How To Recover From Desktop PC RAID Array Failure
My self-built PC [built: 2010-01] uses a Gigabyte EP45T-UD3LR motherboard. This motherboard permits you to build a RAID array using SATA hard drives.
RAID = Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks
With desktop PC RAID, if one of your hard drives fails your PC should continue working. You can replace the failed hard drive at your leisure, instead of having an emergency on your hands.
On my PC I built a RAID 1 (mirroring) array using (2) Western Digital WD10EADS 1.0TB hard drives. The drives were manufactured in Thailand in 2009-07. One of the hard drives failed in 2010-07, and the Intel Matrix Storage Manager software brought up a warning message that the [SATA] Port 0 drive had failed.
This is the process to obtain a replacement hard drive and swap the failed drive.
- Obtain an RMA to get the replacement hard drive. Wester Digital's website provides a link to begin the RMA process to exchange the drive. You enter the failed drive's model # and serial #, fill out a few more details, and a replacement drive is sent. The model # and serial # are available from the Intel Matrix Storage Manager software. Don't be concerned if the replacement drive is a different model from the failed drive; the replacement hard drive I received was a slightly different model: WD10EARS-00MVWB0, but it should work fine. After your replacement drive arrives, you are ready to begin the process.
- Note which drive has failed. The Intel Matrix Storage Manager software identifies which of the drives has failed by its SATA Port #. That port # corresponds to the SATA port # printed on your PC's motherboard. Write the port # down and power your PC off. Important: REMOVE YOUR PC's AC POWER CABLE to insure there is no electricity flowing to your PC. Trace the SATA cable from the motherboard to the hard drive.
- Disconnect the power cable and the data cable from the failed SATA hard drive and remove the failed hard drive. Depending on how your PC is setup, you may need a screwdriver to remove and install the drive. Insert the replacement drive and reconnect the power cable and SATA data cable to the replacement hard drive. Reconnect your PC's power cable. If you're feeling lucky, you can close the PC case up now.
- Power your PC back on and let Windows load. Once Windows loads, the tray icon for the Intel Matrix Storage Manager will note the presence of a new hard drive that is not in the Array. Click on the icon to run the software. The new hard drive will appear in the list of drives as a non-array member; right click on the new hard drive and add it to your array.
- Once the array rebuilding process starts, try to let your PC run in a powered-on, uninterrupted state until the rebuilding is complete. While your RAID array is being rebuilt, the Intel Matrix Storage Manager icon will animate with the message: "A RAID volume is being rebuilt. Data redundancy is being restored." Depending on the size of the drives being replaced, the rebuild may take several hours. Close your PC case if you haven't done so already.
- Return your failed drive to the drive manufacturer. Replacement hard drives are always sent with the understanding that you will be returning your old, failed drive. If your drive still spins up, you should try to reformat the drive to erase its contents before sending it back. If your hard drive is truly dead, you don't have that option.
Final thoughts: I've tried desktop PC RAID several times over the years. Occasionally it has caused unusual problems but not recently. Larger hard drives > 1TB seem to have more frequent failures than we've experienced in past years. It will probably take the hard drive manufacturers another year or two to improve the reliability for large hard drives, so RAID becomes more important than before. The experience I describe above was mostly positive, and for any PC without network storage that does mission-critical work, a RAID array should be considered.