Sunday, October 25, 2015

Picking up the Aukey Aluminum Dual Bay Hard Drive Enclosure

My setup has consisted of my Macbook Pro connected to a WD My Passport 2TB USB drive which hosts my Photos library, iMovie library, and other large files which I don't need stored on my internal SSD. While I was pleased with it, I originally got the drive because I liked the idea of having a portable hard drive I can take everywhere. But eventually I realized that it never left my desk. Since it was a small 5400RPM drive, the speed wasn't the greatest. So I started looking for what I could replace it with.



The Plan


Since I had two 1TB 7200RPM hard drives lying around, I figured I would combine them into a RAID0 to get good speeds. So I would like a two bay hard drive enclosure. Having an enclosure with a RAID controller inside would of been great, but they are too expensive. I would of also liked one with Thunderbolt, but those too are very expensive. And finally, I wanted one with a nice looking aluminum structure. Eventually, I decided to give the Aukey Aluminum Dual Bay Hard Drive Enclosure a try. At less than $60, it seems like a good enclosure to test for my new setup.


What is RAID 0?


RAID, short for Redundant Array of Independent Disks, are forms of storage configurations. RAID 0 is the only setup that is actually not redundant. RAID 0 splits up data between multiple disks. With the data split between the storage disks, performance can be maximized and parallelized between the drives resulting in faster Read and Write speeds as each drive is only responsible for writing part of the entire data.

First Impressions


The aluminum enclosure looks good. It has good weight to it. There are LEDs next to each drive bay which is lit blue when a hard drive is on and red when it is accessing it. There is also a blue LED next to the power button when it is on. I make good use of the power button. The fan of the enclosure can be a bit loud, especially when the drives are running. And in a dark room, the LEDs can be bright and overwhelming. Even if the drives are ejected, the lights are still on and the fan is running.

Setting up RAID0 on OS X


Unfortunately Apple removed RAID configuration in the Disk Utility GUI. The feature is still there but only accessible through a terminal. First you must find the number for the disks you are looking to turn into a RAID volume by running the diskutil list command.

diskutil list

/dev/disk2 (external, physical):
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:     FDisk_partition_scheme                        *1.0 TB     disk2
   1:                  Apple_HFS Hitachi                 1.0 TB     disk2s1
/dev/disk3 (external, physical):
   #:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
   0:      GUID_partition_scheme                        *1.0 TB     disk3
   1:                        EFI EFI                     209.7 MB   disk3s1
   2:                  Apple_HFS WDC                     999.9 GB   disk3s2

Then you run the diskutil command to create the RAID. In this example, my RAID0 volume will be called Aukey External using disk2 and disk3 found from the list command.

diskutil appleRAID create stripe "Aukey External" JHFS+ disk2 disk3

Started RAID operation
Unmounting proposed new member disk2
Unmounting proposed new member disk3
Repartitioning disk2 so it can be in a RAID set
Unmounting disk
Creating the partition map
Using disk2s2 as a data slice
Repartitioning disk3 so it can be in a RAID set
Unmounting disk
Creating the partition map
Using disk3s2 as a data slice
Creating a RAID set
Bringing the RAID partitions online
Waiting for the new RAID to spin up "90EE48D9-43C8-04HZ-865Q-2F9T43015515"
Initialized /dev/rdisk6 as a 2 TB case-insensitive HFS Plus volume with a 155648k journal
Mounting disk
Finished RAID operation

Performance




In terms of performance, I am happy with it so far. Getting 100MB/s on just one drive, and 130MB/s on the second drive, when combined into RAID0 I am getting 200MB/s Read and Write. This is double the speed of the slowest hard drive, as expected. I can notice the performance difference when opening Photos and importing/editing pictures. Also note that these are old hard drives from 2009 and 2010. Modern desktop drives achieve faster speeds individually, so I believe I would get closer to 300MB/s in RAID0 if I were to get something newer. While I do not have access to the temperature sensors of the hard drive and no infrared gun, by touch I can say the hard drives are at around 40C.

Additional Notes


One concern that I should address is data loss due to running a RAID0 setup. Because the drives are splitting the data in order to increase speeds, the bad side is that the potential for data loss goes up since if one drive dies you lose everything. In my case, I back up the data to my RAID5 NAS so I have no concerns about a drive dying and losing data. Unless you are creating a RAID0 setup as a temporary fast scratch area, I do recommend also backing up if it will contain important data that you cannot afford to lose.

Addressing some of the comments I have seen on Amazon. The drive doors do not seem that flimsy to me. If you are constantly swapping drives, I can see how this would be of concern. But for me, those drives are staying put. The fan volume is like that of having a desktop PC. It isn't silent but it also isn't some super loud/high pitched fan either.


Overall I am impressed with the enclosure and I am happy with my new setup. I see no issues with it and I would recommend it to others. Being my first Aukey product, I am impressed! Now I just hope that nothing goes wrong with it. I quickly registered for that 24 months of manufacturer warranty. 

Update


I ended up picking up two Seagate ST1000DM003 1TB Hard Drives, which are highly rated as some of the best performing drives. Putting them in RAID 0 makes them really fast!


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