I have a Windows 2003 Server machine, using the built in software RAID-1 support with two SATA drives.

If the 2nd drives fails (that is, when I pull out the drive connector) everything works perfectly, but when the first drive is missing the system won't boot.

I understand you can create a "fault tolerance" floppy and use that for booting into the secondary drive but floppy disks and drives tend to have a very short lifespan in out dusty server room (I know server rooms aren't supposed to be dusty, but it's a construction problem and can't be fixed).

Is there any way to boot into the secondary drive of a Windows 2003 software RAID-1 array without using a floppy?



1) the servers are not brand name servers, the disks where unformatted before I installed Windows 2003 Server

2) connecting the secondary disk to the primary controller didn't work

  • What do you mean when you say "It won't boot?" Does it not recognize the second drive at all? Does it start to boot and say it can't find an operating system? More details please. When I setup a software RAID like this, I make two entries in boot.ini - one pointing to drive one (the original, default entry) that I copy and then edit point to drive two. It may just be that you need a separate boot.ini entry that points to the second drive. – Carl C Jul 28 '09 at 0:06

Since you didn't elaborate on what happens when the system "fails to boot", I'm going to take a stab in the dark.

It sounds like your secondary disk might not have an MBR with the necessary code to start NTLDR. A typical symptom in this kind of situation is a blinking cursor with no further progress after POST.

If this is what's happening, boot to the recovery console with the secondary disk attached to the primary controller and run a "FIXMBR". That should get you booting normally.

  • Sounds logical, any way I can test it without risk of making the disk unusable? – Nir Jun 4 '09 at 20:31
  • Obviously, I can't offer any kind of warranty. FIXMBR is supposed to write new executable code to the MBR. It has worked for me in the situation you describe, but if this disk has data that is unique I'd highly recommend backing it up or imaging it before doing anything with it. – Evan Anderson Jun 4 '09 at 22:12

If you move the second disk to the first controller you'll find the system will boot off it just as usual. There are a few circumstances where this won't work. I recall the Dell system partition causes problems. However in the few cases where I've used software RAID1 I always remove the Dell partition.

I guess you're asking how you'd get someone else to boot the server, that is you don't want them going near the server with a screwdriver! You just need to get the server to boot off something that allows it to run the boot loader and see the boot.ini. If you use Dells then insist on them having a DRAC card as this can create a virtual floppy disk and boot the server from it. I think the Compaq Lights Out controller can do something similar. If not then you should be able to boot it from a CD (I must admit I've never tried this) or a USB key.


  • Thank you for the answer but connecting the secondary drive to the primary controller didn't work (this really surprised me), also those servers are not dells, I will try booting from a USB key if I don't get more answers here, thanks. – Nir May 19 '09 at 14:44
  • The reason the Dell system partition causes problems is because it's the first and active partition but it doesn't get/can't be mirrored to the second disk. So when you try to boot off the second disk the partition table needs some jiggery pokery to make the server boot. This would apply to any server with some form of system partition on it. Is this possibly the case on your server? – John Rennie May 20 '09 at 8:23

If your server bios supports booting from a USB drive or flash drive you could use that in place of a floppy drive. Just make sure the boot.ini is pointing to the right disk/parition. kb 317526


Hey. I had the same issue. I have a client's server where they used 2003 software raid 1. The main OS drive broke and would always BSOD. The second drive (which I cloned to a backup) would give me the blinking cursor whenever I tried to boot up off of it.

Well, I backed up that drive like I mentioned earlier, and booted up off the 2003 install CD. I went into recovery console and typed in FIXMBR.

Viola!! It fixed it and was able to boot back up into the OS and everything is as if nothing happened.

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