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I have an Nvidia hardware RAID 1 array and need to reformat. But I don't have any spare storage media, so I need to get along with the 2 disks in the array. I figured I'd do as follows:

  1. Delete the array, so I have 2 separate but identical disks, A and B, with my files
  2. Put disk B aside
  3. Reformat disk A, build RAID 1 array with it, install Windows XP
  4. Put disk B back in
  5. Boot to Windows on disk A, copy my files from disk B to disk A
  6. Add disk B to the RAID 1 array, rebuild array

And now I'd have a new RAID 1 array, fresh install and all my files intact (the ones I copied). Here are the parts I'm unsure about:

  • Can I build a RAID 1 array using just one disk, then add the other one later?
  • Can Windows on disk A see disk B and allow me to copy my files over?
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I don't think you would be able to build a degraded (only one disk) raid array. Best plan is to copy the contents of disk B to some removable media (Ext HDD, flash drive, DVD's if you have to) build the array with both disks, copy the files over from the removable media.

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Seems like a very useful feature to leave out. I happened to acquire a spare disk so my problem is solved here. –  Core Xii Feb 27 '10 at 7:43
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I don't have as much experience with hardware RAID controllers as I do software RAID, but it is certainly possible to create a RAID1 array in a degraded state under Linux's software RAID.

I would therefore assume that at least some hardware solutions would allow this. I vaguely recall reading about a particular controller being able to convert a single drive into a RAID1 array (without losing data along the way) as long as there was a small amount of space partitioned at the end of the source drive so the controller could store its array data without clobbering the end of a filesystem, but that was some years ago (Windows NT4/2000 era) and can't find the reference now (or remember which controller was being talked about, it may have been an IBM ServerRAID product as at the time I managed some machines that used these). This would give you your rebuild strategy (build the new system on a non-RAIDed drive, install the other drive as a degraded RAID1, copy the data, then wipe that drive and use the "single disk -> array" feature if present to rebuild by syncing onto that unit).

While you don't have spare storage of the sort of size needed for your array, do you have any smaller drives around that you could use to experiment on? Remove the current drives, build a simple system with the small drives and add some other data, then try your rebuild procedure and see if the controller behaves as you wish it to.

I would be inclined to take a full backup before starting any such procedure anyway, even if I'd tested the procedure on other drives first. If you already have a good backup arrangement then you should be able to just rebuild the drives without the extra messing around (and restore the data from backup afterwards). If not then this is an opportunity to take you first full backup, you will probably actually take less time this way around too.

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