Should the Dell diagnostic utility take 8 hours??? Twin 500 GB HDD's in a Raid 1

Hi Everyone,

We have a Dell Precision T1500 that we are running the Dell diagnostic partition on as we have had some strange errors lately.  The test has been running for 8 hours.  It's been creeping along.  It started the hard drive read tests last, and it's been going up like 1% every 45 minutes.  For example, it was at 88% 3 hours ago and now it's at 96 %.  It is going up, but taking a LONG time. It has two 500GB hard drives in a RAID 1 configuration.  It hasn't thrown an error yet, but seems like it's been going for a LONG time.  We make have to cancel the read test as the machine needs to be used soon.

Thanks!
JsmplyAsked:
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The_RockerCommented:
If it see's both drives whilst in RAID then there shouldn't be a problem. All the diag utility will do is test the integrity of each physical sector on a disk, regardless of what data is on it. It does not at logical blocks and the master file table. So therefore I cannot see RAID causing issues.

I will say though, it will take a long time.
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DavidPresidentCommented:
first, you have your answer.  diagnostics are failing :)

no doubt you have a disk with a large number of unreadable blocks.  read event log to see which disk is the culprit and replace it.  
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JsmplyAuthor Commented:
Well, we had to cancel the diagnostics as the staff had to use the machine.  However, it got to 96% on the overall tests with no errors but was just proceeding slowly.  The tests were NOT just hard drive tests, but the whole machine.  

Nothing in the event viewer showing the C drive doing anyhting strange?

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JsmplyAuthor Commented:
Another possibility, I wonder if the Dell diagnostic utility was scanning the external drive hooked up to it via USB as well?  

The staff member present said it definitely listed two different SATA drives in the utility testing.  The machine does have two internal 500 GB hard drives in a Raid 1 as well as a USB drive hooked up (also 500 GB).  Anyone know off hand if the dell utility partition will see both drives in the Raid 1, or would it only see one drive behind the raid array?  Anyone have any idea if it will scan an external if it's connected?
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DavidPresidentCommented:
make sure you look at the hardware's event log, not the windows log.  (look at the log in the BIOS).

it will complete much faster from the bios.  you need to restart it. if you lose a disk now you are NOT protected against data loss
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JsmplyAuthor Commented:
Hold on, what will complete much faster from the bios and what do you mean restart it?  Right now bios shows the raid array as healthy.
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nobusCommented:
i suggest to run the diag from a bootable ubcd : http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/
select the disk you want to test.
also - if it was testing 3x 500 Gb disks, it can be normal to proceed slow; but it does look like something is wrong
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JsmplyAuthor Commented:
Thanks Nobus. We are very familiar with the ultimate boot cd as its been very useful in the past. However, I don't recall using it on a RAID machine. Will it see both hard drives or just one?      That's what I'm trying to figure out regarding the Dell diagnostic utility as well. I didn't run it, a staff member did and she just said it showed two sata hard drives. Not sure if that was the two internal sata drives or one behind the raid controller and then the usb drive (which I assume is SATA inside the enclosure)?
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JsmplyAuthor Commented:
Thanks Nobus. We are very familiar with the ultimate boot cd as its been very useful in the past. However, I don't recall using it on a RAID machine. Will it see both hard drives or just one?      That's what I'm trying to figure out regarding the Dell diagnostic utility as well. I didn't run it, a staff member did and she just said it showed two sata hard drives. Not sure if that was the two internal sata drives or one behind the raid controller and then the usb drive (which I assume is SATA inside the enclosure)?
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JsmplyAuthor Commented:
Just tried it on a different dell laptop I had at home. It didn't show a usb hard drive under hard drives. Oddly though, the dell diagnostic did NOT throw an error . . . Could it really take 8 hours though and be healthy?  Dell says it should have thrown an error if it was bad. Again not sure if UBCD would see the raid drives.
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nobusCommented:
this post says it works  (just search the page for raid - it's rather long):  http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/feedback.html
my experience (for what it counts) is that when a diagnostic is taking ( too ) long, it does not give any error - though you can see there is definitely something wrong.
it does look at the time a seek takes, but does it do that for all operations?   probably not
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ocanada_techguyCommented:
So that you understand more clearly, take a look at the transcript of Security Now! with Leo Laporte (tech tv, The Lab, etc) and Steve Gibson (GRC, SpinRite, instrumental in embarassing MS into making firewall in SP2, hotfixes automatic, etc)
Straight from an experts' expert.
http://www.grc.com/sn/sn-112.txt
Look for RAID
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ocanada_techguyCommented:
P.S. Dell update their diagnostics time-to-time, always an idea to check support if you have latest as opposed to CD that shipped with system, particularly the "change notes" for the diagnostic revisions.  If there were issues with the Dell diagnostics that'd be a likely place to find out.
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JsmplyAuthor Commented:
Thanks Ocanada. On a mobile now, will read it soon. So do you think there is truly a problem based on time or do you think its just the nature of the diagnostics on RAID?  This is a one month old machine. Seems to be up to date diagnostics. It didn't find an error up to 96 percent. Just took a LONG time for the full long test.  
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The_RockerCommented:
Right,

If you are going to error check drives then I strongly reccomend you follow this process:

Remove the drives from any type of RAID array and put the controller in AHCI or IDE mode if you can. Download an .ISO of a utility called DBAN (Dariks boot and nuke). Burn the ISO to a CD and then boot from it.

Using DBAN, use the quick erase "one pass zero's" method to completely blank each of your drives. (This will take you a fair few hours as it writes 0's to every sector on the disk.).

Once each drive has been completely blanked, now run your Diagnostic tool OF THE DRIVE MANUFACTURER, (for example, western digital have a tool called DLGDiag).

A diagnostic check on drives of 500GB and upwards does take a long time (hours). I carried out the above process for all 3 of my 640GB drives and it is a day long job.

But yeah, thats the best way to properly test drives for bad sectors.
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nobusCommented:
for running a diag you must NOT erase it...
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JsmplyAuthor Commented:
Thanks The Rocker and everyone else. We are going to take the machine offline this coming weekend and test everything and possibly put a fresh image on. The Rocket, based on your answer it sounds like the full diagnostic taking 9 hours (including a thorough check of both 500 gb drives) might not have been that far off?
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DavidPresidentCommented:
That particular test is not even close to being a diagnostic.  If you just want to zero the disk, stick it in any unix/linux machine and dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/diskname bs=64K.
Neither DD nor DBAN will perform media validation tests.  They also won't run the embedded HDD self-tests.   DBAN is not designed to perform such tests.   The manufacturer's utilities typically invoke the self-test routines.

there are 3rd party programs that will perform the manufacturer's self-test suites regardless of make/model of disk, but I am not aware of one that is free like DBAN (which is appropriate for zeroing out blocks, but not as a diagnostic utility)
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The_RockerCommented:
No problem.

Like I said, zero the drives first then get the diagnostic testing tool of the drive manufacturer, not dells own one. This will test for bad sectors on the disk at low level (actual disk, not just clusters in the MFT).
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JsmplyAuthor Commented:
Thanks.  We can do that if the error we are receiving is not cleared up.  Like I said, we didn't have a reason to believe the hard drives had a problem to begin with except for the fact the Dell Diagnostic took forever to ran.  What we are trying to find out is if that is normal under these conditions.  

Thanks!
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nobusCommented:
try running the diag from ubcd, you'll see how fast it reaches 1 or2 %
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JsmplyAuthor Commented:
Going to re-run the diagnostics this weekend when the machine can be taken offline.  Just to clarify though since I don't know if we got an exact answer.  Anyone with a RAID array been successful in using the OEM diagnostic tools on the UBCD?
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nobusCommented:
i think you will need to connect the drives one by one to a sata, or ide controller for testing (which is always the best way to test)
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DavidPresidentCommented:
UBCD diags will not work. It can not "see" individual drives behind a RAID controller.  You need to attach disks to a non-RAID controller.   Probably easiest thing to do is put them in a windows-based PC that has some free SATA ports, and run the manufacturer's diagnostics that you can download from their website
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nobusCommented:
as i said above..
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JsmplyAuthor Commented:
Thanks guys.  Will let you know the result this weekend  Oddly, the Dell diagnostic does seem to be able to "see" both drives behind the RAID controller.  
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DavidPresidentCommented:
Interesting, I guess it is designed specifically for that controller .. or, it is rather dumb, and the 2 "drives" are the dell diagnostic partition and the logical C:
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JsmplyAuthor Commented:
Well it sees them each as SATA 500 GB drives, so I don't think that's the case.
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DavidPresidentCommented:
That isn't a diagnostic, all you have discovered is a data consistency check.  BTW, this is something you must run on regular basis.  This is a standard practice for any RAID array that has redundancy.   Typically you want to run this weekly.
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JsmplyAuthor Commented:
The tool says it's doing a surface scan of the whole hard drive.  Doesn't that serve as at least a partial  diagnostic?
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JsmplyAuthor Commented:
Got the machine offline for the weekend (closed tomorrow).  Booting it to run diagnostics now.  We will post again soon.
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DavidPresidentCommented:
Yes, that is a good diagnostic, a surface scan is a full read-every-block-of-data test.  i.e, a bad block scan.  
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JsmplyAuthor Commented:
Thanks.  That's what I thought.  But didn't you just say above that this is not a diagnostic, and is just a data consistency check?
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DavidPresidentCommented:
A surface scan implies (at least to me) that it is doing full media test & logging errors, perhaps even looking at I/O times & retries.  The consistency check theoretically doesn't have to look at 100% of the physical blocks on the HD.  It is designed to clone data between disks and finish quickly, at the expense of completeness.  But, this could all be semantics.  If it is doing a surface scan then it might not take time to correct anything.  Best to consult the manual to see what it really did. You need to run consistency checks anyway and if this is a read-only scan that won't correct anything, then you are wasting time because all it will do is tell you if you have read errors
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JsmplyAuthor Commented:
Thanks.  We looked into the log.  When the confience test is run, after about 15 minutes it completes the first half and then asks permission to run a complete test that takes approx 1 hour.  We said yes to this and it then appened the log with "performing surface scan on the reaminder of the media" and it did take about an hour.  The result was a PASS.

It's working on the remaining tests now which is a read test, seek test, smart test, and verify test.  Then it appears it will move on to drive 2.  

Just to confirm, now that we are running the diagnostics, the Dell utility DOES see both drives behind the raid 1 array.
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DavidPresidentCommented:
Great. That is good to know that Dell has such a diagnostic.   What is it called, do you have a link?

BTW, seek test is pretty pointless, your disks do plenty of seeking :)
There are numerous kinds of SMART tests, ranging from just reading the status to kicking off an embedded long self test.  Be careful on the Verify test.   It could be a read/verify or a write/verify, so read the documentation.

You certainly don't want to kick off any write-level tests on a disk with live data. the controller will gladly blow it away for you w/o giving it a second thought.
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JsmplyAuthor Commented:
It's actually the Dell utility that came on the utility partition.  Upon booting, you can press F12 to launch the pre-boot assessment and at it's conclusion (it's very quick) it will offer to boot the diagnostic partition which can scan everything.  It's pretty standard as we have seen this on many Dell desktops.  This particular build (I believe its 43xx or somewhere around there, it's running now so I can't verify) seems to see both discs behind the Intel Raid array.  

We are not that worried about the results of the verify test.  The data has already been backed up and the machine will be formatted and a fresh install setup after the tests are run.  This is just to make sure there are no problems before that is done.  
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JsmplyAuthor Commented:
Thx all!
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JsmplyAuthor Commented:
Oh and by the way, it took several hours to finish but it came back and said both drives are 100% fine and the machine is running well since (we re-formatted and put on a fresh copy of the OS).
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