Intel Rapid Storage Technology – Fake RAID?

 

Hey guys you have probably wondering where the hell I have been over the last few months?  Well let’s seeeeeeeee………  My apartment got flooded, my GPU failed, and I broke my 5.8TB RAID 5.  All my data = 100% FUBAR.

Here is how it started.  I was troubleshooting my Graphics Card when I came to the smart conclusion that resetting the CLR CMOS button was the answer.  smh.

You know it wasn’t until the next day when I realized two of my drives were gone and my computer asked me to format a volume.  Huh?!

Well I am going to tell you how I got my RAID 5 (4 x 2TB Hatachi drives) using Intel’s Rapid Storage Controller on an AsRock motherboard back.

 

FIRST DISCLAIMER: I NEED TO TELL YOU THIS:

I’m about to give you instructions on how to repair a RAID 5.  Before attempting this please know that your results may vary; your setup could be different, your motherboard could be different, your menus could be different.  I don’t know anything about your setup so therefore results may vary.  I highly suggest that you read this article entirely before tempting such a feat.  Please note that you might have to read this a couple times in order to grasp the idea.  I tried to situate this article so it gave some sort of background as to what I was thinking and my understanding of how computers work in order to accomplish the task at hand.  Overall my accomplishment here is to give you a greater understanding of what it is you’re about to do, how RAID works and a better understanding of Intel Rapid Storage Technology.  My goal for this article is to hopefully help someone out there.

I am not guaranteeing you will get anything back including your configuration or all your data but I am going to describe the detailed steps I used to recover my RAID 5 from Non-RAID loss of configuration.

First and foremost it is absolutely recommended that you have two working computers at all times whether that is a full desktop/laptop/tablet/phone.  In the event you need to look stuff up or in case you have to download something to run on your disabled computer.  So the first step is to power down your computer and find this article and/or as much information as you need, to confidently pull this off.  It took me close to two weeks to feel confident enough to try this.

 

Back to re-Configuring the RAID…..,

So Win7 asked me to reformat a “new” volume, I looked at Windows Explorer to see that my volumes were not there.  My whole entire drives were missing.  I then logged out and rebooted.  During boot, first, I went into the BIOs to see what was going on.

I set up my BIOs from the default storage configuration settings it reset itself to, from AHCI to RAID but that only opens the boot menu so you can boot into the RAID BIOs menu.

So then I shut down and rebooted.  For my motherboard it’s Ctrl+i to get to the RAID BIOs.  Once there I went to the IRST RAID Config Menu (I am pretty sure Ctrl+i is the same for most motherboards).  There I could see two of my four drives were labeled non-RAID Disk which means I had lost configuration.  I left my computer and pulled out my laptop to start the troubleshoot.  Googling all over the place.

RAID IRST interface

There is a reason the Intel Rapid Storage Technology software is called a “FAKE” RAID, because it is!  Intel’s site contains no good information about how to operate the RAID configuration.  Even something as simple like this, like what to do if you lose the configuration?  My problem wasn’t even how to re-build the array!  My question was just how to put the working disks back together again.  The best advice from the Intel site was one instance of a female engineer who was willing to help someone out by recreating their RAID 1 setup to help him get back his data.  But this was such a small amount of instruction it wasn’t funny.  Especially from a company that seemed to build the software with the Intel name on it.

Now I have done data recovery in the past for getting my data back (one simple program is Recuva) so I knew vaguely where to look and what sites would help me and what sites were basically a waste of time.  Finally I ended up over at overclocker.net with someone who had rebuilt a RAID 0 with detailed instructions but it was dated back in 2013 and had 29 pages.  Yes, I read ALL 29 pages.  Now you can go over there and read all 29 pages and maybe if you have a RAID 0 that would be a good thing but I am going to tell you step by step how I got my RAID 5 configuration back as well as all my data with ZERO data loss.  I read ALL 29 pages first and I suggest if you do this and have any doubts and want to be sure, you should too, after reading my article of course.

Here is the link for the thread that helped me the most over at overclock.net

 

Now let’s get back to re-configuring RAID 5….

The very, very, very first thing I did was power on the disabled computer and boot into Windows and uninstall Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology program.  Get rid of it.  Out.  Don’t need it it’s actually pretty useless.

Control Panel > Programs > Uninstall.  Find the IRST program.

This is just a Windows front facing manager for the IRST chip on your motherboard.  It is just a software monitor.  What this will end up doing after you break your RAID which we are about to do is when you reboot is it will “initialize” i.e. write to the disk as if it was a brand new blank HDD.  YOU DO NOT WANT THIS!!!!

Basically you have the ability to create the RAID in the firmware of your motherboard if your motherboard came with this function.  Something you probably forgot about since you set it up.  When you go to the BIOs you have the ability to turn this on in your Storage Configuration settings.  When you choose RAID instead of AHCI.  Once you set RAID storage configuration in your BIOs you have the ability to press CTRL+i during your boot process and boot into the RAID BIOs setup menu.

First thing you want to do is remember the configuration of your RAID volume, be sure and write it down if you have to.

RAID config

Everything, the ID, the name, the level, the stripe, the size, the status, and if it’s bootable or not.  Because you’re going to have to know this in the next step.

When you are in the Intel Rapid Storage Technology BIOs configuration screen you will see the disarray of your disks as “non-RAID Disk”.  What you are going to do is choose “Reset Disks to Non-RAID” this will reset all the drives to “Non-RAID Disk” because the configuration you have now is the result of you booting up the computer and the computer re-placing your drives in a random configuration that made sense to it when it booted.  So you just want to get those disks out of there.  So Reset Disks to Non-RAID Disk.  All of them.

Next step is, you’re going to go up to “Create RAID Volume” and you are going to recreate the exact same specifications in the next menu that you just wrote down.  Pay particular attention to making sure that the strip is correct as well as the RAID level.  Don’t forget the exact same name to be sure.  After you going to exit and reboot the computer.

Now you have to go find your data, for this I used TestDisk.  Man this is the best program ever and I have used it countless times and donate $5 every time it saves my ass.

TestDisk by cgsecurity

Now you could make a bootable drive to boot into TestDisk or you could use one of the Linux Distros namely PartedMagic and boot into it but making a TestDisk bootable drive I could not do even when I tried to burn it to a CD.  At the time I did the recovery I also could not get the AsRock motherboard to boot to a USB so I couldn’t use PartedMagic.  I found out after the recovery that you need to have a USB plugged into your computer for an option to boot from a USB.  So I downloaded the Windows 64-bit version and you can run it right in Windows.

Version of PartedMagic I use.

So I opened up TestDisk which looks like a DOS prompt and mainly a blank screen.  Don’t be intimidated it’s not as cryptic as it seems.  Just be careful not to choose the wrong settings because it is a powerful tool and will destroy your data.  I don’t think it could brick your hard drive like Darik’s Boot And Nuke (DBAN) but it still could screw up your data.  You can go over to their site and read the instructions and one of their examples which will give you an idea of what I did but the example is not a RAID 5 reconfigure.

Alright so I had the testdisk running.  First I selected “Create a new log file” then on the next screen choose the RAID you set up, it should be listed.  After the “default” partition type should already be selected.  Mine was “EFI GPT” if you are doing a RAID 5 yours should be too.  Then choose “Analyse”.  Once analysed some of your partition information will be displayed. Next choose “Quick Search” now the overclock.net site said to stop it immediately, but I let it run 100%.  After it ran I next ran a “Deeper Search”.  In my case I let this run for 3 days because all my partitions didn’t show up in the first 10 secs like some people’s.  If your partition shows up you could stop it but I wanted to be sure so I continued to run it.  After it ran there was a whole list of jibberish and errors.  The partitions you are looking for should be named if you named them.

Quick Search:

Quick search

Deep Search:

Deep search

Initially I hit enter after the Deep Scan ran and it said “can’t use these two files they are corrupt” or something like that and I got a little scared.

Bad data

But then I hit Enter and there was all the Jibberish Linux boots/ Mac boots all junk and then there were my drives “partitions” & all three were named….

Deep search results

Every file was “D” for deleted… you need to change them to “P” for primary…. In my case it was three drives they will turn green. You only want the “partitions” (disk letters in my case, with your data on them, again mine were named)

partition select

The first partition that showed up in the Quick Search was not even part of the RAID volume so make sure to check all the folders to find where your data is.

I took the time to look at everything that was found and beside these three partitions everything looked like junk.

Once you have the “drives” “partitions” whatever you call them highlighted in Green hit Enter and continue….

On the next Page you will see your three disks and hit [Write]

select to write

now REBOOT…

reboot

– – – – – – and hopefully that solved your problem.

Finally I want to say, I experimented with multiple computers before pulling this off and spent many days gathering up the confidence to try this.  Since this has happened to me twice and it would have cost almost $2,000 or more to get all this data back I decided to wisely invest in a Synology NAS.  I set this up as a RAID 1 (mirror) back up so all my files are duplicated as well as protected from Hard Drive failure.  I bought these HGST drives because these have been rated as the longest lifespan drives from what I have read and my experience with them so far. I have never had a problem with this manufacturer.  Although I want you to know they are no longer made by Hitachi but is a subsidiary of Western Digital.  My theory is these drives are probably made with the same equipment as the Hitachi Drives so I still think they will be the best for sometime to come.  My biggest suggestion to come out of this catastrophe is that you do the same and invest into a NAS because like I found out, the RAID Intel Rapid Storage Technology on my motherboard is not very well documented.  Getting help from Intel customer support for this product is abysmal at best.

Soon I will do a write up of how I set my NAS up and how you can too.

Thank you for reading. I hope this never happens to you but I hope my article helped you in someway.