RAID 5 data parameters...

When we recover a RAID 5 there are many parameters we have to consider, apart from any physical or logical corruption. These parameters can be calculated both manually and automatically, but manual recovery takes very special technical skills. Unlike RAID 0, RAID 5 is a redundant array and stores the parity data. To get the full configuration of the array, a user must firstly determine the parity position and rotation.

Before attempting a data rebuild of a RAID 5 we must first determine:

how many disks are there in the array
what is the sequence of disks
what is the block size
at what offset the array begins
the parity pattern
the parity delay pattern
any spare blocks located on the array

In theory, the RAID will be recoverable even if one disk cannot be imaged. This is due to the redundancy build into RAID 5. The failing disk can be ‘hot swapped’ and the data rebuilt using the parity information. Where two or more disks have failed, a mechanical rebuild of those disks is necessary.

To rebuild data after a mechanical rebuild we must treat the separate disks as one single array. By identifying the parameter sets beforehand, once we have disk image files for every scanned hard drive we can start building a virtual controller and output data in RAW format on a single disk. The RAID controller is bypassed, so it is not important whether this is a hardware or software controller. Thereafter all our data recovery software is able to rebuild the data itself.