Thursday, February 25, 2010

Moving an existing Windows installation to a RAID.

Ok, so a few nights ago I decided that I absolutely had to have a raid on my OS drive. I warned my wife that I was "fixing" something that was absolutely not broken. I asked her to remind me that I chose to do this in a few hours when she started to hear the swearing coming from our den. I then proceeded to waste an hour of my life researching google links, attempting to find valid information on moving an existing, working OS from a non-raid partition to a raid partition, and still have it boot. 90% said "Can't be done", 10% offered worthless, baseless, claims on how to accomplish it, 5% were genuinely trying to help, and the last 5% was barely English or not English at all. Then I decided to just dive in and give it a go. Below is the steps I went through to successfully complete my "impossible" task.

Tools required: Acronis True Image Home 2010, USB Drive or attached drive large enough for the RAID driver and an image of your existing OS partition.

***Just a note here, backups are kind of important. I made an image of my drive with Acronis onto a usb drive and tested restoring it to a spare drive before I started. I had no desire to lose any data here, after all I was playing with fire so to speak. I highly recommend making a backup image to some external source of media just in case something goes wrong.***

1. Created and emergency rescue disc through Acronis.
2. Used Acronis to create an image of my existing Windows 7 OS partition.
3. Copied the image to drive 3 (extra internal data drive on my machine).
4. Downloaded, and copied the raid drivers to drive 3.
5. Removed the existing OS drive, installed the two new drives to be raided.
6. Enabled the on-board raid in my bios (nVidia nForce in this case)
7. Entered the RAID bios during boot and created my raid 0.
8. Inserted the Rescue disc created in step 2.
9. After the disc booted I chose the restore option (with the option to restore to not like hardware).
a. It had me select my backup image (stored on drive 3)
b. It then prompted for any additional drivers required for the os. (the raid drivers on drive 3).
c. I then had to choose my new raid drive as the destination.
10. After waiting for the restore to complete, I removed the Rescue Disc, and booted into windows. Allowed the drivers to update, and restarted when prompted.

That was it all was well and my Windows boot time dropped by about 40%.

Of additional note here, is that the new raid drive was larger than the old OS partition. If I had gone from larger to smaller Acronis would have just shrunk the partition. However going the other way it left the partition smaller than the drive. I wanted the partition to be the max the drive could handle so i used Windows Disk Management to re size the OS partition. On most earlier versions of windows i would have had to use a 3rd party partition software, or used a Pre environment boot and use FDISK to expand the OS partition.

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