Recovery of RAID and LVM2 Volumes

Raid and Logical Volume Managers are great, until you lose data.

The combination of Linux software RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) and LVM2 (Logical Volume Manager, version 2) offered in modern Linux operating systems offers both robustness and flexibility, but at the cost of complexity should you ever need to recover data from a drive formatted with software RAID and LVM2 partitions. I found this out the hard way when I recently tried to mount a system disk created with RAID and LVM2 on a different computer. The first attempts to read the filesystems on the disk failed in a frustrating manner.

I had attempted to put two hard disks into a small-form-factor computer that was really only designed to hold only one hard disk, running the disks as a mirrored RAID 1 volume. (I refer to that system as raidbox for the remainder of this article.) This attempt did not work, alas. After running for a few hours, it would power-off with an automatic thermal shutdown failure. I already had taken the system apart and started re-installing with only one disk when I realized there were some files on the old RAID volume that I wanted to retrieve.

Recovering the data would have been easy if the system did not use RAID or LVM2. The steps would have been to connect the old drive to another computer, mount the filesystem and copy the files from the failed volume. I first attempted to do so, using a computer I refer to as recoverybox, but this attempt met with frustration.

Why Was This So Hard?

Getting to the data proved challenging, both because the data was on a logical volume hidden inside a RAID device, and because the volume group on the RAID device had the same name as the volume group on the recovery system.

Some popular modern operating systems (for example, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4, CentOS 4 and Fedora Core 4) can partition the disk automatically at install time, setting up the partitions using LVM for the root device. Generally, they set up a volume group called VolGroup00, with two logical volumes, LogVol00 and LogVol01, the first for the root directory and the second for swap, as shown in Listing 1.

The original configuration for the software RAID device had three RAID 1 devices: md0, md1 and md2, for /boot, swap and /, respectively. The LVM2 volume group was on the biggest RAID device, md2. The volume group was named VolGroup00. This seemed like a good idea at the time, because it meant that the partitioning configuration for this box looked similar to how the distribution does things by default. Listing 2 shows how the software RAID array looked while it was operational.

If you ever name two volume groups the same thing, and something goes wrong, you may be faced with the same problem. Creating conflicting names is easy to do, unfortunately, as the operating system has a default primary volume group name of VolGroup00.



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Anonymous's picture

Count another life saved. In spite of destroying one HD out of a two HD LVM set, we still recovered some data thanks to these tips. Not too shabby.

Alternate recovery method

Garth Webb's picture

In my situation I did not have any explicit RAID arrays. I just had the standard RedHat FC5 configuration of a single VolGroup00 volume group with two logical volumes. I pulled that 20GB drive from my system recently and installed a 320GB drive in its place and reinstalled FC5. Because this new drive had the same VolGroup00 volume group created, I could not mount the 20 GB drive I had in a USB enclosure.

It seemed that most of this article was aimed at teasing out the lvm metadata and rewriting it to affect a volume group name change. Since all of the lvm tools require that you address the volume groups on your physical drives by their name, you enconter the naming conflict (how hard would it have been to include a rename command that took a physical path and renamed the volume there?).

Rather than fight that battle, I booted off my FC5 rescue CD (or any bootable tools CD with the LVM tools on it) and did a:

vgrename VolGroup00 Seagate320

The naming conflict didn't really matter here it seems. It just renamed whatever VolGroup00 it found first, which happened to be my new 320 G drive. I could then activate both with:

vgchange -ay

and then mount the volumes and copy, etc.

Nice recovery method

rbulling's picture

This looks like a much simpler way to do things, as long as you are not dealing with software RAID.

One thing you'd need to be careful about is making sure that you leave the new VolGroup00 named VolGroup00 at the end of the recovery process.

I suspect that using vgrename / vgscan / vgchange in combination would allow you to rename both volume groups to something else, then rename the newest VolGroup00 back to VolGroup00, so that the system would continue to work on boot.

You could probably use the same technique after you recovered the RAID configuration, and avoid the messy surgery on raw disk information. Next time I encounter this issue, I'll give that a try.

With my distro (Ubuntu), and

Anonymous's picture

With my distro (Ubuntu), and I suspect many others these days, drives are actually mounted by UUID, not by device name *or* by VG/LV name. So renaming the VG, even the one containing root, should *) not be a problem.

What I did to recover with a RAID1/LVM stack which blew one of the drives, was boot the ubuntu desktop liveCD, sudo apt-get install mdadm lvm2, mdadm --assemble /dev/mdX (be careful of raid devnames that occur in multiples -- ie run this on recoveryPC with old_drives, and disconnected recoveryPC_drives -- but it will simply scan the drives attached for appropriate partitions), then the lvm stuff will simply magically appear and you can vgrename easily if necessary. Once you've done that, connect all the drives and reboot, and after the mdadm.conf magic you will have all your data.

Incidentally, on my home server, raid1 OS disks, Raid5 storage disks, and LVM over the top, hell yeah that makes sense. On my desktop, not so much.

* Yeah. I haven't tested this explicitly.


Juan's picture

This article save my day!


Anders Båtstrand's picture

This worked great for me. Thanks for putting it together!

Doesn't quite work for me

jweage's picture

I just ran into a similar problem attempting to move a disk from one machine to another, with both disks configured as VolGroup00. I worked through your example, but when it came to restoring VolGroup01 (Listing 6), vgcfgrestore refused claiming it couldn't find a contents line. In my dump, there are 5 additional header lines before the VolGroup01 { line, which vgcfgrestore requires.

After I figured this out and restored the volume group, I could not get any logical volumes to show up. lvscan did not pick up the three logical volumes on the volume group! Those were also in the dd extracted file, so I had to add all of that back into the config file and do another vgcfgrestore, vgactivate.

This is really disconcerting, as this is likely to be a common problem. Unfortunately it seems that LVM is NOT the way to go for the typical workstation, unless someone really needs the ability to resize a volume.

Correction to Listing 6

rbulling's picture

It appears that Listing 6 got truncated somewhere along the line before publication.

The full Listing 6 should be:

Listing 6: Modified Volume Group Configuration File

VolGroup01 {
id = "xQZqTG-V4wn-DLeQ-bJ0J-GEHB-4teF-A4PPBv"
seqno = 1
status = ["RESIZEABLE", "READ", "WRITE"]
extent_size = 65536
max_lv = 0
max_pv = 0

physical_volumes {

pv0 {
id = "tRACEy-cstP-kk18-zQFZ-ErG5-QAIV-YqHItA"
device = "/dev/md2"

status = ["ALLOCATABLE"]
pe_start = 384
pe_count = 2365

# Generated by LVM2: Sun Feb 5 22:57:19 2006
logical_volumes {

LogVol00 {
id = "i17qXJ-Blzu-u1Dr-bSlR-0kNC-yuBH-lnbkSi"
status = ["READ", "WRITE", "VISIBLE"]
segment_count = 1

segment1 {
start_extent = 0
extent_count = 2364

type = "striped"
stripe_count = 1 # linear

stripes = [
"pv0", 0

contents = "Text Format Volume Group"
version = 1

description = ""

creation_host = "localhost.localdomain" # Linux localhost.localdomain 2.6.9-11.EL #1 Wed Jun 8 20:20:13 CDT 2005 i686
creation_time = 1139180239 # Sun Feb 5 22:57:19 2006

what if the machine your

dave's picture

what if the machine your using for recovery has raid itself?? when you append to mdadm.conf can md0,1,2 be renumbered to 3,4,5?

Renumbering md0 to md3, for example, works

rbulling's picture

You should be able to do that without any problems, as long as you explicitly keep the UUID signature in the renamed device line.

Experienced this exact

Neekofab's picture

Experienced this exact problem. moved a md0/md1 disk to a recovery workstation that already had an md0/md1 device. they could not coexist, and I could not find a way to move the additional md0/md1 devices to md2/md3. I ended up disconnecting the system md0/md1 devices, booting up with sysresccd and shoving the data over the network.


I ran into the same issue

Anonymous's picture

I ran into the same issue and solved it with a little reading about mdadm. All you have to do is create a new array from the old disks.

# mdadm -C /dev/md1 -l 1 -n 2 missing /dev/sdb1

Voila. Your raid array has now been moved from md0 to md1.

I ran into the same issue

Anonymous's picture

I ran into the same issue and solved it with a little reading about mdadm. All you have to do is create a new array from the old disks.

# mdadm -C /dev/md1 -l 1 -n 2 missing /dev/sdb1

Voila. Your raid array has now been moved from md0 to md1.

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