Windows Server 2003 constant reboot with RAID degraded

Hello Experts,

RE: Dell PowerEdge T-100 with SAS 6 RAID-1 (2 physical drives, mirrored as 1) running Server 2003 STD.

I have a backup server running Server 2003 standard that is constantly rebooting. I can see the initial Windows splash screen with the progress bar but before it get to the login screen it reboots. Tried entering Safe Mode: no luck, it still reboots.

Entered the RAID controller utility and it shows one of the drives as "Missing". Although I know this needs to be repaired (replace drive and re-sync the RAID array), I know that it should still boot with only one drive. I know it can "see" the drive because it boots to the beginning of Windows.

I thought I could run a CHKDSK using the Windows Server 2003 installation CD but after booting it said that "Setup could not find any hard drives..." and must quit.

I would rather not purchase a new drive to fix the RAID until I can get the computer booting normally. And shouldn't the RAID work for now, even with a "missing" drive.

Am I just unlucky and have both a degraded RAID AND an unbootable Windows installation or are the two issues related? This is a headless backup server and is only monitored monthly. In other words...I don't know if the degraded RAID and the inability to boot happened at the same time. The computer had worked flawlessly for about 3 years.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Next steps? Thought?

Thanks for any help,

Eddie F.
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DavidConnect With a Mentor PresidentCommented:
I mean address this as if you had a non-RAID single HDD and the system didn't boot.   We've already established you are not in an optimal RAID1, so you now are stuck with a situation where your O/S is screwed up and it won't boot.

Replace the broken HDD, build a new RAID1 from the BIOS, and restore.   Or try to do a windows recovery (you may have to do the F6 to install drivers for the RAID), and see if you can get it to boot.  Then replace the disk and make the RAID1 healthy.

Bottom line, the RAID has nothing to do with the current state. You have to just not worry about the RAID and not let that throw you off.   You simply now have a system that won't boot due to some corruption somewhere.   No doubt you've fixed that on non-raid systems before.
Pay somebody to do this for you.  Too many things could be wrong and you do not have the software and diagnostic hardware to test this safely.

- you do not know if the disk it is booting now was ever synced in the first place, or the sync is years old.
- you can not properly assess health with that controller in the way (or buying some expensive 3rd party software)
- You do not know if hardware is even going to survive a cloning process.
- you do not know if you have hardware problem on this disk, software problem, filesystem issue, O/S issue or some combination of all of that.  

Let's assume hardware will survive a binary cloning process.  You would still need a non-RAID controller to do this properly and scratch drive or networking connection and proper software to image and clone.  Then a binary editor and ability to do block-level comparison to see differences between the two drives, assuming you can even talk to both of them.

Pay somebody to do this, maybe $1000 and you probably won't lose any data.  Try anything yourself and you risk 100% data loss and still can't do this w/o buying a proper non-RAID controller, cloning software, and test software.
eddie-fAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the response. I was hoping for something a little more positive but I guess that's the boat i'm in.

I didn't mention that the data IS backed up and the primary server is running. I wouldn't mind too much if I had to re-install Windows after rebuilding the array.

I guess I was mostly wondering why it begins to boot to Windows before restarting (it see's the drive) but when I boot to the installation CD it says there are no drives present.

Thanks for any ideas.

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take the RAID out of the equation.  You know windows machines can BSOD, reboot ad infinitum, lock up, whatever... Why?  Bugs, crappy code, lost files, screwed up registry, and on and on.

That is why we back up.
eddie-fAuthor Commented:
Makes sense. A couple questions...

How do I take the RAID out of the equation? Do you mean in the BIOS boot order?

When I boot to the Dell "Boot Menu" to select a boot device, I am only given the C: Drive (RAID) and the optical drive (plus network etc). When I boot to the optical drive to load Windows 2003, it says it can't find a drive. When I boot to the C: drive it does the reboot (imediately before login screnn, without any BSOD). What does this mean?

If I were able to create a clean windows installation without the RAID involved, would I be able to then use this as disk 1 in the RAID array and then create the RAID from this starting point?

Conversely, If a drive was established as one of the two drives using RAID and I removed it from the RAID controller, would it be able to boot after I "remove the RAID from the equation"?

Thanks for the help. I'm trying not to have to tell my client that his computer that is 6 months out of the 3 year warranty needs to be replaced.

eddie-fAuthor Commented:
Yes, I have fixed many (non-RAID and RAID) servers before. Thanks for your bluntness. I am glad, although disappointed, that I now know to just start over and fix one thing at a time.

I'll close this question but I wouldn't mind a couple of answers...

If I get a drive to boot OUTSIDE of a RAID, can I then use this as the primary drive for creating a new RAID array?

Should I physically remove the RAID card?

Thanks for the help.
Not with that controller.  It steals a few MB of the addressable space for metadata.  So if you were to config that disk with a non-RAID controller and put it behind the RAID controller, then it would walk over some of the data.

Do this all with the RAID controller installed.
eddie-fAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the help.
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