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OS: Win7 professional Laptop: latitude e6420

The answer to this question should address how to deploy RAID1 software wise on a dell latitude e6420. I have two Hitachi Z5K500 320GB drives (new). There is one hard drive (320GB capacity) in the system now, which contains the current installation that I would prefer to keep. The drive currently inside the laptop will be replaced with one of the Hitachi drives, and the other Hitachi drive will be fitted into the laptop by way of a Dell hard drive "caddy" enclosure, which inserts into the media bay of the laptop (you remove the cd-rom bay, insert hd-bay).

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I am not a Windows specialist but I would approach it in one if the two ways:

  1. Create a backup image of your existing installation to an external hard drive. Extract the original 320GB drive and put the two new ones in place. Install vanilla Windows on those new ones, setup RAID1 and restore from the image. Reboot and eventually repair the OS. There is always an option to backup the data only, instead of creating an image, which may be easier and faster for you depending on the setup;
  2. Get an external hard drive enclosure, extract your original drive and get it in the enclosure. Put the 2 new drives in the laptop, attach the enclosure to USB. Boot from the external drive, which is your original drive. The system will boot and would be slower. Create RAID1 from the other two drives. Backup everything from your original drive and point it to restore on the newly created RAID1. Maintain the directory structure. Make sure its partition is bootable. Shutdown the laptop, detach the USB drive. Boot up and repair the OS.

I think #1 is better. Both options involve backup and restore, with option #1 you will be sure your new install is operational. Here is some more info from Microsoft on the topic.

Please keep in mind that you are using software RAID. Theoretically, it should work with any Windows but if you boot with Linux Live CD you won't see it. Of course, you could use another machine with Windows to create the array and restore to it, then just move the drives to the laptop. Your newly created partitions must be bootable in all cases.

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Motherboard of said laptop supports Raid 1 mirroring. Simply the steps would be: (a) boot to bios and enable raid; (b) power down and install two identical drives, one in hard drive slot, the other in the media hard drive bay, shutdown; (c) power up and wait for the intel raid screen to flash. When it does, press ctrl+I; (d) follow on screen instructions to create raid 1 "continuous", reboot; (e) when bios appears press f12 to boot from USB (have a windows 7 usb install key in a usb port); (f) when windows gives you the option to "load drivers", load the "pre-os install" driver from the dell website which you have on a usb key, inserted also into a usb slot (this is the raid driver from intel for windows); (g) continue normal install with windows; (h) follow the Dell deployment re-imaging guide (it's a pdf on the driver download page for your service tag under system utilities) for installing device drivers and dell software. You now have raid 1 w/ windows on an e6420.

Assume preserving original install of windows is not possible due to said install not having been given the raid driver at time of install. Use a backup to place necessary data on new install.

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Out of curiosity: Would Windows notice if one of the drives goes bad in said MB fake-RAID? – grs Oct 2 '12 at 0:19
perhaps that's what the intel driver for win7 is for? – jhstuckey Oct 3 '12 at 4:05

To answer the question in your title: Yes you can.

The second drive in the external bay will appear as a regular drive, and you can RAID1 both drives. Depending on your software RAID driver things might get slightly interesting if both drives are not the same size. In which case you might look at dynamic drives and create two drives, one mirrored, one with the remaining size.

Keeping the old OS will be a bit trickier. I am not sure if you can keep this, or if you want to do a clean install, create the RAID, and then restore from backup. Especially since a restored windows OS might not have the right drivers for your RAID configuration.

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So basically I start with two identical drives... I got that part. But then things get fuzzy. I have to keep one drive in the machine to run the OS that's going to create the array on the two drives... but wait, now I don't have room for the two drives. It's a laptop, w/ two drive bays. – jhstuckey Sep 27 '12 at 3:07
Two identical drives is useful, but not needed. E.g. if you have a 500GB drive and a 750GB drive you could use those to create a 500GB RAID 1. That would waste 250GB, but it is possible. (And it often is quite useful if a drive fails after a few years and you can no longer get that model). -- As for the installation part: I am now sure how windows handles that. I know how to escape to a shell and do some magic from an unix shell, but I doubt it is the same in windows. – Hennes Sep 27 '12 at 3:19
Okay thanks, I hope someone else knows precisely how you set this up. – jhstuckey Sep 27 '12 at 6:25

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