View Full Version : Ghosting SATA RAID Striped Drives

12-12-2003, 06:51 AM
I have two 160GB striped SATA Drives and would like to backup so I can easily restore them to current configuration. Can I ghost these to one EIDE 250 GB drive or do they have to be like drives? I want to be able to push it back using the ghost utility and restore that way. No new installs since I have 100 GB of audio/video.



12-12-2003, 11:53 AM
So many options...

Yes, you can ghost them (using Norton Ghost I presume?) normally. Ghost also allows you to use a compression scheme that is excellent. It takes a bit of time to compress large volumes, but it can be done and will restore to a bit-for-bit image of the original.

Something to consider, though, is to create a partition on the 250GB drive to use as storage for your large audio/video files. If you just watch and/or listen to them, they will play just fine from the 250, but you can transfer them to the RAID if you get into editing to make use of the better bandwidth. Just a thought. ;)

01-01-2004, 06:52 AM
Nope you CANNOT Ghost striped volumes !

I wrote this article to PC mags etc recently:

I noticed in the ‘Build your own PC’ article in the January issue of PC Authority that no mention was made of RAID configurations. Prices for PCI RAID controllers and motherboards with integrated RAID have fallen sufficiently for the average home user to justify expenditure for the approximate two thirds hard disk i/o performance increment (or more if one relies on Passmark Performance Test benchmark results) with striped RAID. Unfortunately, manuals for RAID installation may be non-existence or may be sub-standard ‘Idiot’s Guides’.

From recent personal experience, setting up can be tricky and tedious and there are many pitfalls that are never expounded in web guides or the like. I am therefore detailing my first hand experience with RAID installation so others don’t repeat the same mistakes. I am using the PCI Skymaster Ultra ATA 133 RAID controller card with striping (RAID-0) across two identical 60GB Western Digital hard disks. 60GB hard disk drives are hard to find these days as manufactures have ceased to mass produce them and retail outlets have negligible stock remaining. So, as a rule of thumb, you should choose a brand and size of hard disk that is commonly used and future proofed for the next couple of years with reliable warranty. This is important if you ever want to extend or repair your RAID array and need an identical drive. Powerquest Partition Magic 8 was also an invaluable resource.

The first step for me was to place both hard disks on separate ATA 133 IDE cables as primary and secondary channels attached to the PCI RAID card. The Atapi drives were also on separate cables as primary and secondary IDE channels attached to the motherboard. All jumpers were set to Master. This is the optimal performance setup. Note that this configuration is specific to my system and different systems have differing configurations with respect to cabling and jumper settings. It is not a good idea to set jumpers to cable select with multiple drives because both the system and RAID BIOS do not always auto detect settings appropriately. The IDE cable plugs are normally colour coded so you know which end to connect into the RAID card as opposed to the hard disk. Inside a crammed mid tower case, especially with all PCI slots and ports filled out there’s minimal space to manoeuvre components around. I was foolhardy in attempting installation Rambo style, consequently cutting myself on a sharp ridge of a power cable plug and bleeding across the back of the hard disk. Sheds a literal light on ‘Blood, sweat and tears’. So, lesson number one, remove any cards etc that are in the way to give yourself as much space as possible because your fingers need space for leverage especially when dealing with a multiple drive installation. It may also be a good idea to plug the IDE cables into the PCI RAID card before slotting the card into the motherboard.

Next, ensure that the RAID BIOS (which loads after the system BIOS) detects all disk drives properly. If it doesn’t, there’s a good chance that cables have not been pushed in hard enough or jumpers haven’t been set correctly (instructions for correct jumper settings are commonly imprinted on the top face of each drive). This turned out to be a major annoyance for me fiddling around until I achieved the correct settings. Once all drives are successfully detected, enter the RAID BIOS setup and follow the self-explanatory instructions to set up a striped (fast), mirrored (secure) or striped and mirrored (costly balance) configuration. If you have Windows XP, there is a wealth of helpful information in layman language explaining the functions these different RAID configurations serve in the Disk Management Help file.

Windows ME:
To complicate things just a tad, I have a Dual-booting system with Windows XP Professional and Windows ME. As an aside, Dual Booting can be useful for compatibility issues and troubleshooting. I recommend that you use Windows 98 Second Edition which is faster and more stable than the arguably ‘brain damaged’, bug ridden Windows ME.

Windows ME (or 9x) must be installed before Windows XP (unless you use Powerquest Bootmagic software). If Windows XP was installed first then the subsequent Windows ME installation would wipe out the boot sector without recognising a dual booting system.

To prepare the drive for installation of Windows ME, boot off the Windows ME startup disk and use Fdisk (at the DOS prompt simply type in Fdisk) to partition the new RAID volume. As expected, the outdated Fdisk utility detected only 15GB space instead of 120GB (2 x 60GB). I simply ignored this minor obstacle and followed the self explanatory instructions onscreen to partition 5GB for Windows ME and 10GB for Windows XP. This is adequate space for installing the OS and a handful of essential programs (Partition Magic and Drivers). Then I formatted both partitions and installed Windows ME. Note that the disk management software that is provided by the hard disk manufacturer e.g. Western Digital Data Lifeguard utilities or Seagate Discwizard cannot be used to format or partition RAID configurations as RAID won’t be detected. Ensure that Windows ME is installed on C:/Windows (default) or else there will be a problem with Windows XP recognising a dual booting system automatically when installing XP onto a different partition later on.

Once logged into Windows ME, install the RAID drivers under Add New Hardware in the Control Panel. Now that the full 120GB is recognized, I used Partition Magic to resize existing partitions and to partition the rest of the unallocated space. Note that if you decide to use the FAT32 file system for the Windows XP partition now, you can always convert it to NTFS later using “convert drive letter: /fs:ntfs” at the command prompt when Windows XP is installed without any data corruption.

Dual Booting with Windows XP:
If your RAID card only came with a driver CD then you’ll have to manually copy the relevant drivers to a floppy disk (for reasons that will become apparent shortly). Reboot off the Windows XP CD (you may have to make changes the system BIOS to enable this – refer to motherboard manual) and follow the self explanatory instructions to install XP on a separate partition (e.g. D:/Windows).When prompted, press F6 to install the RAID drivers from the floppy disk created above. Once XP is installed, go to Disk Management. (Control Panel/Administrative Tools/Computer Management). Resist the temptation of converting Basic to Dynamic Disk! If you did so, you may have to start from scratch (a most painful lesson to be learnt) as you cannot revert back to Basic disk without formatting everything on the system partition.

Why do I stress this point? Dynamic disks are not recognised by Partition Magic and Norton Ghost (a useful backup imaging utility) will only restore backups to basic disks (i.e. it doesn’t fully support dynamic striped volumes). Dynamic disks, to my knowledge, are only useful for setting up emulated software RAID which is inferior to and more CPU intensive than hardware RAID. In Disk Management, you can resize partitions or convert them to different file systems so Partition Magic is not essential (unless you are implementing its more advanced features). It is of utmost importance that any partition that you want Windows ME to access remain as FAT32. It takes a bit of planning to know what size and file system your partitions should be to meet your needs so THINK before doing anything. It’s far better to do partition correctly the first time than repeat partitioning incorrectly several times in a time consuming process.

I thought everything was finally running along smoothly until the unexpected happened. Before I had the opportunity of backing up everything one of the hard disks in my striped RAID array had motor mechanism problems! Things couldn’t get any worse - could it? I watched helpless as Windows XP self destructed in a fanfare of numerous irrecoverable errors. I was stressed, overworked and at breaking point. I have since discovered that hard disk damage is a common problem for small mid tower cases with tight hard disk carriages. Because there is little room for airflow between hard drives positioned directly above each other, with tangled cabling to individual drives, heat increases the likelihood of hard disk failure. It is therefore a good investment to purchase a more spacious case and hard disk fans to keep the temperature to a comfortable low.

After printing out the Western Digital Data Lifeguard Tools full surface scan error report for warranty verification purposes, I proceeded to the PC store to get a replacement drive (fortunately the hard disk was still covered under the warranty period). To help you understand problems I encountered at the store, I have inserted the following information which is a direct quote from Windows XP’s disk management help file:
“Striped volumes are created by combining areas of free space on two or more disks into one logical volume. Striped volumes use RAID-0, which stripes data across multiple disks. Striped volumes cannot be extended or mirrored, and do not offer fault tolerance. If one of the disks containing a striped volume fails, the entire volume fails. When creating striped volumes, it is best to use disks that are the same size, model, and manufacturer.
With a striped volume, data is divided into blocks and spread in a fixed order among all the disks in the array, similar to spanned volumes. Striping writes files across all disks so that data is added to all disks at the same rate.”
As you can see, I could not remove the faulty hard disk for exchange with a replacement until I had a backup of both striped hard disks on a single, separate backup hard disk. I therefore had to buy 2 hard disks in advance (one replacement disk for which I would be recompensed and another for backing up the damaged striped volume). At the PC store a dodge Indian smooth talker tried to give me an IBM desktar (deathstar) in exchange for my faulty drive. This hard disk should be avoided at all costs with its mechanical faults and I believe even a product recall hanging over its head. The ‘customer support’ employee with his golden tongue then brashly tried overcharging me $50 on the backup drive until I showed him the store’s large advertisement in the The Age Newspaper Green Guide which silenced him somewhat. Customer support is sadly lacking in the I.T sector. I didn’t want to fuss around more than necessary so I accepted a refurbished Western Digital Hard disk with 2MB cache in replacement for my 8MB cache hard disk.
My backup drive (connected as a slave) had to rest precariously outside the case as there was no room for a 3rd drive in my mid tower case. I knew that if the hard disk got knocked in this position I’d be back to the store for another replacement – and this time the warranty would be void as the physical damage would have been self-inflicted. I continued to backup regardless as there was really no choice other than to buy a more expensive external drive with better protection from physical damage. Norton Ghost does not image in the Windows environment so I had to boot off the Ghost bootdisk. Unfortunately, Ghost failed to detect my RAID hardware. Partition Magic also failed miserably. I finally discovered the solution being the Western Digital Data Lifeguard Tools for Windows version 11 which does a comprehensive file transfer of the existing individual partitions to the pre-partitioned backup drive. Once I had copied the contents of all 5 of my partitions in a painstaking process, I unplugged and shelved to Backup drive for a rainy day.
I’m glad to say that my system has been running smoothly thus far. The big question is how long this RAID bliss will last before I get my hands dirty once again. This recount of my hardships may be long winded but there are certainly valuable lessons to be learnt by anyone audacious enough to take the plunge into a RAID upgrade adventure or decide that it’s not even worth the trouble.

01-01-2004, 11:49 AM
Unless you have a weird RAID card, you should be able to make a controlled boot floppy that will load the appropriate drivers for Ghost to work normally. This will take a bit of research, but it is certainly possible. You might try getting with the hardware manufacturer for assistance.

01-01-2004, 02:14 PM
I got a skymaster - they don't even have a website :(

01-02-2004, 05:35 AM
You might try checking out the actual chipset/BIOS used on the controller and see if you can use some generic drivers. This will be why you failed to Ghost a RAID setup. Most controllers support booting into a DOS mode with proper drivers and a command line added to config.sys and/or autoexec.bat files on the bootup disk.