Over the last couple of months I’ve been using a hack to allow software RAID 5 on Windows XP. This hack has worked great for the few months I’ve used it, but I have found a two key features missing from Windows XP’s implementation of software RAID. The first missing feature is the ability to add a hard drive to an existing RAID 5 array. The second missing feature is the ability to make different RAID setups appear as one drive.
For example, let’s say I have three 500gb hard drives in a RAID 5 and two 250gb hard drives in a RAID 1. I would like the ability to make these two different arrays function as one big drive. After a little bit of research, I’ve found that Linux is the solution to my problem. Also, I’ve found that Linux has support for software RAID 6 and RAID 10, a nice bonus if users are looking for increased fault tolerance or increased speed. Although RAID on Linux was a little bit tough to set up, because I’m not used to Linux and because Linux developers aren’t the best with GUI’s, I eventually worked it out.
Step #1 Pick the desired RAID and get the needed hardware.
The first step is to decide on the type of RAID. Go to my article on simple RAID level explanations to find out the differences between the different levels or RAID. Once the desired RAID level is picked, it’s time to move onto hardware. The amount and size of hard drives needed to achieve the desired setup needs to be figured out. When deciding how many hard drives will be needed keep in mind that one hard drive of 10gb or more will be needed to accommodate the OS. Also, linux should run on almost any motherboard, CPU and Video Card combination.
Step #2 Download a Fedora Live CD ISO and burn it to a CD.
Go to http://download.fedoraproject.org/pub/fedora/linux/releases/11/Live/i686/Fedora-11-i686-Live.iso, http://mirror.nyi.net/fedora/linux/releases/11/Live/i686/Fedora-11-i686-Live.iso or http://fedora.mirrors.tds.net/pub/fedora/releases/11/Live/i686/Fedora-11-i686-Live.iso and download the Installable Fedora Live CD. Once the live CD is downloaded, burn the ISO image to a CD. Here are some tutorials on how to burn an ISO to a CD on or Mac OS X. If Fedora is going to be installed on an old Macintosh or another PowerPC platform here is the download link for the PowerPC DVD ISO http://download.fedoraproject.org/pub/fedora/linux/releases/11/Fedora/ppc/iso/Fedora-11-ppc-DVD.iso. Note that I have not tried to install Fedora or setup a software RAID on a PowerPC, but I imagine it should work the same as if being installed on a regular PC.
Step #3 It’s time to get your Linux on, boot to the Fedora Live CD.
Insert the Fedora Live CD into the computer that’s going to contain the RAID array. Once the CD is inserted make sure the computer is set to boot to the CD. Once the computer boots to the CD a screen like this should pop up.After the automatic boot screen a progress bar should appear at the bottom of the screen.
After the progress bar, a login screen will appear. Once the login screen appears, click on the “Log In” button to continue. If the login screen sits for longer than 60 seconds it will automatically log in.
After clicking “Log In” or being automatically logged in the Fedora Desktop will show up. On the left side of the Desktop there will be an “Install to Hard Drive” icon. Double click on this to start the installer.
On the first step of the installer click the “Next” button.
Next, select the keyboard layout and then click “Next”.
A little window like the one should show up after clicking next. It should only pop up for a couple of seconds then proceed automatically to the next step.
If this warning doesn’t pop up move onto the next step. This warning may pop up if there are any unformatted or unreadable drives on the computer. Be sure to click on “Re-initialize drive”. If “Ignore drive” is clicked the drive will not be available for formatting.
Now give the computer a name, this is the name that will identify the computer on the local netowork.
Select the local time zone and click next.
Create a administrator password and click next.
Now it’s time to get ready for formatting. I choose “Use entire drive” for the layout. By default, every drive in the “Select the drives(s) to use for this installation.” is automatically checked. Make sure that only the drive that is set aside for the OS is checked! Scroll down the list and make sure no drive that is going to be used in the RAID array is checked. Also, make sure to check “Review and modify partitioning layout”.
Here is the important part of the tutorial, the partition editor. This screen may appear overwhelming, but don’t fret. I will try my best to answer any question or resolve any problems encountered in the comments for this post. The first step is to drag the divider (it’s the 3 little dots directly above the pointer in the screen shot below) the whole way to the top.
Once the divider is dragged the whole way to the top, the partition editor should look like the screen shot below.
Before starting, make sure that all drives that are going to be in a RAID array are “Free”. To clear out an old partition, click on the partition to highlight it, then click on the “Delete” button. Make sure not to delete the partitions from the drive that Fedora is going to be installed on, this is usually /dev/sda.
Click on the “Delete” button to confirm the delete. Repeat steps 3.13 through 3.14 until all drives that are going into a RAID array are free.
Once the partitions are deleted, every drive that is going to be in the RAID array should now say “Free”.
Select a hard drive that is going to be included in a RAID array and then click on the “RAID” button.
Make sure “Create a software RAID partition” is selected and then click “OK”. The third time this dialog box pops up “Create a RAID device” will be checked automatically, make sure to check “Create a software RAID partition” before clicking “OK”.
Make sure the File System Type is set to “software RAID”. In “Allowable Drives” make sure the desired drive is check marked. Then click on “Fill to maximum allowable size” and then click “OK”. Repeat step #3.16 through #3.18 for every drive that is going to be included in a RAID array.
Once all drives are partitioned as “Software RAID devices” click on the RAID button once again. This time, select “Create a RAID device” and click “OK”
To make the RAID device extendable set the “File System Type” to “physical volume (LVM)”. Leave the “RAID Device” to the default setting and then select the preferred “RAID Level”. Then select the “RAID Members”. Once everything is set up click “OK” Repeat steps 3.19 through 3.20 if more than one RAID device is needed.
Once all the RAID devices are setup it’s time to format them and combine them if there is more than one RAID device. To format the RAID array click on the “LVM” button in the upper right corner of the partitioning tool. Even if only one RAID array is being used it is important to make sure to put it in a LVM to ensure future expandability.
After clicking on “LVM” button the “Make LVM Volume Group” should pop up. Once this window pops up give the Volume Group a name. Then check mark all of the Physical Volumes(the physical volumes should be the RAID volumes that were created earlier in my case “md0″ and “md1″) that are going to be grouped together. Once that’s done click the “Add button”
Now give the file system a type, from my research I’ve found that ext4 performs best in most cases. Next, give the Logical Volume a name, note that there cannot be any spaces, dashes or any special characters in the “Logical Volume Name”. Lastly, verify that the size is maxed out, it should already be maxed out by default but it can’t hurt to take a look. Once everything looks good click “OK”
Review everything one last time and then click “OK”.
Once again, review all of the changes and click the “Next” button.
A dialog should pop up that looks like the one below. Click on “Write changes to disk”.Wait for Linux to finish formatting the drives, this may take a while depending on the amount of storage and speed of the computer.
Once everything is done formatting click “Next” to install the boot loader.
Congratulations, the installation is complete, click the close button and restart the system.
To restart the system, go to the “System” menu in the upper right corner and click the “Shut Down…” button.
Click the “Restart” button. Also, remember to remove the Fedora Live CD so the computer boots to the hard drive and not the CD.
After the restart, the welcome screen should pop up, click “Forward” to go to the next step.
Review the license information and then click “Forward”.
Next, create a user, once all the information is inserted click “Forward”.
Set the correct date and time and click “Forward” to continue.
If there is a network connection available click on the “Send Profile” button. This information will help the Fedora community understand what hardware people most commonly use. Click “Finish” to move onto the login screen.
Click on the desired user name to login.
Enter the corresponding password for the user and click “Log In”. That’s it, now it’s time to enjoy server quality storage at home.
Looking to create the ultimate NAS with an old PC? Keep an eye out for my upcoming article on how to share a data over a local network with Windows XP and Mac OS X. Also, in the near future I will show how to setup e-mail notifications in the event of a drive failure and will also show how to expand RAID arrays.