Expert Mode: Setting up the Storage Pool

Courtesy of jasonwc.
 
This tutorial will guide you through the creation of a Storage Pool in Expert mode – a feature of FlexRAID which allows you to combine all of your hard drives to create a single virtual drive. If you’re considering using a Snapshot RAID in addition to your pool, you could consider using the Cruise Control mode, which enables to use both in conjunction in an easier manner, see here.

Some key points about FlexRAID storage pool:

  • Allows you to assemble various drives into one massive storage pool
  • Allows you to automatically span folders over multiple hard drives without having to worry about the available free space on each drive
  • You can use drives containing existing data: that data will be accessible through the pool
  • Your data remains intact, each drive can still be accessed outside of the pool
  • Drives can be spun down until their files are actually accessed
  • Several merge modes are available, including automatic modes and a manual mode

You can read this article for an introduction to FlexRAID Storage Pooling as well as more details about its features.

Note:
Storage Pooling is independent from FlexRAID’s Snapshot RAID functionality, and does not provide data redundancy. To be protected against hard drive failure, you can setup a Snapshot RAID array in addition to the Storage Pool, using the Snapshot RAID Guide.

 

Preparing your disks for use with FlexRAID

Even though there is no mandatory preparation needed prior to pooling your drives with FlexRAID, it is considered as best practice to mount them as NTFS folders instead of using drive letters.

You can refer to the Tip: Mounting your drives as folders on Windows for more information and instructions.

 

Creating and configuring your Storage Pool

Launch the FlexRAID homescreen, and click on the Add New Configuration icon on the top left side of the FlexRAID Desktop.

 

The Add New Configuration window will open. Select Expert, and Storage Pool Only, and enter a name for your storage pool. Note that you can’t create a Storage Pool if you have a Cruise Control configuration already in your system.

Hit the Create button: a new icon will be created on your FlexRAID homescreen.

 

Click on this new icon, and proceed to the Configuration window.

 

Unique Volumes: Add the full folder path (or drive letter) of each drive you wish to add to the pool on its own line.

In my case I have six drives so my configuration looks like the following:
C:\mount\Disk01
C:\mount\Disk02
C:\mount\Disk03
C:\mount\Disk04
C:\mount\Disk05
C:\mount\Disk06

If you have used drive letters your configuration would look like the following:
D:\
E:\
F:\
G:\
H:\
I:\

Restricted Volumes: Volumes to which FlexRAID should not write new data. When a volume is restricted, only data meant for that volume is allowed to be written there. If another volume runs out of space, the space from a restricted volume cannot be used. For instance, you might want to add your C:\ drive to the view, but you might also want to restrict it so that its free space is not used when another drive runs out of space.

In this example, D:\mount\Disk06 was added because I do not want new data added to that drive, but still want existing data from that drive to be accessible through the pool.

 

The remaining settings can be left to their default value:

Threads: This selection controls the number of threads used by FlexRAID. Think of this setting as the number of highway lanes you want on your FlexRAIDFS. A single lane might work just fine in light traffic (with just a few cars on the road) and too many lanes are just wasteful (waste system resources). The default value of five should work well for most users.

I/O Buffer Size: This setting can be altered to optimize performance. Keep the default 1 MB setting unless you have run your own benchmarks and found another setting to be superior.

 
Important note:
Do not forget to hit the Save button each time you modify your configuration!

 
You now have configured the basic properties of your Storage Pool. The next step is to configure the advanced properties.

 

Configuring the advanced properties (optional)

This step is optional – you can also leave all the default values and proceed to the next session.

Begin by expanding the Advanced Properties panel.

 

Reserve: FlexRAID will fill all of your drives until they each reach the “reserve” space amount before undertaking a more intricate disk space analysis. It is not necessary to ensure that your disks have this amount of space available as the “reserve” will only be applied going forward. 10 GB is a reasonable default setting but you may increase or decrease this amount depending on whether the average file size is smaller or larger than 10 GB.

Removable: Setting this option to true will treat your storage pool as a removable drive in Windows. This will disable the Recycle Bin for the drive and also remove the System Volume Information folder. The drive will also be shown under the “Devices with Removable Storage” heading in Windows Explorer rather than the “Hard Disk Drives” category. This setting is optional.

Directory change date fixed: If this setting is set to true, when a file is modified, the modified date of its parent will also be updated. This setting is useful if you use file/folder scanning software that relies on the modified date of a folder to determine whether the files inside the folder have changed. The default setting is false.

FileSystem: This setting is reserved for future use and can be left at its default value.

 
Important note:
Do not forget to hit the Save button each time you modify your configuration!

 

Setting the Merge Mode and the Drive Letter

Finally, you must select a drive letter for the Storage Pool and choose a merge mode. Click on the Storage Pool Merge Configuration tab to modify these settings.

The merge mode you select determines how data is written to the disk. See this article for more information on the available modes.

Auto Merge with Balanced Space Priority:
This merge mode balances your data among your available drives to ensure that drives are used evenly. Configuration is automatic and there is no FlexRAID management folder to deal with. This mode operates similarly to the Drive Extender feature in Windows Home Server v1.

Auto Merge with Minimized Folder Split Priority:
This merge mode attempts to keep folder splits to a minimum. It does so by filling the disks in your pool in the order they have been added. For example, if you have a Movies folder on C:\mount\Disk01 and the disk runs out of space, it will be “split” onto C:\mount\Disk02 until there is no more remaining space on Disk02. FlexRAID will fill each disk in turn until there is no more available space. While this can cause some drives to be used more than others, it minimizes energy usage, by allowing drives which are not in use to spin down.

Explicit Merge Mode
The Explicit Merge Mode is more configurable, but reserved to advanced users, as it requires more configuration and maintenance. While this guide only covers the automatic merge modes, you can read more about the explicit merge mode here.

 

Choose the mode that fits best your needs, and a drive letter for the storage pool, then hit Save to record your settings.

 

Start your Storage Pool!

Your Storage Pool is now ready!

You can hit Preview to ensure that your storage pool contains all the drives you intend it to include.

When you’re done, hit the Publish/(Re-)Start to start the storage pool.

 

FlexRAID will process your request, and start the storage pool.
Once completed, you should now see the Storage Pool in Windows Explorer.


 

How cool!

 

Accessing your storage pool over a network

The next step is to share your pool, or its subfolders, so that you can access its content from the network.

This part of the guide will come very soon.

 


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13 Responses to “Expert Mode: Setting up the Storage Pool”

  1. am3nd September 17, 2011 at 10:49 PM #

    When will this page be updated?

    • xliv September 18, 2011 at 1:13 AM #

      Very soon…

  2. xylem October 5, 2011 at 10:53 PM #

    Seems very easy, great job on the step by step and explaination. Question: can this be used as a home server to stream in network, video, pics, music? In comparison to un raid, but better? :-)

    • xliv October 9, 2011 at 1:53 AM #

      Yes, it can, I actually use it that way, and it works like a charm!

  3. Lunna October 7, 2011 at 11:11 AM #

    Excellent guide. I’am really interested in the network part of it. Keep up the good work :)

  4. John October 12, 2011 at 10:20 PM #

    Excellent guide – but how do you ensure your storage pool restarts at every boot? Mine doesn’t

    • xliv October 13, 2011 at 1:29 AM #

      By default, auto-start is not enabled. To enable it, you need to specify a delay in the preference settings: http://wiki.flexraid.com/2011/04/03/flexraid-preference-settings/
      For example, 15000 expresses 15s delay. This delay is needed to be sure that the pool will be started when all OS services are up and running

  5. ken October 21, 2011 at 12:15 AM #

    When I setup my drives to mount as folders, the Z drive shows up as a removable drive and is not accessible. Any ideas?

  6. am3nd December 2, 2011 at 7:04 PM #

    Version Beta8 … I am trying to set a Storage Pool yet there’s no tab ANYWHERE for ‘Setting the Merge Mode and the Drive Letter’. :(

  7. Skirge01 August 5, 2012 at 1:12 PM #

    Might want to rework this part:

    “You can hit Preview to ensure that your storage pool contains all the drives you intend it to include.”

    This doesn’t work until you’ve successfully created your first pool because the driver is installed when you click publish/restart. I just spent over an hour trying to figure out what I did wrong because the preview option you mentioned did not work, so I didn’t move on to the next step of publish/restart.

    Other than that and the fact that the screenshot on merge options doesn’t really match the text in the guide, it’s a great writeup. What makes it even more confusing is that the merge options aren’t listed in the same order (screenshot vs guide text).

  8. Steve August 17, 2013 at 9:07 PM #

    I tried to add a second pool, but this does not work. Am I doing something wrong or would this be a feature request?

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