How to Avert Complete Disaster on Your Work PC with RAID 5

#hope
#hope
Feb 27 · 6 min read
My Amazing Dell Precision 5820 Desktop

I am writing this article because so many people use PCs for work. If you can, you should configure it at-least in RAID 5 so you can work with a reasonable expectation of not being disrupted by hardware failure.

I don’t use RAID at home (Macs backup and restore great) — but I have it configured in all my work PCs (even the Dell Precision 7xxx laptop). And this totally saved me last week, as I was in the middle of several (15+) fires, and if my PC had died instead of running slower, this would have greatly made my life more miserable.

My “Aircraft Carrier” 5820 Tower is great but I had noticed a sluggishness in the past 6 months. And it got progressively worse over time. I do some crazy stuff during build to prevent manual work and I’m sure that has also caused the disk to be used more than usual. On hindsight, we should have gone with a Pro/ OEM Samsung NVMe SSD. But it’s ok — I had what I had because these drives were pretty pricey at the time we got them.

I did check the RAID “BIOS” Utility and found nothing. I mention this because most people would not know what to do until it is too late. So, I am taking you through the steps I took to debug the issue:

Pick this option to get to the RAID Utility. This is not very obvious.
Confusing, but this is the first screen
Nothing here
Here is where my RAID volume is configured
The interesting thing is that there is no option to add a disk here. And this had me worried for quite a bit. I’ll explain it later.

What is Intel VROC?

To do some types of RAID with Intel VROC and non Intel SSDs, you need to purchase a special hardware key which is plugged into the Motherboard.

This is one of the worst ideas from Capitalism which Intel has used for years. Make things unnecessarily complex, and customers run around confused figuring out how to use the things they paid for.

This is also why I have always purchased AMD CPUs for personal use.

AMD has this feature for free on some of its CPUs but interestingly, it does not include RAID 5.

There is no option to add a disk to the volume here.

I was looking for the “Add a Disk” option as I was also running out of space. Sometimes lack of free space makes the system slow. Usually these RAID utilities have all the options — not in this case though.

These are the options for the “spare” Intel disk which is not a part of the RAID volume.

I have seen the Intel RAID Utility on other PCs where I have configured RAID. Hence, I went to support.dell.com and searched for a RAID utility. This is what I found:

Trying to download and install this utility takes you to the Windows Store:

When you run this app, it will open with a warning that you have old VROC drivers. So, you have to search for it on Google. This will eventually take you here:

Even though it does not show compatibility with Windows 10, it does work fine and it will tell you that it is updating the drivers and replacing the Windows Store App (selected yes). Then it works for the first time without any errors:

Now we see that the drive has actually failed! The Windows Store App only showed parity errors. This tells us the real problem.
Before you rebuild, try to ensure you use the exact same model of the drive as the replacement.

Then power off the PC, take the PCIe card out and replace the SSD:

The top one was bad.

What I did was replace the Intel with the new one. I am still not sure what would have happened if I had replaced the bad drive with the new one. I figured it may need the old drive to rebuild the new one. Perhaps that is not necessary. It makes sense that it could rebuild the bad drive from the existing good ones.

After you replace the drive, it will rebuild — this takes a while to complete
The rebuild continues for a while…
Now, the rebuild is complete and there are no more errors.

My PC has never worked faster. I was losing like 80% performance for months because of the bad drive. And it had gotten worse since the past few days.

The next step is to add a new drive to expand the drive space. I plan to do that tomorrow. The below article is the continuation of this story (which turned out to be a horrible experience):

Appendix

I really liked this documentation from Intel:

The list of supported third party SSDs are useful. Note, I used Samsung 970 Evo Plus which is not on this list:

This is a useful document for those confused between Intel RSTe and Intel VROC as I was:

AnandTech is great as usual in this article:

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Join The Startup’s +725K followers.

#hope

Written by

#hope

“If you see something that’s not right, not fair, not just, do something about it. Say something. Do something.” — Rep. John Lewis

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +725K followers.

#hope

Written by

#hope

“If you see something that’s not right, not fair, not just, do something about it. Say something. Do something.” — Rep. John Lewis

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +725K followers.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store