The mini dump directory had quite a lot of dumps from the bugcheck
events. Not quite one for each, but enough.
The bugcheck directory can be seen
I did the requisite searching on google and yahoo for the
address of the address of the failure, 0xf7352b83, and found nothing.
Other checks found problems that were the same kind of bug check, but
nothing was similar enough to warrant further investigation. So it was
onto actually loading up the minidumps into the Microsoft Debugging
Tools (windbg.exe) and see what it had to say.
The output of the crash dump can be read
The important parts from the crash dump were:
Probably caused by : aarich.sys ( aarich+9b83 )
And the fact they were all the same error. Lots of companies like to
blame the BSOD on flakey memory, an overheating processor, or stray
alpha particles causing bits to flip in memory. When you have the same
error happening over and over again, chances are the software is doing
exactly what it was told to do, which isn't often exactly what the
engineers thought they told it to do. For the purist debuggers out
there, I did make a leap.
Trust me on this one. In fact, there is a saying I heard in my youth.
"If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, the
first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization as we know
it." As someone who has written tons of code in many different
languages, I can tell you that often times shortcuts need to be taken.
It is a balance between getting it perfect, getting it good enough,
getting to market first, getting it done as quickly as possible, getting
it done as cheaply as possible, getting it done with as few people as
possible, ... It is a balancing act tough to understand if you haven't
Sorry - I digressed. Back to the problem and analysis.
Searching for the aarich.sys driver and its function in life, it
turns out this is the RAID driver for the on-board CERC SATA 2S
controller, a software based in firmware RAID that abstracts your two
drives into either a single stripe or mirror drive. This system had two
Seagate ST35003200AS 500GB SATA drives setup as a mirror to protect from
drive failures. Soooo, lets think about this for a second ... a driver
that controls the array has a catastrophic failure at reasonably regular
time intervals. What could it possibly be doing?
For the search engines: aarich.sys came up as version 22.214.171.124, dated 2/17/06 11:03 AM, and
identified itself with the string "Adaptec Host Raid"
A quick trip into the array manager and the array was being verified,
and waiting till the clock struck 45 minutes the verify was around 33%
and the system blue screened, right on schedule. When it returned, the
verify started up again -- from the beginning. Checking versions, the
drivers were already the latest from Dell, but I reinstalled them
anyway, as well as checking other drivers, BIOS version, etc. The system
was 100% up to date.
So, I was about to initiate a call to Dell technical support when I
thought of something. The repeating BSOD time interval evidence seemed
to indicate it would blue screen every time it got near or on the same
point in the array verification process. So my theory was this was a bug
in the verify that the driver did under Windows. Perhaps the bug was
only there and the BIOS array verification, if allowed to complete and
could fix the error, it would mark the array as clean and thus next
windows boot there would be no verify necessary. Something was
triggering the BSOD, and during an array verify the two identical
sectors of the array are read and possibly re-synchronized if they were
found not equal. So my theory was that the same numbered block on both
drives was giving read or write errors, and that was running a
seldom-if-ever corner case in the RAID driver code which had never been
tested and was now causing the BSOD.
With the verify running, I called Dell. They went through everything
I'd already done -- checking versions, checking BIOS, looking into their
knowledge base, etc.
Dell has a tool that is >really< nice, something I'd never seen
before and have to mention. It is called DSET. This tool runs on your
system and gathers up tons of information on the hardware, software,
drivers, errors in event logs, ... and packages them all up into a zip
file which when unzipped (password is 'dell' all lower case) so you can
ship them to Dell for analysis. Or, if you are a consultant (hint hint)
-- have your client run it on his dell and send it to you!
Here is the DSET link
To run this and do a few other things, I had to stop the RAID BIOS based
disk verify -- when I stopped it, the message came back "Verify result -
2 errors found, 2 errors fixed", which was somewhere around 27%.
They had a couple of other cases that were similar and were getting a
team together to look into the problem. They sent me an updated
scsiport.sys, which their install utility said I didn't need as it was
already installed. The 2 hours Dell support phone call yielded nothing, and when I hung up I
started the system back on the BIOS disk verify path, calculating out it
would finish in ~4 hours.
I briefed the client on the status, said I'd clock out and work on
some other things I had to do for another project while the verify
happened, see if the BIOS level verify will fix the error, mark the
array clean, and while the root of the problem would remain hopefully
the system would be stable enough for a day or two. If it isn't, I'd stop into the last standing
computer store here in southeast Michigan (Micro Center) and pick up a
couple of drives to migrate the system onto. I recommended he let me do
that over the weekend -- if I did it while sitting on-site, the bill
would be incredibly large as it takes hours to copy and hours to build
arrays on drives that size, and these were things I could start
overnight or during the day and occasionally check VS. having to stay at
their place of business while watching the paint dry.
It is never cost
effective to pay someone to watch the paint dry!
The array verify
stopped right around that 33% mark with the following screen, which
demonstrates complete stupidity on the part of the software engineers
that wrote this code. There's that woodpecker knocking down the house
again. Look at the screen and try to decide if you should
hit Y or N to continue rebuilding the array:
The code is clearly telling us that an error occurred and that it can't
do something -- but is it asking us "Do you want to continue with the
verify?" in which case I needed to hit Y, or is it asking "Do you want
to abort the verify?" in which case I'd want to hit N. As a fellow
software engineer for the last 30 some-odd years, there are many times
I'm embarrassed and ashamed of my craft, and this was one of them.
Please, if you write code, don't ever write crap like this. We are
long past the days of needing to save very byte in memory we can.
a coin and hit Y. My coin was correct, as the verify continued:
The same prompt came back about 5 or 6 times, all right around that 32%
mark. Curiously, when it was all done building the array it said 0 errors found and 0 errors fixed.
The array finished building right around 4:30 PM, the system rebooted,
and the array manger said the array was healthy and thus not rebuilding!
So now it was a waiting game -- perhaps it was stable for now, perhaps
not. I'd planned to wait a bit and see if it rebooted, but with it not
verifying there was a chance it was reasonably stable. So I left and
stopped in to pick up a couple of drives on the way home. I left a
message in notepad on the screen: "If you can see this message, the
server didn't reboot overnight! (YAY!!)"
morning, the client said that the message was gone, the server was at
the login prompt, and thus the server had rebooted overnight, so
arrangements were made to have the system dropped off on Friday. During
the day on Friday, I called Dell back to see if they were doing anything
with the driver, and the word came back that if anything was going to be
done it wouldn't be for at least a month, maybe more.
me very glad I was already on-track to fix this for the client in
another way rather than expect / hope / wish Dell would fix the problem
in their driver.
Independently, I did some
research on the Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 part number 9BX154-303 running
firmware DS15 and a date code of 09127 site code KRATSG, product of
Thailand -- apparently there was a problem with a
bunch of these drives turning into bricks which Seagate identified and
they claim fixed via a
firmware update you can find here. There are other people
complaining of other kinds of issues with these drives, so many that the
forum moderator closed a bunch of them and pointed everyone at a new
thread to collect these issues in one place. That thread, started on
2/3/2009, is now (4/3/2009) 68 pages long and has 10 messages on each
The thread detailing lots of people with 7200.11 drives with issues can
be found here. Now, this doesn't mean these drives suffer from any
particular problem, but given the apparent surface errors and issues
this Seagate drive model could also be another case of the "IBM
In all fairness, I had at least 4 of the Deskstar drives running 24/7/365 for at least 5 years without any
issues, both 40 GB and 60 GB models. I also had a lot of clients with
them that also never had an issue. When you make millions of hard drives
a year, you are going to have drive failures and those people with failures that are
vocal can now find each other due to the Internet. Is that what is
happening here? Tough to say for sure. But it didn't give me a warm
Friday afternoon when the system arrived, I pulled one of the drives,
connected it to another chassis, and made an image copy from the 500 GB
Seagate drive onto the new 500 GB Western Digital drive. Installed in
the system with another WD drive, then told the RAID BIOS to mirror the
two from the just copied drive, and let it cook over night.
morning, checked everything out and things looked really good. All the
files were there, opened up a few of them, data looked good inside, the
SQL database was starting up just fine for their ADP Payroll that was
going to run on Tuesday. Later that afternoon, I decided to run a full
backup and found the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) was crashing
But that is a different article,
which I'll link here once
it is written.
With VSS fixed, did a bit more to get general health on
Sunday, delivered the system Monday, and I've got one happy client about
to run their company's payroll.
So, the end result? If you've got
these BSOD problems with this controller card, you've probably got a
pair of drives that are throwing errors. Replace them both ASAP and your
BSOD problem will go away.
This is working around a driver problem
that never should have happened. Which is (sadly) something we
have to do way too often.
The pair of 7200.11 drives got a full
workout with Seagate's Disc Wizard tool, doing the long test a couple of
times on Sunday. I even put the two drives directly on top of each other
so they'd cook and were too hot to touch, and both passed the Seagate
tests. In other words, I think I'd have a hard time getting them RMAed
by Seagate. It is entirely possible the drives eventually did detect
their bad sectors and relocate them, but tough to say for sure without
historical data from the S.M.A.R.T. subsystem.
Do I trust these
drives? No. Not when for $77/each I got a pair of Western Digital Caviar
Blue drives that have half the cache but hopefully will store and recall
all their data.
Offline, on a different
system than the original Dell, I beat the heck out of
both drives. Drive #0, copying many very large files to it over and over again. It
I then tried to beat the heck out of drive #1. It ran
for awhile, then did a long pause. While pausing, you could feel the
head skipping about in a repeating pattern. Then the drive would
completely disappear from Device Manager, as if I had unplugged the SATA
disk. A few minutes later, giving a refresh command to Device Manager
would make the drive re-appear, and I could repeat the failure over and
over again. Mind you, while the disk was working I could run Seagate's
Sea Tools and test the disk and it says "All good here!"
So there you
have it -- drives are on their way back to the client, who will probably
destroy them. They've decided it isn't worth the risk of their company
employee's personally identifiable information leaking out -- remember,
this was their payroll server.
If you found this helpful or not, please send me a brief email -- one
line will more than do. If I see people need, want, and / or use this
of information that will encourage me to keep creating this kind of
content. Whereas if I never hear from anyone, then why bother?
I can be reached at:
das (at-sign) dascomputerconsultants (dot) com
(C) 2009, 2010 DAS Computer Consultants, LTD. All Rights Reserved.