How should I address the RAID problem on my new computer?
February 4, 2011 11:45 AM   Subscribe

I recently bought a computer with two drives in RAID 1 configuration. After a couple of weeks, I started recieving the message "RAID 1 LD 1 goes critical."

The AMD RAID utility running in Windows 7 Professional shows 1 physical hard drive as functional and assigned, 1 physical hard drive as functional and available, and it confirms that the logical drive is "critical." Both discs passed the short and long tests with Sea Tools. When I disable RAID in BIOS, Windows boots up but only recognizes one of the drives, apparently the one that has dropped out of the RAID array. That disk is current as of a couple of weeks ago when I started receiving the error messages. I have continued to use the computer, backing up frequently. With RAID enabled, everything seems to be up to date. I can't rebuild the array because I can't access the RAID utility that should be available before Windows boots up. There is a screen saying something like "RAID is critical. Press Ctrl F to enter the RAID utility," but Ctrl F has no effect. (The tech suggested it could be an issue with the USB keyboard that came with the system. That seems strange as I can get into BIOS and I can invoke Pause/Break at the RAID screen which follows the BIOS screen. He suggested I try a PS/2 keyboard.)

Here are my options as I see them and the questions I have related to each:

1. Should I buy a new keyboard to see if I can get into the RAID utility and rebuild the array myself? It doesn't seem worth it to me to spend even a few bucks on something that sounds so far-fetched, but maybe it is not as far-fetched as it seems?

2. Should I send the whole system back? This is annoying to me because I just spent several weeks without a computer after the previous one died.

3. Should I send just the motherboard back? This was offered as an option by tech support. Presumably if the RAID controller on the motherboard is faulty, they can fix or replace it, but how will I rebuild the array given the strange keyboard issue? I have replaced a motherboard once before, but it is on the edge of my comfort zone as far as dealing with computer hardware. Also: annoying (see #2 above).

4. Should I disable RAID and just be more conscientious about my backups? I understand RAID is not synonymous with backups, but my prime motivation for implementing it was "if a hard drive fails, I'll be sure to have all my data." If I do disable RAID, can I just use the system as is after copying my files from my backup drive? Or do I need to do a system restore? I don't currently have an external backup drive that is both big enough and formatted to NTFS in order to create a system image. I guess there should be a way to use the non-primary internal drive to store a system image, but I am having trouble envisioning how since Windows only recognizes one of the drives when RAID is disabled. I don't really want to buy another external hard drive just so I can use my computer without the benefit of both of the internal drives I already bought.

Finally.... I have had 3 or 4 blue screens/automatic restarts since I got the comptuter, which seems excessive for 3 or 4 hours of use per day over a few weeks. I thought I was done with blue screens when I installed Windows XP back in 2002. I don't know if this is related to the RAID problem or points in the direction of any particular solution.

The computer is mostly for web and email, word processing, games, transferring photos from digital cameras, etc. Not sure if anything other than the motherboard model is useful, but here are some of the system details.

Processor: AMD Athlon II X4 640
Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-770T
Storage: 2 1-TB Hitachi 7200 RPM drives
Video Card: ATI Radeon HD 5770
Memory: 2 2-GB DDR3-1600 RAM modules
posted by nequalsone to Computers & Internet (4 answers total)
Best answer: The AMD RAID utility running in Windows 7 Professional shows 1 physical hard drive as functional and assigned, 1 physical hard drive as functional and available, and it confirms that the logical drive is "critical."

If I am understanding the above correctly, then what is happening is that you don't have a mirror. You have a 1 drive as part of a 2 drive set and the other drive kinda sitting there.

The keyboard error is not uncommon - the MB bios will respond to the USB keyboard but other BIOSes (raids, NIC, etc) sometimes don't. I keep a PS/2 keyboard handy for this, it is a pain in the ass, but I wouldn't take that as a symptom of a bad MB on it's own.

I would see if you can scrounge up a cheap PS2 keyboard from somewhere and rebuild your array.

Personally, I dislike the raid controllers built into the chipset of motherboards. If I'm going to use raid on a machine like that, I'll either get a dedicated raid controller or use a single boot drive and use a software mirror for the data drives. I've never had very good luck with the set up you have.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:57 AM on February 4, 2011

I don't mean to derail, but do you even need RAID? RAID 1 is useful to ensure uptime, since if one disk fails you can insert another and rebuild it without having an unusable computer. It isn't really useful as a means for backup for the average home user, since an off-computer backup serves the same purpose but better (it can't be affected by viruses, you deleting your own files, other screw-ups, etc.). Also, as mentioned above, many people have bad luck with chipset-driven RAID setups, so you may be asking for trouble.

I would recommend you discontinue your RAID setup and use your second hard disk (assuming it's not faulty) for backup. Only connect that hard disk for long enough to backup (ie: use it from an external enclosure, and plug it via USB, FireWire, or eSATA) and then disconnect it.

I don't have any advice on diagnosing if your MB or hard disk is at fault.
posted by Simon Barclay at 6:14 PM on February 4, 2011

Response by poster: Pogo_Fuzzybutt: I didn't know that about USB keyboards. I thought they were either enabled or not. Since that is an easy and cheap first step (and will not require me to be without a computer), I am going to try that first. I just ordered a $13 keyboard on Amazon.

Simon Barclay: I am becoming more used to the idea that RAID as implemented here is probably not the best solution for me. I was leaning toward option 4 until Pogo noted that option 1 might not be unreasonable. I'll definitely still consider that in the long run.
posted by nequalsone at 10:11 PM on February 4, 2011

Response by poster: OK, so I got the USB keyboard, rebuilt the RAID array, and it failed again within a week. I guess that counts as resolved! (No bluescreens though....)

Will try Simon Barclay's suggestion next.

posted by nequalsone at 1:41 PM on March 7, 2011

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