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Windows 8 Storage Spaces: First Look

Microsoft announced the Windows 8 Consumer Preview at Mobile World Congress last week. One of the features I was most interested in testing out is Storage Spaces. Storage Spaces will take multiple drives and pool them together as they were one. This is similar technology used in Windows Home Server version 1 called Drive Extender.

You need a minimum of one extra drive connected to your Windows 8 system. Meaning your local (C:) drive and another internal or external drive. But for best results, you’ll want to add at least two extra drives. Two drives lets you utilize Mirroring which copies or “mirrors” data on both drives. In the event of a disk failure, you’ll still have all of your backed up files.

Diagram Credit: Microsoft

Here I’m setting up Storage Spaces on a Windows 8 Consumer Preview system and two external drives. A 1 TB Western Digital My Book and a 2 TB Fantom Green Drive.

From the Metro Start screen hit the Windows Key + W keyboard shortcut. The Search box displays with Settings highlighted. Type: storage spaces and hit Enter or click the icon on the left side.

Search Settings

Alternately, open Control Panel, switch view to Large Icons and click Storage Spaces.

launch cpl

The Storage Spaces window opens. Click Create a New Pool and Storage Space.

2 Create

The Create a Storage Pool window opens. It sees the external drives I connected to my system. You’ll see a warning about data being deleted, so make sure you’ve backed up any data you want to save. Click on View Files to see the data that’s on either drive.

Or just use a new drive. Check the drives then click Create Pool.

3 create pool

The system prepares the drives to create a Storage Pool.

creating

Next give the Storage Pool a Name and Drive Letter. I chose a letter toward the end of the alphabet to avoid conflicts when plugging in other thumb and external drives.

Under Resiliency, select Two-way Mirror from the dropdown. This setting stores two copies of your data on each drive. So, if one drive fails, you still have a backup.

For Size it splits the total storage in half by default. However, you can make the Logical Size as large as you want. For instance, if I made it 5 TB, when more space is needed, I will get a message to add more storage. Click Create Storage Space.

sshot-2

Windows 8 starts formatting the drives and creating the storage pool.

creating 3

After the Storage Pool is created, it shows in Computer as a single hard disk. The pooled drives will act as one. You can use it just like any other connected drive on your system. You’re also able to use BitLocker or TrueCrypt on the Storage Pool to encrypt your data.

my computer

Here I’m moving some files located on my WHS 2011 HP ProLiant Microserver to the Storage Pool using the new Copy feature in Windows 8.

copy feature

Go into Manage Storage Pool to view files, rename it or rename individual drives in the pool.

manage

If you want to delete a storage pool for any reason, click Delete Pool.

Delete Pool

Being a Windows Home Server enthusiast, it makes me wonder if Storage Spaces, along with the HomeGroup feature, could replace the need to have a WHS or Network Attached Storage (NAS) unit on a home network. Since the pool of drives works as a single drive, you an back up your data to it using SyncToy, the Backup utility in Windows or any number of third party backup programs.

I’ve just started testing out Storage Spaces. It’s an exciting feature with a lot of possibilities. There’s interesting things you can do via Power Shell commands too. I’ll be going over the more advanced options in subsequent articles. Now you have a basic understanding of how Storage Spaces works and how to set it up for yourself.

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6 Responses to Windows 8 Storage Spaces: First Look

  1. Tom March 6, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    This is fascinating. Please follow up with more if you have it. This seems very similar to RAID, what happens if one of the drives crashes?

  2. Brian Burgess March 6, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    If one drive crashes, you have your data mirrored to the other one…so there is total redundancy. I believe you then just add a new drive to replace the old — and it mirrors it tot he new one.

    I have read on MS TechNet sites that you can actually set up your Storage Spaces pool in RAID configuration using PowerShell commands.

    There is a lot more in this feature than just creating a huge storage pool. I will be testing out more and will be posting more groovy articles on it as I go!

    • Tom March 6, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

      Looking forward to it!

  3. Njabulo March 12, 2012 at 7:18 am #

    Does such a feature exist in Windows 7?

  4. Photubias March 15, 2012 at 3:39 am #

    What’s the difference between Dynamic Disks and striped/RAID5 dynamic volumes as known in Win7 etc. ?

    + With those, you can even grow a volume, which is not possible with Storage Pools?
    + Recovery is probable more simple with Dynamic Disks? (e.g. accidentaly removed files…)
    – Thin Provisioning not possible
    – USB disks not possible

  5. ma9mwah March 19, 2012 at 7:57 am #

    does the system allow for more than one parity disk?

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