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Cloning a Win2k3 software raid mirror?

Rob Hutchinson
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2012-05-06

A small 5 user office of a friend needs to replace their server( a PC computer, not a real server) hard drives. The server is using Windows 2003 Server 5 lic version.

The two IDE drives in the server are using Win2k3 software RAID 1, drive mirroring.

Since I need to replace these two 100GB IDE drives with two new 320GB IDE drives, how do I clone them since they are software mirrored by Win2k3?

Can I clone them like any other drive; or, because of the software mirroring, do I have to clone them another way?

Any info is appreciated.
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I'd remove the mirroring (backup first of course), do cloning with the master drive, installing both new hard drives, then reestablish mirroring.

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Rob HutchinsonTech Lead, Desktop Support


Spoke to Acronis support, and they said the best thing to do was to backup the mirrored drive as an image that can be restored onto another hard drive.

Might give this a try first since this will leave the existing two drives intact so if something does go wrong, I can always put the two original drives back in the server.

Breaking mirrors gives me the heebee jeebees especially since this server has not even been backed up in a long time...they lost regular computer support a long time ago.

Gonna use the Acronis media creator on another computer to create a bootable CD which we'll use to create the images to save on an external USB drive attached to the server.

This way I can use the same external USB drive with the created image to restore the image to the two new drives using the Acronis boot cd.
That's interesting.  As far as I know Acronis doesn't directly recognize software RAID.  So it's just going to image both drives?  I suppose there's no ill effect to that anyways, and you can even boot up with only one restored image.  Please keep us posted.  Thanks!
Rob HutchinsonTech Lead, Desktop Support


Sorry, it's taking me a while to complete this side job...user is not always available to work on the server.

Been reading quite a bit on this type of server setup:
Two physical hard drives using Win2k3 software raid 1( mirroring)
Seems that the disks have to be converted to "dynamic" disks so that software raid can be configured.

Still not sure that "breaking" the mirror is the safest way to clone the drives as there are numerous posts about users having "broken" software raid arrays which then become unreadable, unbootable, etc.

Downloaded a trial version( two week time trial) of Acronis TIE server ver, and was able to make a backup onto an external 750GB USB drive of the C Drv partition, but the D-Drv partition for some reason choked...possible drive read errors or some other reason as we found some files that had their security permissions set to a specific user...the TIE server just stopped backing up, no errors.

Was able to copy the D Drv partition manually a few folders at a time onto the extrnal 750GB USB drive though so now have a complete backup finally.

Next weekend, I'll be attempting to re-backup the Win2k3 dynamic software RAiD 1 volumes onto the USB drives again.

After backing them up, I'm undecided as to whether:
1) I attach one of the two new hard drive replacements as a third drive; and, in doing so, restoring the backup data onto this new drive from within Win2k3.
2) Boot to the Acronis boot CD and restore the data off of the 750GB USB drive creating the partitions using this outside of Win2k3.

Guess what I'm a little unsure about is what will happen to the boot record for the third drive in step 1) after the partitions are restored from within Win2k3.

I'm sure I'll find out though.

My opinion on your two options:
1) restore within Win2k3.  I don't think doing that would restore your boot record correctly.
2) using Acronis.  Since you're already using it, why not try its "clone drive" option?  That copies boot options correctly.  Then you can actually install the fourth (new) drive, remove/disable the two old ones, boot into the third (new) drive and re-establish/rebuild the software mirroring.
Rob HutchinsonTech Lead, Desktop Support


Yeh, tried the clone already, but Acronis does not recognize the drives as a single drive to clone when they are dynamic. When you run Acronis, and chose clone drive, the first two drives do not even show up as an option to clone.

Think the best option, will be to backup the C and D drv partitions from within Win2k3; shut down the server, remove the old two mirrored drives replacing these two drives with the new ones, and then boot to the Acronis boot CD attempting to restore the images from the external USB drive to one of the new hard drives.

From what I've read, breaking Microsoft dynamic volumns are only for an expected replacement drive to then restore the mirror created using drives configured as dynamic drives meant to replace the failed drives of the dynamic raid array.

Kind of a misnomer for the drives...dynamic. Seems that once the drives becone "dynamic" they actually become "locked" or commited meaning that you have commited that drive to some type of Microsoft fault tolerant scheme that can only be changed via a recreation of the array.

Rather than call these drives dynamic Microsoft should have called them committed. Which would make more sense since a commited drive would show that any drive "commited" to a volume would be unable able to be changed without involving a total recreation of the data.
Indeed.  It's "dynamic" within MS schemes.  Sorta like censored freedom of speech: you're free to say what's allowed.  :)

I thought Acronis should support dynamic disks more properly by now...  guess still not.

I've never tried this approach before but wonder if it'd work.  You replace the drives one at a time using MS method of fail over/restore, just like you would replace faulty drives in your mirror.  Once you have the mirrored volumes running on two larger drives, resize the volumes to use the whole drive, either with Disk Management or Acronis.
Rob HutchinsonTech Lead, Desktop Support


Yeah, thought about that too, but it looks like "fault tolerant" volumes are meant to be replaced by drives of the same type etc. Not sure that dynamic disks can handle changes in partitioning designs during restores.

Think that as long as the replacement drive...like what you are describing, keeps the same number of partitions as the orginal; then booting to to the restored drives would still work. As far as resizing it, think this should not make any difference as long as the number of partitions remains the same.

I'll find out this Saturday and let you know:
1) First step will be to try and make another Image of both the C and D partitions onto the external USB drive.
2) Then shut down the server, and replace both existing hard drives with two new drives.
3) After this, I'll boot to the Acronis boot CD made with the Acronis TIE Server media creator.
Hopefully at this point, Acronis will see the two new hard drives and the external USB drive holding the images.
4) If this is the case, then I'll try and copy the images onto one of the new installed drives.
At this point, Acronis will do one of two things...
a) Copy the images onto the new drive without complaining creating both partitions in the process.
b) Notify me that the images came from a dynamic partition and this requires that the target drive be made dynamic before copying the images to the new drive.( I'm guessing this will likely happen)

After the image copy of either of the above steps...I'll be hoping that the server will boot the same as before....
As long as it's happy booting to a single drive( not converted to a dynamic disk during the Acronis restore via the Acronis boot CD) or booting to a newly created dynamic disk( using both new drives) with both partitions via the Acronis boot CD; then the problem is solved.

I really don't care at this point what works as long as the drives get replaced and the data gets restored without having to rebuild the server from scratch.

Kind of a learning experience though regarding how Micro$oft dynamic volumes work.
Rob HutchinsonTech Lead, Desktop Support


The deed is done...the two software raid mirrored hard drives have been replaced!

Actually, is was much less painful than waiting for the server to actually backup which seemed to take forever...

After using Acronis TIE server to backup the smaller C Drv dynamic partition of the mirrored set from within Win2k3 on to an external USB drive, I attempted to try and do the same for the larger D Drv dynamic partition with no luck...locked up on me.

Since the D Drv partition was only a data store partition--no programs were installed on it; ended up just copying the data from this partition to the external USB drive...one thing I didn't try was creating backup outside of Win2k3 environment--backing up instead from the same Acronis TIE boot CD that the C Drv partition was restored from, but maybe next time.

Anyway, after restoring just the main C Drv partition to one of the new hard drives via the bootable TIE server boot CD( and choosing Active Disk for this disk type to copy it to, choices were Active, Primary, Logical) the server booted fine to the new hard drive. The new drive did not receive any info on being a dynamic partition from the C Drv( partition) that was backed up, and was actually a basic disk.

Deciding to leave the new disk as a basic disk and 'not' re-setting up the software raid.
Will also setup the second new hard drive a basic disk using it as a storage area for future drive images. This way if the physical drv-0 fails a new drive can be installed and the image restored--until the owner can afford a hardware raid solution.

Rob HutchinsonTech Lead, Desktop Support


awarding points for listening and helping me figure this out!!!

With you on that - most of the time the software RAID in Windows is more of a pain than its worth...
Thanks for the update and points!
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