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What are hot-plug and hot-swap hard drives, and how do they work?

Most modern hot-swap methods use a specialized connector with staggered pins that ensure certain pins are connected to others. On most staggered-pin designs, the ground pins will be longest, so no sensitive circuitry can be connected before the system is grounded. That’s what makes hot-plug hard drives possible.



Hot-plug hard drive installation

Hard drives are installed into a Hot-Plug PowerEdge carrier frame. The frame with the installed drive slides into the server drive bay and connects the hard drive data and power connectors to the server backplane. The server backplane is then connected to a Dell PERC RAID Controller inside the server.



Dell PowerEdge R420 backplane, inside the server

3.5-inch Drive Bay with Hot-Plug backplane

When you boot your server, the hard drives will spin, and the RAID Controller will use the drives. Once you’ve installed all the hard drives you need, you should be able to see them in the RAID menu.



So, what do you do when you have to install something new?



Go to the RAID menu and create a new Virtual Disk. The Virtual Disk will consist of the hard drives you’ve physically installed. We recommend configuring two hard drives as RAID-1 for operating system use, and configuring a set of drives as RAID-5 for data volume use.



To be safe, you can also install and configure a drive as a ”Hot Spare.” If any of your other physical drives fail, your Hot Spare will save the day. The Dell PERC RAID Controller will automatically rebuild the Hot Spare to replace the target volume of the failed drive.




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