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

Posted on 2009-12-15
Last Modified: 2012-05-08
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?
Question by:srohe
    LVL 35

    Expert Comment

    by:Cris Hanna
    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.
    LVL 38

    Expert Comment

    by:Philip Elder
    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.

    LVL 27

    Expert Comment

    by:Jason Watkins
    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.
    LVL 87

    Accepted Solution

    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.

    Author Comment

    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.
    LVL 87

    Expert Comment

    Stress should never cause a mirror to break.

    Author Closing Comment

    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...

    Featured Post

    Threat Intelligence Starter Resources

    Integrating threat intelligence can be challenging, and not all companies are ready. These resources can help you build awareness and prepare for defense.

    Join & Write a Comment

    I work for a company that primarily works with small businesses as their outsourced IT vendor. As such the majority of these customers utilize some version of Small Business Server. Due to the economics of running a small business, many of these cus…
    A quick step-by-step overview of installing and configuring Carbonite Server Backup.
    This video teaches viewers how to encrypt an external drive that requires a password to read and edit the drive. All tasks are done in Disk Utility. Plug in the external drive you wish to encrypt: Make sure all previous data on the drive has been …
    This tutorial will walk an individual through the process of installing the necessary services and then configuring a Windows Server 2012 system as an iSCSI target. To install the necessary roles, go to Server Manager, and select Add Roles and Featu…

    754 members asked questions and received personalized solutions in the past 7 days.

    Join the community of 500,000 technology professionals and ask your questions.

    Join & Ask a Question

    Need Help in Real-Time?

    Connect with top rated Experts

    19 Experts available now in Live!

    Get 1:1 Help Now