• Guest, The rules for the P & N subforum have been updated to prohibit "ad hominem" or personal attacks against other posters. See the full details in the post "Politics and News Rules & Guidelines."

Question Fast, safe storage?

ET

Senior member
Oct 12, 1999
518
31
91
The ADATA SSD in my father in law's PC developed errors somehow. It's just over a year old (the PC itself is a lot older). He wants me to buy him a new PC that's 'fastest and safest', 'money is no object'.

He does very little with his PC. Basically it's used for e-mails in Outlook, a little web browsing (mainly shopping and bureaucratic stuff), a little Word / Excel (no calculations), scanning and printing documents. In terms of storage, a 240GB drive is over the top, but he wants 'a lot of storage' in his fastest PC.

The way I see it, the PC will revolve around storage. CPU doesn't matter much. A low end CPU plus SATA SSD will likely be fast enough for him when it comes to speed (although NVMe is an option). The important thing is that the PC will be fault tolerant when it comes to disk problems and will be able to continue functioning.

So I'm thinking of using two SSDs in RAID 1 (for redundancy, not speed). There's also mirroring in Windows, but I assume that it's a worse option for a boot drive. (Am I right?)

I plan to buy two 480GB SSDs with a 5 year warranty, on the assumption that drives with a long warranty are less likely to develop errors, and RAID them. I will likely add some offline or online backup, but the main goal is to have everything continue to work even if one drive fails.

As I understand it, RAID 1 writes match the slowest drive, but reads should be at least as fast as the fastest. Right? If I stick both an NVMe drive and a regular SSD drive, would that give the read speed of NVMe? Is RAID for NVMe even supported by default on modern (low end) motherboards?

Also, would it be a good idea to buy drives from two different families, on the assumption that they're less likely to fail at around the same time?

Any particular drive brands which are known to be reliable and long lasting?

Any other comments?

Thanks in advance!
 

cfenton

Senior member
Jul 27, 2015
276
98
101
I have a few questions before offering advice.

Do you want a laptop or a desktop?

What level of fault tolerance do you need? Do you need it to be able to keep running even if a disk dies, or would a 2-3 hour restore from a very recent (say an hourly) backup be fine?

How often will your father in law be able to check up on the disks? The concern I have is that he could run a RAID setup, have one disk fail, and have no idea it happened until the other one fails and everything breaks. Whatever solution you choose, some sort of software based alert seems critical.

As for the drives themselves, just buy something from Crucial or Samsung. Both are very reliable. I don't think NVME would make a difference for his uses. I wouldn't mix brands, but if you want to be paranoid you can buy two identical drives from different retailers to lower the chance that they will be from the same batch.
 

ET

Senior member
Oct 12, 1999
518
31
91
Thanks for the quick reply, cfenton.

He wants a desktop.

For the 2-3 hour restore, are you thinking about keeping a spare drive and restoring to it if the one in the system fails?

Personally I'd prefer to have the PC keep running even if a disk dies, because I have to do the IT for him, and he always feels that what he uses the PC for is quite important and needs to be attended to quickly.

So optimally I'd like to have the PC running, get notified that a drive failed, get that one replaced when I can, even if it takes a while (assuming that the other drive will continue to work), and then add the new drive and continue to work as seamlessly as possible. (I have no idea how much time it takes to re-RAID a drive, or how it's done; never used RAID before.)

Still, I guess that just backing up and having a spare drive could work in a pinch.

Is there a way to detect that a drive failed in RAID 1? If something could pop up and tells him that there's a problem, that would be great.

As for NVMe, I tend to agree, but NVMe does have a slight benefit for system boot and app launches, they're not much more expensive, and modern motherboards support them, so it seems natural to use one. So unless it makes things worse in some respects, I see no good reason not to buy one.
 

VirtualLarry

Lifer
Aug 25, 2001
45,709
4,124
126
Honestly, backups over RAID. If he gets a virus, or deletes something important, backups can save him, RAID will not.

Consider a NAS unit, too, for backups. Can backup all his system(s).

I don't think that SATA or NVMe really matters, as far as reliability goes, but I would give some weight to using an MLC SSD. (Consider, also, SSDs, with "Power-less prevention capacitors" built into their circuit boards. The Crucial M500, M550, and MX500 have these. The Samsung SSDs do not.(*) Many Enterprise-level SSDs also do. You may find that more reliable enterprise SSDs, that are also MLC, may actually still be SATA 2 3.0Gbits/sec. Don't let that factor scare you off of them.)

The Samsung 970 PRO SSDs (new 2TB version is coming out) are 3D V-NAND 2-bit-per-cell (3D MLC).

(*) Correction, I meant Samsung "Consumer" SSDs, like the SATA 2.5 860 EVO. I had heard that they used a log-structured filesystem for mapping-block updates, and thus, used a software "roll-back" process if they were corrupted, to arrive at a logically-consistent state if power was unexpectedly removed. Rather than a hardware solution. I personally consider the hardware solution to be more effective in certain corner cases (such as a RAID array), but it obviously costs more than just some software code on the controller chip.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Insert_Nickname

Insert_Nickname

Diamond Member
May 6, 2012
3,688
413
126
So I'm thinking of using two SSDs in RAID 1 (for redundancy, not speed). There's also mirroring in Windows, but I assume that it's a worse option for a boot drive. (Am I right?)

I plan to buy two 480GB SSDs with a 5 year warranty, on the assumption that drives with a long warranty are less likely to develop errors, and RAID them. I will likely add some offline or online backup, but the main goal is to have everything continue to work even if one drive fails.

As I understand it, RAID 1 writes match the slowest drive, but reads should be at least as fast as the fastest. Right? If I stick both an NVMe drive and a regular SSD drive, would that give the read speed of NVMe? Is RAID for NVMe even supported by default on modern (low end) motherboards?
If money is no object, then yes, RAID1 SATA drives with a backup solution sounds like a good plan. RAID1 only protects against drive failure, not malware or user error, so a backup is paramount.

For the kind of workload you're describing, NVMe would perhaps be a bit over the top. 2.5" SATA drives also have the advantage that they're easy to pull from the system, and thus access from a different system. Doing that with M.2 NVMe drives are a bit harder (USB-to-PCIe-M.2 adaptors have begun to appear, so it may not be much of an issue going forward).

Also, would it be a good idea to buy drives from two different families, on the assumption that they're less likely to fail at around the same time?
Theoretically. If you buy drives from the same production batch, any errors or glitches will likely be present in both. Can't say I've ever seen such issues myself, but there was the infamous HDD models after the Thailand floods a few years back.

The problem with SSDs is once they fail, they usually fail hard. With no way to access or repair, so you have to take appropriate precautions. Which means backup.

Honestly, backups over RAID. If he gets a virus, or deletes something important, backups can save him, RAID will not.

Consider a NAS unit, too, for backups. Can backup all his system(s).
Indeed. I fully agree.
 

coercitiv

Diamond Member
Jan 24, 2014
3,397
2,589
136
Any other comments?
I would recommend a change in redundancy at the software level coupled with this new hardware undertaking.
  • use a good cloud storage service such as Dropbox (good security, excellent desktop client, backup with file versioning)
  • use a browser sync account on his favorite browser (I would recommend Firefox, for multiple reasons)
  • introduce a good password manager in the equation to keep everything reasonably safe (he can add an extra layer of security by keeping the password manager on the smartphone)
This way you help him improve his overall security and setup an off-site backup, both of which fall under 'safest'. It also has the benefit of transparency and ease of use (compared with a NAS and other local hardware backups, which may still be a complementary option), as in time he can learn to manage it all by himself, with minimal assistance.
 

ET

Senior member
Oct 12, 1999
518
31
91
Honestly, backups over RAID.
I plan to have backups, too. The point of the RAID is to reduce the need for me to immediately take action if a drive fails. And in general I find that drive failures are more common and more serious than virus infections.

The problem with SSDs is once they fail, they usually fail hard.
Not what happened in this case, though. The ADATA is still accessible, just that some data can't be read and is causing errors when trying to copy or back up. (I'm reading over USB. That was a good point in favour of SATA over M.2. Thanks.)


At this point my main worry is how well RAID 1 works and how easy it is to detect that a drive failed.
 

cfenton

Senior member
Jul 27, 2015
276
98
101
Thanks for the quick reply, cfenton.

He wants a desktop.
Great, that makes things much easier.

For the 2-3 hour restore, are you thinking about keeping a spare drive and restoring to it if the one in the system fails?
Yes, basically. I don't think you need to do this for a desktop, though.

Personally I'd prefer to have the PC keep running even if a disk dies, because I have to do the IT for him, and he always feels that what he uses the PC for is quite important and needs to be attended to quickly.

So optimally I'd like to have the PC running, get notified that a drive failed, get that one replaced when I can, even if it takes a while (assuming that the other drive will continue to work), and then add the new drive and continue to work as seamlessly as possible. (I have no idea how much time it takes to re-RAID a drive, or how it's done; never used RAID before.)

Still, I guess that just backing up and having a spare drive could work in a pinch.

Is there a way to detect that a drive failed in RAID 1? If something could pop up and tells him that there's a problem, that would be great.
OK, then RAID 1 sounds like a good part of the solution. Resilvering a RAID 1 array won't take all that long on two SSDs, but depending on how it's set up I'm not sure how obvious the failure will be. I think there's usually an error screen when you try to boot if one of the drives has failed, but that will depend on what RAID controller you're using. As long as your father-in-law is paying attention and reads error screens, he should be fine.

As others have said, RAID is not a substitute for proper backups. I'd suggest buying two HDDs as well, mirror them, then set up automatic backups in software from the RAID disks to the HDDs.

As for NVMe, I tend to agree, but NVMe does have a slight benefit for system boot and app launches, they're not much more expensive, and modern motherboards support them, so it seems natural to use one. So unless it makes things worse in some respects, I see no good reason not to buy one.
Sure, that make sense, just keep in mind that you'll have to get a motherboard that supports two NVMe drives. I haven't shopped for motherboards for a while, so I'm not sure how common that is. When speed isn't a big concern, I like SATA because you can put a SATA drive in almost any computer made in the last 15 years and access your data.
 

ET

Senior member
Oct 12, 1999
518
31
91
Sure, that make sense, just keep in mind that you'll have to get a motherboard that supports two NVMe drives. I haven't shopped for motherboards for a while, so I'm not sure how common that is. When speed isn't a big concern, I like SATA because you can put a SATA drive in almost any computer made in the last 15 years and access your data.
Thanks for all the help. I ended up doing something which I hope I won't regret. I got two Crucial MX500 drives, but to make sure they're not from the same batch I got one M.2 and one 2.5". They're both SATA and seem to have the exact same spec. I also ordered a M.2 to 2.5" adapter.

Anyway, what's done is done, I ordered the PC from a local store. They'd assemble it and might install Windows on it (depending on how easy they'd find setting up the RAID to be).
 

Shmee

Memory and Storage, Graphics Cards
Super Moderator
Sep 13, 2008
4,038
338
126
For a non technical home user, I would not recommend RAID 1 for boot. Seems unnecessary to me given proper backups, and I have seen complications with motherboard RAID 1.
 

ASK THE COMMUNITY