Power Fail Fail

Written by James McDonald

January 15, 2012

Saturday very early in the morning we had a electricity substation blow nearby. It caused a power outage not only at my home but 6kms away at work. The outage was for long enough that the UPS’s didn’t hold the servers up, and some of them didn’t come up again cleanly. So I went in to work Saturday morning and used my index finger to remedy the situation.

The problem with sudden and unexpected power outages is that they tend to make failing old equipment fail completely.

So I have a control system computer that has been ticking away for over 5yrs that has become borked.

In an environment where you have hot spares and mirror redundancy it can be as little as half an hour from fail to ohh yeah.

Unfortunately I’m spending my Sunday evening doing the following:

  • Transfering a hard disk from a dead PC to a less dead one which has an identical spec
  • Taking a Ghost Image of the hard disk to a external USB Hard drive
  • Creating a similarly sized virtual machine using VMWare Player on a new Windows 7 machine
  • Booting the VM from a Ghost CD and then attaching the external USB drive to the VM and restoring the ghost image into the new vm

All the above sounds relatively easy however I am suffering from really bad performance in the Western Digital MYBook 205 G USB hard drive.

I’m getting max of ~100MB per minute transfer from the USB drive to the VM image.

Admittedly I’m running through a virtualized setup so you expect it to be slower. Taking the Ghost image off the physical hardware took about 20mins but the restoration is probably going to be an hour and a half.

The reason for the blog post is to remind myself in future how long it can take to restore something and a solution.

I have also run into the VMWare Player boots to fast to allow you into the BIOS problem and have had to add the bios.bootDelay = 5000 parameter to the vmx file to allow me time to get into the BIOS.

SOLUTION: Restore from Extremely slow WD250 External USB Drive into VMWare Player VM Image
OK this is what I did to speed up the process:

  1. Create a Second hard disk in the VM image to hold the Ghost(.gho) image file
  2. Boot VMWare Guest using Ubuntu 9.04 iso (or any linux live distro) partition and format the 2nd hard disk with NTFS, once it’s finished formatting, mount it (e.g. mount /dev/sdb1 /mnt) and copy the Ghost image from the attached USB drive to the 2nd harddisk (This took about 15minutes at 4.5MB/sec) and shutdown
  3. Reconfigure your VM to boot from a Ghost iso image again.
  4. Use ghost to restore ghost image from 2nd harddisk (this is working at 800MB/min) (This took under 10minutes to restore a ~4.5GB fast compressed ghost image)
  5. Once ghost is complete shutdown the VM and before you restart into the restored image remove the 2nd hard disk

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