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Beware of Dell RAID Workstations

RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Drives).  It’s supposed to be a Good Thing, right?  Sometimes yes and sometimes no.  There are several kinds of RAID, from Raid 0 through 5 or more.  You can have a RAID that stores exactly the same thing on both drives (a Mirror) – which is slower, but fully redundant and safer.  Or you can have several kinds of Striped RAIDs, which store data in “stripes” across 2 or more hard drives to provide better performance, but less safety.

Here’s the issue that caused me to write this blog entry.  Basically, Dell builds a lot of dual hard drive-equipped home computers configured as a RAID Stripe.  This means your data is stored partially on one drive and partially on another.  Ostensibly, all files are split 50% on each drive.  The problem comes when Windows has some problem (missing file, virus, file corruption, etc.), that prevents you from loading the OS.  When this happens, you cannot boot Windows, cannot access your data and cannot, cost effectively, recover your data.

If one drive fails, or Windows becomes corrupt, your data is scattered around all the drives in the RAID and cannot be read or accessed.  Recovering this data, if actually possible, is always expensive, because the files have to be reassembled during the recovery process. This is both time-consuming and very expensive.  Frequently, your data simply cannot be recovered after one of the drives completely fails, leaving you with a physically OK hard drive that contains only fragments of each file.  Useless in terms of recovering your data.

In the case of Dell RAID-enabled machines, we recommend backing up your data and reinstalling the OS, using one drive for the boot volume and the other for data storage.

Name of author

Name: Wizard

Short Bio: The Computer Wizard (TCW). TCW was founded by Warren P. Harris in 1994 to service and repair computers in the San Francisco Bay Area. Relocating the business to Plano, Texas in 1999, TCW continued to flourish when an unfortunate loss of data for a wedding Mr. Harris photographed, caused him to research data recovery options. Realizing he would have to either pay someone to recover the photos or find out how to do it himself, the rest, as they say "is history". Approached by a friend who was a Private Investigator in 2006, Mr. Harris studied for his Investigator's license and began honing his skills in Computer Forensics. The company was renamed DFW Computer Integration in 2015.

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