I’m no fan of software raid. Pretty much, ever. At my last job, for whom I still consult, my predecessor was really into technology creep. All of the workstations used that awesome fake raid that is actually implemented in the mass storage driver and is therefore pretty useless and can actually reduce your paths to recovery from disk failure. I’ll leave out the list of arguments against software raid. It just simply isn’t worth it.
I showed up to a call with a server with an 0x7b error. Of course, Microsoft has this cool feature by default where servers automatically reboot when they blue screen. So nobody knew this was the error until I showed up and tried the “don’t automatically restart on BSOD” option under the F8 startup menu. I’m used to this error from moving system images between hardware, especially with virtual machines. As it turns out, the other values inside the parenthesis are actually useful. If the second value inside the parenthesis is 0x00000010, then you’re likely dealing with a disk in a software raid mirror set (dynamic disk) that Windows has marked as failed, and thus won’t start from.
The trick, which took me a while to nail down, is getting a boot.ini setup to boot from another disk. Since you can’t actually access this partition even in the Recovery Console, you can’t edit the boot.ini to tell it to start from the other disk. In the end, I formated a floppy using simply ‘format A:’ on an XP desktop (would you believe this entire data center lacks a Windows server with a floppy drive?), then copied ntldr, ntdetect.com and boot.ini from another Server 2003 machine with the same service pack to this floppy. Then I changed the boot.ini to contain:
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(0)partition(1)\WINDOWS="DISK 0" /noexecute=optout /fastdetect /3GB
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(1)partition(1)\WINDOWS="DISK 1" /noexecute=optout /fastdetect /3GB
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(2)partition(1)\WINDOWS="DISK 2" /noexecute=optout /fastdetect /3GB
multi(0)disk(0)rdisk(3)partition(1)\WINDOWS="DISK 3" /noexecute=optout /fastdetect /3GB
If you’re not familiar with this file, you may want to read about ARC paths. Remember that ntldr and ntdetect.com are hidden, system and read-only by default, although it’s fine to leave this options unset. ‘attrib -s -h -r C:\ntldr’ will make the file accessible so you can copy it to a floppy. I have to assume when you format a floppy from an NT based operating system it puts a bit of code in the bootsector to look for these files.
I then booted from the floppy and for me I then chose ‘DISK 1’ and the system started up fine. I went pulled the failed disk (carefully guessed which disk it was by the disk order in disk management and the scsi id jumper settings) and replaced it. In disk management, right click the good disk, “remove mirror” and choose the missing disk. Then right click again, “add mirror” and choose the new disk. Drink coffee.
It’s late and I can’t figure out how to run ‘fixboot’ and ‘fixmbr’ with a disk mirror, so I’m still using the floppy disk to boot and choose either disk to start from.