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2 x PC's with RAID 1 Mirrors running XP Pro

Posted on 2004-04-02
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Hi all

I have a client (small  business of 4 PC's running peer to peer) who wants 2 machines (Office Server + home PC) both with RAID 1 mirroring and removable caddies. Both PC's to have identical hardware and both on XP Pro. The idea is that every day (or so), he will take one of the drives out of the office server, take it home, replace 1 of the drives in the home PC and regenerate the other home drive. So that the home PC becomes a mirror of the office server. In this way, if disaster strikes, he can bring in the PC from home and continue working. Also, he wants to be able to work at home and then bring BACK 1 drive and regen the office server - so as to update it.

I have started installing running 2 Adaptec 1200A's (IDE RAID card) and 4 x 80Gb W.D. ATA100 drives.

There is no critical data yet, just a few hrs of updating and app installation etc.

Problem is, after 1 machine is set up, when taking the HDD over to the other. The RAID BIOS reports (correctly) that there is a broken RAID array (broken mirror hehe) and you can duplicate or continue booting. If you duplicate, the PC is out of action for a couple hours = unacceptable. If you continue booting, it boots and the Windows version of the Adaptec s/ware pops up and (correctly) reports there is a problem. However, doesn't let me regenerate in Windows (the appropriate areas are greyed out).

1) Is my problem to do with XP knowing what hardware it was installed to (and therefore is not transferable)?
2) Can I achieve what is wanted with the above h/w and s/w combo?
3) Why can't I regenerate in Windows (this way he can get on with his work)?

Regards
Michael
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Question by:mikhael
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Expert Comment

by:nltech
ID: 10746284
consumer grade raid products typically only have tools that run out of the controller's bios for building or repairing an array.

you'll probably need a more robust hardware solution with server-grade o/s utility, perhaps the 2400a wouldve been a better choice for this application? or a hot-swap scsi server-grade controller.

alternatively, and less complicated.. a broadband delivered vpn and remote desktop software so he can work from home as if he's at work. that way data stays put, home system specs dont matter much.. dont need two licenses for all his software (a mirrored system like this is still a separate system and requires it's own software licenses), and he can still bring home backup tapes or cdr's for offsite backup media storage.
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Author Comment

by:mikhael
ID: 10750352
Mmmmm...

Thanks for your comments NLTECH.

The 1200A DOES have Windows s/w that allows you to create and destroy RAID, duplicate etc. However, there is a more specific prob I think.

Perhaps the VPN solution may have been better.

SCSI based and hot-swap etc are out of his budget. Remember only 4 PC's and no actual server. (Peer to peer).

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Expert Comment

by:RWrigley
ID: 10759230
I'm not familiar with your specific hardware, but I suspect the problems is that the controller realizes that the second drive is from a different array then the first drive.  

In theory, what you need to do is delete the mirror (so that the system thinks that there is only one drive, the one that you brought from the office), and then create a new mirror.
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Expert Comment

by:droswell
ID: 10759912
What your machine is doing is rebuilding the RAID array. It takes a couple of hours to do, and that's how the technology works. It will take that long to rebuild an array.  There's no way I know to get around that.

I would recommend using an external USB 2.0 hard drive and carrying that back and forth.  However, that drive will be subject to the bumping around of travel, so back that up to the local drives on your two machines as often as possible.

Dros.
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Author Comment

by:mikhael
ID: 10760679
Thanks for your comments folks.

RWrigley, you might be right. I'll try deleting the array relationship 1st, then try the rebuild. Shall advise.

Dros, yeah it must rebuild. I would like it to do so in Windows (so the guy can continue working). And the s/w has the function. Just for some reason, that area is greyed out. When I use a clean HDD, the Windows regen works fine. So, I think RWrigley sounds on the money.

Shall advise.
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by:Francois_IT
ID: 10765117
here's my advise...
Rais are not ment to be swapped for one machine to another... Raid is ment to stay in the case for redundancy.

==>a VPN or Remote desktop would be best to be able to work from home (like Pcanywhere or real-VNC)

still, you seems to be hook on thansporting a internal HDD from work to home (also not design to be transported as stated above.)

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by:RWrigley
ID: 10765818
Raid-wise, what he's doing is a pretty painless way of getting a warm-standby.  You're right about transporting an internal drive though...the hard drive connectors aren't really designed to handle being plugged and unplugged numerous times.  Eventually, he's going to bend a pin, or break the solder on the power connector.  Unless he's using a removable bay (they're pretty cheap).
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by:Francois_IT
ID: 10777180
lets do things Right!

what's he trying to do is to ducktape his muffler...lol...

raid is a nice way for redundancy on a local server/workstation and not to "cheat" remote access by moving the mirrored drive. (also, there is no way to avoid the time consuming process that involve duplicating the discs ounce reinsert into the array, that's the way it work )

it's less expensive to implant a remote access or vpn support at work to have acess to the network.

yours
Francois IT
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by:RWrigley
ID: 10777553
Don't forget that his objective here isn't remote access.  He's essentially establishing a off-site backup, using $100 hard drives instead of $50 tapes and a $3000 tape drives.  The ability to work from home isn't entirely efficient, but it does save him from having to keep his office server  running 24x7, and means he doesn't need to set up an internet connection on both ends.  
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Author Comment

by:mikhael
ID: 10779055
Francois and RWrigley, you're both right.

This situation may not be the ideal, but it's what the customer wanted. He went out and bought 2 PC's with an extra hard disk in each and with 4 removable caddies and said this is what I want and can you make it happen.

Having said that, I didn't denounce the idea. It does have a good deal of merit. There are a host of reasons why remote access is not as good (speed, security, cost - remember in Oz we don't enjoy cheap broadband yet). And we achieve computer redundancy, where if the office machine gets stolen or just crashes badly, he can contiune working in a short space of time. Remember, he has 2 identical machines.

BUT, I need to be able to regen in Windows. We have built other boxes with the 1200A and you CAN regen in Windows It doesn't seem to hog resources. The machine is very usable during regen.

And realistically, if a hard disk inside an aluminium caddy sits on a carpeted car floor for 15 minutes, do you really think it will damage it?

Back to tech problems...

I have more info....

When moving the drive TO the office computer, we have to "BREAK" the RAID relationship in the BIOS. Then when we boot, we simply have 2 drives (C and D). Still the Windows S/W doesn't allow us to regen. Says there needs to be at least 1 Non-system drive to CREATE a RAID array. SO what I have done then is to go into DIsk Management (it's XP Pro) and "Delete Partition". Although Windows doesn't ask me to reboot, I indeed have to reboot before the Adaptec s/w allows the regen.

A bit painful, but it gets me there.

But in the other direction, we have a problem. When we put the drive back into the HOME PC, we break the RAID relationship, and then Windows doesn't boot. It either stops in the BIOS just before Windows (with no error msg), or Windows starts, I get a mouse pointer but no logon screen.

Does anyone know about XPP complaining about being in another computer (diff. serial numbers of drives, CPU's NIC's etc) ?? I don't know if this is my problem  -just thought I might be.
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Author Comment

by:mikhael
ID: 10809161
I gave Adaptec Support the entire thread of discussion and this was their answer....

Hello from Adaptec,
>
>    You are correct about the situation.  Any RAID level is not meant to
>    break it and rebuild it unless in the emergency situation.  The
>    customer should put the data he/she needs to work on, depends on the
>    size, with the removal media such as USB2 key.  With their situation
>    where 1 XP windows hard drive is transporting back and forth between 2
>    PC is definitely violating the Microsoft User Licensing Agreement.
>    Even though the two PCs can be totally identical to each other but the
>    hardware serial numbers are different, and XP can pick that up and
>    notices the PC hardware have changed.  In my humble opinion, the
>    removal media is the best way to go.  Also as you have suggested, VPN,
>    VNC or any remote access will be great as well for home/office
>    situation.
>
>
>    If you have any other questions regarding the product please contact
>    us.
>
>
>    Thank you for using Adaptec ASK.
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Expert Comment

by:RWrigley
ID: 10817134
ITs been a while since I waded through the Microsoft EULA, but if you're using OEM copies, then techincally yes, you're in violation.  If, however, they're full-retail (and you have two, one for each machine), then you're legal.  Of course, even in the OEM case, its a technicality that's unlikely to stand up in court (but who wants to go to court?).

As for the XP serial number, that shouldn't be an issue either as long as the two computers are identical; assuming you've turned off the processor serial number.  And even if the XP activation got triggered, it would still let you boot.  You just wouldn't be able to do anything AFTER booting.

Which leaves us with your booting problem.  Bit of a sticky one there.  Are the two PC's IDENTICAL (check bios and firmware versions on all components!).  If they're not, then that might explain you're problem.
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Accepted Solution

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Francois_IT earned 350 total points
ID: 10817776
mikhael, get to the point that you have to make tour custumer understand that it is best to use a remote comtrole desktop or a VPN connection instead of traveling with HDD from work to home.

for backup, he can use tapedrive for data (not the entire drive...lol)

It reminded me when i was young and had a Fuse problem at home and used a aluminium foill in the sochet (was to costly to buy more fuse or be repair by e electrician)...guess what, i almost burnt my house.

even in computer, things are ment to be done a certain way... Raid is one of them !

remote desktop can be verry secure if set properly. VPN connection is the best to access data, but is more complicated to setup.

yours
Francois IT
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Author Comment

by:mikhael
ID: 11058713
I think I have convinced my client that a VPN solution is the better way to go.

Thanks to all - esp. Francois_IT, who I'm giving the points to.

Cheers

Mikhael
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Expert Comment

by:Francois_IT
ID: 11058946
Thx, and have a good one !!!

remember, client are not always right... that's why WE EXIST, to direct them to the right path....lol
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