Problem with Dell 4/SC PERC RAID Controller


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JohnN
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I am having a problem building a Macrium Reflect rescue CD or USB flash drive.  The computer in question is a Dell PowerEdge 1600 SC.  The server OS is Windows Server 2003 (Service Pack 2).  The Dell server has an on-board (system board) RAID controller.  The controller model is Dell PERQ 4/SC.  The controller is functioning fine in Windows Server 2003 (based on the Properties tab for the PERQ 4/SC in the server device manager.  We removed the cover from the 1600 SC after having driver problems with the PERQ controller.  We discovered that nothing is connected to it, although the controller is enabled in the server's BIOS.  The person that assembled the server opted to go for an external LSI RAID controller board, possibly to accommodate the RAID-5 configuration in the server.

Whenever we try to create Rescue media for this server, the PERC 4/SC is listed as "detected" in Reflect but without an associated driver.  We scoured the Dell support site and found a newer driver version there (file name is RAID_DVR_WIN_R99970.EXE.  Unlike the more modern drivers we have worked with, this is a not a self-extracting zip file that unpacks the driver files in a specified folder on the hard disk.  Rather it is a program file that is designed to build a diskette (how quaint) containing the driver files.  We ran the program on the server, and it worked fine in terms of updating the driver version in Windows Server 2003.  However, the Reflect rescue media creation process kept flagging (yellow exclamation mark) the PERC as detected but without a driver.  I even manually copied the main driver file from the updated Dell driver (MRaid35x.Sys) to the C:\Boot\Macrium\Drivers, hoping that Reflect might pick the new driver up when I remade the rescue media from scratch.  No such luck, same warning about the lack of a driver.  I was not able to get any related driver files from the EXE file (no INF, no CAT, etc.).

I am able to restore files from Reflect images from within the Reflect program (but not from the rescue disk, which does boot but is not showing the C system disk at all - the intended test restoration folder is on the Windows system disk).  Without a fully functional rescue disk, we would be unable to restore the full Windows image we would need in a disaster recovery situation.  That would obviate the primary purpose of purchasing the Macrium Reflect products, unfortunately.

It seems to me that the easiest solution to this problem would probably be to get a PERC controller driver that we can actually get into Reflect somehow.  Any suggestions you can offer will be greatly appreciated (about this approach or whatever will work!)..  Thanks.
jphughan
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First, looking at the help dialog for that file (accessed by opening Command Prompt and running "RAID_DRVR_WIN_R99970 /?"), there's a syntax for extracting the files to a specified location, for example:

RAID_DRVR_WIN_R99970 /s /e=C:\Driver

Second, what version of Windows PE are you building Rescue Media with? The problem is probably that the oldest version of WinPE that Reflect supports is WinPE 3.1, which is built on the Windows 7 kernel -- which means you'd need Windows 7 / Server 2008 drivers for your RAID controller to provide to Rescue Media. There isn't always a guarantee that XP / Server 2003 drivers will work on newer releases, which is probably why the wizard isn't pulling the driver from the OS itself. Unfortunately, I don't see Server 2008 drivers for that controller, at least not associated with the PowerEdge 1600SC. You might find PERC 4/SC drivers for Server 2008 in the driver list of a newer system, though.
Edited 4 February 2019 11:24 PM by jphughan
JohnN
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jphughan - 4 February 2019 10:51 PM
First, looking at the help dialog for that file (accessed by opening Command Prompt and running "RAID_DRVR_WIN_R99970 /?"), there's a syntax for extracting the files to a specified location, for example:

RAID_DRVR_WIN_R99970 /s /e=C:\Driver

Second, what version of Windows PE are you building Rescue Media with?  The problem is probably that the oldest version of WinPE that Reflect supports is WinPE 3.1, which is built on the Windows 7 kernel -- which means you'd need Windows 7 / Server 2008 drivers for your RAID controller to provide to Rescue Media.  There isn't always a guarantee that XP / Server 2003 drivers will work on newer releases, which is probably why the wizard isn't pulling the driver from the OS itself.  Unfortunately, I don't see Server 2008 drivers for that controller, at least not associated with the PowerEdge 1600SC.  You might find PERC 4/SC drivers for Server 2008 in the driver list of a newer system, though

Thank you very much for your prompt, informative reply.  I did run the RAID_DRVR_WIN_R99970 /s /e=C:\Driver as you recommended.  It placed a total of 26 files in the C:\Driver directory.  Do you think copying all 26 of these files to the C:\Boot\Macrium\Drivers folder, then running the "scan folder" option in the Reflect rescue builder would add the driver to the Dell PERC 4/SC RAID controller (and remove the "detected" only status and its associated yellow exclamation point error/warning)? I can easily generate an ISO file on the Dell 1600 SC/Windows 2003 server via a remote desktop connection.  I can't reboot the server into the Reflect PE environment until Sunday at the earliest.  So, anything I try to do now has to run within the standard Reflect program.  Will the generation of a brand new ISO (after I have moved the 26 files to the Macrium driver folder) incorporate those driver files into Reflect?

In terms of the PE, you are correct.  I am using PE 3.1 based on the age of the server OS (Win 2003).


jphughan
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You can certainly try copying the extracted files into a subfolder of C:\boot\macrium\Drivers\Disk and then rebuilding your Rescue Media before generating a new build.  However, I would actually recommend using the Rescue Media wizard instead, specifically selecting the RAID controller, clicking Update Driver, and then pointing it at the folder containing the extracted files to see what it says.  You've already found that the wizard isn't grabbing that exact driver even though it's already loaded into the OS.  I think there's a good chance that it's because it isn't compatible, in which case trying to force Reflect to load it might render your Rescue Media completely unusable.  I'm admittedly not sure that's a possible outcome since I've never tried this, but I would say that if you can't get the wizard to accept the driver you're trying to provide, it's probably not a driver you want to try to "shoehorn" into your Rescue Media build.  WinPE 3.1, based on Windows 7 / 2008 R2, is two major kernel versions newer than what you're working with, so I wouldn't be remotely surprised that a RAID driver isn't forward-compatible.

I also did a bit more digging on the Dell site and unfortunately I don't see Server 2008 R2 drivers for that specific controller anywhere, even checking other newer server models and using some Google-fu. In that case, you may be stuck, although considering that you're running a server model old enough that replacement parts would be difficult or impossible to obtain AND an OS that hasn't received security updates for years and consequently has several known and actively exploited vulnerabilities at this stage, perhaps if this Rescue issue can't be resolved, that might become the impetus to upgrade to something that's still actively supported on a hardware and OS level? Even Windows 7 / Server 2008 R2 reaches end of support less than a year from now, fyi.  And having a warranty contract that provides next business day or better yet 4-hour on-site parts and service response time can be a godsend on any server doing something meaningful for a business, fyi. Even for small businesses, that often pays for itself even if you use it only once in terms of minimizing lost hours of employee productivity.  Ask me how I know!

One other possibility I was going to suggest was building Rescue Media using a newer WinPE version in the hopes that it might have native support for that RAID controller, but XP / Server 2003 can't build anything newer than WinPE 3.1, so you'd have to try building that from a completely different system running at least Windows 7, which can build all current versions of WinPE that Reflect supports, up to PE 10.

Lastly, there's one point I'm confused about here: You say you don't have drivers for your PERC card, but you also mention that no disks are connected to it anyway, because everything is connected to an LSI board instead. If nothing is connected to the PERC card, then it won't matter if your Rescue environment can't work with it, because it won't need to. If your Rescue environment can't see your C drive, then the issue would seem to be that it doesn't have drivers for the LSI board that the drives ARE connected to. The other possibility is that the PERC and LSI boards you're looking at are one and the same. Dell has used RAID boards from LSI as its PERC models in the past, fyi. Or are you in fact seeing completely separate Device Manager entries for your PERC card and this other LSI board?

Edited 4 February 2019 11:36 PM by jphughan
JohnN
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Thanks again for your thorough, perceptive analysis of the PERC controller situation.  Let me first respond to your question about the two RAID controllers.  For your reference I have attached two germane screenshot image files.  The first one shows both RAID controllers (Dell PERC 4/SC and LSI Logic PCI-X Ultra320 SCSI Host Adapter) properly set up and functioning in the Windows 2003 device manager (including the drivers).  The second image is a screenshot of the Advanced Options > Devices and Driver tab of the Rescue Media section of Reflect.  It also shows both RAID controllers listed.  However, the Dell PERC 4/SC is detected but not functional (needs a driver).  On the other hand, the LSI Logic PCI-X Ultra320 SCSI Host Adapter has a green check mark next to it and states that "device support (was found) in WinPE."  So, there are clearly two RAID boards showing, both in Windows 2003 and in the Reflect rescue media builder.

Even though there are no disks connected to the PERC controller, it is detected by Reflect and is found in a wanting state (no driver).  As I recall from our hectic Sunday on-site, I could not get past this screen/driver problem with the PERC controller.  Reflect would not let me create the rescue media without a valid driver for the PERC card.  Even though it is not connected to anything, it is installed in the server.  This is why I began considering removing the PERC card completely from the server or disabling it in the BIOS, both of which are drastic enough "solutions" that they may trigger other problems in this ancient server (and OS).

Speaking of that, I fully agree with your comments about the obsolete nature of the server and Win 2003.  The problem is that this pair of servers has worked nearly flawlessly for many years now, and company management does not wish to fund a major IT cost at this point in time.  In other words, the computer museum will continue forward as-is.  My hope for Reflect (after a fair amount of compatibility research) that it should provide solid backups and (most importantly) a disaster recovery path that could save all of the accumulated business data on both servers (even the venerable 2003 domain controller).  Unfortunately that goal has eluded us so far.  The 2008 rescue boot media works exactly as it should.  As you know, the Server 2003 domain controller has not been so fortunate.  I will certainly try the new driver file set manually (via the Reflect driver update function), but I am not optimistic that this will solve the problem, unfortunately.

I certainly could create a new Macrium Rescue ISO on a newer machine that would support a later version of WinPE.  My concern there would be if a newer WinPE based rescue disc would operate properly on a Windows 2003 server.

 
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jphughan
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I’ve admittedly never tried to build Rescue Media where a device was listed as needing a driver that wasn’t readily available, but I would have thought that this would be possible. Obviously you’d have no support for that device or anything attached to it in Rescue, and depending on your Rescue Media build preferences, you might get a popup warning to that effect when it boots, but otherwise I’d expect the Rescue Media to work. I’ve used Rescue Media created on one PC to boot another and it never creates a problem even when certain devices aren’t supported, so I’d be surprised if there was a hard block on building that type of media.

I certainly understand the reticence around changing BIOS settings or removing hardware when you don’t have a validated recovery plan, although if you end up with no other options, a BIOS setting change would be easy enough to reverse if it did disrupt something.

As for building the Rescue Media elsewhere, there’s absolutely no requirement to match the kernel of the Rescue Media to the OS you’re running, in fact you’re not even able to do that now. So when you can afford a bit of downtime, I would actually try booting that server from a WinPE 10-based Rescue Media build created on some other system. If it boots and sees all of your disks, then you’re home free. If not, then you’re no worse off than you were before, except for the downtime to run the test.
Edited 5 February 2019 9:15 PM by jphughan
JohnN
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To further add to the archaic aura of this server, we actually were unable to open the BIOS setup program.  For normal use (i.e., booted into the 2003 OS), we had been using a USB keyboard and mouse.  However, as you may know, you have to press a specific function key during the part of the boot process where the Dell logo is displayed on the screen.  After several attempts to do this, we realized that the USB keyboard was not recognized at that point in the start-up process (probably didn't have USB device drivers loaded).  So, we had to search through a mountain of discarded keyboards they had on a shelf.  Voila, we found both a PS/2 keyboard and a PS/2 mouse.  With those historic items hooked up to their native inputs on the server (green and purple color coded), pressing the <F2> key allowed us to alter the server's default boot mode and attempt to boot from the Reflect rescue CD.  That part worked eventually (the server did boot from the CD).  However, when the Reflect screen loaded, we had lost the internal system drive (C) with Windows and were not able to attempt a test restoration as described above.

As Don Rickles was fond of saying, "it's always something!"
jphughan
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Wow, a server that predates boot-time USB keyboard support!? Well hang onto that PS2 keyboard as long as you have that server then! Some USB keyboards have USB to PS2 adapters, but I don’t know how universal those are, and modern keyboards probably don’t include them anyway. Still, if you managed to put the optical drive at the top of the boot order, then you should still be able to burn a WinPE 10-based Rescue Media disc somewhere else and test boot that system from it — although I admit that I’ve heard that some old systems have trouble with WinPE 10, so you may or may not luck out here. If you strike out there, as you say, you could try manually supplying the extracted driver folder to the Rescue Media wizard too. Good luck!
JohnN
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jphughan - 5 February 2019 10:11 PM
Wow, a server that predates boot-time USB keyboard support!? Well hang onto that PS2 keyboard as long as you have that server then! Some USB keyboards have USB to PS2 adapters, but I don’t know how universal those are, and modern keyboards probably don’t include them anyway. Still, if you managed to put the optical drive at the top of the boot order, then you should still be able to burn a WinPE 10-based Rescue Media disc somewhere else and test boot that system from it — although I admit that I’ve heard that some old systems have trouble with WinPE 10, so you may or may not luck out here. If you strike out there, as you say, you could try manually supplying the extracted driver folder to the Rescue Media wizard too. Good luck!

Yes, I guess I should be glad that the server didn't require an original IBM AT keyboard connection.

One other quick question.  Do you advise going all the way up to WinPE 10, rather than using PE4 or PE5?

I will let you know how this drama ends up.  Thanks again for your help and suggestions
jphughan
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WinPE 10 has the broadest built-in driver support, so I tend to advise starting there, but if it doesn’t work, you may indeed find that WinPE 4 or 5 boots successfully AND still has native driver support for your hardware. Unfortunately I don’t have a way to predict. Normally after you choose a given PE version you can check the Devices & Drivers area to see the status of your device, which might change to “Built-in/compatible device support in WinPE” when you select a newer version, but your system doesn’t allow building with the newer versions, and your other systems where you can build with the newer versions don’t have that PERC card installed to check its status in the Rescue Media wizard. I suppose if downtime windows for this server are hard to come by, you could create Rescue Media builds and corresponding discs using each of those PE versions so you can try them all in quick succession, possibly along with a build from the server itself where you manually supplied the extracted driver.
Edited 5 February 2019 10:36 PM by jphughan
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