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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Hard Disk Drives | Hard Disk Performance, Quality and Reliability | Redundant Arrays of Inexpensive Disks (RAID) | RAID Configuration and Implementation | RAID Controllers and Controller Features ]
Software RAID is just like hardware RAID, except that it uses software instead of hardware. (There, that was easy! And here I thought this section would be hard to write. :^) )
All kidding aside, that pretty much is what software RAID is about. Instead of using a dedicated hardware controller to perform the various functions required to implement a RAID array, these functions are performed by the system processor using special software routines. Since array management is a low-level activity that must be performed "underneath" the other software that runs on the PC, software RAID usually is implemented at the operating system level. Windows NT and Windows 2000, as well as most of the various flavors of UNIX, support some RAID levels in software.
There are a few advantages of using software RAID over hardware RAID, but more disadvantages. First, let's look at the pros of software RAID:
That's pretty much it. Now the cons:
All things considered, software RAID doesn't seem to have much to recommend it. At the same time, realize that in many cases it is much better than using nothing at all. If you are running a small business, a software RAID 1 solution is far superior to running without RAID at all, especially if you aren't meticulous about your backups. (Then again, if you can afford two drives to do mirroring, a hardware RAID card is often only a small incremental cost...)