I recently realized that I had a few extra drive bays in my desktop (with corresponding open SATA ports) and a few extra SATA drives lying around. So last night, I put them in and set them up as a RAID0 striped array.
I’d always avoided striping because of the instability concerns – if either drive goes bad, you lose the data on both of them. However, I’ve recently begun to feel the pinch in speed as my desktop has aged and I installed CS3. I maxed out the RAM a long time ago, and I’m not quite ready to replace it, although I certainly will in the next 6 months. So any little extra bit of speed I can get is welcome. A striped array has a significant speed advantage because the controller can read and write both disks simultaneously, roughly doubling your disk throughput. Also, you end up with one big disk that’s the size of the two put together.
While it is fragile if one of the drives goes, it performs much better. That makes it incredibly useful as a cache drive. I put the Windows paging file, all of my temp directories, and the CS3 cache and scratch files on it, as well as my browser caches. After not much testing, not surprisingly, I noticed an immediate speed boost across the board, and particularly in browsing directories with lots of photos in Bridge.
The setup was not very difficult, although there were some hiccups. I had to configure the bios to have the second sata controller (integrated into the motherboard) work in RAID mode, which took some fiddling. Then I had to switch the boot rom to it to boot into its firmware to actually configure the array, then switch the boot rom back to the other controller so I could boot my pre-existing Windows install (which is on a RAID1 mirrored array). After that, it was just a matter of installing the Windows driver for the RAID controller, formatting the new drive, and moving everything appropriate over to it.
Disks are pretty cheap. I highly recommend this configuration.