Along with all the new things in Windows 8 that you either hate or love, such as the Start screen and the lack of a start button, there are many background features that are really good and useful. One such feature is Storage Spaces. This feature is also available in Windows 10. So what are Disk Spaces and how do I use them in Windows 8 and Windows 10?
Storage Spaces basically allow you to take multiple hard drives and combine them into storage pools and storage spaces (I’ll explain the difference later) and use them to create a quick temporary storage or backup data store. In classic Microsoft style, it all comes down to making the process so simple and straightforward that anyone can do it.
While it is very easy to work with and does a great job overall, oversimplification of a normally complex problem does cause some problems. Luckily, if you know a few things ahead of time before creating storage spaces, you’ll love this new feature.
What can you create with storage space?
First, let’s talk about what you can actually achieve with disk space. First, you need to create a storage pool. Basically, it is a collection of disks of different types and sizes that will act as a storage pool.
You can connect a whole host of various types of drives, including USB, SATA, SCSI, iSCSI, SSD, and SAS. Not only that, but the disks do not have to be the same size. If you’ve ever tried using a standard RAID device, you probably know that it usually requires all drives to be the same size. Not so with storage space.
After creating a disk pool, you can create disk spaces on top of the pool. Each space appears in Windows as a logical drive. Then you can use it like any other drive. When creating storage space, you have three options:
Simple (No Fault Tolerance) – You should use plain space to store data that you want to quickly write to disk, but no backup. This type of drive is called a scratch disk and can be used for video editing or for large image files, etc. Use only for fast disk writing. This is the equivalent of RAID 0 for the tech savvy.
A two-way / three-way mirror is the best option and basically writes data to either two disks or three disks at the same time, so that you have multiple copies of your data. Two-way mirroring requires at least 2 disks, while three-way mirroring requires at least 5 disks. Five drives are needed because they are supposed to protect your data in the event of two hard drives failing. This is equivalent to RAID 1.
Parity. With parity, you need at least 3 hard drives, and you will get more space than using mirroring. However, parity causes performance degradation due to the algorithms used to read and write data to disks. By mirroring, you get less space but improve performance. This is equivalent to RAID 5.
When it comes to storage spaces, Parity has a terrifying write speed, which largely makes it impractical. Usually parity (RAID 5) is fine and is used all the time on servers, but that’s because it’s hardware RAID. With disk spaces, it’s all done with software. Software RAID is significantly slower, and in this case very slow. Hopefully Microsoft will fix it eventually, because it would be a better option if not for speed.
Another problem with parity is that if you are using the wrong number of disks or disks of very different sizes, you will not get errors, but you will run into all sorts of problems. The Ars Technica team members explain their tests in detail, but mostly the data is not balanced properly if you are using 3 disks and when adding new disks to the pool. Thus, disks that are already nearly full become full, even if you can add a new disk that has a lot of free space.
Prepare storage space
To get started, click Start on Windows and look for storage locations. You will start by creating a storage pool:
Now you need to select the drives that you want to use for your storage pool. Disks do not need to be formatted in advance.
Once you have selected the disks, click on Create Pool. This will create a storage pool and on the next screen you will open the Create Storage Space dialog box.
Here you can give your drive a name, choose a drive letter, choose a file system, and more. The default is NTFS, but you can also choose REFS, which stands for Resilient File System, and in a couple of years it will become the future file system for Windows. REFS is still under development and should only be used if you really know the technical details behind it, otherwise just stick with NTFS for now. Check out this post for some background information on REFS as well as more information on storage locations.
In the “Resilience Type” section, you will see the options that I mentioned at the beginning of the article. In my case, I have two hard drives, so I will be using a two-way mirror. The original size of the drives was 10 GB each, and with a two-way mirror we only get about 18.5 GB to create disk space due to overhead. Since this is an exact replica on both drives, we only get half of that 18.5 GB (8.75 GB) that can be used for data storage. With parity, you get 12 to 13 GB, but with a drop in performance.
There is a “Size” option that you can change, and it says that you can make the storage space larger than the actual storage pool. So what does this mean and why do you need it? I can change the value to 30GB and on Windows it will show up as a 30GB drive. However, when it starts filling up almost to the physical limit of 8.75, you can simply add another drive to increase space. This is not very useful to me personally, as you can forget how much space you actually have.
In addition, the system does not issue warnings when you are nearing the limit unless you manually open Disk Spaces. This is a problem because once the physical disk is full, the entire disk simply shuts down and disappears. Therefore, I suggest simply leaving the size value exactly equal to the actual physical space available.
That’s all! The disc will now appear and you can start copying data to the disc. You can rest assured that your data is now copied across multiple drives! This is definitely a very powerful feature for the average consumer. With the prices of hard drives so low these days, you can easily add a couple of drives to your desktop and either increase performance or increase redundancy.
Now when you return to the Storage Spaces dialog box, you will see the status of your current storage pool. You can see how much space is being used and add additional disks as needed.
Overall, this is a great feature and works very well, with the exception of a few cases involving parity, which will hopefully be fixed in the near future. If you have any questions about setting up disk space in Windows 8 or Windows 10, please leave a comment and I’ll try to help. Enjoy!