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Windows Server 2008 R2 Foundation & Dell T110 Recovery Notes


By steve - Posted on 13 August 2012

Ran into a situation where a client's Dell T110 server would no longer boot Windows Server 2008 R2 Foundation off the PERC S100 RAID controller and the two drives that were configured as RAID1.

The symptom happened after a power outage that took out the UPS and crashed Windows Server without a graceful shutdown. Not a pretty thing at all.

First, I discovered the RAID1 was broken and only one drive was showing the desirable "Online" state. The other was "Ready". That should have been OK, but it looks like the RAID failed and the was able to boot, but then crashed and took out the Windows configuration.

The boot would freeze where the green strobing progress bar would be displayed. It would do that for about an hour, then just freeze and stop...

Well, that wasn't going anywhere so it looks like a recovery was in order. However, a look at the backups told me I was in for a long recovery. The backups had failed and the users had been swapping the backups without noticing that the backups were failing. So, there goes that parachute.

I could see there was one drive working, but I didn't want to damage that during recovery. I would probably risk it with a day old backup in hand, but a month old backup was NOT going to do it.

I happened to have 2 SATA drives of the same capacity (500GB) in my care, so I decided I would try to create a "parallel" recovery system on the server and then try to add back the broken mirror as a second array that I could then read from the installed system. A quick install, a quick copy, then I'm back in business and can try to recover the broken installation on the original system disks OR fall back to the new installation and just rebuild Active Directory (yuck!).

I hit a few hitches when I tried to install Win Server 2008 R2 Foundation:

  • No system DVD to re-install from! Apparently media wasn't ordered or it was misplaced. I found a DVD image I had made as a backup backup, but I didn't have a DVD to burn it to! A "quick" trip to my local supply and 30 minutes later I was burnin'. (Hint: burn an ISO image of every unique system install DVD or CD you come across and keep it on your laptop or backup drive.)
  • I pulled the old array drives out of the system so that they couldn't be hurt by an install.
  • I built the new array using the Ctrl-R configuration key combo during boot. I set up the new array. (I made a mistake, though. I should have flipped the arrays around and put my new one first. I left the old one first it was remembered in the config even though they weren't even connected anymore.)
  • I booted up on the DVD using the F11 boot option.
  • The system didn't understand the PERC S100 controller, so I had to download the drivers to a USB stick. I could then use the BROWSE button to find the stick and the folder and the drivers and load them.
  • The next screen let me pick the drive I wanted to install on. I ran into the problem I mentioned above in that everytime I set up the drive, I would get the error: "Setup was unable to create a system partition or locate an existing partition." Various sites indicated the problem was that my USB stick was getting the C: drive, but that wasn't it. It turned out...
  • I needed to reboot back into the RAID controller configuration and flip the arrays around so that the new array was first. After I did that, I repeated the steps above and was then greated with a successful installation starting up!
  • Another 30 or 40 minutes flew by (yeah, right) as I watched the install process. I was able to set the administrator password and boot up the server. I now had a platform to try and read the other array.

I shutdown the system, gracefully, then plugged the drives for the 2nd array back in. I booted up, then...

the system hung on the drive again. Even though I had a clean boot, when Windows tried to access the drive, it would hang the system.

We sent the drive off to a data recovery specialist and paid the price for bad backups. So, while it didn't work for me, maybe this process will work for someone.

I can't say I recommend S100 RAID. I've found it to be pretty unreliable, so I'm looking for a better small business server data strategy.

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