How Do I Format a Disk After Initializing Raid 5?

By Brent Watkins

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A redundant array of inexpensive disks, or RAID, allows you to use multiple disk drives to improve data throughput, expand storage and secure data. With RAID 5, you can use three to 32 drives to create one very large volume of data. Knowing how to set up and manage the drives in a RAID configuration requires understanding the role of the RAID controller and operating system. Whether your computer functions as a network server, or an individual workstation, RAID 5 can greatly improve data management efficiency.

Software RAID

Recent versions of Windows can configure multiple drives in your computer to become RAID 5 volumes without a hardware controller. If you have used Windows to initialize your RAID 5 volume, you won’t be formatting the individual drives but rather the entire array of drives at the same time. Simply select the drives you want added to RAID and convert them to Dynamic Disks. Select any of the individual drive’s unallocated space and right-click to open the “New Volume” wizard. The “New Volume” wizard will provide step-by-step instructions on how to create and format a RAID volume.

RAID Controllers

Your computer may have a specific piece of hardware that exists as an expansion card or integrated component on the main board. The RAID controller manages the configuration and formatting of all drives included in it. Unlike a software RAID, which can use unallocated space on any hard drive, hardware controllers must work with identical drives plugged into the RAID controller. You can access the controller during the computer boot-up sequence. Look for a display that requests a key press to enter the RAID controller setup utility. For example, controllers made by Adaptec can be accessed by pressing “Ctrl” and “A” when the computer starts up. Use the setup utility to format the RAID 5 drives after initialization. The key is to identify the single RAID volume created when the drives were initialized and format that volume, not the individual drives.

Using Controller Utility Software

If you can’t access the controller configuration during startup, look for the RAID controller utility installed in your operating system. If you do not have software that manages your RAID controller, download utility management software from the manufacturer’s website. Installing this software will allow you to identify the initialized RAID drives as a single volume. Again, when you can identify the RAID volume, you will have the option of formatting the volume, rather than the separate drives.