Monthly Archives: November 2011

Breaking Intel RAID: what happens to your data?

I am upgrading my desktop PC, wondering as I do if this is the last time. I did this four years ago; maybe four years from now cloud, mobile and virtualisation will make this unnecessary.

But I digress. My PC is creaking and I am replacing most of its innards. I use an Intel motherboard with its embedded RAID controller to mirror the data on the main 1TB drive. Since I am now getting new, faster drives, I want to break the RAID. The question though: will this delete all the data?

The puzzle here is that the Intel Matrix Storage Manager insists that when you delete a RAID volume, all its data is lost. But why should you lose data if you are breaking a mirrored (RAID 1) volume? In this configuration, each of two drives maintains identical data. In fact, Intel’s User’s Manual says:

All data on the RAID drives will be lost unless the volume that is selected is a RAID 1 volume.

The utility itself is less comforting though, and when I go to break the RAID it says data will be lost unless it is a “Recovery volume”, which is something slightly different.

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Now, if you are like me you set up the RAID in the first place because you would rather not lose that data. On the other hand, my suspicion was that the data would in fact be preserved. Caution prevailed, and I made a Windows system image backup of the entire thing, which took most of a day.

Then I deleted the volume. No data was lost and Windows booted perfectly, though it did reconfigure its storage drive and ask for a restart.

The second drive also retained all the data. Windows made it offline, because according to disk manager:

The disk is offline because it has a signature collision with another disk that is online

which is fair enough.

I can confirm, then, that in my experience you can delete an Intel RAID mirror without losing the data. Still, if this is data you care about, I guess you are going to take a backup anyway before pressing Y.

Hard drive shortage, price madness

Now and again in the computer industry there is a shortage of components, everyone panic buys the stock and prices shoot up.

This is happening now with hard drives. Here is what Seagate told its partners:

As has been widely reported, the severe flooding in Thailand is a tragic situation for families and businesses across the region. Currently, all Seagate facilities in Thailand are operational and our production is not constrained by either internal component supply or by our ability to assemble finished products. Rather, we are constrained by the availability of specific externally sourced components. As a result, industry demand will significantly outstrip supply at least for the December quarter and the supply disruption will continue for multiple quarters.

How long the disruption will last is hard to guess, but bearing in mind that manufacturers will be racing to restore production I doubt it will be really long-lived.

In the meantime though, buyer beware. Drives that you could once find for £50 or so in the UK are suddenly three times the price.

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The best advice is to postpone that upgrade you were planning. If you cannot wait, it is still worth shopping around.