I’ve had a Synology DS414 NAS for a few weeks now, this post is about how to change the default settings of mdadm, the tool used to manage software RAID, to speed up the process of migrating between RAID levels.

I started out with 2 x 4Tb WD Red drives, they were configured to be a Synology Hybrid RAID (SHR) volume which dynamically changes the RAID level depending on the number of drives you assign to it.

With 2 disks it’ll run in RAID 1, mirroring the data held on the drives, add another disk and it’ll convert the volume to RAID 5, striping the data across the drives for more available space whilst adding parity information to cope with the failure of any 1 of the drives.

Adding the 3rd disk was quick and easy, the DS414 supports hot plugging devices so I just went ahead and put the new drive in, added the drive to the volume and it went ahead and expanded it.

The next part is a bit of a waiting game and depending on the size of the volume it can take a while. Because the DS414 uses software RAID, where there’s no dedicated RAID hardware, it uses the CPU of the device which isn’t the fastest.

I left it overnight and late the next day it had only done about 30%, whilst expanding volumes data is essentially at risk as the array is not redundant. The longer the process takes the longer you’re not protected against disk failure.

There are a few things you can do to speed up the process, SSH to your NAS as admin and enter the following commands (change md3 to your device):

# echo 100000 > /proc/sys/dev/raid/speed_limit_min
# echo 32768 > /sys/block/md3/md/stripe_cache_size

The first command increases the minimum “goal” rebuild speeds for when there’s non-rebuild activity. On my DS414 I never saw this go above 90000KiB.

The second command increases the stripe cache size which increases sync performance by allowing a larger cache to synchronise the read and write operations on the array.  This is only available for RAID 5 volumes and it does decrease the amount of available system RAM but I never saw 100% utilisation on the DS414.

You can monitor the process with the following command:

# cat /proc/mdstat

Once I’d changed these settings the expand operation only took another 12 hours, a total of about 35. It should also work for speeding up volume consistency checks as they both read the same config. Remember the commands above will only set those options until the NAS is rebooted.