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Recovers all types of corrupted RAID arrays
Last updated: May 06, 2024

How to Recover Data from RAID 1 on MDADM (Ubuntu)

RAID 1 arrays are renowned for their redundancy and reliability, mirroring data across two or more disks to safeguard against hardware failure. However, even with RAID 1's resilience, situations may arise where you need to recover data, whether due to accidental deletion, file corruption, or disk issues. In this article, we delve into the process of recovering data from a RAID 1 array using mdadm, a powerful and widely-used tool in the Linux environment. We will guide you through each step, from diagnosing the problem to extracting your data, ensuring you have the knowledge and confidence to manage this critical task efficiently and effectively. Whether you're a system administrator, IT professional, or a tech-savvy individual, this guide aims to equip you with the skills necessary to recover your data from a RAID 1 array, minimizing downtime and data loss.

What is RAID 1 system?

A RAID 1 system, also known as mirroring, is a method of creating an exact copy of data on two or more disk drives. This setup provides redundancy and increases data reliability since all data is written identically to each drive. If one drive fails, the system can continue to operate using the remaining drive(s), which contain an exact copy of the data.

In a RAID 1 array, the total storage capacity is equal to the capacity of the smallest drive in the set. For example, if two 1TB drives are used in a RAID 1 configuration, the total available storage space will still be 1TB, not 2TB, because one drive is used to mirror the data of the other.

RAID 1 is often used in environments where data integrity and availability are critical, such as in servers and systems where downtime or data loss could have significant repercussions. While RAID 1 provides excellent fault tolerance, it is essential to remember that it should not replace regular data backups, as it does not protect against accidental deletion, file corruption, or other forms of data loss.

What Is mdadm?

mdadm stands for "multiple device administrator" and is a command-line utility in Linux used for managing and monitoring software RAID arrays. It allows users to create, assemble, report on, grow, and monitor RAID arrays, which can include various configurations like RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6, and RAID 10, among others.

With mdadm, administrators can:

  • Create new RAID arrays: mdadm can initialize arrays, define the RAID level, and specify the disks that should be included.
  • Manage existing arrays: Users can add new drives, remove faulty ones, or mark spare drives as active within the array.
  • Monitor RAID arrays: mdadm can provide detailed information about the status and health of RAID arrays, helping to predict and prevent data loss due to disk failures.
  • Rebuild arrays: In the event of a disk failure in a redundant RAID setup (like RAID 1 or RAID 5), mdadm can rebuild the data on a new disk to restore redundancy and protect against further failures.

mdadm is a crucial tool for Linux system administrators who rely on software RAID configurations, offering a comprehensive set of features to manage these arrays effectively. It is especially important for maintaining data availability and integrity in systems that require high reliability and performance.

Limitations of mdadm

While mdadm is a powerful tool for managing RAID arrays in Linux, it does have some limitations:

  • Software RAID Overhead: Since mdadm operates at the software level, it utilizes the host system's CPU for RAID operations, which can introduce overhead and reduce performance compared to hardware RAID solutions, especially under heavy load or when using more CPU-intensive RAID levels like RAID 5 or RAID 6.
  • Dependence on System Resources: The performance and reliability of RAID arrays managed by mdadm are inherently tied to the underlying system. If the system experiences issues such as high CPU usage, memory constraints, or software conflicts, these can impact the RAID performance and stability.
  • No Hardware Fault Tolerance: Unlike hardware RAID controllers, mdadm does not provide features like battery-backed cache, which can ensure data integrity during unexpected power losses. This limitation can be critical for write-heavy applications or in environments with unstable power.
  • Complexity and Expertise: Properly configuring and managing RAID arrays with mdadm requires a good understanding of both the tool and RAID concepts. Misconfigurations can lead to suboptimal performance or even data loss.
  • Recovery Limitations: While mdadm supports various RAID levels, including those with redundancy, it is not a substitute for a robust backup strategy. RAID can protect against hardware failure but not against data corruption, accidental deletion, or catastrophic events.
  • Compatibility and Portability: Data on mdadm managed RAID arrays might not be easily accessible if moved to a system that does not support mdadm or is not running Linux. This can be a limitation in heterogeneous environments or in situations requiring data portability across different platforms.
  • Limited to Linux: mdadm is specific to Linux. If you work across multiple operating systems or migrate to a non-Linux environment, you cannot use mdadm to manage your RAID arrays.

Despite these limitations, mdadm remains a popular and powerful choice for software RAID management in Linux due to its flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and comprehensive feature set. Understanding these limitations is crucial for system administrators to deploy mdadm effectively and mitigate potential risks.

Tips Before RAID Recovery Using mdadm

Before attempting RAID recovery using mdadm, it's crucial to take some preparatory steps to minimize the risks and increase the chances of a successful recovery. Here are some essential tips:

  • Backup Important Data: If possible, back up all critical data before proceeding with any recovery operations. Even if the array seems partially accessible, it's safer to ensure you have a copy of your important files in case the recovery process leads to further data loss.
  • Understand Your RAID Configuration: Know the details of your RAID setup, including the RAID level (e.g., RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5), the number of disks, and their configuration. This information is crucial for correctly applying recovery procedures and avoiding actions that could exacerbate the problem.
  • Assess the RAID Array Status: Use mdadm to examine the array and understand the status of each disk. Identifying which disks are failed or faulty is essential for proper recovery actions. The mdadm --detail /dev/mdX command can provide this information.
  • Do Not Write to the Failed Array: Avoid making changes or writing new data to the failed RAID array. Writing data can overwrite lost information and complicate the recovery process.
  • Use a Live CD/USB: Consider running a Linux distribution from a live CD or USB to perform the recovery. This approach can help avoid loading the potentially damaged system and reduce the risk of further data corruption.
  • Check for Hardware Issues: Ensure that the problem is not related to hardware, such as faulty cables or connections. Sometimes, reconnecting or replacing a cable can resolve the issue without the need for data recovery.
  • Document the Process: Keep detailed notes of your actions, including any commands executed and their output. This documentation can be invaluable if you need to pause the recovery, seek help, or troubleshoot further issues.
  • Use Non-Destructive Commands First: When trying to recover the RAID array, use commands that do not alter the data on the disks. For example, use mdadm --assemble --scan to attempt to reassemble the array without forcing it, which can prevent further data loss.
  • Consult the Documentation: Before proceeding, consult the mdadm man page and other documentation to understand the available options and recommended procedures for recovery.
  • Consider Professional Help: If the data is extremely valuable or if you are unsure about the recovery process, consider seeking assistance from a professional data recovery service. They have the expertise and tools to maximize the chances of successful data recovery.

By following these tips, you can prepare effectively for RAID recovery using mdadm and improve the chances of retrieving your valuable data with minimal risk.

How To Recover RAID 1 Using mdadm?

To recover data from a RAID 1 array using mdadm, you should follow a careful, step-by-step approach. Here's a general guide to help you through the recovery process. Before you start, ensure you have a good backup of your important data, if possible, and avoid writing any new data to the disks involved.

  1. 1. Identify the Problem:

    • Determine which drive has failed using mdadm --detail /dev/mdX (replace /dev/mdX with your RAID device identifier).
    • Verify the status of each drive in your RAID array; the faulty drive should be marked as (F).
  2. 2. Remove the Faulty Drive:

    • If a drive is indeed faulty, you'll need to remove it from the array: mdadm --manage /dev/mdX --remove /dev/sdY (replace /dev/sdY with the faulty drive).
  3. 3. Replace the Faulty Drive:

    • Physically replace the faulty drive with a new one of equal or greater capacity.
    • Make sure the new drive is recognized by the system (check using lsblk or fdisk -l).
  4. 4. Partition the New Drive:

    • If your RAID was partition-based, you need to partition the new drive identically to the remaining good drive in the RAID.
    • Use tools like fdisk, gdisk, or parted to replicate the partition structure. You can use sfdisk -d /dev/sdX | sfdisk /dev/sdY to copy the partition table directly (replace /dev/sdX with the good drive and /dev/sdY with the new drive).
  5. 5. Add the New Drive to the Array:

    • Incorporate the new drive into the array: mdadm --manage /dev/mdX --add /dev/sdY
  6. 6. Monitor the Rebuild Process:

    • Check the progress of the rebuild: mdadm --detail /dev/mdX
    • Wait for the rebuild to complete before proceeding with any intensive disk operations.
  7. 7. Verify the Rebuild:

    • Once the rebuild is complete, verify that the RAID array is functioning correctly and that both drives are active within the array.
  8. 8. Test the RAID Array:

    • Perform read and write tests to ensure that the array is functioning correctly.
    • Monitor the array's status over a short period to confirm there are no immediate issues.

By following these steps, you should be able to recover your RAID 1 array using mdadm. Remember that RAID is not a substitute for backups, so always ensure your data is backed up in multiple locations to prevent data loss.


In conclusion, understanding the mechanisms and recovery processes of RAID 1 arrays, particularly in a Linux environment using mdadm, is crucial for maintaining data integrity and availability. RAID 1, by mirroring data across multiple disks, offers a robust solution for data redundancy, providing a safety net against single-drive failures. However, it's imperative to acknowledge that RAID 1 is not foolproof and does not guard against all forms of data loss, emphasizing the need for regular backups.

The mdadm utility is a powerful tool for Linux users to manage and recover RAID arrays, offering a range of functionalities from array creation to failure recovery. While it is a potent resource, users must approach RAID recovery with caution, understanding the inherent limitations and risks. Before any recovery attempt, it's essential to back up data, assess the RAID array's status thoroughly, and methodically follow the recovery steps to avoid exacerbating any existing issues.

Moreover, RAID recovery, particularly with software-based solutions like mdadm, demands a certain level of technical acumen and understanding of both the tools and underlying RAID concepts. While the steps to recover a RAID 1 array using mdadm are straightforward, they require meticulous attention to detail and patience.

In scenarios where data is critically important or if there's any uncertainty in the recovery process, seeking professional assistance is advisable to mitigate the risk of irreversible data loss. Ultimately, while RAID technologies like RAID 1 provide a layer of data protection, they are just one component of a comprehensive data security strategy, which should also include regular backups, data encryption, and a robust disaster recovery plan.

Tip: RAID 0 or RAID 1: what to pick?


  • Can RAID 1 be recovered?

    Given that RAID 1 operates based on data mirroring, your information stays protected even if a single drive in the array encounters a failure. Data recovery remains feasible as long as at least one drive in the RAID 1 setup is operational. In many instances, you can undertake this recovery process independently. The recommended approach is to isolate the functioning drive and treat it as a standard drive for scanning purposes.

  • How do I fix RAID 1 failure?

    The most secure approach to retrieve data from a malfunctioning or damaged RAID 1 volume (or any storage medium) involves generating a block-level clone of every sector across all the hard drives. This cloned image is subsequently utilized to rebuild the initial volume, enabling the recovery of necessary files and directories.

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