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I have potentially a big mess in my hands: I received today a box with several hard drives that used to be connected to different servers each one of them using an unknown - at least as of right now- RAID configuration. Regretfully, these are not marked and I'm not sure how to go about putting them back into their original servers.

Currently I don't have much more information: I don't know what type of array was being used on each instance and I don't have any specifics about the RAID controller originally used on each one of the servers (currently these servers are at a remote location with no easy access).

Is there a way to sort through this mess? What would be the consequences of using trial and error to go about it? This might be a very basic question but I don't have much experience dealing with RAID arrays.

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What type of hardware? Make/model of server and RAID controller. – ewwhite Oct 25 '12 at 16:36
I don't have the exact model number, the only thing I can tell you is they are Dell PowerEdge (the servers are at a remote location to which I don't have access as of this moment). – Edgar Oct 25 '12 at 17:22
up vote 3 down vote accepted

RAID disk sets are managed by each controller in its own way; if you don't have the same controllers to which those disks were attached, you won't be able to recover anything from them. You can't, say, move disks from a IBM ServeRAID controller to a HP Smart Array one and expect to use them without wiping them out and re-creating the array.

If you manage to find out the controller models and acquire similar ones, then what you can do depends on the controllers: some of them can recover the RAID configuration from the disks (useful if you have to replace a broken controller), while some of them can't. Of course, you would still need to group the disks in their original sets and, probably, place them in the same position; but if they're unmarked, you're quite out of luck here.

If you instead want to put the disks back in their original servers, things might be more easy: most controllers can tell you "I expected to find disks A, B and C but now I only have A and it's in slot 3 instead of slot 1", so you can go from there. But this, again, depends a lot on the specific controller models you have.

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The last paragraph applies more closely to the task I'm trying to achieve: put the servers back together. I was afraid of putting a mismatched set and having some unintended damage on the drives. Could you elaborate more about how to go about testing these drives? Is it as easy as connecting a few booting the server and keep trying until we get the right drives in? – Edgar Oct 25 '12 at 16:43
If the servers are of different brands/models, this will probably help you matching disks with servers; if they are all alike, this will be quite more difficult. Anyway, just stick them in, boot the servers and go to the controllers' configuration menu. They will probably tell you what's misplaced and how to fix it. There's no risk in that, unless you manually edit the RAID configuration and create new arrays. – Massimo Oct 25 '12 at 16:47
@edgar What type of servers are you dealing with? You haven't addressed that yet. – ewwhite Oct 25 '12 at 16:48
I don't have the exact model number, the only thing I can tell you is they are Dell PowerEdge (the servers are at a remote location to which I don't have access as of this moment). – Edgar Oct 25 '12 at 17:19
@Massimo Thanks! You definitely took the edge out of this task. I wasn't sure if I would damage the drives by inserting them in the wrong server. – Edgar Oct 25 '12 at 17:20

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