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Dell messed up, or how to lose a day out of your life. (Computers, Rants)

Yesterday a very helpful Dell employee came to my house to replace my XPS700 motherboard with an XPS720. This was a free upgrade that Dell started to provide XPS700 owners with a better upgrade path for additional hardware. I also ordered a Quad Core CPU with it, which came with a 25% discount. Pretty cool deal.

After about an hour, the guy leaves, and it looks like I have a working system again. That is, until after another hour or so I notice a new hard disk I didnt have before. I immediately knew what happened. He had rebooted the machine without configuring the raid controller on the new board. My boot disk is actually a raid1/mirror and you need to tell the new raid controller that. Instead, it booted with 2 separate identical drives. Ofcourse, after the initial boot these 2 drives can no longer be seen as identical and I was unable to recreate the raid1 volume.

So you think.. no problem. I take the C drive and make that the first drive in a new raid1 volume. That worked. Now I had a degraded raid 1 volume which was missing its second drive. Good, i have the second drive, so now I can add the second drive and tell the raid controller to rebuild the raid volume. Right? Wrong!

I could not find any way to do this. Not through the controller bios, not through the windows XP tool called MediaShield. It just would not let me rebuild the degraded raid1 volume. A quick google search found many similar problems. Dell..you suck. I have a raid1 volume so I can easily rebuild!

After a full day of rebooting/fiddling/messing around, and several near escapes of losing everything, I was finally able to re-establish my raid1 volume. No thanks to Dell either. This is what I had to do:

– delete the degraded raid 1 volume in the raid bios. This is obviously very scary.

– add a new volume with this same disk, but a stripe volume, NOT a new mirror..that wont work.

At this point your system is very unhappy. It cant boot anymore because the lovely broken raidcontroller has wiped the partition table.

– Download a copy of the “Ultimate Boot CD”. This is a rescue CD with lots of handy tools. Pray you have a second computer with a burner to burn a CD.

– Boot with CD, start a tool called “Test Disk”. This has an option to search your HD for deleted partitions. It finds the old partitions and gives you the option to save them as a new partition table.

– Boot with CD again, now start “Ranish partition manager” and use it to hide the 1st and 3rd partition on the disk. These are Dell specific partitions that really should be hidden. I did not find a way for Test Disk to do this.

Now Windows will boot again.

– On windows, start mediashield and tell it to convert your Stripe partition to a Mirror partition, and then pick the free disk when asked.

Thats it.. a day of lots of googling, rebooting and messing around later, I have a functioning machine again. In my opinion there is a nasty bug in the nvidia raid controller which becomes very confused when it sees two disks of a raid volume suddenly separately. It will not allow you to recombine them in any way. Not even after I fully formatted the 2nd drive.

One Response to “Dell messed up, or how to lose a day out of your life.”

  1. Eric Cheng says:

    I’ve written quite a few articles like this. :) Sorry to hear about your crappy experience. I know how it feels…

    Unrelated: I’m in your sidebar in the tag cloud!