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Can you mirror 2 drives between (A) Dell Cerc controller and (B) onboard SATA?

I have a Dell Power Edge 1800 server running Windows SBS 2003 SP2.  The OS is installed to a 250GB SATA drive plugged into a Dell CERC SATA 1.5/6ch RAID controller.  I wanted to create a mirror drive for redundancy purpose but after working with Dell tech support they informed me that the only way to create the Array is to reinstall the OS because you cannot ADD a second drive without creating a new Array which means the OS gets blown out.  So, not wanting to create tons of work for myself I added the second drive to the onboard SATA controller and created the mirror set in Windows.  Everything synced up and all was good for about a week.  Then - mirror broke, drive died.  No biggie, shutdown server pulled drive added another new drive.  Week later - mirror broke and have error on mirror "Healthy (At Risk) which appears to point to another dead drive.  Question:  Is this just bad luck or is there something wrong with putting a second drive off the onboard that eventually produces errors that the server reports as a bad drive?
1 Solution
Cris HannaCommented:
software raids rarely ever work well.  This time Dell gave you great advise.  You could use any number of software imaging solutions to image the drive.   then create your hardware raid, then restore the image.
Philip ElderTechnical Architect - HA/Compute/StorageCommented:
Back up using ShadowProtect or other imaging product.

Swap out the two drives for two new drives configured with a RAID 1 array. Best to make them slightly bigger than the original drives to compensate for the storage overhead the RAID array configuration will take.

Boot the imaging product and restore your C: partition. You could increase the size of the OS partition at this time using the imaging product's tools.

Restore any other partitions you may have using the above steps to keep or increase the partition size.

Jason WatkinsIT Project LeaderCommented:
I have to echo what the two experts above have suggested.  Image the OS, I would also run a full SBS backup.  Create a new array.  If possible, I would go with RAID5.
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In this issue I wouldn't think the drive is bad, but rather something else. Test your failed drive on another PC using the HD manufacturer's diagnostic utility. If that tool doesn't find any errors, your disk should be fine. If they are fine, use other SATA cables to connect your drives to the controller. If often had issues with low quality cables. A further cause I could imagine is overheating. Make sure the airflow in the server is good, and also that the disks aren't too close to each other.

A further thing to do is make sure your server's firmware is up-to-date.

You should still be able to setup your hardware raid controller, I wouldn't use windows software raid. Use a disk-imaging software to create an image of your disk to a spare HD. Paragon is a good such tool. Then install the new HD and create the RAID 1 array using the controller's utility, and then restore the image you made to the array.

sroheAuthor Commented:
I think the drive is fine.  I deleted the mirror volume from the machine so the drive showed "unallocated", then reactivated the drive followed by a reboot.  Then I recreated the mirror of the system partition and so far so good.  Another thing - my backup has grown fairly large in the last month to about 110GB and it's taking close to 24 hours to backup.  I had switched the job to every other day to reduce the load but after the drive failure I've switched to a differential backup which reduced it to about 3 hours.  I'm curious to see if with the backup running and users hitting the server during the day was that putting to much stress on that mirror and the process of writing to both drives went south.  I'm with everyone here about using the hardware Raid but getting my client to spend the money is going to be tough albeit necessary.  RINDI: airflow is good and the cables are solid - Dell provided with the server.  I'll update the firmware this weekend and see if things improve and let you know.
Stress should never cause a mirror to break.
sroheAuthor Commented:
Ok, sorry this took so long.  I tested the drive - it's good.  I updated the firmware of the controller and the bios to the server.  Re-mirrored the drive and it was good for a couple days then it broke again.  Now, I hadn't restated the server since all the updates were done so I rebooted and mirrored for a second time.  This time I just mirrored the system partition and so far it's been solid.  Might be pre-mature to say it was the updates but who knows.  I'll get to work on up-selling the drive imaging.  I've also used Paragon and their products work nice.  Thanks for the help...

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