The manuals for SoftRAID 4 are built into online help.
includes over 70 pages of documentation.
SoftRAID 4 contains a wealth of new features which we are
really excited about," said Mark James, VP Sales. "SoftRAID 4 has
many features which will make your life easier whether you're a system administrator
who runs a group of servers, a consultant who has to keep track of the health
of clients? Macs, or a professional who has to make sure his or her business
is protected against disk failure or human error. We wanted to make this the
best RAID solution for Mac OS X and I think we've succeeded."
SoftRAID 4 includes these key features, many of which are not available
on any other RAID product for Mac OS X:
- Accelerated Mirror Rebuilds: mirror rebuilds can now take
less than 10 minutes even on 1 - 2 TB volumes.
- Email Notification: the SoftRAID Monitor can send out email
messages in response to error conditions to ensure that you know when things
are going wrong before it?s too late.
- Command Line Interface: there is now a SoftRAID command
line interface. You can check the status of your SoftRAID volumes, start a mirror
rebuild or perform most SoftRAID functions remotely, even from your iPhone.
- Checking SMART Status on Disk: the SMART status on every
disk is checked every time you launch the SoftRAID application and every 24 hours
your Mac is running. In addition, the parameters returned with the SMART status
are used to determine if your disk is more likely to fail in the next couple
- Disk Hours of Use: SoftRAID now keeps track of how many
hours each disk has been used. This will allow you to replace old disks before
- Validating Volumes: you can now read every sector on a volume
even when it is in use without interrupting your work. For mirror volumes, the
data on each disk in the mirror is compared to ensure that all disks contain
identical copies of the volume.
- Certifying and Verifying Disks: new disks can now be certified
before you use them to ensure that each and every sector is reliable.
- Support for SSDs and Disks with 4 KB Sectors: SoftRAID now
has complete support for SSDs and disks with 4 KB sectors.
- The SoftRAID Log: all SoftRAID specific errors and events
are now written to one log file. You can monitor the health of your SoftRAID
disks and volumes without wading through all the diagnostic messages in the system.log
At this point, the only known problems with SoftRAID 4 are the lack of
documentation. Rather than hold off the release for another several weeks, we
decided to ship version 4 and release the documentation with the next upgrade.
If any of the new features are confusing and you cannot find the answer to your
question in this document, please do not hesitate to contact us via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Accelerated Mirror Rebuilds
This version of SoftRAID includes a completely redesigned RAID architecture.
At its heart is a RAID engine, a software emulation of a RAID controller which
allows us to more easily add additional RAID levels in the future. Unlike SoftRAID
3.0 (and most RAID controllers), this RAID engine can actually perform many RAID
operations at exactly the same time. The number of simultaneous RAID operations
is limited only by the number of processors in your Mac. That means that with
the latest Mac Pros which have 8 cores and HyperThreading, SoftRAID can actually
perform 16 simultaneous RAID operations. Our testing shows that this new RAID
engine is twice as fast at performing full mirror rebuilds than SoftRAID 3.
In addition, the new RAID engine keeps track of not only which disks are
out of sync in a mirror, but also which parts of those disks need rebuilding.
If you only write to the first 1% of a volume while a secondary disks is disconnected,
then only that 1% will be rebuilt when the disk gets reattached. This dramatically
reduces mirror rebuild times; a 1 TB volume can usually be rebuilt in under 10
minutes (with 20 GB of changes).
Email Notifications from SoftRAID
The SoftRAID Monitor now has the ability to send out email messages when
error conditions arise. These email messages can be sent out even when there
is no one logged into you Mac and do not require you to configure Apple’s
Mail application. Email notifications can be sent out not only in response to
error conditions (disk errors, SMART test failures, predicted disk failures)
but also in response to routine events (mirror rebuilds completed, Mac restarted)
and when certain thresholds are reached (high network activity, low free space
on a volume or high cpu utilization).
The email engine in the SoftRAID Monitor supports an unlimited number of
recipients and up to two outgoing email servers. That way, if one email server
is unavailable, your email notification will still be delivered. The outgoing
mail can be delivered over SSL or TLS connections. A convenient popup menu makes
configuring the outgoing email server settings a breeze for many popular email
SoftRAID Command Line Interface
SoftRAID now automatically installs a tool which provides access to most
features from the command line. In fact, this tool is the same one which the
SoftRAID application uses to perform most of its functions. The tool, called
softraidtool, gets installed the first time you run the SoftRAID application
and can be accessed from any terminal window by simply typing “softraidtool”.
Running softraidtool requires root access (e.g. sudo softraidtool...) for
any function other than simply getting the current status of a disk or volume.
This prevents an unauthorized user from erasing your SoftRAID volumes. If you
want to remove SoftRAID, the softraidtool gets removed, along with the driver,
the SoftRAID Monitor and all the SoftRAID specific preferences when you select
Uninstall SoftRAID from the Utilities menu.
The commands for softraid tool all take the form:
softraidtool [disk|volume] identifier command parameters
For instance, if you want to get the status of the disk at disk3, you would
type “softraidtool disk disk3 info” and if you wanted to get the
status of your boot volume, you would type “softraidtool volume / info”.
For a complete list of commands, simply type “softraidtool help” in
a terminal window. In addition, the last section of this document contains a
more detailed description of all the commands which are available.
If you wish to use the command line interface to remotely use softraidtool
from another Mac or iPhone, you must enable Remote Login in the Sharing pane
of System Preferences. In addition, you must make sure that your firewall can
forward requests from the Internet to the Mac running SoftRAID. Please only do
this if you have taken adequate security precautions (e.g. are using a strong
How SoftRAID Tests the SMART Status of Disks
SoftRAID obtains the SMART status of disks whenever the SoftRAID application
is launched. In addition, the SoftRAID Monitor checks the SMART status of your
disks everytime your Mac starts up and every 24 hours after that. If the SoftRAID
Monitor discovers a disk which fails the SMART test or is predicted to fail (see
below), it will: display a dialog, write to the SoftRAID log file and send out
an email notification (if you have email notification configured). This ensures
that you will be notified of impending disk failure even if you are not physically
located near the Mac running SoftRAID.
Our interpretation of the SMART status of disks is based on the study performed
by Google on 100,000 SATA disks over a two year period. During this study, they
found that even when a disk has not failed the SMART test, some of the values
returned in SMART status are indicators that a disk is 20 - 60 times more likely
to fail in the next few months. SoftRAID now notifies you when a disk has one
of these indicators. This allows you to move your important data off of a disk
which is likely to fail before it stops working completely. If you wish to not
receive these notifications, they can be disabled in the SoftRAID preferences.
Hours of Use on Disks
SoftRAID now reports the hours of use for all disks. For disks which support
SMART, this value is the actual number of hours the disk has been turned on (either
with the platters spinning or when they are stopped). We recommend that you replace
disks with rotating platters after 20,000 hours of use as the incidence of failure
can increases substantially after that point.
On disks which don’t support SMART, an hours of use counter is created
the first time the disk is initialized with SoftRAID 4.0. This counter will continue
to increase even if you later reinitialize the disk. The counter will be set
back to zero if convert a SoftRAID disk to Apple Disk Utility Format.
Ever wonder if all the sectors of a volume are actually readable? SoftRAID
4 adds the ability to validate volumes. This function uses the new RAID engine.
It reads every sector of a volume at the device level, bypassing the file system
cache. This allows us to ensure that all the sectors on your volume can be read.
Since the RAID engine is part of the SoftRAID driver, you can keep validating
a volume even if the SoftRAID application is not running.
On mirror volumes, each disk in the mirror volume is read to ensure that
they all contain identical copies of the volume’s data. Mirror volumes
may need to be rebuilt before they are validated the first time to ensure that
all the sectors on each disk are identical. All subsequent validate operations
require no rebuilds.
Certifying and Verifying Disks
Most new disks you purchase have not had all their sectors tested when you
receive them. On a 2 TB disk, this would take an extra 10 hours in the factory
for each an every disk drive. Disk manufacturers can’t afford to perform
this test on each and every disk they ship.
SoftRAID now allows you to certify a disk before you start using it. SoftRAID
writes a pattern to each and every sector on the disk and then reads it back
to ensure the every sector on the disk is reliable. This process can be repeated
again with a different pattern to further ensure that the disk is reliable. You
can specify that a certify operation takes up to 8 passes, each with a different
pattern. The last pass always writes zeros to every sector.
We recommend three passes as the best value for new disks being placed into
use. For old disks which are being reused, we recommend all 8 passes. SoftRAID’s
certify function is also a great way to make sure that the CF or HDSC flash cards
are totally reliable before you use them in your digital camera. Remember that
certifying a disk will write to every sector, overwriting any volume or files
on that disk.
If you want to make sure that a disk is working properly and don’t
want to lose any data on it, you can use the verify disk function in SoftRAID
4.0. This function will read every sector of a disk and ensure that it is readable.
This can be performed on a disk even if it is not initialized with SoftRAID however
it does require the SoftRAID applicati on to be left running. We also recommend
that you only verify disks if all the volumes on that disk have been unmounted.
Why does SoftRAID write zeros on the last pass of a disk certification? Data
recovery companies, like DriveSavers Data Recovery, Inc., have told us that it
is much easier to recover data from disks which have been filled with zeros before
use. In the unlikely event that your disk fails, you don’t have a backup
and you need to use a data recovery company to recover your lost files, we want
to make it as easy as possible to get your files back.
Support for SSDs and Disks with 4 KB Sectors
There is now specific support for SSDs (solid state disks) and disks with
4 KB sectors. SoftRAID recognizes SSDs and changes the disk failure prediction
algorithm for them. It also allows you to use a 16 KB stripe unit size when creating
a stripe with two or more SSDs. This has been shown by Lloyd Chambers to produce
better performance than larger stripe unit sizes (http://macperformanceguide.com/VirtualMemory-MacBookPro.html).
Note: SoftRAID may notify you that some older SSDs are predicted to fail.
This occurs when the firmware on the SSD does not correctly notify Mac OS X that
it is a solid state device. The algorithm SoftRAID uses parameters in the SMART
status and is only valid for disks with rotating platters. SoftRAID ignores these
SMART parameters if it knows a disk is an SSD. If you encounter this problem,
please contact the manufacturer of your SSD for a firmware upgrade so that your
device will be correctly identified by Mac OS X.
The SoftRAID Log
SoftRAID now logs all SoftRAID specific events and errors to a log file.
This gives you one place to go when you want to know what is happening with SoftRAID
on your Mac. You can view the log file either by selecting Show SoftRAID Log
under the Utilities menu or by opening the file at /Library/Logs/SoftRAID.log
using the Console application.
Using the Trial Version of SoftRAID
You can use SoftRAID on a trial bases for 30 days for free. At the end of
the 30 day period, your SoftRAID volumes will still mount and you can use all
the files on them but most other SoftRAID features will be disabled. If you wish
to continue using SoftRAID, you can purchase a license from our web site. This
will provide you with a serial number which you can use to unlock SoftRAID. Once
the serial number has been entered, you will be able to use SoftRAID normally
again. If you decide not to continue using SoftRAID, you can convert your SoftRAID
volumes back to normal Macintosh volumes even after the 30 day trial period has
Getting Help with SoftRAID
If you are experiencing problems with SoftRAID, please send email to email@example.com.
Your purchase of SoftRAID 4.0 comes with one year of free technical support via
email. If you wish phone support, you can purchase it on a incident by incident
basis or for an entire year. Most users, once they experience our prompt response
to support emails, opt not to purchase phone support.
SoftRAID 4.0 includes an incredibly powerful report generator for helping
us figure out the nature of your problem. If you choose, Generate Report for
Tech Support from the Utilities menu, you will generate a file which allows us
to quickly pinpoint the nature of your problem. In addition, if you choose the
option to Include extended disk and volume info, you will be sending us the partition
maps and volume headers from your disks. In many instances, this information
allows us to recover volumes which have been deleted by accident. (We remotely
recovered an accidentally deleted AppleRAID mirror on a server at a video production
facility in Lebanon using these Tech Support Reports during our beta period.)