April 15, 2005

Installing SoftRaid

Posted in Mac OS X at 12:07 pm by intermediatemacintosh

RAID is Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks.
And one of the things you can do with RAID is to mirror your data, so that it resides on 2 or more drives at the same time. Then if you have a problem with one hard disk, the data should be just fine on the other hard disk. They call that RAID 1.
Now catastrophic disk failures are relatively rare. What is much more likely is for human error to delete a file by mistake. RAID 1 does not solve that problem, as it would delete the file from both hard disks at the exact same instant. But seeing as my life revolves around my Macintosh, RAID might just come in handy some time.
First of all, Mac OS X comes with a built in RAID module. However I have seen plenty of negative comments about their software. And I’ve seen plenty of positive comments about SoftRaid, so I’ve anted up the $129 that it costs. And I see that in Mac OS X Tiger, Apple has included the SoftRaid drivers, which seems like high praise to me.
The second thing I need is two hard disk drives, and while SoftRaid can work with different drives, it’s always best to use the same make model and size of hard disks. So I install a couple of Western Digital 80 Gig hard drives into my G4 Quicksliver. Without doing anything else, the new hard drive makes a noticeable improvement on performance, and drops my average CPU utilization from 30% to 10%.
The third thing needed is a piece of hardware to control the second hard disk. While you can hook up multiple hard disk drives to a Macintosh, we want these two drives to be on separate channels, otherwise performance is really going to suck. So I purchase a Tempo ATA 133 by Sonnet for around $100. It fits in one of the PCI slots in the Mac, and the IDE cable attaches to the second hard disk drive I installed.
With the hardware in place, next step is to back things up before trying to convert over to RAID 1. I have a couple of external Firewire hard disk drives, and use SuperDuper to clone my main drive.
Then I read the instructions for SoftRaid, and decide to create a boot cd-rom should I ever need to boot up my machine, and not use the external disk drives. The next step is to install the SoftRaid driver on to my startup disk. Then initialize the extra hard disk attached to the PCI card. Then re-boot to an external drive, so I can convert my regular start up disk to RAID 1.
I start up the SoftRaid application, and after a few false starts at trying to create a new RAID volume, find the Convert operation. SoftRaid asks for my secondary disk, and then commences to copy over the contents of my primary raid disk. I let it run while I go to yoga, and when I come back it’s ready to go.
I boot up to my new SoftRaid drive, and the CPU utilization is pegged. After giving it 15 minutes to see if it’s going to be a one time event, I do some digging, and find that HistoryHound is running wild. Not sure if it’s trying to locate every web page in it’s cache or not. But since I never seem to use HistoryHound, I remove it from the startup sequence, and give it another try.
This time my computer is running fine, and computer utilization is up slightly, but I’m not going to complain 🙂
Questions – I’m not sure how DiskWarrior is going to handle this new RAID format.


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