Yesterday, I noticed that the Windows Home Server icon in my taskbar was red. I opened it up and saw some file conflicts – that is strange. I could access the files in the server, so what is going on – then the penny dropped, it says that a disk drive is missing. I went out to the computer area and could see only one disk was lit up, the second one is not lit – meaning that it is offline. I went back to the console and shut down the server – which eventually it did, albeit slowly because it had stopped responding for a long time before I could hit the Shutdown button.
Some of you may have heard about Windows Home Server, many probably haven’t. WHS was a great product for its time – a semi-redundant network storage device that could be packaged like a NAS. I bought this HP EX490 MediaSmart Server back when it was available in 2009. That is the box on the right in the photo above, ok – a little dusty even though it sets on a shelf 2m above the floor. It came with a single Seagate 1TB disk drive, and over the next few years went to 4x1TB drives, then eventually to 2x2TB drives. The files can be stored in folders that are shared out – and each folder/share can be configured to be redundant or not.
Ok – back to the problem at hand, one of the two drives – the Seagate 2TB had apparently stopped working. After it had shutdown, I pulled out the second drive and connected it to my test/recovery machine. This second drive was able to spin up, and I ran a few commands on it, to determine what the issue with the drive was and then shut down. I didn’t want to keep the drive running until I had a way to copy its contents – having temporarily run out of disk storage space recently.
One of the commands that I run is “smartctl -a /dev/sdb” which on Linux will check the display the SMART data from the disk drive which is physically connected as /dev/sdb. The interesting things I am looking for are the Reallocated Sector Count and if any of the SMART attributes show that the drive has failed. None of them did and the Reallocated Sector Count was 14760 which is a little high – but this can be normal for the drive. The Power On Hours was 34,235 which equates to nearly 4 years – the drive itself is 5 years old. If I hadn’t used the drive straight away – this might be ok.
Of course, there were other values to be considered. Attribute 187 – Reported Uncorrectable was 0, 188 Command Timeout was 1, 197 Current Pending Sector Count was 216 and 198 Offline Uncorrectable Sector Count was also 216. Now – these last two are concerning – generally a non-zero number on these can indicate that the drive is having issues, and we should plan to replace it.
Smartctl also reports SMART errors that the drive has recorded – the main one occurred at 34,227 hours – like 8 hours before I noticed the problem and shut it down. This was error 8170 – WP at LBA = 0x00611d8f = 6364559 – this probably means that it couldn’t access this particular sector – which is a concern. What I need to do now, is to obtain or get a spare disk of at least 2TB and make a disk to disk copy of it – in order to ensure that my data is copied. I have a few 3TB disks lying around – maybe I can free one up for a little while. I think I will do that during the week.
Remember that I mentioned that we can specify some folders or shares to be redundant – meaning that the contents of those folders have copies that reside on the other disk? Well – not all folders were marked to be redundant, so if any of those folders reside on this particular disk might well be inaccessible. Fortunately, Windows Home Server creates a NTFS file system on each drive, so these drives can be connected to any Windows machine and be accessible – unlike some versions of RAID which can mean that the data is striped across each disk.
The other thing I want to think about is – what I would replace this WHS with. I currently run a virtual Freenas on ESXi server – but I was thinking about building a new standalone network storage appliance. Freenas is great if we can get the right hardware – such as ECC memory, a CPU and motherboard that supports ECC memory – and run ZFS but then I was reading about issues on ZFS – which caused me to look at what other people are using.
I could stay with Linux and run something like MergerFS and SnapRaid or I could go the Windows way – with Storage Spaces which is looking very tempting, except I don’t have a spare Windows 10 machine to play with – since the Free Upgrade from Windows 7/8.1 was over a couple of days ago. Decisions, decisions…