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“What’s screwing me up is this RAID thing.”
The thing that’s most confusing about RAID arrays is the type you want to set up. In a nutshell, RAID’s are individual drives that are ‘linked’ to each other through hardware or software. A RAID 0 is just the drives linked together with no ‘mirroring’ (i.e. data redundancy ‘back-up’.) All other RAID setups involve greater degrees of mirroring to protect data in case of drive failure. So a RAID 0 gives you the greatest amount of drive space but no mirroring and the others give you greater mirroring with lesser amounts of drive space. It all depends on what you want to work with.
As for separate drives for the OS and programs, yeah I think that’s overkill. Often I partition the OS drive in half to make a backup space for the main drive and documents. It has the side benefit of cutting the amount of time maintenance programs take to perform their functions on the main drive. You definitely want extra drives for cache and scratch disks as I mentioned before. And you can assign to your extra drives the tasks of preview and so. Remember, internally most motherboards only support 6 drives so even if you utilize that capacity fully, you’ll still have to make some practical choices as to what will go where. If you want reliability, keep it simple….