Software Secret Weapons™

 
Windows 7 Software RAID: Disk, Partition and Volume Context Menus
by Pavel Simakov on 2009-12-15 02:36:27 under Smoke & Mirrors, view comments
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The Problem

Windows 7 is out and it is great. It is much less annoying compared to Vista. It also has some very attractive features to geeks like me. I am completely sold on Windows 7 and moving over from tried and true Windows XP.

My favorite feature of Windows 7 so far is its software RAID. It is available in the Professional edition and above. Software RAID was available in the past versions, but in the Enterprise, not the Professional editions of Windows.

There are couple of usability issues around configuring software RAID and dynamic disks on Windows 7. These caused me some pain and I want to share the solutions with you.

The Solution

In order to configure the software RAID on Windows 7, open the Windows Explorer, right mouse click on the My Computer and select Manage. When Computer Management console opens, navigate to the Disk Management. Now you should see all the physical disks available on your system, their partitions and logical drives.

Configuring RAID starts by creating the dynamic disks, adding volumes, adding mirrors and so on. The challenge is to find the right menus where these actions are available.

Windows 7 Disk Menu

If you right click on the Disk area (as shows in orange below) you will enter Disk Menu. Here you can find actions to create new spanned volume, stripped volume, mirrored volume. Here you can also convert physical disk to dynamic disk or GPT disk or to take disk offline.

Disk Menu - Windows 7 software RAID

Windows 7 Partition Menu

If you right click to the left from the disk area on the partition area of the empty disk (as shows in orange below) you will enter Partition Menu. Here you can create different types of volumes spanning the entire partition or just a part of it. You can create new simple volume, spanned volume, stripped volume or mirrored volume. Note that there are no actions here to convert to dynamic or to GPT disk. These are only available in the Disk Menu as described above.

Partition Menu - Windows 7 software RAID

Windows 7 Volume Menu

If you right click to the left from the disk area on the existing volume (as shows in orange below) you will enter Volume Menu. Here you manipulate the volume. You can extend volume, shrink volume, add mirror, change drive letter, format or delete volume. 

Volume Menu - Windows 7 software RAID

The Final Word

Now you aware of all the menus you need to know to configure Windows 7 software RAID. Hopefully, you will not be lost when reading Windows software RAID articles elsewhere.

Windows 7 software RAID available in the Professional edition is a major win for geeks like me. Originally I was planning to get one of those NAS devices that have hardware RAID and are attached to the LAN. But this was before I knew the software RAID.

When you use hardware RAID on NAS device or in the computer, you risk loosing data if NAS device or the hardware RAID card blows up. If replacement device of the same make and model is not available, you are like not being able to restore the RAID volumes.

With Windows 7 software RAID the story is different. If your box goes, you just get another box, install Windows 7 and pop  in your disk into it. Should work just fine... Will report how it goes if I ever have to try it...

Comments (11)

  • Comment by william Jacobson — January 7, 2010 @ 11:34 am

    I discovered this great feature last night while i was attempting to creat a raid 0 volume via bios/intel south bridge software. After configuring the RAID, Windows 7 started to crash while loading. I disconnected the RAID and went back to origional bios configuration where the SATA configuration was set from RAID to IDE. Fortunately, Windows 7 again started to load normally. I went into Disk Management and found that I could configure a RAID Volume via Windows! Two minutes later, my drive was up and loading files! Fantastic.

  • Comment by xvl260 — August 15, 2010 @ 2:15 pm

    Can you RAID the boot drive using this method? Or is it only for hard drives other than the boot drive? I'm trying to get Windows to boot faster, but my mobo doesn't support hardware raid. Thanks.

  • Comment by The Doug — October 9, 2010 @ 12:27 pm

    You can MIRROR the boot drive. I'm still messing around with settings and have yet to confirm that this is in fact RAID, as opposed to merely mirroring. I need to try striping.

  • Comment by Paul — October 16, 2010 @ 8:54 am

    Windows 7 software RAID through mirroring seems to work great….however, the one major issue I have found is that Windows Media Center and Windows Media Player cannot find any of my media files on this drive. These programs don't seem to like dynamic drives.

    Any solutions would be appreciated.

  • Comment by dave — December 4, 2010 @ 4:34 pm

    Hi

    my mobo recenty blew and ihad 2 x 1tb drives set up as striped rain 0 on there.
    not my main boot drives, but simply storage.

    now reading above can i setup these 2 drives in windows now as the same raid 0 drives like b4 and acess my data on them ?

    thanks

    dave

  • Comment by dave — December 4, 2010 @ 4:36 pm

    in disk management one drive is showing up as there n healthy n RAW
    the other is wanting to be initialised when i connect to disk management.

    any ideas any1 ?
    dont wanna loose my data :(

    dave

  • Comment by ET — March 18, 2011 @ 10:13 pm

    @Jacobson, etc…
    * i think its because you need ahci driver (even if raid is used), try this http://gianvito.wordpress.com/2009/01/29/how-to-install-ahci-drivers-even-if-youve-installed-vistaxp-in-ide-mode/ also better performance for ahci than ide, note that you NEED driver for your chipset

    * if you want install win in ahci mode, you need burn ahci driver into install CD/DVD – usefull apps http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NLite_and_vLite

  • Comment by symbiote — September 16, 2011 @ 2:11 pm

    in response to Dave, although it is almost a year later, in case anybody else wants to know, if you have a raid0 array implemented in your motherboard (not in windows), and your motherboard dies, your data is lost. end of story.

    Now, would it have been lost if he had originally set it up as a striped volume through Windows dynamic disks? That I'm not sure of. He might have been okay…

  • Comment by Leser — November 28, 2011 @ 6:11 pm

    Not quite. You can rebuild your RAID with data & everything under mobo with the same chipset.

  • Comment by Mike — September 5, 2012 @ 10:49 pm

    Regarding hardware raid 0 and make it boot windows- You need to setup the raid and then install Windows. You cant first install windows on one disk and then make a hardware raid, obviously.

    Also, if you guys use Raid 0 for perfomance then you should reconsider the hardware raid 0 instead of software raid. Since its Windows that take care of your raid instead of the raid controller the performance relies of your computer speed. Slow computer – slow raid. Almost in any cases slower than the hardware raid 0…

    But for other circumstances (computer not build primarily for blazing performance) its a great option.

  • Comment by Jubin John — November 15, 2013 @ 9:44 pm

    Can you stripe across 2 pen drives like this?


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