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320Gx2, one seems okay but the other is failing...? (set to RAID 0)

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July 31, 2011 7:19:30 PM

Sorry for the trouble in trying to sum up my problem in the thread title.

My computer is a Dell XPS 400, purchased just over 5 years ago. It has always worked extremely well and even with my current problem it still functions more than I'd think it would.
My computer has two 320G hard drives. I'm using RAID 0, essentially treated both of them as one. Now I appear to be in the situation that people recommend RAID 1 for. Occasionally after the main BIOS screen passes, I'll receive the following error message, accompanied by a beep:
"No boot device available - strike F1 to retry boot, F2 for setup utility".
If I turn my computer off for a while and try to boot up again, everything will seem fine; all aspects of Windows working as if there's no problem. However, after a few minutes I'll hear the dreaded "click, click... click, click". I've wised up enough to just shut off my computer at that point, though before I would just let it run until it'd shut itself off, rebooting and giving me the message I posted above.
I've backed up all my data so I don't mind reformatting. However obviously one of my drives is going. It can't be both, can it? If that were the case then I wouldn't be able to work with Windows for a while like I've been able to, right? How do I figure out which one it is? If possible my ideal resolution would be to remove the faulty one and reformat using the one that works. I'm no expert but I believe RAID 1 requires two hard drives, therefore I would go with RAID 0... again, I'm not sure so I'd like some advice on that as well.

I'm hoping I haven't confused the heck out of you people, as this was a bit long-winded and I'm not too hardware savvy.

Thanks in advance for your help :) 
a c 84 G Storage
July 31, 2011 7:48:43 PM

in the device manager check what type of hard drive is in your computer, then go to the hard drive manufacturer website and download their diagnostic tool, and check the hard drives.
July 31, 2011 10:24:11 PM

The device manager displays nothing more than "Volume 0".
I went to Dell's site and saw that my drives are "WD-RAD", which led me to check out Western Digital's site and download their Data Lifeguard tool. I tried it and the extended test "passed" in less than a second, so something obviously isn't right. Just the fact that the device manager only said "Volume 0" tells me something's not right. I did notice that the program's "Health status" displayed "Warning". Other than that the app didn't help me at all. It didn't even show more than one drive; again, not quite right.
I tried to look up other generic tools but the clicking began before I could even download a demo. The noise began to click more frequently than it was before so I had to power down by manually holding the computer's button, as Windows stopped responding to the point that I couldn't even click the shutdown button.
Related resources
a c 84 G Storage
July 31, 2011 10:34:36 PM

Since you are running a RAID0 configuration the system shows it as a Volume due to the fact that it cannot know how many drives are in the RAID
a c 327 G Storage
August 1, 2011 2:11:52 AM

Some confusion in the story, but let's assume you really do have a pair of 320 GB HDD's in a RAID0. If one is failing, how long before the mate also gets flaky? You would want to re-use one of the old ones and wait for it to fail, too?

I'd prefer you buy a new pair of HDD's. Realize that BOTH RAID0 and RAID1 use TWO drives. There are huge differences between these systems, though. RAID0 gives you capacity of the sum of the two. RAID0 gives you the capacity of ONE of the two. RAID0 risks losing EVERYTHING when one drive fails. RAID1 maintains a mirror image on the second drive, so if one fails the second one takes over immediately. It is NOT an "automatic backup system", but it does let you keep working right away when failure happens. (You still have to replace the failed unit and rebuild the RAID1 array, but you do NOT lose stuff!)

You've had 2 x 320 GB in RAID0 for a total of about 620 GB. A pair of 1TB HDD's in RAID1 would give you a big space expansion, and a pair of 2TB's would triple your space if you need it.
August 1, 2011 6:12:47 AM

Quote:
You would want to re-use one of the old ones and wait for it to fail, too?

Yes. This isn't a permanent thing. I need time to save up some cash. I'm currently unemployed.
If I could I would go with two new drives but I lack the dough.
I guess I'm asking, "how do I work with what I currently own?". No, it's not ideal that I'm using one that might fail as well within a week, but I'm kind of forced to right now. I need to know how to test, configure, etc. so I can use what I do have, while saving up for what I don't have.
a c 327 G Storage
August 2, 2011 4:16:47 AM

So you're forced to work with a failing drive and a good drive in a RAID0 array. This means you will HAVE TO replace the failing unit. Moreover you need to take action to protect your data and system ASAP.

When a RAID0 member fails, there is no easy way to just swap in a replacement HDD. You really have to go the long way:
1. Back up EVERYTHING - you say you have done this.
2. Delete the RAID0 array - that is, destroy it so the two HDD's are now just single drives with meaningless data on them.
3. Identify and replace the faulty HDD, ideally with one as close a match as possible to the remaining good drive.
4. Create a new RAID0 array from these two HDD's.
5. Completely restore the backup to the RAID0 array. I am hoping that your backup / restore system can do this in such a way that the RAID0 array can function as your boot "drive" as it does now (before the drive replacement).

Now, you realize that in the middle of this sequence you have NO RAID array of any kind, and no boot disk. At that point you have three choices:
A. Re-establish the RAID0 array as above so everything is as before.
B. Instead of making a RAID0 array once the new HDD is installed, make it a RAID1 so you will worry less, but have less storage space. This is what you have been thinking of.
C. Forget RAID. Just Partition and Format the one remaining good 320 GB HDD as a single drive. Restore the backup to this disk. Although the backup was set up with RAID drivers installed so you can boot from it, this configuration should just boot normally from that drive without using those drivers. There is, however, one small wrinkle you should tweak BEFORE you Partition and Format. You don't say what OS you are using. I'm betting your HDD's are SATA units. Win XP cannot handle SATA (or AHCI) devices unless a driver for them was installed when the OS was installed. Your OS was installed with a RAID driver, but probably not an AHCI driver. So you might have to go into your BIOS Setup screens and look near the place where your SATA drives are configured for a SATA Port Mode setting. It will be set now to RAID. Set it to "IDE (or PATA) Emulation" if you are using Win XP. This makes the BIOS fool XP into thinking it has a plain old IDE drive type to work with (which it understands fully) and it will be happy. Save and Exit from BIOS Setup.

NOTE that, if you are using Vista or Win 7, this SATA Port Mode should be set, instead, to "AHCI". These more recent OS's have their own drivers for AHCI devices built in. Again, set this before Partition and Format operations.

Option C will get you running with one trouble-free drive (and MUCH less risk of catastrophic loss of your system) right away, without waiting to buy and install the replacement for your failing unit. At some later time you can buy and install what you want, such as:

A. Buy one matching HDD, install, and re-establish RAID0
B. Buy one matching HDD, install, and establish a new RAID1
C. Buy a single new big drive and clone your old 320 GB unit to it so it takes over as your only (non-RAID) drive, and then retire the old 320 GB unit before it does crash. Or, keep it as a second drive on which you do not place anything you can't afford to lose if it does fail.
August 2, 2011 5:40:49 AM

Eek. I'll have to reread that to digest it all but yes, my drives are SATA. I'm currently using Windows 7, however I plan to go back to XP.
a c 327 G Storage
August 3, 2011 3:59:37 AM

OK, if you are running Win 7 now and plan to continue, look again at my long Option C in the middle. (Yeah, Eek, I know.) You do NOT have to use the IDE Emulation mode for Win 7. After you have broken your RAID0 array and removed the failing HDD unit so you have only one left in the system, go into your BIOS Setup screens and find the SATA Port Mode setting place. Set that to AHCI (the ideal setting for SATA units), Save and Exit. Now you can Restore your backup volume to the HDD still in the box.

I don't know your backup / restore system. If it cannot restore to a completely blank HDD, you might have to Partition and Format the drive first to make it ready for Windows to use. If that's likely the case, you can use free utilities from a HDD maker's website, or you can just use a Win Install disk to do this at the beginning of its process, then stop the install and run your restore software.
August 3, 2011 1:43:05 PM

Well, I originally used XP, as that's what the system came with. I upgraded to Windows 7 later. However, after this debacle is over I plan to go back to XP. Unless you're saying that it'd be even more tedious to install XP...?
:??: 
August 5, 2011 3:53:21 AM

I plan on completely reformatting the one working hard drive and using Windows XP.
I looked in the BIOS and it doesn't have anything about emulation listed anywhere. I did notice that when I look at the info on each drive it mentions that it's control by the RAID BIOS.
I was having luck in my system working for a while, despite the one HD going. However, as of this morning, it's completely "dead". No amount of rest is resolving the issue.
The BIOS loading screen displays the faulty drive as at port 0. Is this (physically) the topmost drive within the computer?
a c 327 G Storage
August 5, 2011 6:17:06 AM

I looked at some info for your machine here:

https://support.dell.com/support/edocs/systems/xps400/s...

It appears to indicate that a common configuration of it is with two SATA drives in a RAID set. The lengthy table of System Setup Options gives us clues what to look for and set.

Before starting, I am not clear whether you need to "break" the existing RAID0 array. In systems I have seen from other makers, there is a software RAID system manager built into the mobo's BIOS. Once it is set up and running, the only indication of it you normally see is the brief message as it boots that the RAID array is healthy and working. In your case, those messages have passed from warnings of imminent failure to a final fail message pointing to the bad HDD unit. Somehow there is a key you press to enter the RAID Manager early during the boot process so you can examine and change its settings. I don't know what that is for your machine, but often there is an on-screen prompt to tell you how to enter RAID Setup.

In the systems I have worked with and in your situation, I would expect I have to enter the RAID setup software and find the place to "break" or destroy the existing RAID0 array so that NO RAID array is set up to operate. If you do this with a health RAID0 system it most certainly will make your system not boot up, but you're there, anyway. I expect you might need to do this just so you can adjust your system's BIOS to work on one stand-alone "regular" drive without RAID, as I outline below. However, see if you can find any instructions or info on the specifics of setting up and un-doing a RAID array on your machine.

First of all, the faulty unit is at Port 0, you say. That is not necessarily the uppermost drive in the case. It IS the drive whose data cable connects to the SATA port on the mobo labelled as SATA_0. Your mobo has 4 SATA ports, numbered 0 through 3. If you look in the BIOS Setup screens it should show you SATA units connected to Ports 0 and 1. (To get into this, read the section "Entering System Setup". Once in, look for a section called "Drives" and within it the section on SATA drives.) If you then exit and shut down, disconnect the SATA data cable from the SATA Port 0 on the mobo, turn on again and go back to this BIOS screen, you should see now that there is no HDD attached to Port 0. This will confirm that you have disconnected the correct unit. Exit and turn off power again. You can remove the faulty drive or simply disconnect its power connector until you get to replacing it later.

Now, when you power on again there are two settings you will need to change. Look at that table of System Setup Options, under Drives ... SATA Operation. The original default setting is RAID Autodetect/AHCI, or maybe RAID On. The Autodetect option sets the mode according to what it finds, whereas the RAID On appears to force the system to use the drives in a RAID array. I believe if you set this parameter to RAID Autodetect/ATA with only one HDD mounted in the system, it will NOT try to use RAID mode and fall back to the IDE (or PATA) Emulation mode I spoke of. Then you should be able to install Win XP on it.

If you get this to work, be aware of something. Although a drive does need to be Partitioned and Formatted before the OS is installed, you do NOT need to do this manually yourself. Within the Win XP Install routine, as soon as it detects the existence of a valid hard drive and you choose to install there, it first will warn you that the drive appears to contain data and proceeding will destroy it all, so it will ask you to confirm that this is OK. If necessary, use the options to tell it to Delete any and all existing Partitions so the drive is really empty. Then the next step Install will do is to create the Partition needed and Format it. You may have an option to specify the Partition size - if you do, tell it to make it as large as it can so you get to use all of the drive's space. (Win XP Install may call this 298 GB, even though the drive maker claims 320 GB. Don't worry, they are just confusing people by using different definitions of the term "GB".) It will suggest you do a "Full Format" rather than "Quick Format", and I really suggest you do that Full one. It will take many hours to test the HDD before using it, but it's worth the wait to be sure an older used HDD has no bad sectors that can cause you trouble. (If it finds a few "Bad Sectors" it will simply note them and never use them, and all will be well.) Once all that is done for you, the actual Install will proceed.
August 5, 2011 3:59:03 PM

Paperdoc said:
I looked at some info for your machine here:

https://support.dell.com/support/edocs/systems/xps400/s...

It appears to indicate that a common configuration of it is with two SATA drives in a RAID set. The lengthy table of System Setup Options gives us clues what to look for and set.

Before starting, I am not clear whether you need to "break" the existing RAID0 array. In systems I have seen from other makers, there is a software RAID system manager built into the mobo's BIOS. Once it is set up and running, the only indication of it you normally see is the brief message as it boots that the RAID array is healthy and working. In your case, those messages have passed from warnings of imminent failure to a final fail message pointing to the bad HDD unit.
Quote:
Somehow there is a key you press to enter the RAID Manager early during the boot process so you can examine and change its settings. I don't know what that is for your machine, but often there is an on-screen prompt to tell you how to enter RAID Setup.


It's Control-I. I entered it and reset the discs to non-RAID. Now it doesn't give me the option to enter that Control-I setup. However, I've yet to try what you go on to describe.

In the systems I have worked with and in your situation, I would expect I have to enter the RAID setup software and find the place to "break" or destroy the existing RAID0 array so that NO RAID array is set up to operate. If you do this with a health RAID0 system it most certainly will make your system not boot up, but you're there, anyway.
Quote:
I expect you might need to do this just so you can adjust your system's BIOS to work on one stand-alone "regular" drive without RAID, as I outline below.


I did notice after some tinkering that the BIOS went from "Controlled by RAID CONTROLLER" to "Controlled by System BIOS". (I can't recall the exact wording that it used)

However, see if you can find any instructions or info on the specifics of setting up and un-doing a RAID array on your machine.

First of all, the faulty unit is at Port 0, you say.
Quote:
That is not necessarily the uppermost drive in the case.


I was moronic and hadn't yet physically opened my computer. Now that I did I see that the drives aren't one of top of each other but rather they are next to each other.

It IS the drive whose data cable connects to the SATA port on the mobo labelled as SATA_0. Your mobo has 4 SATA ports, numbered 0 through 3. If you look in the BIOS Setup screens it should show you SATA units connected to Ports 0 and 1. (To get into this, read the section "Entering System Setup". Once in, look for a section called "Drives" and within it the section on SATA drives.) If you then exit and shut down, disconnect the SATA data cable from the SATA Port 0 on the mobo, turn on again and go back to this BIOS screen, you should see now that there is no HDD attached to Port 0. This will confirm that you have disconnected the correct unit. Exit and turn off power again. You can remove the faulty drive or simply disconnect its power connector until you get to replacing it later.

Now, when you power on again there are two settings you will need to change. Look at that table of System Setup Options, under Drives ... SATA Operation.
Quote:
The original default setting is RAID Autodetect/AHCI, or maybe RAID On.


By default it's RAID Autodetect/AHCI. There is the option for RAID ON but you of course have to specifically tell it to use that option.

Quote:
The Autodetect option sets the mode according to what it finds, whereas the RAID On appears to force the system to use the drives in a RAID array. I believe if you set this parameter to RAID Autodetect/ATA with only one HDD mounted in the system, it will NOT try to use RAID mode and fall back to the IDE (or PATA) Emulation mode I spoke of. Then you should be able to install Win XP on it.


Now this is where my experimenting with the cables/BIOS made me pull my hair out. Despite the fact that I was experimenting with the proper cables, the system refused to allow the working drive to be used. It would bring up a message that SATA-0 was not detected and I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to basically tell it "I don't want you to look for the faulty one. I want you to use the SATA-2 (working) drive!". I have a feeling that I just need to follow your steps verbatim. It was late and I was probably too tired and frustrated to locate the exact point of error.

Quote:
If you get this to work, be aware of something. Although a drive does need to be Partitioned and Formatted before the OS is installed, you do NOT need to do this manually yourself. Within the Win XP Install routine, as soon as it detects the existence of a valid hard drive and you choose to install there, it first will warn you that the drive appears to contain data and proceeding will destroy it all, so it will ask you to confirm that this is OK. If necessary, use the options to tell it to Delete any and all existing Partitions so the drive is really empty. Then the next step Install will do is to create the Partition needed and Format it. You may have an option to specify the Partition size - if you do, tell it to make it as large as it can so you get to use all of the drive's space. (Win XP Install may call this 298 GB, even though the drive maker claims 320 GB. Don't worry, they are just confusing people by using different definitions of the term "GB".) It will suggest you do a "Full Format" rather than "Quick Format", and I really suggest you do that Full one. It will take many hours to test the HDD before using it, but it's worth the wait to be sure an older used HDD has no bad sectors that can cause you trouble. (If it finds a few "Bad Sectors" it will simply note them and never use them, and all will be well.) Once all that is done for you, the actual Install will proceed.


Yep... finally something I'm very familiar with. I've formatted/reformatted many computers many times over the years so I know that it's typical to not need to manually format/partition. And yes, it does take a while but I don't mind; I do use the full format.
August 5, 2011 6:30:23 PM

Paperdoc said:
I looked at some info for your machine here:

https://support.dell.com/support/edocs/systems/xps400/s...

It appears to indicate that a common configuration of it is with two SATA drives in a RAID set. The lengthy table of System Setup Options gives us clues what to look for and set.

Before starting, I am not clear whether you need to "break" the existing RAID0 array. In systems I have seen from other makers, there is a software RAID system manager built into the mobo's BIOS. Once it is set up and running, the only indication of it you normally see is the brief message as it boots that the RAID array is healthy and working. In your case, those messages have passed from warnings of imminent failure to a final fail message pointing to the bad HDD unit. Somehow there is a key you press to enter the RAID Manager early during the boot process so you can examine and change its settings. I don't know what that is for your machine, but often there is an on-screen prompt to tell you how to enter RAID Setup.

In the systems I have worked with and in your situation, I would expect I have to enter the RAID setup software and find the place to "break" or destroy the existing RAID0 array so that NO RAID array is set up to operate. If you do this with a health RAID0 system it most certainly will make your system not boot up, but you're there, anyway. I expect you might need to do this just so you can adjust your system's BIOS to work on one stand-alone "regular" drive without RAID, as I outline below. However, see if you can find any instructions or info on the specifics of setting up and un-doing a RAID array on your machine.

First of all, the faulty unit is at Port 0, you say. That is not necessarily the uppermost drive in the case. It IS the drive whose data cable connects to the SATA port on the mobo labelled as SATA_0. Your mobo has 4 SATA ports, numbered 0 through 3. If you look in the BIOS Setup screens it should show you SATA units connected to Ports 0 and 1. (To get into this, read the section "Entering System Setup". Once in, look for a section called "Drives" and within it the section on SATA drives.) If you then exit and shut down, disconnect the SATA data cable from the SATA Port 0 on the mobo, turn on again and go back to this BIOS screen, you should see now that there is no HDD attached to Port 0. This will confirm that you have disconnected the correct unit. Exit and turn off power again. You can remove the faulty drive or simply disconnect its power connector until you get to replacing it later.

Now, when you power on again there are two settings you will need to change. Look at that table of System Setup Options, under Drives ... SATA Operation. The original default setting is RAID Autodetect/AHCI, or maybe RAID On. The Autodetect option sets the mode according to what it finds, whereas the RAID On appears to force the system to use the drives in a RAID array. I believe if you set this parameter to RAID Autodetect/ATA with only one HDD mounted in the system, it will NOT try to use RAID mode and fall back to the IDE (or PATA) Emulation mode I spoke of. Then you should be able to install Win XP on it.

If you get this to work, be aware of something. Although a drive does need to be Partitioned and Formatted before the OS is installed, you do NOT need to do this manually yourself. Within the Win XP Install routine, as soon as it detects the existence of a valid hard drive and you choose to install there, it first will warn you that the drive appears to contain data and proceeding will destroy it all, so it will ask you to confirm that this is OK. If necessary, use the options to tell it to Delete any and all existing Partitions so the drive is really empty. Then the next step Install will do is to create the Partition needed and Format it. You may have an option to specify the Partition size - if you do, tell it to make it as large as it can so you get to use all of the drive's space. (Win XP Install may call this 298 GB, even though the drive maker claims 320 GB. Don't worry, they are just confusing people by using different definitions of the term "GB".) It will suggest you do a "Full Format" rather than "Quick Format", and I really suggest you do that Full one. It will take many hours to test the HDD before using it, but it's worth the wait to be sure an older used HDD has no bad sectors that can cause you trouble. (If it finds a few "Bad Sectors" it will simply note them and never use them, and all will be well.) Once all that is done for you, the actual Install will proceed.


UPDATE:

I know I should probably wait until the full format is complete, but I'm too thrilled not to let you know that, due to your in-depth instructions, things finally seem to be working! Before the installation would report that it couldn't find any hard disks. Though now it found the drive. It's hooked up properly, etc. Like I said, I shouldn't necessarily report this just yet, but in case all does go well, THANK YOU SO MUCH! :D 
!