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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 Management ]
Partitioning and Partitioning Software
As explained in detail in this part of the discussion of file systems, partitioning is the process of dividing up a hard disk into pieces so they can be treated as logical disk volumes. Under RAID arrays are treated as "virtual hard disks" and are partitioned just as any regular hard disk would be.
In theory, hardware RAID arrays should be completely transparent to any software, including operating systems, that are installed on them. An operating system driver may be required for the controller card, but that's about it. Since it should be transparent, you should be able to use any partitioning software you want, ranging from vanilla FDISK to more sophisticated programs like Partition Magic. Despite this, some controller manufacturers specifically say not to use third-party partitioning software with their products. And despite that, many people use them anyway without any problems. It is unclear if there is really a problem with third-party tools on these (typically low-end) controllers, or if the manufacturers decide that the easiest way to reduce support costs and hassles is just to say "don't use anything but FDISK". At any rate, this should not occur with more expensive controllers.
One real concern with RAID and partitioning software has to do with size. As hard disk capacities increase, partitioning software is slowly revised or updated to handle ever-increasing drive sizes. Unfortunately, some of these programs are unprepared for the much larger "virtual disks" that a hardware RAID solution may present to them as if they were single disks. Using the latest operating system updates should let you avoid these problems. When running large arrays, the NTFS or UNIX file systems are preferable to the different flavors of FAT.
Warning: Do not use overlay software in conjunction with hardware RAID
controllers. It's just asking for trouble, and it's really not necessary. The controller
should be able to handle any size drives you can throw at it; if not, get a BIOS upgrade for it. If you are running software RAID you may be
OK with an overlay, but I still recommend hardware support, not drive overlay software.
Next: Alarms and Warnings