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PERC 5/i Foreign Configuration Issues

We have a Dell PowerEdge 2900 with an PERC 5/i Integrated controller which has a RAID 1 array set up as the Windows 7 Pro C drive, and 3 separate single physical drives configured as F, G, and H. Through a series of unexplained events that started when I took the server down and cleaned out the dust, we lost the first of the single drives. The remaining 2 single drives suffer the same fate as we tried swapping the drive bays, etc. The RAID is still good, but the 3 single drives are listed as 'Foreign Config'. The initial boot after the dusting generated the following messages.

The battery hardware is missing or malfunctioning, or the battery is unplugged. If you continue to boot the system, the battery-backup cache will not function.

Foreign configuration(s) found on adapter. Press and key to continue, or 'C' to load the configuration utility.

Some configured disks have been removed from your system, or are no longer accessible. Please check your cables and also ensure all disks are present. Press and key to continue, or 'C' to load the configuration utility.

The following VD's are missing:[00]

If you proceed (or load the configuration utility), these VD's will be removed from your configuration. If you wish to use them at a later time, they will have to be imported. If you believe these VD's should be present, please power off your system and check your cables to ensure all disks are present. Press and key to continue, or 'C' to load the configuration utility.

At some point, we did reopen the case and check cables, etc. Either one of the controller cables, or the controller board itself had some minor movement when it was pushed in.

The documentation found on the Dell Documentation CD does not answer the many questions I have before proceeding. The documentation didn't explain very well how things worked, only how to do it.

Based on what I read so far, it appears that Importing the 'Foreign Configs' is my next likely step. We now have all 3 non-RAID drives listed as 'Foreign'. Is importing them the right move to get them back?

Using the BIOS Configuration Utility, it sounds like Importing a Foreign Configuration is done on the entire set of disks, including the ones composing the working RAID which are listed as 'OnLine'. Is that correct, or will the operation only import from those disks listed as 'Foreign'? Should I even care if it imports the working RAID 1 drives? We don't want to loose the data on the RAID or the individual physical drives.

Can I take a physical drive that's a member of a RAID 1 array and move it to read it in a Windows workstation without the PERC 5/i controller? I was not able to read the non-RAID drives in a Windows workstation. Does that mean the drives are bad, or that the configured PERC 5/i controller needs to be there, or what?

Given these events, we are concerned that the controller may be failing. Any thoughts on that?

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RE: PERC 5/i Foreign Configuration Issues


Well to address how it works. With a drive being shown as Foreign, what that is saying is that the virtual disk configuration info on the controller doesn't match the configuration info on the drives. With Importing a foreign configuration, you are telling the controller to Import the configuration info from the hard drives. With Clearing a foreign configuration, you're telling the controller to clear the hard drive configuration information and to use the controllers configuration data. A good rule of thumb is if the data/OS is accessible, then clear the foreign. If the OS is offline, then import the foreign.

In regards to the issue you are having it sounds like you would need to import, as the controller configuration data sounds like it was lost. The following VD's are missing:[00]

When Importing the Foreign configuration, it should not affect the Raid 1 (OS). It will only affect the 3 drives in the Raid 5. Now if I am not understanding your raid layout then let me know.

With taking the drives to a standalone workstation, you may be able to connect the raid 1 and read it, but not the raid 5 drives. The raid 1 is two equally mirrored drives, the data is complete on both drives. With the Raid 5 the data is striped across all 3 drives. So there wouldn't be complete data on any individual drive in a Raid 5. 

Before counting out the controller, lets verify that the controller firmware is up to date. If the firmware gets really out of date it can cause timeouts, as well as cause false battery errors.

Let me know what version the controller firmware is, and if this helps.

Chris Hawk

Dell | Social Outreach Services - Enterprise
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RE: PERC 5/i Foreign Configuration Issues


Thanks for your great explanation of how the Foreign Configuration options work.

This morning I was able to Import the Foreign Configuration, and the 2 single drives that were previously in use became visible again. The 3rd drive, which was never used, came up "Ready" state. To clarify, the 3 stand-alone drives were not part of a RAID 5, just plain stand-alone drives 'F', 'G', and the drive to be used later as 'H'. I am currently backup the drives up across the LAN.

The controller is reported by <Ctrl>R to be Package 5.0.2-0003, Firmware Version 1.00.02-0157, BIOS Version MT23, and Control Version 1.02.007. Now, the Dell System Detect finds 246 Application, Drivers, Firmware, and BIOS patches available. What do I really need to do to upgrade the controller firmware?

Also,we are planning to create another RAID 1 array using 2tb SATA drives. The new RAID 1 will be used strictly for backup, so we are looking for reliability as opposed to speed. I read in an earlier post that the drives should be "enterprise class". Is there a list of recommended drives that are compatible with the PERC 5/i controller? How about the WD RED 2tb drives? BTW, the existing 2tb drives are two Seagate ST000DL0003-9VT1 and one Hitachi HDS5C302.

Now that the single stand-alone drive F is back, can I convert it to a RAID 1 just by adding another drive without loosing the data, or do I need to build a new RAID 1 array and copy the data to it?

Thanks again for your support.

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