The first step is to decide what type of RAID will be needed. This can be done by looking at my article describing the different types of RAID that are available in Windows XP Pro. Note, if RAID 1 or 5 is chosen there will need to be some modified files installed. Once the type of RAID is decided upon, it's time to move onto the hardware.
The computer will have to have at least two unused hard drive interfaces i.e. IDE, SATA or as many as is needed for the desired size of the array. Also, like any RAID solution two or more empty drives of equal size will be needed. Personally, if buying new drives, I would recommend getting two or more terabyte drives. They seem to be the best bang for the buck in today’s hard drive market. The next step is to get the proper software.
If the computer already has Windows XP Pro installed on it, then just make sure that it is upgraded to Service Pack 3 and has all of the available updates installed. Once the computer is fully updated the next step can be started. If the computer doesn’t have XP Pro installed it’s time to get a copy of Windows XP Pro and install it. Once Windows XP Pro is installed make sure to install all of the updates and install Service Pack 3. If any help is needed installing Windows XP this tutorial should be of great help. Once Windows is done being installed and updated it’s time to move onto the next step.
(Note: if RAID 1 or 5 isn’t being used skip this step.) Now that XP Pro is installed and updated to Service Pack 3, it’s time download some files and do a do some work from the Recovery Console. Firstly, download these four files raid-setup.bat, dmadmin.exe, dmboot.sys and dmconfig.dll. Make sure to download these files to the C:Windows\RAID directory (note: the RAID directory will need to be created). Once the files are in their proper directory put the XP Pro Install CD into the CD drive and reboot the computer. When the computer reboots, boot to the XP Pro CD as if installing Windows. When the XP installer gets to the Welcome screen press R to enter the Recovery console. Test edit.
Once in the Recovery Console, it’s time to start entering commands. First, type in the number of the Windows install that’s going to have the RAID and hit enter. After the correct Windows install is selected the Recovery Console will ask for the account password, if there is an account password type it in and hit enter. After logged on, change the to the RAID directory that was created earlier by typing the following command
and hitting enter. After changing to the raid directory, type the following command.
Once that command executes type
and hit enter.
Now that the proper files are in place it’s time to create the RAID array. Eject the Windows’s XP install CD from the CD drive, restart the computer and move onto the next step.
The first step to create the RAID array is to go to the start menu and right click My Computer and select Manage (the My Computer icon may also be on the Desktop).
Once in Computer Management click on the Disk Management section.
(WARNING: This step will erase any data that is on the disks that are going to be in the array. Make sure to backup data before performing this step.) Once in Disk Management right click on one of the disks that is going to be used in the RAID array and click Convert to Dynamic Disk.
Then select all of the disks that are going to be included in the array and click OK.
After the disks have been converted to Dynamic Disks, right click on any one of them and select New Volume.
Click Next at the first step of the New Volume Wizard. The second step of the wizard is to select the volume type. If you’re not sure what type of volume you want, check out Simple RAID explanation covering RAID levels 0, 1, 5 and JBOD.
Once the volume type is selected click on the next button. This will brings up the Select Disks part of the wizard. In this step, click one of the disks that is going to be in the array and click the add button. Repeat this until all of the drives that are to be included in the array are added.
The next step is to format the volume. In this step select the desired file system and give the volume a label.
The final step is to give the volume a drive letter and click next.
After selecting the drive letter, review all of the settings to ensure they’re current and then click finish to start formatting the disks. Be prepared to wait a while. Formatting my array was an overnight job.
So there you have it, an awesome, low cost RAID using Windows XP. If you want to prevent the RAID array from being disabled by future updates or service packs do not update your Windows install. Check this article on how to disable automatic updates if you’re worried about the array being broken by a future update. Personally, I think most updates will be perfectly fine. The only update I would avoid is a Service Pack 4, if one is ever released. If there are any questions ask them in the comments and I will get back to you as soon as possible.
To receive email notification in the event of a hard drive failure go to my article Windows XP Email Notification When a Drive Fails. This is a nice feature if your Windows XP RAID machine is sitting in a closet somewhere. This will ensure that you replace a failed hard drive before the whole array is ruined.
To share your array's contents across a local network go to Share Windows XP Files with Linux, OS X or Another Windows Machine on the Local Network.