Hard drive options for home media server

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I have a home server, with the following:

My goal is to add drives to the server as needed to increase available space. When my case reaches its drive capacity, I will replace the smaller drives with new, larger drives. For instance, suppose my case had four drive bays. In order to add a new, 3TB drive, I’d need to replace one of the 1TB drives with the 3TB.

My ideal end state is:

  • Ability to add additional drives
  • Ability to replace smaller drives with larger drives
  • Fault tolerance
  • As little proprietary technology as possible

I am currently using windows spanned volumes, but I do not know how well it will work when I want to replace a smaller drive.

Any suggestions?


  • RAID is not a backup (so take a backup)
  • 2TB and larger drives have much higher failure rates than 1TB
  • you don’t really want anything larger than 4x2TB in RAID5 because chances of a 2nd drive failure during a rebuild become quite high. (More drives is much better than larger drives)
  • RAID1 from one hardware device can usually be moved straight to another and if not splitting it gives you the data on a single drive
  • Hardware RAID reduces IO over software RAID so choose it where available
  • RAID can put more stress on drives especially when left running 24/7. Consider Enterprise/RAID versions

So in summary. Larger drives increase your chances of data loss so make good backups/don’t expand too quickly. RAID1 is a good compromise of portability and safety. RAID5 is OK but reaching the end of it’s usefulness.

Spanned volumes have no fault tolerance and if one of your drives fails you will lose the whole lot of data. These should only be used where you need particularly speedy access and can afford to lose the data. If you are using windows for RAID you really want to be using mirrored volumes.