I am currently in high school and run our school's website. This summer, our SysAdmin was diagnosed with cancer, and he went off for treatment, so I have been thrown into an interesting situation.

I'm really not sure what is wrong with this web server, but I would love for your ideas/teaching/input as I am trying to quickly learn so that I can help out.

The server ran/is running FreeBSD, which might mean nothing since this is a hardware issue. I know at one point the server had five identical drives in it (does that mean Raid-5?), but at the point of crash there were three working drives in it ("running in degraded mode?").

About a week ago, the server would not start up because it only found 1 logical drive. I ran the configuration utility and saw this: https://i.stack.imgur.com/IL6ut.jpg

I assume there would still be some data left on that one living drive, right? (I do have backups of the web fies, just not the actual OS and Web Server setup).

If there is any information that I need to add so that you can better explain what happened to me, I am more than willing to do that. I am just looking to understand what happened, what this was at one point, and how I can take measures to fix this.

Thank you SO much.

  • 2
    So sad :( my condolences... Check data and power cables on all drives, backplane and controller, reinsert disks. If possible, connect these drives to another computer (DO NOT FORMAT), check if they're recognized.
    – GioMac
    Aug 30, 2013 at 21:33
  • oh, it's scsi, not that easy to connect to other system :( probably drives are too old and dead.
    – GioMac
    Aug 30, 2013 at 21:35
  • If that all won't help and if it's worth - you can try to contact company providing HDD recovery services.
    – GioMac
    Aug 30, 2013 at 21:38
  • 2
    Your route into sysadmin is very similar to mine. Good luck for the future, it does get better. Sadly, your first few days are going to be quite unpleasant as you'll have to replace all the drives in this server (adding another as a hot spare), and restore from backup. Aug 30, 2013 at 21:40

1 Answer 1


First, my condolences on your mentor's hospitalization and your baptism by fire into system administration.

Second, my condolences on your data loss. I sincerely hope you have backups.

To summarize your situation:

You have a three-drive RAID array (presumably a RAID-5).
This is one "Logical Drive" (the 3 disks are handled by the RAID controller, and presented to the rest of the system as if they were one drive).

You have lost two of the three drives in the array, and RAID-5 simply can't tolerate two drives failing. (See the post I linked to earlier for more information.)

For all intents and purposes your data is not recoverable -- the only way to recover data from this system would be to ship all three drives out to a data recovery company (a costly prospect).

If you have backups you can begin the process of rebuilding the system on new disks.
Good backups should make the restoration process relatively painless (though depending on the system and what else it's doing -- email, DNS, etc. - that may still be a bit of a project).

If you don't have backups you hopefully have at least a copy of the website (on the workstation you develop on?) and can set up a new server environment and upload your website there, or alternatively rent some shared hosting web space to at least get your school's web presence back up and running.

If you have limited system administration experience and nobody to work with you on this I would recommend the shared hosting route.

  • mike, do you know which controller is this? is it recoverable/compatible with dmraid?
    – GioMac
    Aug 30, 2013 at 21:30
  • 6
    Not saying it will work here, but if you knew which drive failed last, if the config utility allowed you to force set it "Online" you might get away with booting it up enough to take a good backup. Sometimes drives get marked as "Failed" by a controller but aren't completely Fubar'd yet.
    – TheCleaner
    Aug 30, 2013 at 21:32
  • 1
    @TheCleaner has a point - Dell PERC controllers are especially notorious for this - they offline drives for soft errors all the time. The key is re-enabling the one that failed LAST: Get it wrong and Bad Things happen...
    – voretaq7
    Aug 30, 2013 at 21:36

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