Recover from failed quorum disk in WinServer 2003 cluster

If the quorum disk fails in a Windows Server 2003 cluster, and a server fails, you're in trouble -- unless you know some of the ways to deal with the problem.

The quorum resource in a Windows Server 2003 cluster is usually a dedicated hard disk with a dedicated mirror for increased reliability. Its purpose is to make sure that, in the event of a server failure, the other servers in the cluster don't step on each other in their attempt to failover.

Obviously, if the quorum disk fails or is unavailable for some reason, you've got trouble. If this happens, the entire cluster will fail because the Cluster Server cannot start any of the nodes.

The most obvious way of dealing with this problem is to replace the quorum resource. This may mean physically replacing a failed quorum disk (or disks, in the case of a mirrored setup) or simply reformatting the quorum disk. Then you can perform an Authoritative Restore to bring up the node controlling the quorum resource.

Another method is to use the fixquorum flag to start the cluster service. Setting this flag lets you start the cluster even with an inoperative quorum resource. Note: It doesn't really fix anything; it simply lets you bypass the existing quorum and pick an alternate resource to serve as the quorum. This can be either another disk or you can set the cluster to use local quorum.

If you use fixquorum, the system creates a new quorum on the specified resource. This includes new log files, but does not include the Registry Checkpoint Files because the information on the old quorum is not available.

The Windows Resource Kit (Reskit) toolkit also has a tool called ClusterRecovery to help in this process. Microsoft discusses the procedure for using this tool on its Web site.

About the author: Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term often meant an 80K floppy disk. Today he specializes in writing about issues related to storage and storage management.

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This was first published in May 2006

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