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Can I recover data of spanned drives from dead WHS?

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March 25, 2011 6:57:46 AM

I put a Lenovo IdeaCentre D400 Windows Home Server into service about 9 months ago and have had no real problems until just last night. Recently, the WHS has "disappeared" from our family network a couple times. Each time it returned to normal operation after shutting it down with the power button (4 seconds) and unplugging the power cord for 30 seconds and then reversing the process to start it back up.

Last night it "disappeared" from our network again, but this time I have been unable to get it to restart after powering it down. Status lights flicker for a few seconds and then go dark, leaving only the LED of the power button lit. Initially, I hear what sounds like a fan running at high speed for about 5 seconds and then it quickly slows down to an idle. I can't tell if the disks are spinning up, but it really doesn't sound like it. Also, at no time have I had any indication that either of the drives could be having problems, so I may have a dead board or something.

The unforgivable thing is that I have some time-sensitive important files on the WHS that I hadn't taken the time to back up yet. I mistakenly thought they were as safe there as anywhere else I had available at the time.

If anyone understands how these things can be troubleshooted without a display to show starting status, I'd sure appreciate any suggestions or direction.

But whether I can get the D400 running again or not, what are the methods, if any, of copying the files off the hard drives that were married inside the WHS? Will any basic disk recovery tools such as GetDataBack work on these spanned drives?
a c 277 G Storage
March 25, 2011 4:58:52 PM

This reply is merely informed speculation; I have never tried to do this.

I have read a lot of the doc on WHS, trying to decide whether or not to build one. My understanding from reading said doc is that mirroring and / or spanning are not done on a hardware/driver level, but by simply using multiple disks for the same purpose. That is, if you have two disks spanned, your file will be, in it's entirety, on one or the other.

So take the drives out of the dead box and try to read them on some other machine. The file names may be random garbage without the WHS database file. Just wait a few hours; someone who knows a lot more about this than I do will come along.
March 25, 2011 7:24:59 PM

Thank you for your reply. I've come across an article on a Microsoft Windows Home Server Forum discribing exactly what you've speculated.

http://social.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/whsfaq/thread/...

It's suspected I have a dead motherboard and the unit is still under warranty. I'm fairly confident that I'll be able to get the most important data copied prior to sending it to Lenovo for repair.

I need to decide whether it makes more sense to get an NAS as a supplement to the WHS or just get a 2TB drive I can later use in an enclosure.
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a c 277 G Storage
March 28, 2011 1:01:44 PM

tluxon said:

I need to decide whether it makes more sense to get an NAS as a supplement to the WHS or just get a 2TB drive I can later use in an enclosure.

I've read a lot about WHS, as I teeter on the edge.
It seems to have advantages over a simple NAS box. The one thing that turns me off to it is that while your files can be pseudo-mirrored, with copies stored on two drives, its directory and OS are not. OS not mirrored: one failed drive takes it down. Directory not mirrored: One failed drive renders all the carefully saved data useless.

This offends my sense of aesthetics. My logical thinking tells me that it still leaves your entire home network safe from a single disk failure. If that disk happens to be the key disk of the WHS, all your data is still safe on your other machines and can be backed up once you repair the WHS. My gut tells me that this is a lousy design decision, unless the owner builds a RAID 1 set for the system drive.

By the way, please help me learn something. Let me know if the file names are random stuff or match the file names on the systems that are backed up to this server.

And good luck.
March 28, 2011 9:24:26 PM

I understand your concern, but I'm still a WHS fan. I'm just not as certain how much I'll be now that Drive Extender has not been included in the latest WHS OS (Vail).

As for your question about the file names, I've ordered a new 2TB drive to copy all my WHS data files to, but I haven't done it yet. Based on what I've seen on the Microsoft Forums (http://social.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/category/windowshomeserver), I'm surmising that each file is stored in its entirety on any one of the disks of a spanned set. There is extensive information about Drive Extender in the download at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=40c6c9cc-b85f-45fe-8c5c-f103c894a5e2&DisplayLang=en.

What I really like about the WHS (at least the Lenovo D400) we have, is how it automatically does a backup of the system drive for any client PC on the network. Since our family has 7 PCs that are used regularly, this makes provision for disaster recovery really convenient.

Based on my recent experience, I'm not rockin' about the WHS being used for a gigantic media server in quite the same way I was, but I believe it would work great if the media files are treated as a first copy only and hence "backed up" by other means. On the other hand, using duplex mode may end up working very well as long as the data of the "good" drive is always at least accessible by another PC.

I'll know for sure very soon.
March 28, 2011 9:33:45 PM

Just so long you get your data onto a safe and working drive you have warranty for the unit. There may be a small learning curve but however you could build a more reliable home media server your self but you may not be able to enjoy many of the features that you use now unless skilled in setting up servers with mapped drives.
March 28, 2011 10:19:31 PM

tluxon said:
...
As for your question about the file names...
There is extensive information about Drive Extender in the download at http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=40c6c9cc-b85f-45fe-8c5c-f103c894a5e2&DisplayLang=en...
This is quoted directly from Microsoft's Technical Brief on Drive Extender (page 17):

Windows Home Server Drive Extender does nothing unique to the secondary data partitions or the files on them, which enables you to recover most of the lost data—even in worst-case scenarios. If the home server fails completely, all the surviving drives can be attached to a computer that is not even running Windows Home Server Drive Extender, and you can copy the files from the drives to that computer. Because the files retain their original names and paths (under the \DE directory), the files can be used with no specific recovery steps.

That's very good news for me. Also, reading about the Drive Extender Migrator makes it look much more versatile and accommodating than RAID 1 when it comes to duplexing and adding/removing drives (internal, eSATA, USB, or firewire).
a c 277 G Storage
March 29, 2011 12:55:56 PM

tluxon said:
This is quoted directly from Microsoft's Technical Brief on Drive Extender (page 17):

Windows Home Server Drive Extender does nothing unique to the secondary data partitions or the files on them, which enables you to recover most of the lost data—even in worst-case scenarios. If the home server fails completely, all the surviving drives can be attached to a computer that is not even running Windows Home Server Drive Extender, and you can copy the files from the drives to that computer. Because the files retain their original names and paths (under the \DE directory), the files can be used with no specific recovery steps.

That's very good news for me. Also, reading about the Drive Extender Migrator makes it look much more versatile and accommodating than RAID 1 when it comes to duplexing and adding/removing drives (internal, eSATA, USB, or firewire).

Ahh, thank you. I had known that the files lived completely on one drive (unless you choose the WHS version of mirroring, which just makes another copy on another drive), but not that the files retained names and paths. That makes things pretty easy.
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