RAID contoller lost my array

thunksalot
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I have a motherboard (ASUS A8N-SLI Deluxe) with two RAID controllers (NVIDIA and Sil3114).  I have had a bootable RAID 1 0 array with 4 disks (250GBs each) running fine on the Silicon Images controller for 8 months.  Two days ago, I uninstalled some software in Windows XP Pro and it caused a problem, so I did a System Restore.  The System Restore ran just fine, but when it rebooted, the BIOS reported that no bootable disk could be found.  I went into the Sil3114 RAID configuration by pressing F4 during POST and sure-enough:  It showed that while the RAID controller recognized all four of my drives just fine, it didn't see an array on them.    

Here's what I tried to fix the problem:

After reading the Sil3114 user manual, I gathered that the "Resolve Conflicts" option in the configuration panel is Silicon Image's equivalent of "recover a damaged array".  I tried the "Resolve Conflicts" option but it came back in about .0001 seconds and said "There are no conflicts to resolve", obviously because it doesn't recognize that an array is there at all.  

I then tried resetting the CMOS in the hopes it would take a fresh look at the disks and find an array.

Then, I called ASUS tech support.  All they had to say is: "It sounds like the RAID tables that record the location of stripes has been erased.  So, there's nothing you can do."  What?!!  

I'm incredulous.  As a computer scientist, that answer seems utterly ridiculous to me.  All my disks are fine.  All my data is still there (there wasn't enough time in the reboot to write over a terabyte of data).  It seems to me that any RAID controller maker worth their salt would provide a utility to *rebuild* their array tables in the case that they get corrupted.  I contacted Silicon Images but they just gave me a snooty response saying that they don't support products in which their chips are planted, so I called ASUS again.  No luck, a different person in ASUS's Level 2 tech support told me no such utility exists as far as he knows and that no RAID maker provides a way to recover the RAID tables.  

So, here are my questions:

1) Is there a way for me to get my RAID array back up and running again?

2) If not, would you recommend I try a de-striping utility (like Runtime's  RAID Reconstructor) in order to get my data off the array?

3) IF I decide to go with a RAID again, is there a *responsible* RAID controller maker that you would recommend?  (Corollary: What are your thoughts on going with a motherboard embedded RAID controller versus a card?  I'll make that a key decision-point for future motherboard purchases.)  

Thank you.

-Sam
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Commented:
>>1) Is there a way for me to get my RAID array back up and running again?

Get out your backups and restore to another raid.

>>2) If not, would you recommend I try a de-striping utility (like Runtime's  RAID Reconstructor) in order to get my data off the array?

You can certainly try anything, but its chance of working is not good.  Since it looks like that somewhere in the process, the drive with the raid tables failed or was trashed.

>>3) IF I decide to go with a RAID again, is there a *responsible* RAID controller maker that you would recommend?  (Corollary: What are your thoughts on going with a motherboard embedded RAID controller versus a card?  I'll make that a key decision-point for future motherboard purchases.)  

I have not heard before of a raid controlled failing in the way that you describe.  I wonder if you were really in a raid mode, since it sounds more like a stripe, with the silly name of raid 0, some people think they are getting, data protection, when they are not.

A good way to tell is if you remember the total amount of space that you had.  With 4 250gb drives the maximum space you would have had using raid 1+0 (sometimes called raid 10) would be about 500gb  a raid 5 (the safest raid mode for data protection) the space would be 750gb  If you had more than 750gb then you were running raid 0 with no data protection.
 

Good Luck!

Author

Commented:
I was using a RAID 1+0.  I say "RAID one-zero" which is why I wrote it the way I did in the previous post ("RAID 1 0").  So, yes, I did have striping and redundancy.  Yes, I only had about 500GB of storage, given that half of the terabyte was back-up.  When I said "there wasn't enough time in the reboot to write over a terabyte of data" I was including the redundant capacity in the array.

Honestly, I'm not satisfied with that answer at all.  It basically gave me three sentences that told me nothing new before devolving into a two paragraph explanation of how I must be confused about the difference between striping, redundancy and striping+redundancy.  

Commented:
I'm sorry that I didn't have a better answer, but it is a strange failure.

You are correct, even if there was a disk failure, you should have had a full mirror, you should not have lost your data.  

I think that you may have a controller problem, but the only way to check it is with an identical controller.  The big problem with testing with another controller, is that the drives need to go in the identical configuration as in the original.

It would be great to be able to give you better news, but so far it looks like your stuck...

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Author

Commented:
Yeah, I think it's a controller problem too.  I tried to get the ASUS people to give me a diagnostic program so I could prove to them the controller is bad and then return the motherboard under warranty.  Do they have a utility that will diagnose a bad RAID controller?  Nope.  Does Silicon Image, the maker of the controller?  Nope.  That left me fuming because, as you say, that leaves me with only one way to check the controller: plug the drives into an identical board on which I know the RAID controller works.  *Fortunately*, my friend and I built our computers around the same time and have nearly identical ASUS boards.  They both have the Sil3114 RAID controller anyway.  He couldn't help me out today, but I'm taking my drives over to his place tomorrow morning to try it out.  Wish me luck!

If that doesn't work, I'm going to try Runtime's  RAID Reconstructor running in WinPE.  

Commented:
Yes, runtime raid reconstructor should work fine on this situation.

Author

Commented:
I ended up solving the problem myself shortly after my last post.  I bought Runtime's RAID Reconstructor as I'd planned.  Their customer service folks were great, walking me through everything over the phone.  

Commented:
Thunksalot, did I recommend the Runtime Raid Reconstructor?

Author

Commented:
You didn't help me, if that's what you are asking.  If you read the thread.  I wrote "If that doesn't work, I'm going to try Runtime's RAID Reconstructor" on 5/31.   Your post saying "Yes, runtime raid reconstructor should work fine on this situation" didn't come until two days later when I had already bought and run RAID Reconstructor.  

If the moderator is trying to figure out who to give my credits to, I think they should come back to me.  I ended up solving my own problem.
PAQed with points refunded (500)

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