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Cannot convert USB hard drives to dynamic disks in Server 2003

Posted on 2006-11-17
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Last Modified: 2012-05-05
Hi all,

I have four USB external HDDs on a PC running as a server. Two 320GB HDDs, and two 250GB HDDs. I would like to span a 320GB with a 250GB to create one logical volume, and do the same with the other two drives, to have two (approximately) 570GB partitions, one for storage and one for backup. If the problem is that external drives cannot be converted to dynamic, is there any way to trick Windows? Also, if there is a way to convert them, and one drive gets removed, when it is reconnected will Windows remount the volume?

Thanks for the help.

Chris.
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Question by:ChrisEbbels
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14 Comments
 
LVL 16

Expert Comment

by:Brian Pringle
ID: 17969991
In Windows, a USB drive will automatically be configured for quick removal, so that you do not have to "Stop" the drive before connecting it.  To do this, Windows will not use the disk cache for writing files to the drive.  This means that if the drive is removed during a write operation, that file is lost and you risk data corruption on the drive.  An internal drive will automatically be configured for performance, which also allows for using disk caching.

Try changing the setting on the drives to see if Windows will then allow you to convert them to dynamic drives.

1. Right-click "My Computer" and click "Manage"
2. Click "Device Manager" in the left-hand pane.
3. Expand "Disk Drives" in the right-hand pane.
4. Double-click the desired drive to open Properties.
5. Click the "Policies" tab
6. Select the radio button next to "Optimize for performance".
7. Check the box next to "Enable write caching on the disk"

After making this change, your drives will also be more responsive.  However, you *must* make sure that you stop the drive by using the "Safely remove hardware" icon in the task tray by the clock.

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LVL 70

Expert Comment

by:garycase
ID: 17970007
Can't do it.   Dynamic drives are not supported on removeable devices.
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Author Comment

by:ChrisEbbels
ID: 17970090
Thanks for the replies.

btpringle, I had already tried turning on caching in an attempt to get somewhere, but it didn't work. Does anybody know if there's any way to trick windows into thinking the drives are not removable, and just never turn them off while the machine's running? I'd make the drives internal, but there's no room in the case.

Cheers,
Chris
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LVL 70

Expert Comment

by:garycase
ID: 17970112
The only way I can think of to trick Windows would be to write a driver for the USB drives that reported them as fixed drives ==> possible, but to my knowledge none are available.   The driver specs are fairly well documented, so this wouldn't be a difficult programming challenge --> but I'm long past my driver-writing days :-)

... perhaps it's time for a larger case :-)
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Author Comment

by:ChrisEbbels
ID: 17970158
Haha, fair enough. No way known I'm writing a driver!

Might have to resort to plan B, mounting one drive as a folder inside the other drive (this is also for the sake of only having one network share). The only downside to that is that the space isn't distributed evenly. Ah well.

I'll leave this open a little longer in the faint hope of another solution, then award the points.

Cheers,
Chris
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LVL 70

Accepted Solution

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garycase earned 180 total points
ID: 17970287
"... plan B ..."  ==> Won't work either ... Windows will not allow you to mount a removeable drive as a folder.

The "solutions" here are to simply use two volumes (one 320GB, one 250GB) with a backup volume for each;  or get a bigger case that has room for the additional drives.

Another possibility (but a new case may be both less expensive and a better solution) is to buy a small 4-drive external case and mount the drives in it => either using an add-in e-SATA controller (if they're SATA drives) or an add-in IDE controller with a pair of rounded cables fed out through an unused slot and into the other case.  [I've seen this done, but it does require that the cases be carefully oriented, and you'll need to use a longer-than-spec IDE cable (a good 36" cable will usually work fine => e.g. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E16812105907)].
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LVL 70

Expert Comment

by:garycase
ID: 17970305
... another "solution" would be to simply buy a single large (500GB or 750GB) drive :-)   You could use a couple of your other drives to back it up --> or possibly just one (a 320GB drive with compression enabled would most likely be fine for backing up a 500GB drive).
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Author Comment

by:ChrisEbbels
ID: 17970368
thanks for the replies again

re:
""... plan B ..."  ==> Won't work either ... Windows will not allow you to mount a removeable drive as a folder."

i've done that before, and it has worked... I would just rather avoid it for the reasons mentioned above. Also running on a limited budget, with a Pentium 2 400MHz as the file server hehe. It's only serving files over a 54mbps wireless LAN to 2 clients at a time maximum, so it's quite adequate. Thank God I put a USB2.0 card in it though.

Most of the data is compressed audio and video, so I doubt a 320gb drive with compression enabled would hold all the data of a 500gb, considering it won't compress much further.

Ah well.. as I said, I'll let it go for a few days, then accept an answer. If all else fails, I'll go with the two separate volumes with two separate backups method.

You've been very helpful :)
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LVL 70

Expert Comment

by:garycase
ID: 17970382
You're right about the compression => if you're storing compressed files you won't gain anything from attempting additional compression (in fact, you'll typically LOSE space if you try that).

Not sure how you managed to mount an external partition as a folder => I just tried it with a spare external drive and the option is NOT available.   Perhaps Server 2003 allows it ... but XP Pro does not (unless there's some "tweak" I'm not aware of to force it).
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LVL 3

Expert Comment

by:Metropoliten
ID: 17970798
I guess, they cann't be merged.
anyway, try any partitioning software.
U can download Disk Director trial version and find out if that works.
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LVL 4

Expert Comment

by:Yuray
ID: 17970942
it's not possible definitely, here on support.microsoft.com it's described

http://support.microsoft.com/kb/254105
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LVL 88

Expert Comment

by:rindi
ID: 17972091
I'd try gary's solution with an external sata or ide case. USB drives are generally not too stable solutions, they often get "unknown" to the OS, and if it were possible to span them to get 1 large drive that would be a similar thing to using raid 0 where you loose all the data if just one drive breaks. Both sata and ide HD's are a lot less of a problem.
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Author Comment

by:ChrisEbbels
ID: 17973178
RAID 0 (striping) is not what i said - totally different to a volume spanned across multiple disks (JBOD). If one drive fails, data is most definitely recoverable from the other drive.

As I said, I'm also running on a limited budget, so I pretty much have to make do with what is currently available.
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Author Comment

by:ChrisEbbels
ID: 18014380
Unfortunately, i didn't get the solution i was after in the end, but that's nobody's fault - it just seems it can't be done. Points go to garycase for his repeated replies and assistance. Cheers :)

Chris
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