Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Reimaging a RAID array from ATA using Windows XP

Recently I found myself in the awkward position of needing to replace my laptop's ATA Hard Drive with a RAID array (RAID 0 - Striping). Generally this should be a happy time due to the HDD performance boost you could expect from a striped array. Unfortunately - I could not afford to loose too much time installing the drive and setting up the necessary software environment.

The obvious solution to this is to image the new RAID array using the old drive's contents and generally, this would be a relatively painless proceedure. RAID tends to complicate matters however, as windows requires RAID drivers at installation. Using an installation of XP from an image taken from a non RAID'ed drive results unpredicatable results (freezes, BSOD etc.) when imaged to a RAID'ed one. In addition, not all imaging software supports RAID imaging. Norton Ghost 2003 and earlier do not support RAID..... I used a trial version of Acronis True Image which worked like a charm.

To get Windows working, after applying the image to the newly installed RAID array, you can boot from the Windows CD and repair the imaged windows installation. Other drivers such as video drivers should probably be installed - I found my nVidia GeForce 6800 prevented me from booting into Windows. I could load Windows Safe mode with network support however.

Below is a list of the steps I took to install RAID and restore my previous software environment:

  1. Installed Acronis True Image
  2. Ran a backup to an external USB HDD
  3. Created a bootable CD in Acronis
  1. Copied RAID Drivers to floppy disk
  2. Booted into BIOS to check boot order (floppy, CD, hdd etc.)
  3. Cracked open the laptop and removed the old hdd.
  4. Set the jumpers on the new Slave hdd to cable select (as per specs for Alienware laptops)
  5. Installed 2 new hdds (of equal size, speed etc)
  6. Booted into BIOS and set the HDD Mode to RAID
  7. Save and Exit
  8. Boot into RAID BIOS (I used FastTrack.... CTRL-F at bootup)
  9. Include both the installed hdds to a Striped (RAID 0) array
  10. Save and Exit
  11. Verify on bootup display that the RAID array can be detected
  1. Boot off the Acronis Bootable CD (PREPARATION - step 3)
  2. Follow the prompts to reinstate the image stored on the USB HDD - resizing the target partition size if necessary.
  3. Boot off the Windows CD leaving the RAID Drivers in the floppy drive (RAID INSTALLATION Step 1)
  4. Press F6 when prompted to install third party SCSI or RAID Driver
  5. Select the driver from the options given
  6. Proceed through Windows installation until asked if you wish to repair an existing installation of Windows
    -NOTE - Do not choose the Recover a Windows installation option at the start of the Windows installation process.
  7. Select Yes and select the installation of Windows you wish to repair
  8. Continue reinstalling Windows.
  9. Boot into Windows safe mode.
  10. Reinstall motherboard chipset, video and sound drivers.
  11. Boot into Windows and everyone's happy.