Setup support of dynamic disks falls short

Dynamic disks are an important tool for managing storage in Windows 2000, but you need to be cautious during text-mode Setup, as this tip explains.

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Dynamic disks are a major tool for managing storage in Windows 2000.

But because of the way dynamic disks store their partition and other information, they can report inaccurate information during the text-mode portion of Setup. Inaccurate information can also result during recovery from the recovery console in the case of an unbootable system.

Remember not to delete any of the dynamic volumes in text mode Setup unless you are going to delete all of them. Deleting or reformatting a dynamic disk volume using Recovery console's DISKPART or FORMAT commands, or during text mode setup can cause data loss.

Since Setup doesn't completely support dynamic disks, there are a few things you should keep in mind that will be useful for you in the long run.

Hard-linked vs. soft-linked dynamic disks
Dynamic disks come in two flavors: Hard-linked and soft-linked. Hard-linked dynamic disks are created when you upgrade a disk with physical or logical drives from basic to dynamic. The upgraded disk will retain a legacy style partition table entry, which Setup can recognize.

Soft-linked dynamic disks were created as dynamic disks and don't have the partition table entry. Instead, they have a single partition table entry for the entire disk. The volume configuration information is stored in a special partition at the end of the disk. During Setup that information is unavailable to the system, so Setup displays a single drive letter for the entire physical disk, even if it contains multiple volumes.

This isn't a problem if you understand what is happening. Simply continue with the setup or recovery and the correct information will be displayed later in the process. Microsoft recommends keeping a record of dynamic disks and their volumes, noting which volumes are hard-linked.

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Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last 20 years he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.
This was first published in February 2005
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