Building a RAID array on the cheap

I wanted to build a stand-alone RAID array, primarily to back up to. Backing up is good and yes, you need to do it.

I didn’t want to have to build a whole new PC to use as a server – ideally I just wanted to have the drives by themselves, maybe in a FireWire box.

Turns out that drive enclosures for multiple drives are 1) rare, and 2) expensive. I found a couple at Fry’s and for over $500. I figured I could do better, and thought that at the least I could buy several FW enclosures and string them up together.

But I found something even better: an IDE-to-FireWire bridge.

It plugs into any IDE drive, and supports a primary and secondary drive, and is (like all FW devices) able to daisy-chain off the FW bus.

This, two drives, and a power supply* makes an external drive. Two drives can do RAID striping or mirroring. Add another one and another drive and you can do RAID 5.

Nifty, huh?

I tossed the whole thing into a spare mini-tower case, and I’ve got room and probably power to add a bunch more drives if I want. It’s not “hot-swappable” but that’s not a feature I really need.

Right now I only have a 300 GB drive and an 80 GB drive so I can’t do RAID yet. Once I get some more money, either coming back to work or getting a temp job, I’ll pick up two more 300 GB drives and set up a RAID array. But in the meantime I’ve got a simple backup of my home folder for both computers at home. Yay for backing up! I love it when my data is safe.

There might be easier, cheaper ways to do this, but for now I’ve only spent $60 and used parts I already had on hand.

* I used an ATX 300W power supply. Did you know that an ATX power supply won’t power up without a motherboard? Well, it WILL if you bridge the green wire (there’s only one green wire) to any black (ground) wire. I used a paper clip covered in duct tape (to prevent shorts) to bridge them. It’s amazing what I’m learning for the A+ tests!