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Using Write Signature and Upgrade Disk Wizard in Windows 2000

Working complete PC
Student Diskette, "New Boot A Ver 2.0+"
Student CD-ROM, "Windows 2000 Server OEM"
The student will become familiar with:
Windows 2000 Partitions and Volumes,
Windows 2000 Basic Disks and Dynamic Disks,
Installation of a new empty HDD on a Windows 2000 system,
Using the Windows 2000 Disk Administrator.
The student will begin to learn how to open and use the Windows 2000 Disk Administrator including how to use it to set up a new empty HDD on a WIndows 2000 system. The student will begin to learn the definitions and concepts of Windows 2000 partitions, volumes, basic disks and dynamic disks.

This is the first in a series of tutorials intended to accompany the modules, classroom exercises and curriculum of the Microcomputer Service and Maintenance 3 course. All that is needed to perform any of these drive management tutorials is a basic installation of Windows 2000 Advanced Server and the number of physical disks required by the particular activity. In this exercise server has already been installed on one hard drive. The CD-ROM drive has been disconnected and three completely zeroed hard drives have been attached. The system is then booted normally and the student must logon as Administrator. At that point the procedures below may begin.

  1. Disk Manager is a GUI tool that has the power of FDISK and FORMAT and beyond. It is capable of constructing RAIDs on IDE channels as well as SCSI channels that are implemented by the Windows 2000 operating system itself as opposed to a hardware RAID card that implements the RAID at the circuitry/BIOS level of the card. Hardware RAIDs are far superior and should be the only choice in mission critical servers, but the software level RAIDs that Windows 2000 can implement do add more protection to valuable data than not implementing them at all. Disk Manager (DM) is a snap-in to the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) applet of the Control Panel. Open Start > Programs > Administrative Tools > Computer Management...

  2. Clicking this Start menu choice opens the computer management console which looks like this:

  3. With it open click the Disk Management folder far down the left hand side. In this exercise, three new or completely wiped (with zeros) harddrives have just been added to the system. Upon opening the DM this Window appears:

  4. The Windows 2000 Disk Manager wants to write a signature to each physical drive. If this is not done then the Windows 2000 Operating System will not recognize the devices and will not provide access to them. It turns out that the signature is a 32-bit number that appears to be randomly generated which is written into a formerly unused offset of the MBR of the hard drive. If this value is changed, the operating system will notice and access to the drive may be lost. Furthermore, if the signature is changed on the boot drive, Windows 2000 will blue screen with a "STOP 0x???" error. Since the new drives are going to be used to construct a RAID-5, Distributed Striping with Parity, then all of them must receive a Signature. Click Next, and the following screen appears. Place a check in front of all three drives:

  5. Now this wizard will ask if any disks will be upgraded to "dynamic" disks. A "basic" disk according to Disk Manager is any disk that relies solely on its classic partition tables written into the MBR to define its partitions. A "dynamic" disk defines a partition type "42h" in the classic MBR partition tables and then stores a large data base file roughly 1MB in size at the far back end of the drive. This large database contains much more information about the drives on the system, and their partitions and allows for the creation of functional RAIDs in Windows 2000. Since the next procedure will be to create a RAID-5 volume (the dynamic disk term for a partition, volumes are partition-like structures that can span physical disks) then all of the new drives should be upgraded to dynamic. Click Next and then place a check in front of all of the drives:

  6. Now that all of the choices have been provided to the wizard, click next and this summary of instructions to be carried out is displayed:

  7. Click the Finish button and the signatures are written to the drives and the new type 42h partition entries are written to their MBRs and new dynamic disk databases are written to the far end sectors of each drive. When this is complete (only takes a moment) the Disk Manager screen of the Computer Management MMC snap in comes into full view displaying the current status of all fixed disks:

    At this point all drives are ready to have volumes created on them of any mixture of types.

Related Lab Exercises and Lectures
  1. CET2588C Lecture #12 - RAID's describes RAID's and how they work.

  2. Upgrading Drives (particularly the system/boot drive) to Dynamic

  3. Construct a RAID-5 set that can hold critical data.

  4. Construct a Composite RAID-50 set that can hold critical data.

Review Questions

  1. Windows 2000 has a specific tool for working with hard drive partitions, it is called:

  2. List two ways in which the Windows 2000 partitioning tool can be opened:

  3. In order to enable Windows 2000 to access a new hard drive in any way, what must first be done to the drive within the partitioning tool:

  4. The operation of "Write Signature" to a disk in Disk Management writes what to where?

  5. The Windows 2000 Disk Management is a default "snap-in" to what program?

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