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Gerbil XP
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Please double check my upgrade and RAID migration plan

Thu Aug 16, 2012 12:22 am

My current storage array, not boot drive, is nearly full.

My current setup is Win 7 x64, 3x 1 TB SATA drives in a RAID 5 array, Intel ICH9R, Intel Matrix Storage Manger 8.9 software. The array is "hardware RAID," configured by the Intel ICH9R, and yields 1.8 TB usable space and is NTFS MBR.

I am going to add 2 more 1 TB drives. I know I need to convert to GPT to go beyond 2 TB in Windows so here is my plan, please check it for any errors or gotchas.

>Install the 2 new 1 TB drives as a RAID 0 array, will yield ~2 TB of new free space.
>Copy data from current RAID 5 to new RAID 0 (I could just attach the new drives as single drives but then I would have to split the data and copy twice)
>Convert RAID 5 to GPT per ... 25671.aspx (deletes everything on the array)
>Copy data back from RAID 0 to RAID 5
>Delete RAID 0 array and attach the drives to current RAID 5 array and grow the array either in RAID bios or using Matrix SM (not sure, have never done this before, please advise) I can see a currently grayed out option under Modify Volume in Matrix SM for "Add one or more member hard drives" I assume its grayed out because I don't currently have any drives to add.
>Go to Windows disk management and extend the 1.8 TB volume.


edit: Also, as a secondary question, should I use this opportunity to use Windows Dynamic disks instead of the Intel ICH RAID? What happens if this mobo dies down the road and can't be replaced with anything similar with each scenario?

double edit: It seems like dynamic disk RAID 5 is only available in Windows Server OS's, is that true?
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Re: Please double check my upgrade and RAID migration plan

Thu Aug 16, 2012 5:49 am

Why not just build the new array and restore the data from your backup?

What's that, no backup? Then now is the perfect time to sort something out!

What you're planning sounds doable but there will be many opportunities to loose all your data. It's not a job I'd like to undertake without knowing I had a backup.

I'd also consider jbod rather than raid0 as there are fewer ways to break it.
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Re: Please double check my upgrade and RAID migration plan

Thu Aug 16, 2012 6:54 am

Thoughts, might cost a tad more, but is sure as heck alot safer. Get yourself a single 2TB drive, 7200rpm is more then enough.... eSATA cabinet or internal, copy all data to that. Build new array complete as you want it at the end, no growth, migration or anything. Copy data back. Use said 2TB drive for having backups stored on, preferably automatically on a schedule.

I build a new fileserver not that long ago, 4x2TB drivers on a raid card. Never did get any backup. After a month or so, one of the drives failed, and my usb attached drive backups where old as dirt since you know, usb is slow, so you never do them. At that point I got 5 new drivers and a qnap nas. Carefully replacing the array with a fresh drive, it worked, then I fixed a good backup using the NAS. Also got the drive replaced on warranty.

The tricky point was that the cheap highpoint raid card cant rebuild from it's own bios, it requires you do boot into windows. And booting into windows didnt worked because it wont boot with a failed array attached, despite having a separate system drive. So in the end, I installed the raid card in my secondary workstation, without any drives attached, then hotplugging each of the functioning drives onto the sata cables(had no cage) one and one and refreshing the card in between until it had the 3 functioning ones, then I hotplugged in the new drive, rebuild the array. Shut everything down and moved the card and drivers back into the server.

So now I have a 4x2TB array inthe server, backed up to a nas also with 4x2TB. Have one spare drive in a drawer of the same brand that is shared between the server and the NAS. After that first drive failed, everything has been solid. Drivers are usually like that for me, either fail rather soon, or never.
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Re: Please double check my upgrade and RAID migration plan

Thu Aug 16, 2012 7:26 am

While your plan may be technically feasible, I also question the wisdom in doing it this way. If you don't already have a backup of your data that you have already "spent" the capacity of 1 drive protecting from a drive failure, I think that would be a far better investment of time and materials to get a separate drive with a full backup. Without it, a virus, human error, double drive failure, etc. can lose all of your data at once.

With regards to your plan, I have never added additional drives into an array as you are describing, but I imagine that is available either at the BIOS level or through the windows software. I don't think you should use it, though. As others have stated, you would be much better off backing up your entire array to at least one location (external drive, another machine, etc), rebuild the array exactly as you would like it and then transfer everything back. I also wonder why the need for RAID5 - if you're not booting from the volume and you take regular backups, there isn't much of an advantage that I can figure - other than you have increased your chances of completely losing everything at once with an array corruption, failed drive, etc. I think JBOD would be a better option if you're just looking for a pool of storage. If you are looking for speed - RAID0 with a full backup daily would be faster than RAID5 (no parity calculations) and use fewer drives or yield more capacity. In my mind, a RAID0 array with a full backup is a better option than RAID5 with no backup in non-critical applications. If you like RAID5, by all means, stick with it, but get a backup in place before you start moving data around.
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Re: Please double check my upgrade and RAID migration plan

Thu Aug 16, 2012 8:24 am

You should be fine if you want to carry on down the onboard-RAID route. Most controllers can import foreign disks and rebuild RAID arrays. Moving from ICH9 to ICH10R for example is not a problem.

If it really worries you, buy a 3rd party RAID card from Highpoint or Adaptec and run through that - you can transfer the card to a new board as you upgrade motherboards.

Bear in mind that expanding a RAID5 is either hard or impossible, even with dedicated PERC controllers in servers. I just backup the whole shebang to LTO tape and restore on the newly created array. The only way to do what you're doing without finding somewhere to store your data during the rebuild is to create a JBOD (spanned volume) instead of a RAID5. You'll lose the parity, but you'll get an extra disk. RAID parity is high-availability feature, not a disaster recovery feature. You should never rely on it instead of proper backups.

And yes, Windows server is required for software RAID5. W7 only supports RAID0, RAID1 and JBOD.
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