Improve Windows XP's hard drive performance with disk striping

Learn what disk striping is, how it can boost performance, and how to implement it

Some applications need a higher level of performance than a standard installation can generally provide. For example, the process of creating DVDs requires the hard disk to read information at a very high speed. Fortunately, there’s a relatively easy way of insuring that Windows XP’s performance meets your needs: Boost your disk performance by implementing disk striping. In this article, I’ll explain disk striping and show you how to implement it.

What is disk striping?
Disk striping is a technique by which data spans multiple hard drives. All hard drives involved in the stripe set are simultaneously read from and written to. For example, if a striped set of disks consists of three hard drives, then the data will be read and written about three times faster because Windows is distributing the workload among three hard drives. Creating a striped set is an inexpensive way of dramatically increasing performance.

Before you begin
In Windows XP, striped sets with parity aren’t supported. This means that if any of the drives associated with the striped set have a problem, the entire volume (striped set) will be lost. Therefore, you’ll have to back up frequently.

Also, once you create a striped set, only Windows XP will be able to read that striped set. There’s a way of making Windows 2000 be able to read the set, but generally, you should assume that no other OS will access the striped set if you have a dual-boot system.

Creating a striped set
To set up a striped set, first, install the hard drives. However, your primary hard drive cannot be included in the striped set because you can only create striped sets on empty hard drives. You need a minimum of two new hard drives to create a striped set, but you can use up to 32 hard drives in the set. Because this is a software-implemented striped set, there is no requirement as to what type of hard drive you must use. IDE and SCSI are both acceptable.

Once you’ve physically installed the drives, boot Windows XP and log in as the Administrator. Next, enter the DISKMGMT.MSC command at the Run prompt to open the Disk Management console shown in Figure A.

Figure A

When the Disk Management console opens, locate the new disks and right-click them. Be sure to right-click the reference to the disk itself, not the space on the disk. Select the Convert To Dynamic Disk command from the context menu. When you do, a wizard will open, verifying that you want to convert the disk into a dynamic disk. Click Yes. When the conversion completes, repeat the process for each disk in the striped set.

To create the striped set, right-click in the empty space on one of your new disks and select the New Volume command from the context menu. Windows will then launch the New Volume wizard. When the wizard asks what type of volume that you want to create, select Striped. Then, follow the instructions to complete the wizard. The process involves simply selecting which disks should be included in the striped set. Your striped set is now ready to use.

Creating a striped set is a low cost way of giving your PC a serious performance boost. Just remember to back up your striped set often, because it is more prone to failure than standard partitions due to the number of disks involved.

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