My Turn

Why Don't All Macs Come with RAID?

Robert Crane - 2002.11.04

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

I just had a conversation with a cook who runs a catering business on the side and keeps his books on custom software on a PC. He had been backing up, but a disk crash corrupted a file, and his books are now messed up permanently. If his PC had been configured with a RAID 1* dual hard drive system, he would have been able to recover a lot easier.

With the size of the hard drives, reduction of hard drive warranties to one year, the complexity of software, the criticality of small home office business systems, and the low cost involved, there is no reason why every PC and Mac out there should not have a RAID 1 dual redundant system as the standard base machine. With base machines having cheap IDE hard drives from 40 GB to 120 GB and a spare drive connector, that spare should be dedicated to a RAID system.

This should not even be an option. It should be configured in the base setup. It would be a great selling point.

Many people who buy computers have no clue how delicate an assembly the whole system is. Hard drives have flying read/write heads that hover at microinches above a surface spinning at very high speed. The magnetic fields imprinted and read back are done so in a probabilistic and not deterministic mode. Every bit is determined statistically. The electronics looks for the most probable shape of the energy and calls it a 1 or 0. Ninety nine percent of everybody who uses a computer does not know this, and ninety nine percent of those who do prefer not to think about it.

Obviously it will take some repackaging for iMacs, eMacs, iBooks, and the like to fit in a second drive, but it would be a minimal effort to make a RAID 1 (or even better, RAID 5*) system standard in the G4 minitower products.

Redundancy can sell more machines, especially if Apple advertises the fact. This is a down market for PCs. The Mac has a new very solid Unix-based OS. Why not follow it up with a sold redundant standard RAID configuration?

* RAID 1 is supported by Mac OS X 10.1 and later, although it is not currently supported on the startup drive. See Apple Knowledge Base Document 106594. RAID 5 systems spread data over three or more drives in such a way that the failure of any single drive can be covered by the data on the remaining drives. ed

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