company for guaranteed, trouble-free service and peace of mind was worthwhile? It is most unfortunate that this question is promptly resolved upon the full impact of customer disservice being experienced.

    The price paid for a PC at Infinity Computers is considerably below that offered by big-name competitors. However, the hassles suffered consequentially are priceless. From day 1, Infinity Computers attempted short-changing me by providing a 2 rather than 4.1 speaker system and it took several phone calls and a subsequent visit to collect an Office suite which was part of the advertised package. Infinity Computers had also given a stick of generic RAM instead of the advertised Kingston RAM pointlessly arguing that the generic RAM was of superior quality. In fact, the generic RAM caused numerous irrecoverable CD burning errors on my overclocked system in stark contrast to the stable performance of Kingston RAM. I was left with an oversupply of CD coasters. Infinity Computers replaced the RAM but in order for me to have discovered the product discrepancy, I had opened the case by breaking the seal and therefore technically voided my 3 year warranty which was the sole reason for my full system purchase in the first place! A classic catch 22 situation.

    The PC crashed on a regular basis. Infinity Computers advised that the Windows Operating System was not designed for multi-tasking (I suppose the Earth is flat as well). Lo and behold, the system lacked a system fan, the installation of which resolved this issue. The PC also refused to shut down, persisting in continual reboots. I paid (quite literally), the store a third visit to diagnose the problem only to depart $25 out of pocket, fuming after an hour long dispute with the PC in a non–bootable state. Infinity Computers had convinced themselves that the PC had already been in a non-booting state before they employed their troubleshooting (causing) expertise and even had the cheek to request I pay a further $80 to have the system restored to its previous bootable state. It was their word against mine. Long forgotten is the fundamental sales/marketing principle of the customer having right of way. It turned out that the OS could not be loaded because the technician’s 14” monitor simply could not handle the 1280x1024 resolution. Through self-diagnosis, I discovered the cause of the problematic repetitive reboots was in fact a faulty multimedia keyboard and the re-installation of the OS which was advised by the self-professed all-knowing Infinity Computers Technicians was a needless, tedious waste of time and effort.

    A few days ago, I returned to the store for a fifth or sixth visit (I had lost count by this point). The system was unable to start up after powering down abruptly. Infinity Computers laid blame on a corrupt Windows OS … again. This seems to be their all-in-one explanation for any PC problem whether hardware or software. Infinity Computers never seems to learn. Again, the technician’s technological dinosaur of a monitor could not handle the standard 1280x1024 resolution which prevented Windows from loading. Aren’t technicians supposed to be esteemed I.T. professionals who we can lean on when all else fails? After all, ultimately it is their livelihoods at stake.

    To cut this excruciating story short, there is no such thing as a free lunch (or free trouble-free service as the case may be). Beware the hidden cost behind the advertised cost.

    WARNING: IF YOU KNOW ANYONE CONTEMPLATING A NEW PC SYSTEM PURCHASE, STRONGLY ADVISE THEM TO STEER CLEAR FROM INFINITY COMPUTERS AT ALL COSTS.

    Actually I'll post this in the lounge.
     
  15. Erbmaster

    Erbmaster Moderator Folding Team

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    Sounds like you've really been through the mill with these "Infinity Computers" numpties m8.
    Hopefully many will heed your warning. ;)
     
  16. coathanger007

    coathanger007 Tomorrow Tweaking Today

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    I've added this full length article of my experiences which I have submitted to mags etc:

    RAID RECOLLECTION

    I noticed in the ‘Build your own PC’ article in the January issue of PC Authority that no mention was made of RAID configurations. Prices for PCI RAID controllers and motherboards with integrated RAID have fallen sufficiently for the average home user to justify expenditure for the approximate two thirds hard disk i/o performance increment (or more if one relies on Passmark Performance Test benchmark results) with striped RAID. Unfortunately, manuals for RAID installation may be non-existence or may be sub-standard ‘Idiot’s Guides’.

    From recent personal experience, setting up can be tricky and tedious and there are many pitfalls that are never expounded in web guides or the like. I am therefore detailing my first hand experience with RAID installation so others don’t repeat the same mistakes. I am using the PCI Skymaster Ultra ATA 133 RAID controller card with striping (RAID-0) across two identical 60GB Western Digital hard disks. 60GB hard disk drives are hard to find these days as manufactures have ceased to mass produce them and retail outlets have negligible stock remaining. So, as a rule of thumb, you should choose a brand and size of hard disk that is commonly used and future proofed for the next couple of years with reliable warranty. This is important if you ever want to extend or repair your RAID array and need an identical drive. Powerquest Partition Magic 8 was also an invaluable resource.

    Hardware:
    The first step for me was to place both hard disks on separate ATA 133 IDE cables as primary and secondary channels attached to the PCI RAID card. The Atapi drives were also on separate cables as primary and secondary IDE channels attached to the motherboard. All jumpers were set to Master. This is the optimal performance setup. Note that this configuration is specific to my system and different systems have differing configurations with respect to cabling and jumper settings. It is not a good idea to set jumpers to cable select with multiple drives because both the system and RAID BIOS do not always auto detect settings appropriately. The IDE cable plugs are normally colour coded so you know which end to connect into the RAID card as opposed to the hard disk. Inside a crammed mid tower case, especially with all PCI slots and ports filled out there’s minimal space to manoeuvre components around. I was foolhardy in attempting installation Rambo style, consequently cutting myself on a sharp ridge of a power cable plug and bleeding across the back of the hard disk. Sheds a literal light on ‘Blood, sweat and tears’. So, lesson number one, remove any cards etc that are in the way to give yourself as much space as possible because your fingers need space for leverage especially when dealing with a multiple drive installation. It may also be a good idea to plug the IDE cables into the PCI RAID card before slotting the card into the motherboard.

    Next, ensure that the RAID BIOS (which loads after the system BIOS) detects all disk drives properly. If it doesn’t, there’s a good chance that cables have not been pushed in hard enough or jumpers haven’t been set correctly (instructions for correct jumper settings are commonly imprinted on the top face of each drive). This turned out to be a major annoyance for me fiddling around until I achieved the correct settings. Once all drives are successfully detected, enter the RAID BIOS setup and follow the self-explanatory instructions to set up a striped (fast), mirrored (secure) or striped and mirrored (costly balance) configuration. If you have Windows XP, there is a wealth of helpful information in layman language explaining the functions these different RAID configurations serve in the Disk Management Help file.

    Windows ME:
    To complicate things just a tad, I have a Dual-booting system with Windows XP Professional and Windows ME. As an aside, Dual Booting can be useful for compatibility issues and troubleshooting. I recommend that you use Windows 98 Second Edition which is faster and more stable than the arguably ‘brain damaged’, bug ridden Windows ME.

    Windows ME (or 9x) must be installed before Windows XP (unless you use Powerquest Bootmagic software). If Windows XP was installed first then the subsequent Windows ME installation would wipe out the boot sector without recognising a dual booting system.

    To prepare the drive for installation of Windows ME, boot off the Windows ME startup disk and use Fdisk (at the DOS prompt simply type in Fdisk) to partition the new RAID volume. As expected, the outdated Fdisk utility detected only 15GB space instead of 120GB (2 x 60GB). I simply ignored this minor obstacle and followed the self explanatory instructions onscreen to partition 5GB for Windows ME and 10GB for Windows XP. This is adequate space for installing the OS and a handful of essential programs (Partition Magic and Drivers). Then I formatted both partitions and installed Windows ME. Note that the disk management software that is provided by the hard disk manufacturer e.g. Western Digital Data Lifeguard utilities or Seagate Discwizard cannot be used to format or partition RAID configurations as RAID won’t be detected. Ensure that Windows ME is installed on C:/Windows (default) or else there will be a problem with Windows XP recognising a dual booting system automatically when installing XP onto a different partition later on.

    Once logged into Windows ME, install the RAID drivers under Add New Hardware in the Control Panel. Now that the full 120GB is recognized, I used Partition Magic to resize existing partitions and to partition the rest of the unallocated space. Note that if you decide to use the FAT32 file system for the Windows XP partition now, you can always convert it to NTFS later using “convert drive letter: /fs:ntfs” at the command prompt when Windows XP is installed without any data corruption.

    Dual Booting with Windows XP:
    If your RAID card only came with a driver CD then you’ll have to manually copy the relevant drivers to a floppy disk (for reasons that will become apparent shortly). Reboot off the Windows XP CD (you may have to make changes the system BIOS to enable this – refer to motherboard manual) and follow the self explanatory instructions to install XP on a separate partition (e.g. D:/Windows).When prompted, press F6 to install the RAID drivers from the floppy disk created above. Once XP is installed, go to Disk Management. (Control Panel/Administrative Tools/Computer Management). Resist the temptation of converting Basic to Dynamic Disk! If you did so, you may have to start from scratch (a most painful lesson to be learnt) as you cannot revert back to Basic disk without formatting everything on the system partition.

    Why do I stress this point? Dynamic disks are not recognised by Partition Magic and Norton Ghost (a useful backup imaging utility) will only restore backups to basic disks (i.e. it doesn’t fully support dynamic striped volumes). Dynamic disks, to my knowledge, are only useful for setting up emulated software RAID which is inferior to and more CPU intensive than hardware RAID. In Disk Management, you can resize partitions or convert them to different file systems so Partition Magic is not essential (unless you are implementing its more advanced features). It is of utmost importance that any partition that you want Windows ME to access remain as FAT32. It takes a bit of planning to know what size and file system your partitions should be to meet your needs so THINK before doing anything. It’s far better to do partition correctly the first time than repeat partitioning incorrectly several times in a time consuming process.

    BACKUP BACKUP BACKUP:
    I thought everything was finally running along smoothly until the unexpected happened. Before I had the opportunity of backing up everything one of the hard disks in my striped RAID array had motor mechanism problems! Things couldn’t get any worse - could it? I watched helpless as Windows XP self destructed in a fanfare of numerous irrecoverable errors. I was stressed, overworked and at breaking point. I have since discovered that hard disk damage is a common problem for small mid tower cases with tight hard disk carriages. Because there is little room for airflow between hard drives positioned directly above each other, with tangled cabling to individual drives, heat increases the likelihood of hard disk failure. It is therefore a good investment to purchase a more spacious case and hard disk fans to keep the temperature to a comfortable low.

    After printing out the Western Digital Data Lifeguard Tools full surface scan error report for warranty verification purposes, I proceeded to the PC store to get a replacement drive (fortunately the hard disk was still covered under the warranty period). To help you understand problems I encountered at the store, I have inserted the following information which is a direct quote from Windows XP’s disk management help file:
    “Striped volumes are created by combining areas of free space on two or more disks into one logical volume. Striped volumes use RAID-0, which stripes data across multiple disks. Striped volumes cannot be extended or mirrored, and do not offer fault tolerance. If one of the disks containing a striped volume fails, the entire volume fails. When creating striped volumes, it is best to use disks that are the same size, model, and manufacturer.
    With a striped volume, data is divided into blocks and spread in a fixed order among all the disks in the array, similar to spanned volumes. Striping writes files across all disks so that data is added to all disks at the same rate.”
    As you can see, I could not remove the faulty hard disk for exchange with a replacement until I had a backup of both striped hard disks on a single, separate backup hard disk. I therefore had to buy 2 hard disks in advance (one replacement disk for which I would be recompensed and another for backing up the damaged striped volume). At the PC store a dodge Indian smooth talker tried to give me an IBM desktar (deathstar) in exchange for my faulty drive. This hard disk should be avoided at all costs with its mechanical faults and I believe even a product recall hanging over its head. The ‘customer support’ employee with his golden tongue then brashly tried overcharging me $50 on the backup drive until I showed him the store’s large advertisement in the The Age Newspaper Green Guide which silenced him somewhat. Customer support is sadly lacking in the I.T sector. I didn’t want to fuss around more than necessary so I accepted a refurbished Western Digital Hard disk with 2MB cache in replacement for my 8MB cache hard disk.
    My backup drive (connected as a slave) had to rest precariously outside the case as there was no room for a 3rd drive in my mid tower case. I knew that if the hard disk got knocked in this position I’d be back to the store for another replacement – and this time the warranty would be void as the physical damage would have been self-inflicted. I continued to backup regardless as there was really no choice other than to buy a more expensive external drive with better protection from physical damage. Norton Ghost does not image in the Windows environment so I had to boot off the Ghost bootdisk. Unfortunately, Ghost failed to detect my RAID hardware. Partition Magic also failed miserably. I finally discovered the solution being the Western Digital Data Lifeguard Tools for Windows version 11 which does a comprehensive file transfer of the existing individual partitions to the pre-partitioned backup drive. Once I had copied the contents of all 5 of my partitions in a painstaking process, I unplugged and shelved to Backup drive for a rainy day.
    I’m glad to say that my system has been running smoothly thus far. The big question is how long this RAID bliss will last before I get my hands dirty once again. This recount of my hardships may be long winded but there are certainly valuable lessons to be learnt by anyone audacious enough to take the plunge into a RAID upgrade adventure or decide that it’s not even worth the trouble.