RAID Your Desktop with Windows 11 Storage Spaces

If you’re a Windows 11 user facing hard drive space constraints, the feature called Storage Spaces may solve your challenge. Storage Spaces is a technology that allows you to combine multiple hard drives or solid-state drives (SSDs) into a single virtual drive that can provide data redundancy and performance benefits. And the best part is it works with external USB drives so even if you’re using a laptop with one hard drive you can leverage this awesome feature. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at Storage Spaces in Windows 11 and what it can do for you.

What are Windows Storage Spaces?

Storage Spaces is a technology that was first introduced in Windows 8 and has been improved in subsequent versions of Windows, including Windows 11. Storage Spaces allows you to combine multiple physical drives into a single virtual drive, known as a storage pool. You can then create virtual drives, known as storage spaces, within the storage pool.

One of the main benefits of Storage Spaces is data redundancy. By using multiple physical drives, you can create redundant copies of your data that can help protect against drive failures. If one drive fails, your data will still be accessible from the other drives in the storage pool. You can also add more drives to the storage pool to increase the amount of storage space available. Storage Spaces is accessed in the Windows Control Panel.

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What is RAID?

Before using Storage Spaces you should be familiar with RAID which stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks. RAID is a technology that allows multiple hard drives to be combined into a single logical unit. RAID can provide various benefits, including improved data reliability, increased performance, and increased storage capacity. There are several different types of RAID, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Some RAID configurations provide data redundancy, which means that data is stored on multiple disks, so if one disk fails, the data can be retrieved from the remaining disks. Other RAID configurations focus on improving performance by spreading data across multiple disks, which allows for faster read and write speeds. RAID is commonly used in enterprise settings, but it can also be used by individual users who need to manage large amounts of data.

Which version of RAID?

RAID0, RAID1, and RAID3 are three of the most commonly used RAID configurations. RAID0, also known as striping, spreads data across multiple disks, allowing for faster read and write speeds. However, RAID0 does not provide data redundancy, so if one disk fails, all data is lost. RAID1, also known as mirroring, creates two identical copies of data on separate disks, providing data redundancy. If one disk fails, the other disk can still be used to retrieve the data. However, RAID1 does not provide any performance benefits. RAID3, on the other hand, uses striping to spread data across multiple disks, but it also includes a dedicated parity disk that is used to provide data redundancy. This means that if one disk fails, the data can be reconstructed using the parity information stored on the dedicated disk. However, the parity disk can also become a performance bottleneck, making RAID3 less popular than other RAID configurations. Overall, each RAID configuration has its own benefits and drawbacks, and the choice of which RAID configuration to use depends on the specific needs of the user or organization.

 

 

How to use Storage Spaces in Windows 11

To use Storage Spaces in Windows 11, you’ll need at least two physical drives. You can use any combination of hard drives and SSDs, and they don’t need to be the same size or speed. In my example I have 2 completely different external USB hard drives. One drive is actually a legacy SATA drive USB enclosure and a 1 TB Western Digital USB drive that I have connected to my laptop via the UtechSmart 11-n-1 USB C Ethernet Multiport Adapter.

SABRENT 2.5 Inch SATA to USB 3.0 Tool Free External Hard Drive Enclosure [Optimized for SSD, Support UASP SATA III] Black (EC-UASP)
  • Tool free design, easy to install,Transfer Rates Up to 480 Mbps when connected to a USB 2.0 port,Transfer Rates Up to 5 Gbps when connected to a USB 3.0 port.
  • Suitable for 2.5” SATA/SSD;Supports Standard Notebook 2.5″ SATA and SATA II Hard drives
  • Optimized for SSD, Supports UASP SATA III,Backwards-Compatible with USB 2.0 or 1.1
  • Hot-swappable, plug and play, no drivers needed
  • Operating System:Supported Operating Systems:Mac,Windows;Supported Windows Versions :Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Vista, Windows XP;Supported Mac Versions:Mac OS X and Higher
Western Digital 1TB My Passport SSD Portable External Solid State Drive, Gray, Sturdy and Blazing Fast, Password Protection with Hardware Encryption - WDBAGF0010BGY-WESN 1TB Gray
  • Blazing fast NVMe technology with speeds of up to 1050MB/s and write speeds of up to 1000MB/s. | Based on reading speed unless otherwise stated. As used for transfer rate, 1 MB/s = one million bytes per second. Based on internal testing; performance may vary depending upon host device, usage conditions, drive capacity, and other factors
  • Password enabled 256-bit AES hardware encryption
  • Shock and vibration resistant. Drop resistant up to 6.5ft (1.98m)
  • Cross Compatible USB 3.2 Gen-2 and USB-C (USB-A for older systems)

The Disk Management screen in the Computer Management snapin shows my 2 USB  drives attached.

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When you open Storage Spaces from the Windows Control Panel it will display any volumes that were previously created. In my case it’s only showing my 2 USB drives. Please note the warning highlighted in yellow about losing data on the destination drives. Creating the Storage Space will erase the drives and you will lose any existing data that may be on the drives.

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Creating a storage pool

Here are the steps to create a storage pool and storage spaces:

  1. Open the Settings app and go to System > Storage.
  2. Click on the “Manage Storage Spaces” link at the bottom of the page.
  3. Click on the “Create a new pool and storage space” button.
  4. Select the drives you want to use for the storage pool and click on the “Create pool” button.
  5. Give your storage pool a name and select a layout. The two most common layouts are:
  • Two-way mirror: This layout provides data redundancy by creating two copies of your data across the drives. You’ll need at least two drives for this layout.
  • Parity: This layout provides data redundancy by creating a single copy of your data along with parity information that can be used to reconstruct your data if one drive fails. You’ll need at least three drives for this layout.
  1. Select the amount of storage space you want to allocate to your storage space and give it a name.
  2. Click on the “Create storage space” button.

The physical disk’s sector size is not supported by the storage pool (0x80E70004)‬

Initially I had a problem where the Create pool wizard would not complete. I got the following error message:

Fortunately my issue was resolved by just rebooting. Windows 11 Storage Spaces supports sector sizes of 512 bytes and 4 KB (4096 bytes). The sector size determines the minimum amount of data that can be read or written from a storage device.

Once the storage pool is created you’ll see the screen below. Click Create storage space to complete the setup.

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Once the process completes you’ll arrive back at the main Storage Spaces screen where you’ll see the new Storage pool.

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The new Storage space will appear as a new drive in the Windows File Explorer. You can use it just like any other drive, and Windows will automatically manage the data across the physical drives in the storage pool. Going back to Disk Management you can see that Windows now only shows 1 hard drive when previously there were two.

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In Summary

Storage Spaces is a powerful feature in Windows 11 that can help you manage large amounts of data and provide data redundancy. By using multiple physical drives, you can create a single virtual drive that can be used for storage. If you’re a Windows 11 user who needs to manage large amounts of data, Storage Spaces is definitely worth checking out.

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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