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A buddy of mine and I are in the process of trying to salvage an old server that hasn't been used for a while, but whose data is critically important. It's an old box with a series of hard drives that, after a long while of arduous testing, were setup in Windows Server 2003 using some sort of software implementation of RAID within WS2k3. (I don't know what this is called.)

The problem here is that the case is very disorganized, and the SATA cables connecting the drives have since been disconnected in such a way that the original order cannot be determined. Further testing had indicated that guessing the original order (i.e. plugging them in haphazardly) will prevent the machine from booting.

Poking around with the help of bootable media, we were able to figure out that the first NTFS HD is bootable and the rest are of type "SFS" (or so fdisk reports). I'm guessing that this was set by the software solution, but have no idea of how to use this.

What is the best way of going about salvaging this data?

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

The software RAID solution is Windows itself: SFS refers to a "dynamic disk" in Windows 2000 or later, and software RAID volumes in Windows must be built on dynamic disks.

What I would do:

  1. Capture offline images of all drives before attempting to boot, to ensure that we do not make anything worse than it already is.

  2. Put the bootable NTFS drive on the first SATA port and the rest of the drives on other SATA ports, boot the machine, and see what comes up in Disk Management.

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+++ to imaging the disks first. – Ward Jan 21 '11 at 3:02
I went into Disk Management and found several volumes, three which were coupled but not readily available. The context menu displayed "Reactivate...", but it didn't seem to do anything. Guessing that it had to do with the order, I switched what I thought seemed to be the pair out of place, rebooted, and everything worked perfectly. Thanks so much for the suggestion. – user67627 Jan 21 '11 at 3:31
Nice work! You're welcome. – Skyhawk Jan 23 '11 at 21:16

The suggestion to capture offline images is sensible so long as you can be sure no changes are made to any of the drives.

For this you would need a physical write blocking device.

I would suggest calling a RAID specialist first and get some advice.

There are many that will offer an initial free consultation like abc Data Recovery, DiskLabs, MJM Data Recovery or Ontrack if you are in the Uk

DriveSavers, DTI Data, Gillware, Memofix, Ontrack, Werecoverdata in North America.

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It is worth noting that many data recovery services will charge thousands of dollars to recover anything at all, even in the simplest of recovery scenarios. – Skyhawk Jan 23 '11 at 21:18

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