Upgrading Dell PERC H200 RAID Card to H700

Replacing a Dell PERC H200 to a Dell PERC H700 RAID card is surprisingly easy. These are the steps I followed when upgrading my Dell PowerEdge R510 Server.

The H700 Card is much faster than the entry level H200 and it additionally supports RAID 5. So, it is a worthwhile upgrade if you intend to add more storage to your system .

IMPORTANT! Make sure you have a FULL backup of the server, just in case anything goes wrong. I really can’t stress this enough.

Please be aware that the information within this article is provided “as is” without warranty of any kind.

Configuring RAID is not difficult, but it is essential to be careful. One false move and you will obliterate the contents of your hard drive(s). You may wish to practice using some spare hard drives first.

Ensure that you read and fully understand these instructions (plus the supporting articles) before attempting the upgrade yourself.

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If you have a spare PCIe slot within the server, shut the system down and install the H700 card alongside the existing H200 card. Do not disconnect anything from the H200 card at this stage, just clip the new card into the riser and start up the server. The image above shows the H200 and H700 alongside each other inside the server.
Windows Server 2008 R2 should find and install the H700 device driver automatically. It is still worth visiting Dell Support Site and installing the latest version, just to be on the safe side. Check ”Device Manager” and ensure both cards are listed. This step will ensure that we don’t have any driver issues when the H200 Card is removed in the next step.

Optionally, you may also wish to review / update the firmware on the new card.

Update (May 2016): I have received a couple of reports (below) of the import failing. My thoughts are this could relate to the firmware version.

For reference, my firmware for the H700 Card is:
Firmware Version 12.10.6-0001 (22 July 2013)
Driver Version 4.31.01.64
Storport Driver Version 6.1.7601.22589  

There is a newer Firmware Version Available (12.10.7-0001, 24 Mar 2016) and you may wish to consider this.

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Shut the server down again and carefully remove the H200 card. You will need to disconnect the small LED indicator lead and the hard disk cables (shown above).
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Install the H700 in place of the H200. It is a larger card, but it will fit into the same riser. Finally, connect the Drive Cables and the LED indicator lead (see above).

Install the backup battery (your H700 should have come with one).

Now it is time to start up the server and configure new the RAID Card. When prompted, press CTRL-R during system start-up to load the PERC “Virtual disk Manager”.
Since this is a new card, there should be “No Configuration Present!” Do not continue if this is not the case.
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BE VERY CAREFUL HERE!!

Press “F2” (Operations) and select “Foreign Config” from the menu. Then, select “Import”.

For more information about Foreign RAID States, see here

For more information about various RAID configuration options, see here

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Confirm that you wish to continue.
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Within a couple of seconds, your existing RAID configuration will be displayed on the screen. In my case, I have four physical disks configured into two RAID 1 Virtual Disks.

Press “ESC” on the keyboard and reboot your system. That completes the upgrade.

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If everything is working without issues, go back and fit the RAID backup battery and plastic cowl. The image above shows the finished job inside the server chassis.

Good luck!

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Dell PERC RAID Controller Configuration

The Dell PowerEdge Expandable RAID Controller Card Configuration Utility (BIOS) is accessed by hitting CTRL-R (or CTRL-C) at System Startup. From here, you can setup new RAID Arrays and maintain existing ones.

There are normally three options within the Configuration Utility:

  • Virtual Disk Management (these are the “Disks” that the Operating System can “see”)
  • Physical Disk Management (these are the physical disks attached to the Controller Card)
  • Controller Management

If you have an existing RAID Configuration, you may wish to think carefully before selecting any of the following options:

  • “Easy Configuration” will WIPE the existing Configuration / Disks
  • “New Configuration” will WIPE the existing Configuration / Disks
  • “Initialise” will WIPE the existing Configuration / Disks
  • “Clear” will WIPE the existing Configuration / Disks

Dell has various RAID Controller Cards available. Below is a summary of the more common ones:

PERC H200

This is an “entry level” card that only supports RAID 0; RAID 1 and RAID 10. Also, the number of Virtual Disks is limited to two. So, an ideal configuration would be a RAID 1 array for the Operating System and a second RAID 1 array to house the Data.

PERC 6/i

This card supports RAID 0,1,5,6,10.

PERC H700

This card supports RAID 0,1,5,6,10

Dell PERC RAID Controller: Degraded RAID States

The failure of a Hard Disk within an Array will cause the Array to become “Degraded”.

The failed disk will be marked as “Offline” within the RAID BIOS.

It is always worth trying to force the disk back “Online” before trying anything else.

If this doesn’t work, replace the faulty Drive ASAP with a brand new drive (of equal or larger capacity), and the array will re-build automatically. If you have a “Hot Swap” chassis, you can do this whilst the server is running.

Replacing the faulty disk with one that has been previously used in another array, will cause the new drive to show up as “Foreign”. In this circumstance, you will need to “Clear” the Foreign Array before you can use it: Foreign Config => Clear. It is always simpler to use a brand new drive.

DO NOT select “Clear Config” from the Main Operations Menu, or you will destroy all of the data on your Array!

Note: RAID 0 has no redundancy built in, and so cannot survive the loss of even a single disk. You will need to restore the entire system from Backups in this scenario.

Dell PERC RAID Controller: Foreign RAID States

The Dell PERC RAID Configuration BIOS will mark an Array as “Foreign” under the following circumstances:

  • The entire Array has been moved across from another server (and therefore the RAID Card has no knowledge of the Array)
  • There has been a “glitch” on the RAID Card and the configuration has lost details of the existing Array(s) that are attached to it.

Essentially, the BIOS is indicating that it has found an array that is it has no knowledge of. In this circumstance, you would most likely wish to “Import” the array. In order to do this, the status must be either:

  • Ready (including any hot spares) or
  • Degraded (part of the Mirror is missing)

DO NOT “Clear the Foreign Configuration”, unless you wish to completely erase all the data on the Disks!