Computer Store
store.prestwood.com
-Collapse +Expand
Tech
Search Tech Group:

Advanced
-Collapse +Expand Tech Store
PRESTWOODSTORE

Prestwood eMagazine

July Edition
Subscribe now! It's Free!
Enter your email:

   ► KBComputer TechHardwareNon-Removabl...   Print This     
 
Non-Removable Storage Technology:
Failed Hard Drives and RAID
 
Posted 12 years ago on 1/21/2008 and updated 6/18/2018
Take Away: If you've used computers for more than a few years, you know that you don't wonder IF a hard drive will fail - you wonder WHEN. It just happened to me - again. But this time it looks like the results will be pretty painless. The reasons? * RAID Level 1 * Superb Hard Drive manufacturer warranty support
 A blog topic from Wes's Blog

KB100793

Several days ago, I began hearing clicking sounds from the vicinity of my machine. Because the machine is on the same circuit as an electric room heater, I chalked it up to relays in my battery backup unit activating as the heater turned on - momentarily dropping the line voltage.

Then I began to notice a slowdown in my machine's performance. I didn't put the two symptoms together, and started looking in all the wrong places.

Then, yesterday, a window popped up informing me that one of my drives had thrown a "SMART" event. S.M.A.R.T. is one of those too long, too clever acronyms for a technology that allows a hard drive, itself, to report a malfunction.

Luckily, it's one of two identical drives in a RAID level 1 array that's supported by a hardware chip on my motherboard. RAID 1 mirrors two drives such that writes and deletes to your primary drive are automagically replicated on the secondary drive.

Now, it may seem wasteful to double your hard drive investment simply to have a constant, live backup. Well, it would be if your machine didn't have scores of important and complex applications installed - in addition to lots of data.

The reality is that, with any well equipped development machine, rebuilding everyting after a drive failure can cost you more time/money than the duplicate drive did. Gone are the days when we could simply reinstall a fairly simple OS, restore backed up porgram files, and be up and running in a couple hours.

The reality is that it takes a long time to reinstall just a modern OS, like XP or Vista, and install all the service packs. Applications, too, are far too dependent on other files and registry entries to be reinstalled quickly. The last time I had a total hard drive failure (without RAID mirroring), it took me nearly two weeks to get the machine back into a reasonable semblance of itsprevious configuration - and then recover all my data from external backups.

This time promises to be a breeze. The RAID system takes the failed dive off-line, switches to the good dirve, and I can keep right on working, as if nothing happened, until the replacement drives arrives.

Yes - arrives. I don't even have to take the macine or failed drive back to a store. Western Digital, maker of the drive that failed, has a superb, on-line warranty system:

You supply the serial number of the failed drive (conveniently reported to me by the RAID monitoring software).

Western Digital then tells you whether the drive is still under warranty. Mine is. Then they give you three options:

1) Upgrade the drive. They give you a list of compatible newer drives and you can pick one - at a very fair price,

2) Obtain a RMA and send the drive back for replacement, or,

3) Advance replacement - the option I chose.

With Advance replacement, you give them a credit card number and they immediately ship the replacement. You then have 30 days to return the bad drive before they charge your credit card.

When the new drive arrives, you power down the machine, replace the drive, power back up, and the RAID system immediately - and transparently - begins restoring the mirror. You don't even have to format the new drive. While the mirror is being restored, you can continue working.

Curious, I looked to see if other popular drive makers offer similar options. Maxtor, recently acquired by Western Digital does. In fact, Maxtor drives use the same Western Digital site pages to process the warranty. Seagate has a similar program. I didn't check all the others, like Fujitsu, etc., but the laws of competition lead me to suspect that they probably do, too.

Morals of this story:

1) When you buy new machines (desktops, anyway), be sure the motherboard supports hardware RAID. Modern OSs can do the mirroring, too, but at the expense of a lot of machine resources.

2) Buy that second drive and set it up as mirrored (RAID Level 1).

3) If you don't already have RAID set up on an existing machine, check your motherboard docs - and the accompanying CD to see if your board supports RAID. If it does, buy a second identical (or larger) drive, install it, set it up RAID mirroring, and install the monitoring software.

4) RAID, of course, is no substitute for a good off-line backup regimen. In the (very few) days it takes for the replacement drive to arrive, my primary drive could fail, too. Not likely, but you know Mr. Murphy.

If all goes well, this machine will be back up to total protection, with just a few minutes of work, and, possibly, a small shipping charge.

Now, that, I call painless.

Several days ago, I began hearing clicking sounds from the vicinity of my machine. Because the machine is on the same circuit as an electric room heater, I chalked it up to relays in my battery backup unit activating as the heater turned on - momentarily dropping the line voltage.

Then I began to notice a slowdown in my machine's performance. I didn't put the two symptoms together, and started looking in all the wrong places.

Then, yesterday, a window popped up informing me that one of my drives had thrown a "SMART" event. S.M.A.R.T. is one of those too long, too clever acronyms for a technology that allows a hard drive, itself, to report a malfunction.

In the full version of this article, we describe the advantages of RAID drive mirroring, and the ease of getting a replacement drive.

More Info

Definition:  RAID

Blog Entries!

0 Comments.
 Contribute to this open topic blog!
 
Comment on this blog topic...
...
Sign in...

If you are a member, Sign In. Or, you can Create a Free account now.


Anonymous Post (text-only, no HTML):

Enter your name and security key.

Your Name:
Security key = P151A1
Enter key:
Blog Contributed By Wes Peterson:

Wes Peterson is a Senior Programmer Analyst with Prestwood IT Solutions where he develops custom Windows software and custom websites using .Net and Delphi. When Wes is not coding for clients, he participates in this online community. Prior to his 10-year love-affair with Delphi, he worked with several other tools and databases. Currently he specializes in VS.Net using C# and VB.Net. To Wes, the .NET revolution is as exciting as the birth of Delphi.

Visit Profile

 KB Article #100793 Counter
14745
Since 4/2/2008


©1995-2020 PrestwoodBoards  [Security & Privacy]
Professional IT Services: Coding | Websites | Computer Tech