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Advice needed: Failing raid 5 array, need bare metal backup

Posted on 2014-04-05
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Last Modified: 2016-11-23
I have a Dell R210II server running Server 2008 R2 Standard.  It runs 4 disks in a Raid 5 array on the Dell Perc S300 controller.  One disk is in a predictive failure state, the replacement will arrive Monday.  

The server hosts SQL and Microsoft Dynamics GP for our accounting department, I back the databases and system state up daily.  I need to perform a bare metal recovery before swapping that drive and am hoping to use Windows Server Backup.  The problem is that there is a Dell provided partition named OS, it is a 2 GB system/primary that I imagine contains the boot sector.  It is formatted fat32 and server backup balks when asked to perform a backup because of this.

My concern is this:  If I try to perform an ntfs conversion on that partition, I'm forced to reboot.  I'm wary of rebooting due to the compromised raid array.  I'm also a little unsure of how to proceed if I convert that fat 32 OS partition and Windows then will not reboot.

Ideally, I'll be able to perform the bare metal restore to a 2TB usb drive and, if disaster occurs while trying to replace the failing drive, rebuild the array, reinstall the OS and backup from that image.

Would appreciate any tips for a solid plan of attack here.
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Question by:kmorrison65
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by:Tony Giangreco
ID: 39980143
I agree with backing up to an external drive. It can be USB or to a network drive if you have one available.  I would not convert to NTFS before replacing the drive. Your situation may be too delicate for that and a restart.

I use Backup Exec for all server backups, not Windows Server backup but you should still be able to backup the system. I agree that the replacement drive should be much larger. We run a 300 Gig C partition on all servers so we don't run into that issue. We also run NTFS on all partitions for compatibility issues like you are running now.
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by:rindi
ID: 39980176
You shouldn't need to backup the Dell partition. That is normally a service partition that holds diagnostics etc, and you should be able to easily re-install it using the Dell OpenManage DVD that came with the server. Converting it to ntfs makes no sense. If you do want to back it up I suggest using an OpenSource tool just for that partition, like CloneZilla:

http://distrowatch.com/?newsid=08365
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by:Korbus
Korbus earned 500 total points
ID: 39980203
I'm not a fan of windows backup nor Backupexec.  Perhaps these products have improved since I last used them, but I remember bare metal restores being a total nightmare.

I would instead recommend you use drive cloning software for this:  it can clone your entire array to a single destination file (to usb or network).  You can boot to a CD to perform the restore without needing to install any other software first.

I like paragon software for this,  Acronis is good to.  Never used Clonezilla, so cannot comment on rindi's suggestion, but it certainly has the right name.
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by:kmorrison65
ID: 39980211
I've considered the Paragon solution for our needs but need to get it approved, purchased, setup, etc.  Was hoping ( maybe naively) that the onboard Windows solution would work... but it absolutely will not ignore that 2 GB Dell OS partition due to the Fat32 format.  I need to get this server back in shape asap with what I have available.
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by:dlethe
ID: 39980228
Well this is the bottom line. Those disks are ancient, and a rebuild of a R5 is the most stressful thing you can possibly do to those disks.  Personally I would take a FULL bare metal backup now.

Then instead of replacing the one drive, get some later model higher capacity drives and build a simple RAID1.  Then restore from backup. You'll likely have much faster overall performance, and won't risk 100% data loss if the  rebuild fails.

Plus you'll have brand new drives with full warranty.
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Author Comment

by:kmorrison65
ID: 39980232
Ancient?  They're 8 month old, 300GB 10K SAS drives under full warranty.

100% agreement on the full metal backup.  The real question here is this: Has anyone had experience with this problematic Fat32 'OS' partition and converting it to NTFS so the Windows server backup will hopefully not error out because of it?
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by:Korbus
ID: 39980243
Regarding cloning software issues you mentioned:
cost approval: I've never used clonzilla, but rindi mentioned it's free
Installation:  with paragon at least, you CAN install the software (5min), or, if you can take the server down, you can simply boot a CD and run the clone operation from there.  (though RAID drivers MAY require you to build a new CD that includes those drivers-software for this is included.)

Regarding windows backup of that 2GB partition:  to see if this will work, simply launch windows backup and see if you are given the option to backup this partition, if so, you should be good.  If this doesn't work, you can try to assign a drive letter to that partition to see if that helps.  But again, backup is only half the equation-  if you loose the OS, even with a good, full backup, a restore is going to be a major time-suck.  (Just consider step 1:  Install windows and backup software from scratch, just so you can run the restore program!)

Dlethe has some good points about replacing ALL he drives, I wanted to suggest a less intense option:  When ordering a replacement drive, get TWO.  Leave one on your shelf, so the next time a drive fails, you don't need to play the waiting game and hope your replacement arrives before a second drive fails.
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by:Tony Giangreco
ID: 39980247
I have also used Paragon in the past. That software was easy to use and performed well.
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by:Korbus
ID: 39980259
"It is formatted fat32 and server backup balks when asked to perform a backup because of this."

Sorry missed this part of your original post.  Alas, I have never converted a manufacturer partition like that to NTFS, but I suspect this WILL cause problems.

Those partitions are usually NOT your boot sector, rather they contain software for things like booting up into diagnostic mode.  When rebuilding a server I would use the DELL software, which should have the ability to recreate and populate the partition for you, while creating the array and formatting the drives.  Once it has been recreated, you can restore everything else.  I'm going off what I have experienced in the past, I would contact DELL to confirm the procedure for your particular server.
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by:rindi
ID: 39980261
Can't you just backup the server's OS and data partitions without the diagnostic partition using Windows backup?

I agree that the paragon products are good and less costly than other backup software, but for a possibly "one-time" use it probably won't make much sense. For that CloneZilla would be ideal. But as CloneZilla needs to be booted from and uses it's own Linux OS, you won't be able to use the server while the backup is running

You could probably get a trial version of Paragon which is fully functional for this one-time use. Get in touch with paragon via their homepage and ask them... They are usually pretty easy on this.
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by:kmorrison65
ID: 39980270
Clonezilla will not image a mounted drive and appears to have limited raid capabilities.

There is no question as to whether windows backup will back up that partition, it will not.  It also will not ignore it.
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by:Korbus
ID: 39980279
"It also will not ignore it."
Brilliant software Microsoft.  Pffft.

I guess your best bet at this point will be to contact Dell on how to recreate that partition.  Once you know you can do that- remove/delete it, and proceed with backup.
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by:pgm554
ID: 39980300
Do yourself a favor and ditch the s300,it's fake RAID and I would not trust it.

As for the Windows built in backup,yuck!

Get a real backup program, as that one has a lot of bugs and shortcomings.

You can do a convert to NTFS of the diag partition as I have done it for just such an issue when I first rolled out SBS 2008 and tested the backup(it also does not like 4k sector usb drives).

Storagecraft ,Acronis and Symantec system recovery 2013 are image based apps that are all under $500 and are decent.
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by:Tony Giangreco
ID: 39980313
Just about all backup apps ignore all partitions that do not have a drive letter assigned to it. that partition you mentioned probably has no drive letter.

At that point, Paragon is probably the best app. It will provide it's own boot disk and it will see that partition and you should be able to back it up and restore it.
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by:rindi
ID: 39980329
"Clonezilla will not image a mounted drive"

Plan downtime.

"and appears to have limited raid capabilities."

I haven't seen RAID being a problem, as long as the RAID controller isn't a fakeRAID controller. Linux has very good hardware support, so there should be no issues there.
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by:pgm554
ID: 39980332
An s300 is software on hba= fake.

If he needs a down and dirty quick method,he can download Symantec System Recovery 2013 for a 60 day eval.

I use it at a couple of sites and it's pretty decent.
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by:Mahesh
ID: 39980337
If you want to take system state \ Bare metal backup, you must give drive letter to 2GB partition and convert it into NTFS, otherwise it will not work

Check below question on the same topic few days ago

http://www.experts-exchange.com/OS/Microsoft_Operating_Systems/Server/Windows_Server_2012/Q_28394928.html

Mahesh.
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Author Comment

by:kmorrison65
ID: 39980472
Based on some suggestions (and budget!) I tried the trial of Macrium Reflect.  I used a 1TB esata drive, told it to image everything (including the problematic dell partition) total of which was around 160GB and it appears to have knocked it out in about 18 minutes.  The compressed image is only 37GB.   Of course, the backup is only as good as its restorability.. might try to restore it to a spare server to see how that goes.  Based on this, I think I'll suggest we try the $399 standard technicians license, which supports 10 servers.

I feel a lot better about trying to replace this failing drive on Monday.... guess I may find out if I got a usable backup image.
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Korbus earned 500 total points
ID: 39980888
"...guess I may find out if I got a usable backup image."

Strongly suggest you, test the backup before you need it-  minimal downtime test:  Restore to large USB hard drive on a PC or other box, then connect USB drive to server, re-boot server to USB drive, confirm all works.
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Author Comment

by:kmorrison65
ID: 39992425
I purchased the technicians license of Macrium and have used it to image 3 servers so far.
The rebuild of this particular server was glitch free, the drive installed easily and the array is rebuilt with no errors showing and users reporting it as 'back to normal'.
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