The Storage Spaces feature in Windows 10 provides you with yet another way to protect your data using what is essentially a software-configured RAID technology.
Windows 10 offers a slew of features for protecting your system and your data. For example, you have File History, System Image Recovery, System Restore, and Backup and Restore (Windows 7), just to name a few. However, another tool, called Storage Spaces, can help safeguard your precious data.
Storage Spaces is essentially a software-configured RAID (redundant array of independent disks) technology that is built right into the operating system. All you need is a couple of extra hard disks. And best of all, Storage Spaces is extremely easy to use and really does a nice job of simplifying the complex, and often intimidating, job of implementing RAID on a desktop system. Let's take a closer look at the steps involved.
To begin with, it's important to understand that Storage Spaces is not designed to provide protection to your main system disk—it will work only on secondary disks used to store data. To protect your main disk you will still want to use a system image or a standard backup.
Storage Spaces allows you to pool multiple physical disks together into one logical drive. This drive is then formatted with either NTFS or the new ReFS file system, and can be used just like a regular data drive.
A really nice feature in Storage Spaces is that is uses thin provisioning, which means that drive capacity is reserved as you store data to the drive, rather than all at once. In other words, when creating a new Storage Space, you can specify a maximum size larger than the capacity of the currently pooled physical drives. If at a later date, the amount of data begins to exceed the actual pool capacity, Storage Spaces will prompt you to add another drive. You can even expand the maximum size of the Storage Space at a later point if necessary.
One more thing to keep in mind is that once the physical disks have been added to a pool, they are no longer individually available from within Windows, as they are now virtualized and entirely dedicated to the pool.
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The hard disks
The disks can be of any capacity and can be connected to the system either internally or externally by USB, SATA, or Serial Attached SCSI. (USB flash drives are not supported in Storage Spaces.) To get the maximum performance from the drives in your Storage Spaces, you'll want to have them all connected using the same interface.
For example, if you are using external hard disks with a USB connection, you'll want to use the same type of USB ports for each drive—all USB 3.0 or USB 2.0. Using a mismatched combination will still work, but performance may be diminished.
If you are using external USB hard drives, another thing to keep in mind is that you'll want to connect each drive to a USB port on your computer rather than having then connected to a USB hub that is then connected to a single USB port on your computer. Again, using a USB hub will still work, but performance may be diminished.
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To protect your data via redundancy, you choose a Resiliency Type, either Mirrored or Parity. Using the Mirrored Resiliency Type, a copy of every file in the pool is stored on at least two physical drives. Using the Parity Resiliency Type, some drive space in the pool is dedicated to storing redundancy information, which in the event of a drive failure will be used to rebuild the data on a lost drive.
Note: Using the Parity Resiliency Type has a higher random I/O overhead and as such may reduce performance. Microsoft recommends that the Parity Resiliency Type be used for large sequential files or less frequently accessed content.
Storage Spaces provides you with four Resiliency Types:
- Simple (no resiliency) writes one copy of your data and doesn't protect you from drive failures. A simple storage space requires at least two drives.
- Two-Way Mirror writes two copies of you data, helping to protect you from a single drive failure. A two-way mirror storage space requires at least two drives.
- Three-Way Mirror writes three copies of you data, helping to protect you from two simultaneous drive failures. A three-way mirror storage space requires at least five drives.
- Parity writes your data with parity information, helping to protect you from a single drive failure. A parity storage space requires at least three drives.
To test Storage Spaces, I repurposed two hard disks I put in external enclosures with USB 3.0 connections. Once I had them connected to the PC, I went to File Explorer and saw both drives, as shown in Figure A.
When you connect the drives, they will appear in This PC.
Creating the storage pool
To access Storage Spaces, just press the Windows key, type Storage, and click Manage Storage Spaces, as shown in Figure B.
Accessing Storage Spaces from the Start menu is easy.
Once Storage Spaces launches, you'll see the window shown in Figure C. To continue, click Create A New Pool And Storage Space. You'll then encounter a UAC prompt, shown in Figure D.
In order to begin the procedure of creating a storage space, you must work through a UAC prompt.
Creating a storage space requires you to work through a UAC prompt.
A list of the available drives will appear, and you'll be prompted to select the ones you want to use in the storage pool. If the drives you connect to your system are formatted, you'll receive a warning message, as shown in Figure E.
If your drives are already formatted, you'll see a warning message when you select them for the storage pool.
In my example, I knew that the drives didn't contain any data, so I selected the check boxes and clicked the Create Pool button. It will take a few minutes to prepare the drives (Figure F).
It will take a few minutes to prepare the drives.
Once the drives are ready, you'll see the Create A Storage Space window, shown in Figure G. Now you can begin configuring the settings. In my example, I named the Storage Space, selected drive letter E, and chose the ReFS file system. I then selected a Resiliency Type.
Once the drives are prepared, you can begin configuring your storage space.
Since I have two drives, I chose the Two-Way Mirror Resiliency Type and set the maximum size to 500 GB. I then clicked the Create Storage Space button and sat back while the system configured and formatted the Storage Space.
When the operation is complete, you'll see the Storage Spaces window, shown in Figure H. Here, you can find detailed information about your newly configured Storage Space, as well as alter it.
Once the operation is complete, you'll see the Storage Spaces window.
Managing Storage Spaces
Under the Storage Pool heading, the tool displays the amount of disk space being used in the pool, along with some commands for managing the Storage Space. You can create a new Storage Space, add drives, or rename the pool.
In addition, you'll see the Optimize Drive Usage command. You'll use this command if you add another drive to your Storage Space. The Optimize Drive Usage command will essentially redistribute the data across all the drives.
Under the Storage Spaces And Physical Drives headings, you can see the status of the drives (marked with a green check mark and the word OK). You can also select View Files to open File Explorer, change the Storage Space settings (size or drive letter), delete the storage space, and rename the physical drives.
To activate those commands, click the Change Settings button at the top of the page and work through the UAC. We'll take a closer look at these commands and features in more detail in a future article.
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Using your Storage Space
Once you have your Storage Space drive up and running, you use it just like you would any data drive. For example, on my test system, I simply copied Windows 10's main data storage folders over to drive E, as shown in Figure I.
You can use your Storage Space just like you would any data drive.
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