NexStar GX USB RAID Enclosure Review

The NexStar GX USB RAID enclosure is a great way to keep your data safe and secure. Featuring both JBOD and RAID support, the NexStar GX gives you the flexibility to choose the storage configuration that best suits your needs. With transfer speeds of up to 5Gbps, the NexStar GX can quickly back up your data or store large files with ease. And thanks to its plug-and-play design, setting up the NexStar GX is a snap.

In a previous article I covered how to create a USB RAID array using Windows 10 Storage Spaces. While that is a awesome solution it does require using multiple USB cables connected to your computer which uses extra ports. What I really like about the NeStar GX USB RAID enclosure is that it only uses one USB cable. Whether you’re looking for a simple way to store your data or a more robust solution for backing up your files, the NexStar GX is a great option.

What is RAID0?

RAID0 is a data storage technique that combines multiple disks into a single logical unit. It is typically used in servers and high-end workstations to increase storage capacity and improve performance. RAID0 works by striping data across the disks, which means that each disk stores a portion of the data. This striping of data allows the system to read and write data in parallel, which greatly increases speed and throughput. However, RAID0 also comes with some risks. Because data is spread across multiple disks, a failure of any one disk can result in the loss of all data. As a result, it is important to have a backup plan in place if you are using RAID0.

 

What is RAID1?

RAID1 is a data storage virtualization technology that combines multiple physical disk drive components into a single logical unit for the purposes of data redundancy and performance improvement. RAID1 is typically used in servers, workstations, and storage arrays in enterprise storage environments. In a RAID1 configuration, data is written to two or more drives simultaneously, which creates an instant backup in case one of the drives fails. When one of the drives fails, the other drive(s) continue to operate without interruption. RAID1 can also be used to improve performance by reading from multiple drives simultaneously.

 

What is JBOD?

JBOD is an acronym for “Just a Bunch Of Disks”. It’s a storage method that simply utilizes multiple drives as individual volumes, rather than combining them into a RAID array. This has the advantage of being much simpler and cheaper to set up, but the downside is that there’s no redundancy or performance boost. So, if one of the drives fails, you’ll lose all of the data on it. However, JBOD does offer some flexibility in terms of choosing which drives to use. For example, you could mix and match SSDs and HDDs, or utilize drives of different sizes. Ultimately, it just comes down to personal preference and what your needs are.

 

NexStar GX Specifications

Device Support

SATA I/II/III SSD/HDD/SDHD

Device Size

2 x 2.5”  SSD/HDD

Internal Interface

SATA

External Interface

USB 3.0 Micro-B

HDD Capacity

2TB per bay - Total of 4TB combined

Dimension

130(L) x 83(H) x 25(W) mm

Weight

300g ( 10.6ozs) without drives

System Requirements

Windows 7/8/10/11, MAC OS X 10.6 or above, Linux Ubuntu 10.4(Kernel 2.6.38) or above 

Setting up the NexStar GX USB RAID Enclosure

The NexStar GX is easy to setup. Sliding the cover off will show the open drive bay with a SATA connector. Just push in the first drive and then flip over the enclosure and push in the second drive. Next slide the enclosure back into the cover and install the 2 screws provided in the box. A screwdriver is also included in the box.

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Next flip the dip switches to set the RAID method you would like the device to leverage.¬† In my example I’m using two 1 terabyte 5400 RPM 2.5″ drives and I will be selecting RAID1. The box has detailed instructions but you can also just reference the pictures on the enclosure. To use RAID1 mirroring just push the first dip switch up and leave the 2nd one down.

After connecting the USB cable from the RAID enclosure to your computer  just open up the Windows Control Panel and go to Computer Management and select Disk Management. Alternatively you could open a command prompt and run diskmgmt.msc. After the Disk Management gui opens you should see your new drive listed as an unallocated drive. If you see both drives individually try holding the reset button on the enclosure and power cycling it.

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After pushing the reset button on the enclosure Windows correctly sees the new RAID1 volume as one disk drive instead of two.

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The next step is initialize the disk so that Windows can use it. Right click on the it and select Initialize Disk.

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MBR or GPT?

Next you will be prompted to select the partition style for the new volume. MBR (Master Boot Record) is the older partitioning method of the two, and it’s restricted to drives up to 2TB in size. GPT (GUID Partition Table) doesn’t have that size restriction, so it’s the better choice for new drives. GPT also offers some other advantages. For example, it can create more than four partitions on a drive, and it’s more reliable than MBR thanks to its redundancy. If you’re formatting a new drive, you should definitely choose GPT over MBR.

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Creating Windows 10 New Simple Volume

Now the new disk drive has been initialized you have to create the volume. This is done by right clicking on the unallocated drive and selecting New Simple Volume.

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This will launch the New Simple Volume Wizard. With just a few more clicks the new RAID array will be ready for storing files.

nexstar-gx-simple-volume-wizard

 

Select how much disk space you want to use. I’m going to use all the available space.

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Next choose which drive letter you would like to assign to the new drive.

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Next format the drive using NTFS and select quick format otherwise it may take a while to complete.

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The wizard will complete once the drive has finished formatting.

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Your new USB RAID array is now ready for use. Windows will now recognize it like a normal drive.

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In Summary

The NexStar GX USB RAID Enclosure is a great way to protect your data. The enclosure supports up to two 2.5″ SATA hard drives, and you can configure it for RAID 0, 1, or JBOD.¬† It features a USB 3.0 interface with data transfer speeds up to 5Gbps. So whether you’re looking for protection from data loss or just wanting to expand your storage space, the NexStar GX USB RAID enclosure is a winner. Thanks for reading!

Peter Viola

Creative, customer focused, results oriented, Senior Web Systems Engineer who enjoys providing the highest level of customer service supporting complex Windows hosting solutions. MCITP, MCSA, MCTS

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