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External Hard Drive RAID Enclosure Keeps Disappearing From Windows

Posted on 2014-02-22
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Last Modified: 2016-06-26
I just purchased the NexStar MX External Hard Drive RAID Enclosure (NST-400MX-S3R).
I have two Western Digital 4TB SATA III drives in it with a RAID 1 configuration.

The device shows as one drive and I was able to initialize and partion with Windows 7.

However, whenever I copy a decent volume of data to the drive (> a few GB) it disappears from Windows partway through. The drive reappears shortly after.

What could be causing this?
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Question by:bejhan
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by:ambri5h
ID: 39879548
How did you intialise the drives?
I had a similar problem as I was taking 2 drives from Windows server and putting them into Windows 7.

In the end, I imported them as foreign disks and that seems to work... Mine are internal, given you've purchased an enclosure could that be an issue? Tried changing the port it is connecting to if its USB/Firewire etc...
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by:Korbus
ID: 39879646
I see this device can connect to your computer via eSATA OR USB3.  

I'm going to guess that you are using the USB, based on your troubles, and suggest you try connecting to the eSATA port on your MB instead, at least as a test. Does this yield better results?

You mentioned the drive disappears during copy, then reappears:  when it reappears, does the file you were copying exist on it?  Just part of the file or the whole file (or none)?  

How many other USB devices do you have connected when this occurs?  What if you unplug them all?
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by:bejhan
ID: 39879754
How did you intialise the drives?
I initialized the drive through Disk Management as GPT.
Then I created a partition spanning the entire volume.

In the end, I imported them as foreign disks and that seems to work...
I may try this, but this is an external drive I would like to be able to move from computer to computer without doing this every time.

I'm going to guess that you are using the USB, based on your troubles, and suggest you try connecting to the eSATA port on your MB instead, at least as a test. Does this yield better results?
Correct. I will try eSATA.

You mentioned the drive disappears during copy, then reappears:  when it reappears, does the file you were copying exist on it?  Just part of the file or the whole file (or none)?
I will take note of this next time the problem occurs.

How many other USB devices do you have connected when this occurs?
I only have my mouse and keyboard connected.
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by:bejhan
ID: 39879755
I ran Western Digital Data LifeGuard diagnostics on the drive and it came up with a dialog "Too many bad sectors detected."

I suppose I should connect each drive to my motherboard directly and test them to determine whether a drive is defective. If not then I guess I can blame this on the enclosure.
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by:dlethe
ID: 39879864
Blame it on the drives.  Chances are you have low-end consumer class drives designed for a 8 hour duty cycle 5 days a week, 300 days a year, light duty, and most importantly, non-RAID use.

If you are going to have a 24x7x365 appliance, get HDDs designed for that.  The WDC Red drives are rather inexpensive drives designed for 24x7x365 appliance  use.   They aren't in the same class as what a high-end server needs, or what an ISP would use, but they're a good bang for the buck for home and small-office.
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by:bejhan
ID: 39879917
WDC green drives are that bad?
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by:dlethe
dlethe earned 400 total points
ID: 39879930
Yes, those drives ARE that bad. They are designed for a 2400 annual hours usage, light duty. They are totally unacceptable for a NAS appliance.

In layman's terms -- you're burning them out.  You'll also reach the upper limit of free (reallocatable) sectors, and when that happens, you are guaranteed data loss.

For all I know, you have already hit the limit.
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by:bejhan
ID: 39879965
I wish the sales "expert" at the store would've warned me that the drives weren't sufficient for my uses.

So unless the store is willing to do an exchange, which I'm thinking they won't, I'm hooped?
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by:dlethe
dlethe earned 400 total points
ID: 39879992
Well, if I were you I would go to the WDC site and find the specs of the HDD and see where it says 2400 hours or something along the lines of suitability and duty cycle.  

You probably have a case if the appliance you bought was designed for 24x7x365 and/or you made it perfectly clear that is how you plan on using it.  

They sold you an item that the manufacturer clearly says is unsuitable for the job you purchased it for.   If this is a national retailer, then I'm willing to bet they want to make it right rather than you raise a stink.  

What if you told them you were doing HDTV video editing and they sold you a PC with a single processor and 4GB RAM.  Would you be able to take it back for something more appropriate?  Same thing.

Look at the WDC red drives and see how WDC says their other drives are not suitable for appliances (well I think that was there, can't remember).

If they won't make it right and you need an expert to give you some specific details to prove your point, contact me offline.  I'll look up something specific.
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by:bejhan
ID: 39880025
Thanks for the insight.

I explained that I was replacing a hard drive that died after just over a year and wanted to run RAID so that the next time a hard drive died my data would be safe.

Hopefully that's enough for an exchange.
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by:dlethe
ID: 39880201
Selling you a HDD not designed for 24x7x365 should then be enough.
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by:bejhan
ID: 39880910
Both disks passed Western Digital Data LifeGuard Diagnostics when connected directly to the motherboard.

Interestingly, the RAID drive passed Western Digital Data LifeGuard Diagnostics when connected over eSATA.
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by:dlethe
dlethe earned 400 total points
ID: 39881027
The problem with those disks is that in event of a read error they will go through a data recovery of up to 60 seconds.  That is longer than the firmware is likely to allow the disk to lock up.

One term for this is called TLER (google it).  An enterprise class drive will do recovery in a few seconds, or just give up so that the RAID engine can remap the bad block from the other HDD, and fix the problem in a few seconds, max.

The differences go way beyond the duty cycle and intended use.  The FIRMWARE in the green drive is unsuitable.   The green drives don't have as many ECC bits either, so you will get more errors.

A 30-60 second recovery time is just fine and appropriate for a single non-rAID system, because you WANT the HDD to go to extreme efforts to recover that  only copy you have of a wedding photo.  But in a RAID environment where all the data is somewhere else, you need to have FAST recovery.

Controllers won't wait forever.  The WD test is NOT a suitability for use test.   A perfectly fine drive does not have the right firmware if the controller is programmed to wait for up to 15 seconds but the HDD can lock up for 60 seconds.
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by:bejhan
ID: 39881061
That makes a lot of sense. So basically, the drives are fine and the RAID enclosure is fine, they are just incompatible, and that was causing me problems?

Look at the WDC red drives and see how WDC says their other drives are not suitable for appliances (well I think that was there, can't remember).
You were exactly right, this is stated on the Green drive section of the Western Digital site:
*Desktop drives are not recommended for use in RAID environments, please consider using WD Red hard drives for home and small office 1-5 bay NAS systems and WD Enterprise hard drives for rackmount and >5 bay NAS systems.
The store was very understanding of my situation and exchanged my Green drives for Red ones with no issue. It's crazy that $25/drive can make such a huge difference!

The WD test is NOT a suitability for use test.
I was thinking to run this test on the RAID drive connected via USB again just to ensure I won't have the same problem with the Red drives (as it failed with the Green drives).

Is there any point to doing this? Or should I just try copying my data again, and if there are no problems, be confident that the Red drives solved my problem?
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by:bejhan
ID: 39881779
I went ahead and ran WD Test on the RAID drive composed of WD Red drives, it passed.
However, when I attempted to copy my files, the same problem occurred.

You mentioned the drive disappears during copy, then reappears:  when it reappears, does the file you were copying exist on it?  Just part of the file or the whole file (or none)?
It seems that the copied portion of the file remains when the drive reappears.
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by:Korbus
ID: 39883095
I'm assuming this copy failed again while connected to Esata?
It's starting to sound like the raid enclosure appears to be having some interface issues.  I'm afraid the next step may be to request an RMA on the device (but keep your new drives).   It sounds like you have eliminated the drives themselves as the issue, and the USB port is eliminated as a problem because you connected to eSata.  The only thing consistent is these connections is the raid enclosure's connection.
A one final check of the device; the vendor may request you connect to another computer, and test on there, before they issue an RMA.
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by:dlethe
ID: 39883221
Great, what was the store, when somebody messes up but then makes it right in such a way, they earn my business.
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by:bejhan
ID: 39883262
I'm assuming this copy failed again while connected to Esata?
Sorry, I should've been more specific. I did the transfer over USB again, because that is the connection I used when the initial problem occurred. I was hoping the problem wouldn't occur with the new drives.

I could try to do it with eSATA, however, subsequent copy attempts to the drive (over USB) were successful.

I'm afraid the next step may be to request an RMA on the device (but keep your new drives).
Luckily, the store has a 30 day exchange period for defective items. So I can probably just exchange it. I wanted to confirm that it is the enclosure before I did so. However, since subsequent copies succeeded, I don't know how I'll prove that is defective.

Great, what was the store, when somebody messes up but then makes it right in such a way, they earn my business.
The store is called Memory Express (http://www.memoryexpress.com/), definitely my favorite tech store. I didn't even have to argue that I wasn't warned by the sales associate, I just told them that the drives weren't suitable for my uses (as per Western Digital) and they told me not to worry about being passed the 7 day return period, as long as the drives weren't damaged or physically altered.
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by:dlethe
ID: 39883329
Do you get read errors at same block #?  If so then it has nothing to do with the physical interface.    Google a linux utility called ddrescue  - it copies as best as it can and does a lot of  retries on bad blocks.
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by:Korbus
Korbus earned 100 total points
ID: 39883408
I don't like how the issue occurred once more before stopping.  Definitely test the heck out of it to try and replicate the problem (test utilities, massive copies, etc...).  Even try weird stuff that SHOULDN'T matter, like, reboot your PC, but not the device, and then the reverse)

>>Do you get read errors at same block #?
woah, that would be crazy!  Different drives, yet out of millions of blocks, the same one has a problem...what would that mean dlethe?  Drive-controller problem in the enclosure, I guess?  Yeah, that would definitely eliminate/supercede a PC connection issue.
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by:bejhan
ID: 39883561
Do you get read errors at same block #?  If so then it has nothing to do with the physical interface.
Just to be clear, I am copying from my good internal drive TO the RAID drive. Do you mean write errors?

Google a linux utility called ddrescue  - it copies as best as it can and does a lot of  retries on bad blocks.
I shouldn't have to use a utility like that when copying between two good drives though.

I don't like how the issue occurred once more before stopping.  Definitely test the heck out of it to try and replicate the problem (test utilities, massive copies, etc...).  Even try weird stuff that SHOULDN'T matter, like, reboot your PC, but not the device, and then the reverse)
I've done multiple drive tests as well as other massive copies. I can't seem to reproduce this.

One thought, every time this problem occurred, it was after I had set the RAID mode on the drives then initialized and partitioned. The procedure for this is to connect the enclosure, at which time both drives show up in Windows, then hold this mode reset button, at which time the drives are replaced by a single JMicron RAID Controller drive.

Is it possible that once the RAID drive shows up, Windows is slightly confused?


I've contacted the enclosure manufacturer, hoping they would have some explanation but they don't seem to have any clue as they are suggesting trying a different cord and asking about my USB drivers.

Trying different cords, ports, etc. is fine but when the problem isn't reproducible, those results aren't worth much.

From the manufacturer:
If it happens only once it should be fine, if it keeps happening, we will have to look further into it.
I'm fine with chalking this up as an initialization phenomenon (as I've only seen this after I've reset the enclosure mode).
However, I still have 3 weeks to return to the store at which I purchased for a defective exchange.
If this problem occurs again passed that time, it will be difficult for me to get a replacement.
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dlethe earned 400 total points
ID: 39883586
Lots of things  COULD be the problem, but this really requires hands on with somebody who has the equipment and software to get to the bottom of things.  Im really sorry but there is no way to determine for sure what root cause is w/o the right tools for the job.
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by:bejhan
ID: 39883600
Lots of things  COULD be the problem, but this really requires hands on with somebody who has the equipment and software to get to the bottom of things.  Im really sorry but there is no way to determine for sure what root cause is w/o the right tools for the job.
I figured, such is usually the case with these phantom issues. I was (naively) hoping it was a known issue with RAID and Windows or these types of enclosures.

I suppose if the enclosure breaks down, its not such a big deal to just get another one and throw my two drives into it. I shouldn't have to recreate the RAID array in that case right?

One positive that came from this is that I've swapped my Green drives for Red drives.
Otherwise, I probably would've had issues within the next year.

I should've done a bit more research after my 3TB Seagate drive died after just over a year. I didn't realize for $25 more I could be getting much more robust drives.
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by:bejhan
ID: 39883654
Looks like I have old USB 3.0 drivers (from December 2012).
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by:bejhan
ID: 39883682
The manufacturer has a 1 year RMA period so I think I'll update my USB drivers and hope this issue doesn't occur again.

Since this was a phantom problem with no solution, I will distribute points based on insight given.
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by:bejhan
ID: 39883702
Thanks for the great insight and advise. I've learned a lot!
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