DANGER!!! Problems with 10.04 installer (RAID devices *will* get corrupted)

Nathan Bahn nathan.bahn at gmail.com
Wed Apr 21 07:19:26 UTC 2010

On Wed, Apr 21, 2010 at 12:30 AM, Alvin Thompson <alvin at thompsonlogic.com>wrote:

> Long story short: the only way to be safe right now is to physically
> remove drives with important data during the install.
> I figured out the cause of my RAID problems, and it's a problem with
> ubuntu's installer.  This will cost people their data if not fixed.
> Sorry about the length of this post, but the problem takes a while to
> explain.
> The following scenario is not the only way your partitions can get
> hosed.  I simply use it because it's a common use case, it illustrates
> what data is where on the hard drives, and it exposes the flaws in the
> installer's logic.  It also doesn't matter if you don't touch a
> particular drive, partition, or file system during the install.  The
> data on it can still be corrupted.
> Suppose you have a hard drive with some partitions on it.  On one of
> those partitions you have a linux file system which houses your data.
> We'll say for the sake of this discussion that sda2 contains an EXT4
> file system with your data.  So far, so good.
> Because this data is too important to rely on a single drive, you decide
> to buy some more drives and make a RAID 5 device.  You buy 3 more drives
> and create similar partitions an them (say, sdb2, sdc2, and sdd2).  You
> copy the data currently on sda2 somewhere safe, then you use mdadm to
> create a RAID5 array with sda2, sdb2, sdc2, and sdd2.  The new RAID
> device is md0.  You create an XFS file system on md0 and move your data
> to it*.  This is all perfectly fine, but the stage has been set for
> disaster with the ubuntu installer.
> Later, you decide to do a clean install of ubuntu on sda1 (sda1 is *not*
> part of the RAID array), and you get to the partitioning stage and
> select manual partitioning.  This is where things get really ugly really
> fast.
> The bug is how the installer detects existing file systems.  It simply
> reads the raw data in a partition to see if the bits it finds correspond
> to a known file system.  In the above example, the installer detects the
> remnants of the original (non-RAID) file system on sda2 and thinks it's
> a current EXT4 file system.  Even if you use fdisk to mark sda2's
> partition type as 'RAID autodetect' instead of 'linux' (which is no
> longer necessary), the installer still detects the partition as having
> an EXT4 file system.
> Once this 'ghost' file system is detected, the installer gets really
> confused about what goes where and will try to write to sda2 during the
> install, even if you told the installer to ignore sda2 and just install
> to sda1.  This corrupts the current XFS file system on md0, and you're
> screwed.
> The overall flaw here is in the file system detection; you can't just
> assume that any sequence of bits you find sitting around on a hard drive
> are still current.
> A possible solution may be to first check for a RAID superblock, and if
> found that trumps all file system detection.  I imagine something
> similar will have to be done with partitions that are part of an LVM
> volume as well.
> -Alvin
> * In my case, I took a shortcut and created a degraded array (missing
> sda2), copied the data from sda2 to the array, added sda2 to the array,
> and resynched.   I don't think it makes a difference.
> --
> ubuntu-users mailing list
> ubuntu-users at lists.ubuntu.com
> Modify settings or unsubscribe at:
> https://lists.ubuntu.com/mailman/listinfo/ubuntu-users

Attention all--

Stories like this are what cause me to never even *consider adopting the
latest Ubuntu release until at least one month has passed.  I remember that
with 09.10 I decided to wait until January before considering to upgrade,
and I think that I may well end up doing something similar with 10.04.*

Please avoid sending me Word or PowerPoint attachments.
See http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/no-word-attachments.html &
http://www.openoffice.org (Nathan Bahn)
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <https://lists.ubuntu.com/archives/ubuntu-users/attachments/20100421/85baac7d/attachment.html>

More information about the ubuntu-users mailing list