Use ASR to restore cluster disk signatures

Sometimes a cluster disk signature gets overwritten and the cluster can no longer identify shared disks or read volume information. If this happens, an administrator can restore cluster disk signatures using Automated System Recovery (ASR).

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Sometimes a cluster disk signature gets overwritten and the cluster can no longer identify shared disks or read volume information. An administrator can restore an overwritten cluster disk signature using the Automated System Recovery (ASR) feature in Windows Server 2003.

ASR is an effective disk signature recovery option if no cluster nodes can communicate with the shared devices and all other cluster restore techniques have been exhausted.

An ASR backup of a cluster node contains a disk signature (or signatures) and volume information; the current system state, which includes the Registry, cluster quorum, boot files and the COM+ class registration database; system services; and a backup of all local disks containing operating system files, including system and boot partitions.

Currently, the only way to back up disk signatures is to create an ASR backup from the local server console using the backup utility in Windows Server 2003.

To perform an ASR backup, an administrator needs a blank floppy disk and either a tape drive or disk drive for use as a backup device. Windows Server 2003's backup utility does not yet support recordable CD devices, so if no tape drive is available, the backup can be run to a backup file on a local or networked drive. Saving the backup file to a networked drive ensures that the media can be accessed should an ASR restore be necessary.

Note: An ASR backup will back up each local drive that contains the operating system and any applications installed. However, this requires additional storage and increases backup time.

To create an ASR backup:

  1. Log on to the cluster node with an account that has the right to back up the system.
  2. Click Start | All Programs | Accessories | System Tools | Backup.
  3. If you're running the Backup tool for the first time, it will open in Wizard mode. To run it in Advanced mode, click the Advanced Mode hyperlink.
  4. Click the Automated System Recovery Wizard button to start the ASR Preparation Wizard.
  5. Reading the ASR Preparation Wizard Welcome screen, then click Next..
  6. Choose your backup media type and choose the correct media tape or file. If you're creating a new file, specify the complete path to the file, and the backup utility will create the file automatically. To continue, click Next.
  7. If the file you specified resides on a networked drive, you will get a warning message that reads: "The specified path is not local to this computer. It may not be accessible at recovery time. Do you wish to continue?" Click OK to continue.
  8. To complete the ASR Preparation Wizard and start the backup, click Finish.
  9. Once the tape or file backup portion finishes, the ASR backup will prompt you to insert a floppy disk that will contain the recovery information. Insert the disk and click OK.
  10. Remove the floppy disk as requested and label the disk with the appropriate ASR backup information. Click OK.
  11. When the ASR backup is complete, click Close on the Backup Progress windows to return to the backup program. Or, to examine the backup report, click Report.

About the author: Rahul Shah currently works at a software firm in India, where he is a systems administrator maintaining Windows servers. He has also worked for various software firms in testing and analytics, and also has experiences deploying client/server applications in different Windows configurations.

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This was first published in April 2007

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