Apple APFS and Removing Drives From Your JBOD RAID

JBOD drive case copies data on Apple APFS JBOD RAID

I did a bit of searching for if its possible to remove a failing drive from an Apple JBOD RAID. Its all theoretically possible. I’ll also admit having some ZFS envy. MacZFS turned out to be a bit of a bust in terms of usability. I couldn’t format a dataset volume that without error in Disk Utility and I wasn’t going to get into deep terminal work to make it work. Going back to Disk Utility and just messing around with a few drives formatting them in various way, I finally figured out how to remove a failing volume in a JBOD RAID.

First a few clarifications. You have to format the JBOD using OS X. If you did it via drive case firmware, this isn’t going to work because there is no access to the underlying utility or drive controller.

Another is that you need to have enough free space in the JBOD to hold whatever is on the drive you want to remove. If you want to remove a 6TB drive then you need at least 6TB of free space to do this successfully. Having a 5 to 10% margin of additional space would be a good idea for just in case things don’t fit down to the last few bytes.  Workaround if you don’t is to add another drive to the JBOD to give it space to internally shuffle the data around in the next steps.

Cost of failure : you loose all your data on the JBOD if the operation fails. This is a rough one but I think Apple’s diskutil is still a work in progress in this area. It apparently does check the space situation but if you try this and it throw up a warning there isn’t enough space, I’d take that warning seriously.

Odd limitations :

  1. Disk Utility requires that there be at least 3 drives in the JBOD for this to work. If you have just 2 it won’t let you remove a volume. So you may need to add a drive just to remove the other one.
  2. Disk Utility only allows you to remove the last mounted drive in the JBOD set. I. know this seems weird since you really should be able to remove any volume except maybe the first one which holds the directory and other RAID metadata. There is a workaround.

Workaround: Figure out which way your drive case or dock is physically mounting the drives, top to bottom or bottom to top, left to right or right to left. How ? unmount the RAID, power down the case and remove a drive at the very top or bottom, right or left. Power the case up and see which drive is now reported missing in Disk Utility. If its the top most disk in the list, the drive on the other end is the last. Knowing this, unmount the drive although its probably not mounted right now, power it down. If you know the physical volume you want to remove due to say, SMART error or simply making noise, move it to what will be the last physical drive slot to mount. Fire everything up and it should mount.

Now one thing I have seen is that with JBODs if you don’t have the drives in the order they RAID was built, it might not mount. Put the drives back in with appropriate power and unmounting. Once it mounts again, power down and move the drive back. On second tries I’ve had this work with seeming random order of drives. In particular maybe the actual issue is getting the first drive of the set into the first slot to mount and then it doesn’t matter.

Once you have the drive you want to remove in the last physical slot to mount and have the RAID mounted.

  1. go to Disk Utility, Select the RAID set
  2. In the view of the volumes that are in the set, select the last one in the list which is presumably the drive you want to remove. If not, unmount, power down, swap drives and repeat until it is.
  3. If the selection is good, hit the Minus button on the bottom left of the window

  4. A warning will come up about the operation may fail and you’ll loose everything if there isn’t enough free space, Click Remove
  5. Wait.

  6. Disk Utility will now copy any data from the drive to be removed back onto free space across the other drives. This may take quite a few hours depending on your case interface and drive speed plus how much data needs to actually be moved around. If you can use an eSATA or USB 3.1+ interface it’ll be a lot faster than USB2 which could take days. Unfortunately Disk Utility doesn’t provide any sort of progress bar, estimate to completion or any other indication how long it will take. You simply repeat step 5 until its done. Fair warning – don’t write anything to the RAID while this operation is going on. Given that things like large block sizes can inflate how much space small files eat up don’t start this operation unless you have a little margin on free space.

If all went well, you should till have your data and the drive you wanted to remove can now be physically removed from the case and everything works.

What if it didn’t go well ? That happened to me the first time where the operation ended after 8hrs of moving bits around. Disk Utility simply displayed “An error has occurred -69000 something”. DU also was beachballed requiring a force quit. I rebooted since DU was in a hopeless state.

Once I got back up, I opened up the array I was trying to trim the drive from. I decided, as a guess there wasn’t enough free space and that DU had already shuffled most of the data off the drive I wanted to remove. I found a project using 1.15tb of space and deleted it. I had 2 other copies of it and this was the headline restore version. It could go as could a few hundred gigs of other dead projects. I now how another 2tb of free space and decided to try again. Note : NO data loss despite DU’s dire warning there would be. My good fortune may not be yours, proceed with caution.

With more space free, I opened DU yet one more time. I set up the remove operation and went to bed. I have no idea how long it ran for, at least 20 mins. In the morning it was done, no error message. In fact DU said it was safe to remove the physical volume now. The JBOD I had removed the drive from showed the correct volume size. I had to reboot again because, well, I actually did remove the drive from the case and that caused DU to again beachball. Once restored, everything was good. I could now reuse the drive from the original array an move it into the new one. Yes folks, this does work with some tedious time and effort. You might need to decide if the time and risk is worth it versus just buying a new drive or several and copying everything over. That is of course assuming things are in working order. If this is a salvage operation, there isn’t any backup and you are trying to save the data this process might be worth while – add a new drive, mess around until the failing drive mounts last, then use DU to remove it from the set.

Leaving The Cloud Borg I Mean SubscriptionWare

Subscription Warning Adobe

I have finally let go of my subscriptionware. It took planning and nearly two years to really get myself free. Ok, maybe a year or so of actual doing from the time I decided that one way, the cloud would turn into a storm which would then go away.

I now look at project files without fancy icons and their extensions are now meaningless to my finder windows. However thats not unlike my old FCP 7, Combustion and a few other app project files too. They just left the useful realm 5 or 10 years ago. Now its the turn of Adobe apps to do the same.

How could I do that after 20 years ?

After starting with these apps well before the Cloud or even Creative Suite was a thing ?

Lets start in the begining. Imagine these apps were sold with actual perpetual license keys that didn’t require a dial home to the mothership to ask if it was ok to run. All you needed was the OS running, even within a VM to run. While they did check on the local network to see if too many copies where running you could just move your files around on 100mb zip disks. Life was in some ways simpler. However we eventually networked out machines because that was so much more productive and the licenses thing worked itself out too.

All went pretty well for a long time. Some apps like After Effects was love and hate depending on how stable it was or if it had some bug that killed your project. For many years I used combustion because it did proper 3D space without intersection render errors and reflections. The color corrector was killer as was the keyer. Of course AE had any number of cool plugins like particular Combustion couldn’t run, but if you didn’t need those for your project that was doing tons of 3D planes in space it didn’t matter. I still used AE happily.

Then came premiere the NLE way before it was Pro. It did real layers and could handle a 3cam edit unlike my Media100’s. In those days it wasn’t pretty but it worked. Eventually along came premiere pro. I saw alpha builds of it, then betas. UI mockups. It was a very fun day to watch it come to life, especially when the real time effects powered by the GPU started. That first nVidia card, a Quadro something I forget had all of 192 cores on it ! A joke by todays standards but the great code written for it allowed that card to really fire up a new revolution in editing for everyone. Multiple layers of RT HD with some effects without expensive and dedicated hardware was a breakthrough to be sure. Certainly FCP 4.5 had some realtime effects at least on mac.PC users they had to wait until Prem Pro released if they didn’t want to buy an expensive card to enable the same thing.

Enough of memory lane even if it was a fun visit for a bit. In the reality of today and the last few years the rise of subsciptionware has brought some serious concerns to mind. Those mostly center around being able to access old project files and even some media formats. When you can’t open a project in your current app, you say well just install the old one. Sure. Except unless you kept the old apps installed, or you kept the old installers themselves saved somewhere you might not be able to. When a legal pissing match means you can’t get those installers are you going to the darkweb to get them ? Take your risks with malware in them ? no. Hope some one you know can help you out ? not a reliable way to run a business. Then what happens if the licensing falls anyway ?

Seeing this problem alone prompted me years ago to always save projects out as EDL’s and FCP XMLs for safety but that only goes so far in having a project open as you left it. Its certainly far better than a manual reconform. The truth is I’m locked out of my projects. Sure I could either re-up for a month or even try a trial, until the project is too old to open thing happens and you can’t install something a few versions back to bridge the open and save newer situation.

There is also the other reality, life changes. You retire, quit the video biz, change careers, lifestyles, you just aren’t making much money and can’t afford it, or you choose not to spend you money on something you only use a couple times a year – the $600 subscription just doesn’t make sense or economic return. Thats a plane ticket or two to someplace warm in winter for a week. How do you want to spend it ?

So I’m done. I spent time actually buying apps with perpetual licenses. Sure I pay the occasional update fee but so far the cost has been vastly lower. I bought Resolve years ago for grading all my edits done in Prem Pro so moving my editing over had been easy. I have both FCP X and Logic X for audio but recently did a crossgrade to CuBase for audio work. Likewise Affinity Photo is a much cleaner, better looking UI, faster loading app without all the bloat of PS. I haven’t bought Affinity Designer to replace AI because I had very little need for vector based output or fixing IL files these days, but if course if the project happens its a cheap easy purchase for the day or two I need it for. I moved to Phase One for photo processing and I’m pretty happy with that. I can of course pretty much leave my setup alone now and use it as long as the hardware works. I’m not stuck in a vicious cycle of updating everything from OS to apps to hardware just because. Apps have gotten pretty stable and feature deep. While new format support is probably going to be a fact of life, there are ways of working with that if you have to. Freedom, control and choice are good.

Its A live site

UPDATE 4 CONTENT ! selectively putting material online. sorting through 900 posts and tossing what doesn’t matter. this has turned into an all manual update. I rather luckily found my missing images folder for all posts. Some lens and audio gear reviews, the rest, I think, sadly for better or worse is now trash.

Update 3 First content !

Update 2 Getting happy with the overall look of the site. Need to add some content now from the old site. Thats going to be a tedious copy and paste so I’ll only be bringing over the most important reviews and videos. Then to get all the affiliate stuff working again as it was all broken in the change over.

Update 1 Working on getting the style of the site built. You can’t imagine how miserable it is to edit a template thats roughly what you want into exactly what you want. Its almost worth starting from scratch… but, well, I’m working away at the CSS and layout now. getting there.

Content back soon I hope. nothing important for now.

Dear Spammers, Don’t Bother. 100% removal of your posts.