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AHCI vs RAID: Which one to choose and why?

SSDs have gotten considerably cheaper, making them a viable storage option for everyday purposes for just about everyone. However, when using multiple drives in a computer, there’s a question of what storage technology should you use.

In this article, we’re comparing AHCI to RAID to help you figure out which one’s the better choice for you.

Also read: How to install a second SSD or HDD on your laptop?


AHCI vs RAID

Here are some of the primary differences between AHCI and RAID that’ll help you make your choice.

The technology

AHCI stands for Advanced Host Controller Interface defined by Intel. The operating mode is usually seen in newer computers and is a relatively new technology that derives many native functions from the SATA interface, including hot swapping and NCQ. 

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On the other hand, RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks and is a data storage virtualisation technology. RAID virtualises multiple independent hard drives into one or more arrays, significantly increasing performance, reliability and capacity. However, RAID requires more than one storage drive to function. 


Performance

AHCI is often used for SSDs, while RAID, on the other hand, is used to deal with multiple HDDs at once. That said, RAID is also available for SSD arrays but doesn’t have a drastic impact on the performance. 

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Photo by Jakob Owens

Since AHCI cannot operate in multi-disk configurations, RAID takes the stage in terms of read/write speeds as it divides the data between several drives, causing read/write times to go down. 

AHCI doesn’t impact the performance of the SATA port but does allow users to use more advanced features that come with the SATA port. 


Compatibility and use case

Currently, AHCI is almost exclusive to Intel chipsets, while RAID can be just about anywhere because it’s offered by several vendors. 

Other than that, using RAID with SATA exposes the same functionalities as ACHI. AHCI is mostly suitable for SATA devices, so if you’re using a SATA SSD or HDD, it’s advisable that you use AHCI. 


Tabulated comparison

Here’s a quick overview of AHCI and RAID

RAIDAHCI
Multi-drive performanceProvides faster speeds and data protection features.Doesn’t provide the same features as RAID.
SSD performance improvementsNo significant improvement on SSDsRelatively better for SSDs running on SATA
HDD performance improvementsProvides faster read/write speedsBetter suited to SSDs
CompatibilityOffered by a lot of vendorsExclusive to Intel chipsets

Conclusion

The real choice boils down to your use case and the number of drives you’re planning to run. If you want a multi-drive configuration with data redundancy and protection features while maintaining a high transfer rate, RAID is the obvious choice.

Apart from that, if you’re using a normal computer with just one or even two drives, you can use AHCI without any performance impact. 

Also read: SSHD vs SSD vs HDD: 3 talking points

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