Put it this way, if you ever have an idle moment, take a hard drive that is loaded up with, say, Intel chipset drivers for Pentium 4 and plug it in to a motherboard that requires, say, VIA drivers for Athlon. After ten minutes of driver installation I very much doubt that Windows will come to life without a full format and reinstallation. Iâ€™m not trying to blame either or Intel or VIA you understand, itâ€™s just that the chipset drivers are so fundamental to Windows that it can rarely tolerate finding that the wrong hardware has suddenly appeared since the last time it was running.
Now I fully accept that data security and data integrity are not the sort of thrilling subjects that you discuss down the pub but weâ€™re all adults here so letâ€™s be grown up about this.
Given that a 250GB WD SATA Caviar will sting you for Â£105 and a 300GB Maxtor DiamondMax Plus 10 costs Â£130, you can buy enough hard drive storage to accommodate every word that youâ€™ve ever written, every piece of music that youâ€™ve ever paid for and every photo that youâ€™ve ever taken for about Â£200, or you could go the whole hog and buy one Terabyte of storage for Â£400.
Now that youâ€™ve got your entire life on a bunch of hard drives, how exactly are you going to keep your data safe? Itâ€™s hardly practical to back it all up to DVD unless you have an incredibly orderly system of incremental backups, and as I canâ€™t bring myself to think about catastrophic loss such as theft or fire for the time being, the main concerns are a drive failure or a terminal corruption in Windows.
The answer of course is RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Drives) but the most common forms of PC RAID arenâ€™t much use to us. RAID 0 stripes data across two or more drives so it actually makes your data far more prone to loss than a single drive as you need both drives to behave impeccably, and you also need the controller to keep working. If you want to make your data insecure, try using a RAID 0 controller that is integrated on your motherboard and youâ€™ll find the odds stack up against you at a terrifying rate.
RAID 1 works by mirroring one drive to another. This is all well and good but what do you do if one drive fails? After all, this is the situation that you have prepared against and here you are, with one dead drive and a functioning PC, but no easy way to replace the dead drive and restore your fail-safe.
RAID 10 uses four drives to mirror and stripe, and if one drive fails you can probably replace the dead unit and rebuild the array. The RAID 10 controllers that Iâ€™ve seen didnâ€™t impress me as they were clearly treating the array as two pairs of drives, rather than as one integrated unit and these controllers delivered quite erratic benchmark results.