2 out of 4 'dead' HDDs in RAID 5

Posted on 2005-04-19
Last Modified: 2010-04-03
I was running XP Pro using LSI's MegaRaid SATA 150-4 controller card with 4 Maxtor 200 Gb SATA drives in a RAID 5 config.  As far as I recall, I had about 350-400 Gb of data out of ~ 600 Gb total.  
The past day or two, my PC continually was freezing.  Today, I received the bad news from my LSI card -- drive offline.  1 drive would've been no problem.  My luck, TWO drives show as OFFLINE so I can no longer boot into Windows nor can I access my data.
I really need to get to the data and unfortunately, my last full backup is almost 2 months old...arghhh!
The 2 offline HDDs didn't make any ticking noise and still spin up so they don't appear to be badly damaged.
Are there ANY tools I can use to somehow access the data on the drives?  Any data recovery is better than none and the really important data is not very large (probably < 3 Gb).
Any help is greatly appreciated!!
I'm having a professional data recovery company assess the drives to give me a price qoute for data recovery but fear the price is out of my budget ($1,000s?).

    LVL 6

    Expert Comment

    I need more detail on OS, config, pc type, etc. to advise you.

    Author Comment

    Windows XP Pro, SP2, latest patches.
    Everything was on one C: Drive, NTFS.
    Older Alienware PC, Intel MoBo, P4 2GHz CPU, 1 Gb RAM, ext. DVD-R, int DVD & int CD-R.  I also have ext. 80 Gb USB HDD.
    Anything else in particular you need to know?
    LVL 4

    Assisted Solution

    two drives at once sounds very fishy to me.

    I would check into the controller itself.  is the controller removable?

    If you can get the system to boot into an operating system, check into the website for their software.  they have software that will read bit level from the hard drives (even with RAID configs if configured properly) and at least try to recover your data.  

    Author Comment

    Yes the controller is removable and yes, it's very odd to have 2 fail simoultaneously (very depressing considering i went through the effort to avoid this scenario in the first place -- it's driving me crazy!).  The only thing I can think of is that during the day of PC freezes, there were continual reboots (resets and hard boots) that may have pushed the near-failing drives over the edge....?  

    Eventually, I disconnected my external 80 Gb USB HDD from the system and the PC came back up so I thought that ext. HDD was the problem.  The next day (or late that night), the PC froze again and after rebooting, the 2 drive failures came up.

    Currently, I can't boot into the OS.  I tried booting off of one of those Linux on a CD OS packages (can't recall name) but it wouldn't see any HDD either.

    I'm having a local data recovery company pick up the HDDs today to do a free assessment.  If their cost comes in too high, I will look into using some software tools -- any suggestions?

    R-Studio requires an OS to install it on to so I'll have to install another HDD and connect the RAID set as a secondary HDD.  Their tech support said they may not be able to read the drives using the LSI controller and suggested connected each RAID drive directly to the mobo, which I can't do since I dont have SATA support on the mobo (just IDE).  So...I'm not sure if their product will work in my case.

    LVL 2

    Accepted Solution

    What you'll have to do is to get in to the raid config manager. Usually during the boot time there is a sequence of keys to access it.
    Find one of the drives off line & force it to on-line. Once started. reboot the pc & get back in to the same utility & rebuild the second of line drive (do not just force it on-line as the fs system will be corrupted & you'll loose some data). This is not the problem with the drives but the controler it-self. You will have to download latest firmware for it.
    I did this few times I know it works. It won't work only if drives are really dead.


    Author Comment


    Thanks for the feedback!!

    Based on your info, I spoke to LSI tech support.  They are aware of some  problems with larger Maxtor drives (400+ Gb) but not specifically with my 200 Gb models.  They also suggested upgrading firmware and gave me these steps to follow:

    1. Write down all LSI config info (through their BIOS util): drive #s, ports, write size, stripe info, etc.
    2. Upgrade the LSI card's firmware
    3. Check the logical drive status. If still showing with same info, skip to step 5.
    4. Do a NEW configuration and re-enter the info saved from step 1.  This will bring all drives online so I have to go back in & FAIL one of the two dead drives manually.  Go to step 6.
    5. force one of the two dead drives online. if it immediately fails, try forcing the other drive.
    6. Reboot and see if OS loads.  If so, backup data elsewhere.
    7. Bring the other dead drive online & rebuild array.

    If I'm lucky enough to get to #6 or #7, I will still RMA the 2 drives.

    LSI did not believe the card would be the culprit in this scenario and thought swapping with another LSI card (same model), would add an additional variable & potential problem point into the I won't do that for the time being.

    Guess I'll try it & see what happens....

    Author Comment

    I will post details tomorrow AM.  I'm busy backing up stuff now...just in case.
    LVL 2

    Expert Comment

    hehehe...I've been doing just that a lot latelly.


    Author Comment

    Thanks for your help. You helped point us in the right direction.

    You're the man!  I'd give you more points if I could.
    I bought another simple SATA card to run the Maxtor drive diagnostic utility and it confirmed NONE of the drives had problems!
    Then, after upgrading the LSI card's Firmware, I forced one of the FAILED drives online & windows came back up.
    I'm backing everything up now and then will enable the 2nd drive and let it rebuild fully.

    According to Maxtor, many RAID controller card mfr's didn't get their act together until late last year regarding operating properly with HDDs.  My firmware was from 2003 and the udpated one was from 12/04.

    Also, Maxtor gave me HDD firmware upgrades but didn't recommend installing unless it was a last resort.  They even told me that upgrading firmware on HDDs regularly decreased their performance (for some reason)... so I'll leave them as is.

    Another fun week in the world of PC troubleshooting...


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