can i set up RAID 1 without re-installing windows? - PowerEdge HDD/SCSI/RAID Forum - Servers - Dell Community

can i set up RAID 1 without re-installing windows?


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can i set up RAID 1 without re-installing windows?

  • hi,
    i currently have 2 SATA drives in a poweredge 750, with no RAID card installed. this system has no on-board RAID either. I have the drives set up in RAID 1 using Windows Server 2003 software raid.
    i just got a DELL CERC 6 channel SATA card, and i'm wondering is it possible to move to a RAID 1 configuration with the CERC card, without re-installing windows or restoring from backup. first step would be to install the CERC driver into Windows before doing anything, so at least Windows will understand the controller if i try and boot windows from it. also, i'll obviously backup the entire disk before trying anything.

    i read the CERC manual and there is nothing to indicate whether it is possible to import non-RAID partitions into a RAID array. the manual says that disks need to be initialised to form an array, and that this process makes data on the disk "inaccessible". is there a way around this? has anyone done what i want to do? thanks in advance for any help

    p.s. my situation is complicated by the fact that the server has no CD or floppy drive, and it seems like a normal IDE DVD drive won't work because the board only takes slimline drives, in which case i would also need an 'interposer card' for it to convert to 40 pin IDE. i could buy a DELL drive but it's about €150 which is a rip off for an 8x DVD drive.
  • It is not possible to setup a RAID configuration on that controller without creating a new logical drive, which means reinstalling the OS.
  • hi. thanks for the reply. once i've set up the blank RAID array, i reckon i'll still have a go at restoring a backup onto it. it would take ages to reconfigure everything.
    thanks again
  • What about.... 
    1.  Install the CERC card in your existing system, with at least one drive attached.  Make sure existing O/S can see the new card and drive, ie install the needed drivers on existing O/S, etc.  
    2.  Ghost (Dos) the O/S Drive, to some other
    3.  Ghost restore the O/S onto the new Raid Cards drives.
    4.  Remove the original Drives.
    5.  Boot PC from new CARD.
    I've never tried this, but I'm thinking about similar upgrade soon (SAS 5/i to PERC 5/i)
    If you try this, please come back and comment.
  • hi john. that's my plan at the moment. except i'll be using the same drives before and after. i'll use an external USB drive to backup and restore the OS.
    there's a handy program i found from Terabyte Unlimited called "Image for Windows" that lets you do an image of the OS while Windows is loaded, written to any destination media. it has a bootable dos utility to restore. i guess it is like Ghost but i think Ghost does the whole drive regardless of unused space which would take longer. i have to keep downtime minimal.

    i will post my results whatever happens.
  • I don't know your Terabyte program,   I do know Ghost (Dos) well.  Ghost does not waste time with unused space, unless maybe you disable compression completely.  I use compression -z2 on the command line, which is 99% as good as -z9 which takes twice as long.   I'd use ghost.
    If you use the same drives, and the process fails, you'll have to restore org back to the drives.  This will increase your downtime.   Might be easier, quicker, and safer to simply buy a couple new drives and keep the originals intact.    Process fails would be if you can't get the PC to boot O/S with new card drives.  HAL.DLL headaches/errors.
    Be sure to come back and comment.  When are you planning to do it?
  • couldn't get my slimline DVD drive recognised by the BIOS, i suspect the cable wasn't right, either that or the interposer card because the interposer card had 40 pins but the cable had one pin blocked out for the key. i tried poking through the block and connecting the cable anyway but the BIOS wouldn't see it, even though the light came on with the drive.

    so i didn't get to migrate the RAID, although i did install the card and install the drivers into windows. i'll try again at the weekend and post any progress..
  • Thanks Z.  Please do.  I remain quite interested in your experience with the effort.
  • I have done this with Acronis but only with cloning to new drives, as John suggests. Be sure to scan your disks for errors before creating an image, one error and your out of luck.
  • success. after a marathon 7 hour session in the datacenter it finally works. however the whole thing was much too stressful for my liking!

    my problems were significantly compounded by the lack of a CD drive, so i had to get my imaging software (Terabyte Unlimited 'Image') to boot via a USB drive, which was never going to be easy with a Dell BIOS etc. although to be fair it does work, once you understand that you must reboot after configuring the BIOS to recognise the USB drive, and then go into the bios again and tell it what order to boot in.

    i thought it useful to document the steps i took in case anyone else is in a similar situation.

    in summary, i wanted to do an in-place migration from software raid in windows 2003 to hardware raid with the dell/adaptec CERC 6 channel SATA RAID card. all without using a CD drive (trust me, get one if you ever have to do this. i tried but couldn't get the BIOS to recognise the drive).

    i got a very helpful email from Terabyte support before starting the migration:
    If you just have a single simple volume (once the software RAID is broke), you can remove the dynamic drive by changing the file system ID back to 7 (via BootItNG partition work/properties). If you backup while dynamic, it will just backup the whole dynamic partition sector by sector.
    So what I'd personally do is:
    1. break the raid, (maybe remove the secondary drive as a backup)
    2. ensure it's a single simple volume that's left (I'm assuming you just have c:),
    3. boot BootItNG, change the file system ID to 7,
    4. boot back to windows (if it didn't boot, just put back the file system id to dynamic),
    5. install the CERC drivers (if needed),
    6. do the image, with byte-for-byte validation (slower in windows because it thrashes a bit),
    7. ensure I can access the image to restore with Image For Dos or Image For Linux.
    8. Configure the hardware RAID,
    9. restore the image (use additional option of TA when restoring the boot partition).

    windows software RAID requires dynamic disks, which are not officially reversible back to basic disks. this further complicated the process because i wanted to go back to basic disks for the RAID. you can convert back to a basic disk as described above with BootItNG, and also via the DskProbe windows support tool, instructions available from: although i also read that if you use software raid, you shouldn't use this approach, so i unplugged the second drive, booted into windows and removed the mirror, and the offline disk from Windows Disk Manager. Then i changed to a basic disk via DskProbe and it did work, although DiskManager reported a single drive, which was marked offline or something very worrying like that. however the files were all there and working etc.

    i followed the instructions above, although i did install the RAID card before changing any drivers or removing the software RAID, and i got windows to load up the drivers for it, so it would work automatically once booting from the RAID controller. this was one less problem in the equation and i was keen to get it out of the way as early in the process as possible.

    to get Image For Dos to boot off USB, i used the bundled 'makedisk' utility without any init strings. I configured the BIOS to emulate a USB drive as a hard drive, floppy did not work. Then rebooted and changed the boot sequence so that the USB drive came first.
    the disk image (of the 'active' drive, the other was still unplugged) took about 30 minutes with byte-for-byte validation, ~25Gb of data, copying to an external USB drive, using ImageForDos. i had to change the keyboard to a PS2 connection because in my first attempt the program locked out the keyboard after identifying the USB drive.

    then i verified that i could access the image with the restore option. and went ahead with setting up a RAID mirror in the CERC configuration utility. plugged in both drives into ports 4 and 5. incidentally i needed a longer SATA cable for drive0 because it only had a 4inch cable and the RAID plugs on the card are miles away from the drive bays. The cable for the other drive fit with a stretch into the last port on the card.
    so i did a reboot, pressed Ctrl-A etc. initialise the 2 drives. set up a RAID 1 mirror as per the manual instructions. i used the quick-init option because i was really in a hurry to get the job done. i set high priority also. i did not 'clear' the drives, but this may have been no harm to do.

    then i rebooted and loaded my restore image with ImageForDos. the 'TA' option referred to in the instructions marks the partition active and inserts a standard MBR. it took about 30 minutes again and finished successfully. i was a bit worried because the restore program asked me which drive did i want to restore to, i assumed it didn't matter and chose the second drive. my cause for concern was that i wasn't sure if the controller would do it's mirroring thing during this restore operation. my fears were doubled when i rebooted after the restore, and got a message something like "no operating system, F1 to continue, F2 to setup". at this stage i had about 5 minutes before 'visiting hours' were over in the datacentre and i would have had to take the server home for the weekend to get it ready before monday 9am, no thanks! i thought it had failed. i was about to pack up and go home when i went in to look in the bios one last time in case i missed anything. i didn't change anything, and i also inspected the RAID config via the BIOS utility, but again, didn't change anything. i tried to turn off caching as a desperate attempt to fix the boot problems, but it wouldn't accept the change for some reason. anyhow, i rebooted again, said a quiet prayer, and i couldn't believe it but windows started loading, i was never so happy to see that Windows logo appear on screen (you probably had to be there to understand, 7 hours of white noise from being surrounded by a gzillian racks, no lunch, very frustrated etc!)

    now all is well with the 2 drives showing up 'optimal' in the DELL/Adaptec storage manager. i gather this means that the build/verify has already completed in the background. the URL for the storage manager is

    i didn't want to install all that dell 'management' software that came with the RAID card.
    another good thing i forgot to mention. windows disk manager now shows a healthy primary partition for C:. it doesn't say 'fault tolerant' anymore obviously because the software raid is gone and the hardware RAID is abstracted away from the windows disk manager.

    hope this helps someone someday.

    Message Edited by zero_mac on 07-14-2007 06:29 PM
  • Nice work Tim, thanks for sharing your "learning experience", your a brave man.
  • usually brave is not a good quality to have as a sys admin :) of course i was prepared to reinstall windows from scratch, but fortunately taking a chance with this paid off.
  • "usually brave is not a good quality to have as a sys admin"
    Not bravery, calculated risk taking. In 24 years I have not lost data other then a few small files, but I have come so so so close to losing major data..if I do not have a "back door" (some method of recovery) or willing to rebuild, I am a pure bred coward... that said I have taken some major chances, sometimes you win, sometimes you don't... if your religious, you need to thank the entity, you where "brave" and lucky; (sure feels good when you do accomplish a superman feat .)