Or, how I recovered my data from a so called Raid 1 array device failure.
Note: this is not a very technical article, just a guy fumbling around trying to save some pictures and mp3s.
When this thing first came out I thought it looked great and had to have it for our media storage and file backups. It was easy enough to set up but I didn’t look into the limitations of the unit. It acts as a UPnP media server so I could hook up the Roku over the network and serve the music to our computers running Yahoo Music. It also offered the Raid 1 array (mirroring). Now, a Raid 1 device is suppose to be pretty good (especially by home user standard) for insuring you don’t loose you data from a single hard drive failure. Normally with the Raid 1, if one drive fails (they both are exact copies of each other) you just replace it and the device rebuilds the mirror and you didn’t loose any data.
Maxtor decided to treat it a little differently. With the MSS II you have the choice of Raid 0 (striping, is faster by storing some info on each drive) or Raid 1 (mirroring, two duplicate copies). With this device however, you aren’t protected in either mode. There is no way to remove one drive should it fail while still using the other drive. For one, that voids the warranty but the device is not capable of rebuilding the array and the mirror even if you replaced the bad drive. I know, you should make copies of the backups but I thought I had with the mirrored disks.
My MSS wasn’t out of warranty but they do not cover data loss under the warranty. From what I have read, they will be more than happy to try and recover your data for a hundreds or thousand dollars. Any of the Data recovery business (while doing a great job I am sure) are about the same price for Raid recovery. I searched with as may different phrases as I could think of but didn’t come up with any one good solution (especially with in my limited technical ability).
After several days of trying many different recovery programs I decided to attack it a slightly different way. The MSS uses a Linux operating system and the drives are partitioned as such. I didn’t suspect drive failure so if I had a Linux system I should be able to look at the drives. I downloaded the latest stable release of Kubuntu (Ubuntu build with the KDE interface). I’m not a programmer or Linux expert, but I have played around with it off and on over the years. With the help of the many articles on hacking the MSS and other various Raid recovery articles I was able to access the drive and recover my data.
I loaded Kubuntu on a spare drive I had in our PC. You can run it from a LiveCD as well but I wanted to transfer all the data if I found it and I couldn’t figure out how to mount the Windows drives when I ran the LiveCD. After loading Kubuntu, I mounted the raid partition (one of the drives from the MSS was placed into USB SATA enclosure). After entering the shell program I created a folder to mount the raid partition to using “Sudo mkdir /usr/rdmnt“. I used the “sudo fdisk -l” command to list all attached drive and their partitions so I knew what to mount to my directory (/dev/sda6 in my case was listed as the linux raid file system). I then typed “sudo mount /dev/sda6 /usr/rdmnt“. This mounted the raid partition to the directory “rdmnt”. The “sudo” command makes it so you can use commands as if you are the root or admin user. After I had the drive mounted I was able to access the file system from the user interface within Kubuntu. I copied the contents of the Raid drive to my user folder in Kubuntu.
Now, since I still wanted the functionality I original sought, I searched around for a better alternative to the MSS II. I found the D-link DNS-323. It is very similar to the MSS device in almost every way, except one. It has the ability to keep functioning should one drive fail. That drive can be easily replaced by simply powering down, removing the front cover and pushing down on the eject lever. Remove old drive and replace with the same size or larger drive. The device will rebuild the mirror on its own and you are back up and running with your data protected. It also has the ability act as an FTP server so you can access your data (or as much of it as you want to put in the FTP share) from any place on the internet.
I have learned my lesson though. Even with the extra protection of the mirrored drives, I will be archiving my pictures and music to DVD as well as USB mass storage devices.