3TB external USB drive on Windows Server 2008R2 works but shouldn't?

Posted on 2014-04-30
Last Modified: 2014-05-12
I have a client that I wanted to have buy an ioSafe G3 Solo waterproof/fireproof external USB drive to store backups on.  Knowing about the limit in Windows Server, I advised them to buy the 2TB model since it was still using a drive that was supported.  They went bargain shopping rather than buy from the link I sent them.  Anyway, to make a long story short, they bought the ioSafe G3 Solo 3GB model instead.  I didn't really look at the specs on the drive when it arrived since they are all identical except for the drive size.  I hooked it up and didn't realize until a few days later that they had the wrong model on the server.  They had thrown away the packaging, so it can't be returned either.  I went out to the command prompt on the server and found that the properties of the NTFS volume on the 3TB model was that it had 4096KB sector size which is not supported on Windows Server 2008R2.  The problem is, I can copy files to the drive and Symantec System Recovery 2013 backs up to the drive seemingly without problems.  I am torn on what to do.  Just leave it and hope it continues to work?  Since it can't be returned, I thought about calling ioSafe to see if the drive in the enclosure is replaceable with an off the shelf 2TB model that uses 512k sectors that Windows Server supports.

I am seeing my options as:
1. leave it and hope it continues to work ok
2. replace the drive in the enclosure if it is possible since the unit can't be returned.
3. Install the ioSafe G3 Solo on a Windows 7 Pro machine, share it and back up over the network to it.  Windows 7 should be fine with a 3TB drive using 4096KB sector size from what I understand.

Question by:Steve Bantz
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Expert Comment

ID: 40032088
Check out this great article on NTFS File sizes. It should help you decide.  My personal thought is what a waste. With drives so inexpensive today it would have been better to buy a NAS that would run in RAID 1 in case a drive failed.

Author Comment

by:Steve Bantz
ID: 40032224
I had a very specific budget to meet.  I would have liked the ioSafe 214 NAS with mirrored drives but it was cost prohibitive.
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Expert Comment

ID: 40033979
can't you reformat it to the proper sector size?
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Expert Comment

ID: 40034233
This  4096KB sector size what does that look like in Computer?
and in the disc manager?
Just to throw an idea your way, I have this USB HDD My Book WD 1 terrabyte.
I have 3 other WD USB HDD with the 3.2.1 rule of backup, 3 copies on 3 separate HDD
however.I didn't notice that when I purchased this WD My Book 1 terrabyte it was different from the other three in that it has this WD Smart ware virtual CD Rom..
Here's a snapshot of what I see in Computer and Disc manager
See the Smartware CD rom and the HDD Partition. Same in disc manager.
My BookIt could be something like this with the  ioSafe G3 Solo 3GB model
If so I highly recommend that you use the 3.2.1 Rule and make 3 complete copies of your backup on 3 separate drives. Safe safe and stress free.
Because of this WD Smartware Partition sits in front of the main partition twice I have plugged this My Book in and windows says it has a problem and I have had to format it to access the drive.
Luckily I bought get data back ntfs and used that to recover my files before formatting it.
That partition cannot be deleted no matter what I tried.
I still use the My Book with caution to backup small chunks of files but I have get data back and know it works since I used it twice on this drive.
The MBook drive is 12 months old.
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Expert Comment

ID: 40034514
As far as I know copying the files to such drives was never a problem. Problem was bare metal backup to such drives with windows native backup tool and third party tools using the same approach. If you want to be sure then use Windows Server Backup tool to do bare metal backup to this drive.

Author Comment

by:Steve Bantz
ID: 40034913
@nobus - No, you can't format it that way.  In that same article on Tom's hardware it states that "You can't change the sector size of a hard drive - the sectors are created when the hard drive is manufactured and can't be changed."  You can change the allocation size but not the sector size.  That is the problem with Windows 2008 and newer drives.

@ merete  I saw the sector size in the command prompt by issuing a "fsutil fsinfo ntfsinfo c:"
It reports screenshot of sector size
I have let it go for a few days and backups with Symantec System Recovery 2013 seem to be running fine.  Windows Server Backup will not write to this drive.  At this time, I am tempted to call ioSafe to see if the drive in the fireproof enclosure is replaceable.  If it is, I have a 2TB drive I can stick in there.  It is a small server so it will still easily hold a few weeks of backups.

I know everyone has their views on best practices for backups.  This is not my ideal setup but it HAD to be within a budget for this business and this was the best option for the money.  If they had bought the 2TB model like I wanted, I wouldn't be in this pickle since the 2TB drive would have had a 512 sector size that Windows Server 2008R2 supports.  :)

Author Comment

by:Steve Bantz
ID: 40034919
Sorry. That screenshot is on the server's RAID array.

Here is what it reports for drive i: which is the 3TB ioSafe
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Assisted Solution

noxcho earned 50 total points
ID: 40035822
The way Symantec saves its backup files is different from Windows Server Backup and thus it runs fine. Third party backup tools cpuld always backup into backup file on 4K drives. The problem was only cloning the old drive to such 4K drives. So you do not need to care about this drive as much. And Windows does backup into VHD file which caused compatibility problems with this drive. Thats it. You do not need to replace it with smaller drive as well. Keep it as 3TB.
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Accepted Solution

Merete earned 125 total points
ID: 40035998
This sounds like a compatibility issue with your company's OS version and that of Microsoft's recommendations to upgrade or install the latest service packs to support newer technology.
You mention  Windows Server 2008R2  is this with service pack 1?
According to Microsoft, referenced  quote>
Over the next few years, the data storage industry will be transitioning the physical format of hard disk drives from 512-byte sectors to 4,096-byte sectors (also known as 4K or 4KB sectors). This transition is driven by several factors.
These include increases in storage density and reliability.
This transition causes incompatibility issues with existing software (including operating systems and applications).

This article describes the current Microsoft support policy for these new drive types on Windows operating systems.
Applications and hardware devices may have reliability and performance issues when they are connected to these new kinds of drives. Contact your application and hardware vendors about their support policies for these new drive types.

There are three drive types that we will discuss here.
Because Microsoft support policy differs for each, you should verify the drive type that you have installed before you read any further.

Specific requirements for Microsoft support by operating system version
Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2
Install Service Pack 1 (SP1), or install the update that is described in the following article in the Microsoft Knowledge Base982018 An update that improves the compatibility of Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 with Advanced Format Disks is available
Microsoft support policy for 4K sector hard drives in Windows

Expert Comment

by:George Simos
ID: 40040959
Completing Merete's answer you also have to format the drive in GPT type instead of MBR in order to have a larger than 2TB volume/partition and the disk will become Dynamic instead of Basic.
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Expert Comment

ID: 40041806
You get access to 900GB of 3TB only at the moment. Which is wrong. Strange that the rest of the space is not shown as free non formatted.

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