Difference between Software RAID and Hardware RAID

RAID is becoming more and more popular and the reason is it can enhance performance and acquire data redundancy (Detection of errors and reconstruction of data to a certain level). The question now is, would you rather go with the software RAID, or the hardware RAID?


Software RAID vs Hardware RAID
SATA 3.0 controller with RAID functionality

Software RAID – Implemented by most modern operating systems, you can use the software RAID through a series of steps as described here. One purpose of using a software RAID is that it offers a cheap possible solution since disk controller cards can be quite expensive. Although a software RAID may improve performance on your hard drive, it uses some of your server’s CPU and RAM. Also, with software RAID, the level you can acquire will be dependent on what your OS can support. One other thing a software RAID is preferred for by users is that you won’t have to install, configure, and manage a hardware RAID controller.

Operating Systems that support RAID configuration:

  • Apple
  • Microsoft
  • Various Linux varieties
  • OpenBSD
  • FreeBSD
  • NetBSD
  • Solaris Unix 

Hardware RAID – Because the process will need a discrete controller card in the server, there will be no added load on your CPU and RAM. There will also be more advanced features when using the hardware RAID, like hot-swap on your drives in case of a drive failure. Although it offers more features and a better performance, it does need a controller card, meaning you would have to spend a little and do a few more configurations and more managing than with a software RAID.

The hardware RAID controller can be priced from $17 up to $200 depending on added features and brand.

Software RAID vs Hardware RAID

What’s the difference between a software RAID and a hardware RAID? There are several notable differences and learning these differences may mean saving you time and money, and giving you more efficiency.

Software RAID, as you might already know, is usually built-in on your OS and unlike a hardware RAID, you will need to spend a little extra on a controller card. But with budget favoring the software RAID, those wanting optimum performance and efficiency of RAID will have to go with the hardware RAID. You might need a little configuration here and there but in the end, the performance and the efficiency of your RAID will pay off. Not to mention the fact that software RAID is vulnerable to a virus as it runs like any other application/program. One more thing to consider is that using software will limit the level of RAID you can execute, depending on the server’s operating system.

To sum up, software RAID is cheaper, simpler, but still efficient and is recommended for home and small businesses. Hardware RAID on the other hand, is more expensive, complex, and more efficient. It is recommended for a higher computer usage.

Comparison Chart

Software RAID Hardware RAID
Comes with your Operating System (cheaper) Needs a controller card (more expensive)
Performance is dependent on CPU performance and current load Performance has no effect on CPU or current load
No disk hot-swapping Disk hot-swap available
Recommended for home users Recommended for business users
Less secure More secure (protected boot)


Here is a video explaining the differences between a software RAID and hardware RAID