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How to Make Your Computer Faster With RAID 0 and Solid-State Hard Drives

I have always been interested in figuring out the best ways to speed up my computer.

No matter what kind of computer you have, there will come a time when your computer will seem slow and in need of a boost in speed. While you can buy a new computer, it may not be something you can afford at the moment. Instead, a computer upgrade costs less and can be just as effective if done correctly.

Depending on what computer you have, upgrading selected components can radically increase computer speed. Buying one or a few components costs less than a whole computer and should be easier to accomplish. Not only can an upgrade be just as fast as a new computer, you can actually obtain even faster speeds.

How Can I Speed Up My Computer?

The best way to increase computer speed is to remove the bottleneck that limits computer performance. For most computers, the biggest bottleneck is hard drive performance. Most computers come with spinning hard drives that are much slower than other computer components such as the processor, memory and the graphics card.

In many software applications, the computer needs to wait while data is read from or written to the hard drive. You can see this while you're booting up or waiting for software applications such as 3D games to load. So, making the hard drive faster should allow it to catch up with the rest of the computer that is much faster and increase overall computer speed.

How to Speed Up My Computer By Upgrading the Hard Drive?

There are several options available when it comes to upgrading your hard drive. Buying a newer hard drive is usually faster, but not radically so. To speed up hard drive performance by at least 100 percent or more, you have the following options ranked by cost and complexity:

  1. Buy a second hard drive similar to the one you already have and install RAID 0 to almost double hard drive speed.
  2. Buy a solid-state hard drive or SSD to replace your current hard drive with triple or quadruple the level of performance.
  3. Combine both solid-state hard drives and RAID to achieve whatever speed is needed for the ultimate in hard drive performance

All three options have their pros and cons. Depending on what you're looking for, you may decide which one is best for you.

How to Speed Up a Computer With RAID 0 or Striping?

The quickest, easiest and cheapest way to improve hard drive performance is to use RAID 0 or striping, which can roughly double hard drive performance. Most desktop computers already support the software version of RAID 0, and it's therefore available to almost anyone.

All you need is a second hard drive that is similar to the one you already have. They must be the same in capacity, speed, and other specs or RAID 0 will not work. Once you have a second hard drive, complete the following procedure:

  • Before starting, you may want to make a backup of your hard drive just to be safe. Otherwise, simply ignore this step.
  • Install the second hard drive into your computer and make sure that all cables are securely connected. Consult your motherboard manual if you’re not sure which connectors to use.
  • Enter the BIOS, usually by pressing the DEL key when booting up, where you have to enable the RAID option instead of SATA or IDE.
  • The BIOS includes a RAID utility, a small software program, which will take over the process of installing RAID on your computer. Select RAID 0 or striping and follow the prompts whenever needed.

Beware that if one hard drive fails, the entire RAID 0 setup will fail and all your data will be lost. Make backups to protect against this. Alternatively, you may want to look into RAID 1 or mirroring to help guard against hard drive failure in a possible RAID 0+1 setup.

How Do I Speed Up My Computer With RAID 0 or Striping?

Basically, what happens with RAID 0 is that the software will divide the data on your original hard drive into two halves. One half will remain on the original hard drive, while the other half will be copied onto the new hard drive.

For example, if you start out with a hard drive of one terabyte which is half full, then afterward you will have two hard drives of one terabyte each of which both are a quarter full. Note that the amount of free space remains the same with RAID 0.

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Once the data has been divided, your computer has two hard drives that will work together in tandem. Data written or read from your hard drives can now be done almost twice as fast with RAID 0. Naturally, this results in a huge speed increase on your computer.

Note that RAID 0 is not limited to only two hard drives. You could use three or four hard drives to achieve several times the original performance. Naturally, this requires more space inside, and your computer needs to be big enough to house all hard drives.

How to Improve Computer Performance With a Solid-State Drive or SSD?

Buying a solid-state hard drive or SSD is more expensive than buying a second hard drive. They also have less capacity available compared to traditional hard drives, which come in bigger sizes. Installing and upgrading using solid-state hard drives also requires more time than RAID 0.

However, they offer several advantages over traditional hard drives:

  • Depending on the model, a solid-state drive can easily be between three to four times as fast in writing and reading data sequentially. Newer SSDs promise even faster speeds.
  • A SSD is even faster in accessing small files, which is why computers with a SSD feel so much more responsive.
  • Unlike hard drives that spin internally, a SSD has no moving parts and is therefore much less vulnerable to accidental damage that could result in data loss.
  • Solid-state hard drives also use less electricity which reduces the overall power consumption of a computer.

Performance overall will see a huge improvement with a SSD as many tasks can be done faster. Examples include booting up and using software programs that access the drive a lot. Unlike RAID 0, solid-state drives are compatible with laptops. They can be used to upgrade laptop performance. RAID 0, on the other hand, requires at least two hard drives, which is not possible in most laptops.

How to Install a Solid State Drive or SSD in a Computer?

The key to replacing your old hard drive with a new solid-state drive is to use cloning software which will handle the migration of data on your old drive to a new hard drive. If you buy the retail version of a solid-state drive, you are usually provided with a free copy of a program to use.

If you use the OEM version, you can download a free version off the Internet such as Clonezilla. Depending on which version of Windows you have, you may already have cloning software installed.

  • Once you've installed and connected both the old and new drive, you need to boot up the computer and run the cloning software.
  • The cloning software makes a duplicate of your old hard drive so that all the data now resides on your new solid-state drive.
  • Once the cloning is complete, turn off the computer and remove the old hard drive. Leave only the new solid-state drive.
  • Boot up your computer, and it should now be working with the SSD, although much faster than before.

Please make sure that the amount of storage used on your old hard drive is less than the capacity of your new SSD. Solid-state drives usually have less capacity than traditional hard drives, and you cannot make a clone if there is not enough space.

How to Make My Computer Run the Fastest With Both RAID 0 and Solid-State Drives?

If you want to have the absolute fastest computer, then you need to use both RAID 0 and solid-state drives. For example, in a gaming computer that needs to blow everyone else out of the water, RAID 0 and solid-state drives are an absolute must. To accomplish this, you need to do the following:

  • First, replace your old hard drive with a solid-state hard drive using the same procedure as mentioned above.
  • Once you've done that, you can add the second solid-state drive with RAID 0 using the same procedure outlined previously.
  • You can continue to add solid-state drives to keep increasing hard drive performance to whatever level you desire.

This method is the most expensive and requires a big computer case with lots of free space. However, using this method of combining RAID 0 with solid-state drives, you can achieve unheard levels of performance that other computers without such a setup cannot possibly match.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 John Tsang


Peter on January 14, 2015:

Are you running a besinuss server?If not, stay clear of RAID as it's advatages are only worthwhile if there is a constant demand for data and you have a professional card with a good RAM cache.Most modern hard disks have an internal cache which is more than sufficient for regular desktop use.

Transintl on December 01, 2013:

No matter what kind of computer you have, there will come a time when your computer will seem slow and in need of a boost in speed. While you can buy a new computer, it may not be something you can afford at the moment. Instead, a computer upgrade costs less and can be just as effective if done correctly.

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