The tl;dr: how would I go about fixing a bad block on 1 disk in a RAID1 array?

But please read this whole thing for what I've tried already and possible errors in my methods. I've tried to be as detailed as possible, and I'm really hoping for some feedback

This is my situation: I have two 2TB disks (same model) set up in a RAID1 array managed by mdadm. About 6 months ago I noticed the first bad block when SMART reported it. Today I noticed more, and am now trying to fix it.

This HOWTO page seems to be the one article everyone links to to fix bad blocks that SMART is reporting. It's a great page, full of info, however it is fairly outdated and doesn't address my particular setup. Here is how my config is different:

  • Instead of one disk, I'm using two disks in a RAID1 array. One disk is reporting errors while the other is fine. The HOWTO is written with only one disk in mind, which bring up various questions such as 'do I use this command on the disk device or the RAID device'?
  • I'm using GPT, which fdisk does not support. I've been using gdisk instead, and I'm hoping that it is giving me the same info that I need

So, lets get down to it. This is what I have done, however it doesn't seem to be working. Please feel free to double check my calculations and method for errors. The disk reporting errors is /dev/sda:

# smartctl -l selftest /dev/sda
smartctl 5.42 2011-10-20 r3458 [x86_64-linux-3.4.4-2-ARCH] (local build)
Copyright (C) 2002-11 by Bruce Allen, http://smartmontools.sourceforge.net

SMART Self-test log structure revision number 1
Num  Test_Description    Status                  Remaining  LifeTime(hours)  LBA_of_first_error
# 1  Short offline       Completed: read failure       90%     12169         3212761936

With this, we gather that the error resides on LBA 3212761936. Following the HOWTO, I use gdisk to find the start sector to be used later in determining the block number (as I cannot use fdisk since it does not support GPT):

# gdisk -l /dev/sda
GPT fdisk (gdisk) version 0.8.5

Partition table scan:
  MBR: protective
  BSD: not present
  APM: not present
  GPT: present

Found valid GPT with protective MBR; using GPT.
Disk /dev/sda: 3907029168 sectors, 1.8 TiB
Logical sector size: 512 bytes
Disk identifier (GUID): CFB87C67-1993-4517-8301-76E16BBEA901
Partition table holds up to 128 entries
First usable sector is 34, last usable sector is 3907029134
Partitions will be aligned on 2048-sector boundaries
Total free space is 2014 sectors (1007.0 KiB)

Number  Start (sector)    End (sector)  Size       Code  Name
   1            2048      3907029134   1.8 TiB     FD00  Linux RAID

Using tunefs I find the blocksize to be 4096. Using this info and the calculuation from the HOWTO, I conclude that the block in question is ((3212761936 - 2048) * 512) / 4096 = 401594986.

The HOWTO then directs me to debugfs to see if the block is in use (I use the RAID device as it needs an EXT filesystem, this was one of the commands that confused me as I did not, at first, know if I should use /dev/sda or /dev/md0):

# debugfs
debugfs 1.42.4 (12-June-2012)
debugfs:  open /dev/md0
debugfs:  testb 401594986
Block 401594986 not in use

So block 401594986 is empty space, I should be able to write over it without problems. Before writing to it, though, I try to make sure that it, indeed, cannot be read:

# dd if=/dev/sda1 of=/dev/null bs=4096 count=1 seek=401594986
1+0 records in
1+0 records out
4096 bytes (4.1 kB) copied, 0.000198887 s, 20.6 MB/s

If the block could not be read, I wouldn't expect this to work. However, it does. I repeat using /dev/sda, /dev/sda1, /dev/sdb, /dev/sdb1, /dev/md0, and +-5 to the block number to search around the bad block. It all works. I shrug my shoulders and go ahead and commit the write and sync (I use /dev/md0 because I figured modifying one disk and not the other might cause issues, this way both disks overwrite the bad block):

# dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/md0 bs=4096 count=1 seek=401594986
1+0 records in
1+0 records out
4096 bytes (4.1 kB) copied, 0.000142366 s, 28.8 MB/s
# sync 

I would expect that writing to the bad block would have the disks reassign the block to a good one, however running another SMART test shows differently:

# 1  Short offline       Completed: read failure       90%     12170         3212761936

Back to square 1. So basically, how would I fix a bad block on 1 disk in a RAID1 array? I'm sure I've not done something correctly...

Thanks for your time and patience.


I've tried to run an long SMART test, with the same LBA returning as bad (the only difference is it reports 30% remaining rather than 90%):

SMART Self-test log structure revision number 1
Num  Test_Description    Status                  Remaining  LifeTime(hours)  LBA_of_first_error
# 1  Extended offline    Completed: read failure       30%     12180         3212761936
# 2  Short offline       Completed: read failure       90%     12170         3212761936

I've also used badblocks with the following output. The output is strange and seems to be miss-formatted, but I tried to test the numbers outputed as blocks but debugfs gives an error

# badblocks -sv /dev/sda
Checking blocks 0 to 1953514583
Checking for bad blocks (read-only test): 1606380968ne, 3:57:08 elapsed. (0/0/0 errors)
1606380969ne, 3:57:39 elapsed. (1/0/0 errors)
1606380970ne, 3:58:11 elapsed. (2/0/0 errors)
1606380971ne, 3:58:43 elapsed. (3/0/0 errors)
Pass completed, 4 bad blocks found. (4/0/0 errors)
# debugfs
debugfs 1.42.4 (12-June-2012)
debugfs:  open /dev/md0
debugfs:  testb 1606380968
Illegal block number passed to ext2fs_test_block_bitmap #1606380968 for block bitmap for /dev/md0
Block 1606380968 not in use

Not sure where to go from here. badblocks definitely found something, but I'm not sure what to do with the information presented...


More commands and info.

I feel like an idiot forgetting to include this originally. This is SMART values for /dev/sda. I have 1 Current_Pending_Sector, and 0 Offline_Uncorrectable.

SMART Attributes Data Structure revision number: 16
Vendor Specific SMART Attributes with Thresholds:
  1 Raw_Read_Error_Rate     0x002f   100   100   051    Pre-fail  Always       -       166
  2 Throughput_Performance  0x0026   055   055   000    Old_age   Always       -       18345
  3 Spin_Up_Time            0x0023   084   068   025    Pre-fail  Always       -       5078
  4 Start_Stop_Count        0x0032   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       75
  5 Reallocated_Sector_Ct   0x0033   252   252   010    Pre-fail  Always       -       0
  7 Seek_Error_Rate         0x002e   252   252   051    Old_age   Always       -       0
  8 Seek_Time_Performance   0x0024   252   252   015    Old_age   Offline      -       0
  9 Power_On_Hours          0x0032   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       12224
 10 Spin_Retry_Count        0x0032   252   252   051    Old_age   Always       -       0
 11 Calibration_Retry_Count 0x0032   252   252   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
 12 Power_Cycle_Count       0x0032   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       75
181 Program_Fail_Cnt_Total  0x0022   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       1646911
191 G-Sense_Error_Rate      0x0022   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       12
192 Power-Off_Retract_Count 0x0022   252   252   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
194 Temperature_Celsius     0x0002   064   059   000    Old_age   Always       -       36 (Min/Max 22/41)
195 Hardware_ECC_Recovered  0x003a   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
196 Reallocated_Event_Count 0x0032   252   252   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
197 Current_Pending_Sector  0x0032   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       1
198 Offline_Uncorrectable   0x0030   252   100   000    Old_age   Offline      -       0
199 UDMA_CRC_Error_Count    0x0036   200   200   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
200 Multi_Zone_Error_Rate   0x002a   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       30
223 Load_Retry_Count        0x0032   252   252   000    Old_age   Always       -       0
225 Load_Cycle_Count        0x0032   100   100   000    Old_age   Always       -       77

# mdadm -D /dev/md0
        Version : 1.2
  Creation Time : Thu May  5 06:30:21 2011
     Raid Level : raid1
     Array Size : 1953512383 (1863.01 GiB 2000.40 GB)
  Used Dev Size : 1953512383 (1863.01 GiB 2000.40 GB)
   Raid Devices : 2
  Total Devices : 2
    Persistence : Superblock is persistent

    Update Time : Tue Jul  3 22:15:51 2012
          State : clean
 Active Devices : 2
Working Devices : 2
 Failed Devices : 0
  Spare Devices : 0

           Name : server:0  (local to host server)
           UUID : e7ebaefd:e05c9d6e:3b558391:9b131afb
         Events : 67889

    Number   Major   Minor   RaidDevice State
       2       8        1        0      active sync   /dev/sda1
       1       8       17        1      active sync   /dev/sdb1

As per one of the answers: it would seem I did switch seek and skip for dd. I was using seek as that's what is used with the HOWTO. Using this command causes dd to hang: # dd if=/dev/sda1 of=/dev/null bs=4096 count=1 skip=401594986

Using blocks around that one (..84, ..85, ..87, ..88) seems to work just fine, and using /dev/sdb1 with block 401594986 reads just fine as well (as expected as that disk passed SMART testing). Now, the question that I have is: When writing over this area to reassign the blocks, do I use /dev/sda1 or /dev/md0? I don't want to cause any issues with the RAID array by writing directly to one disk and not having the other disk update.


Writing to the block directly produced filesystem errors. I've chosen an answer that solved the problem quickly:

# 1  Short offline       Completed without error       00%     14211         -
# 2  Extended offline    Completed: read failure       30%     12244         3212761936

Thanks to everyone who helped. =)

  • You were able to read the block, so it is not damaged. Hence, no reallocated sectors. I checked your fs block calculation and it seems legit. When I did bad block reallocations, I found out that sometimes smart short test did not report the offending block correctly. Meanwhile, you can run the long offline test, smartctl -t long /dev/sda and see if the LBA of the first error changes. – Jari Laamanen Jul 3 '12 at 23:19
  • 1
    Try /sbin/badblocks -sv /dev/sda to check the disk. – jippie Jul 4 '12 at 7:43
  • I've done both suggestions, and have updated the post accordingly. Still stuck. =/ – blitzmann Jul 5 '12 at 4:13
  • Does smartctl report a non-zero Current_Pending_Sector count? Is Offline_Uncorrectable non-zero? – mgorven Jul 5 '12 at 4:26
  • Please add the array status to the question: sudo mdadm -D /dev/md0 – psusi Jul 5 '12 at 17:58

All these "poke the sector" answers are, quite frankly, insane. They risk (possibly hidden) filesystem corruption. If the data were already gone, because that disk stored the only copy, it'd be reasonable. But there is a perfectly good copy on the mirror.

You just need to have mdraid scrub the mirror. It'll notice the bad sector, and rewrite it automatically.

# echo 'check' > /sys/block/mdX/md/sync_action    # use 'repair' instead for older kernels

You need to put the right device in there (e.g., md0 instead of mdX). This will take a while, as it does the entire array by default. On a new enough kernel, you can write sector numbers to sync_min/sync_max first, to limit it to only a portion of the array.

This is a safe operation. You can do it on all of your mdraid devices. In fact, you should do it on all your mdraid devices, regularly. Your distro likely ships with a cronjob to handle this, maybe you need to do something to enable it?

Script for all RAID devices on the system

A while back, I wrote this script to "repair" all RAID devices on the system. This was written for older kernel versions where only 'repair' would fix the bad sector; now just doing check is sufficient (repair still works fine on newer kernels, but it also re-copies/rebuilds parity, which isn't always what you want, especially on flash drives)


save="$(tput sc)";
clear="$(tput rc)$(tput el)";
for sync in /sys/block/md*/md/sync_action; do
    md="$(echo "$sync" | cut -d/ -f4)"

    # check current state and get it repairing.
    read current < "$sync"
    case "$current" in
            echo 'repair' > "$sync"
            echo "WARNING: $md already repairing"
            echo "WARNING: $md checking, aborting check and starting repair"
            echo 'idle' > "$sync"
            echo 'repair' > "$sync"
            echo "ERROR: $md in unknown state $current. ABORT."
            exit 1

    echo -n "Repair $md...$save" >&2
    read current < "$sync"
    while [ "$current" != "idle" ]; do
        read stat < "$cmpl"
        echo -n "$clear $stat" >&2
        sleep 1
        read current < "$sync"
    echo "$clear done." >&2;

for dev in /dev/sd?; do
    echo "Starting offline data collection for $dev."
    smartctl -t offline "$dev"

If you want to do check instead of repair, then this (untested) first block should work:

    case "$current" in
            echo 'check' > "$sync"
            echo "NOTE: $md $current already in progress."
            echo "ERROR: $md in unknown state $current. ABORT."
            exit 1
  • Thank you for this. I recently returned to this problem hoping to finally solve it. I did write to the /dev/md0 block and I did have filesystem issues, but thankfully after a few hours of terror and booting into recovery shells all was repairs with no dataloss. I will try your method first and hopefully this will rid me of the pending sector. =) – blitzmann Sep 30 '12 at 4:08
  • How can you tell when the scrub is complete? Will cat /sys/block/mdX/md/sync_action read 'idle' when done? – Jon Cram Feb 12 '14 at 17:02
  • @JonCram yes, and you can watch the status by cat /proc/mdstat or if you're wanting to script it, /sys/…/sync_completed – derobert Feb 12 '14 at 19:22
  • So that rewrites the data using the RAID reconstruction to a different block, but the drive still has bad block that it thinks it can't remap right? So the smart data will keep showing it? Or does the RAID check know to write that block? – Tim T Mar 12 at 5:06
  • @TimT the RAID check will notice the bad sector(s), and write the data back to the same sectors (RAID can get the data from the redundancy). The disk will then either decide the sector is actually OK, or internally remap it. Pending sectors in SMART should go down. Offline uncorrectable should too, possibly after the next scan. Reallocated event count may go up (if reallocation occurred), spare sectors may go down. – derobert Mar 12 at 5:52

I've just had pretty much the same problem with a RAID1 array. The bad sector was right at the beginning of one of the partitions - sector 16 of /dev/sdb2. I followed the instructions above: after verifying that logical block 2 was not in use by the file system and being careful to get dd seek and skip the right way around, and zeroed out 1 file system block:

# dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/md0 bs=4096 count=1 seek=2

What did this do? It did not fix the bad sector. This, I now know, is because /dev/md0 does not map directly on to /dev/sdb2, you have to take account of the RAID DATA OFFSET! More on this below. What it did do was a small but potentially devastating turd on my file system. It turns out that logical block 2 of /dev/md0 contained useful filesystem metadata and was fine on both disks, until I crapped on both copies by writing to /dev/md0. Luckily, e2fsck -y /dev/md0 fixed the problem (after spewing an alarming amount of output) with no apparent data loss. Lesson learned: if debugfs icheck says 'block not found', it doesn't necessarily mean the corresponding sectors are not used.

Back to the data offset: use mdadm to find the offset like this:

# mdadm --examine /dev/sdb2
          Magic : a92b4efc
        Version : 1.2
    Feature Map : 0x0
     Array UUID : ef7934b9:24696df9:b89ff03e:b4e5a05b
           Name : XXXXXXXX
  Creation Time : Sat Sep  1 01:20:22 2012
     Raid Level : raid1
   Raid Devices : 2

 Avail Dev Size : 1953241856 (931.38 GiB 1000.06 GB)
     Array Size : 976620736 (931.38 GiB 1000.06 GB)
  Used Dev Size : 1953241472 (931.38 GiB 1000.06 GB)
    Data Offset : 262144 sectors
   Super Offset : 8 sectors
          State : clean
    Device UUID : f3b5d515:446d4225:c2191fa0:9a9847b8

    Update Time : Thu Sep  6 12:11:24 2012
       Checksum : abb47d8b - correct
         Events : 54

    Device Role : Active device 0
    Array State : AA ('A' == active, '.' == missing)

In this case, the data offset is 262144 sectors of 512 bytes. If you dd from /dev/md0 and compare it with data from the raw partition with an offset of 131072K, you'll find they match. So in my case, logical block 2 (sectors 16--23) of /dev/sdb2 are not even in the file system; they're in the RAID superblock, which you can read about here: https://raid.wiki.kernel.org/index.php/RAID_superblock_formats - for version 1.2, it consists of 256 bytes + 2 bytes per device in the array, all starting 4096 bytes in, so in my case, the bad sector was not used. The corresponding sectors of /dev/sdc2 (the other half of the RAID1 array) are zero so I figured it would be safe to do this:

# dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdb2 bs=4096 count=1 seek=2

It worked!

  • OP here. Thank you for this information. When this problem arose for me, I took the leap and zero'd out the block on the /dev/md0 level. Bad idea, as I happened to crap my filesystem out as well. Thanksfully after an ungodly amount of time repairing, all seemed well with no dataloss. But with the initial panic I completely forgot about this post. I recently set my server up in my new apartment, and this is one of the things on my todo list once again, and I thank you for your insight into the problem. I'll update the OP when i get around to digging at this a little more. =) – blitzmann Sep 30 '12 at 3:58

If runing debian you most likely have a job in /etc/cron.d/mdadm . This will run /usr/share/mdadm/checkarray --cron --all --idle --quiet first sunday of every month. Run that manually when you get uncorrectable hardware errors to expedite the rewrite.

  • Well, when running it manually you probably want to leave off --cron. – derobert Aug 13 '16 at 7:34

You mixed up your dd arguments. seek causes it to seek to the specified offset in the output. You wanted to skip blocks on the input.

  • Thank you! I've updated the original post to include data from this. If you could tell me how to fix the block from here, I think I will grant you answer. (I am uncertain if I should write directly to /dev/sda1/ or use /dev/md0 to overwrite block) =) – blitzmann Jul 6 '12 at 4:15
  • @Ryan, writing to md0 should be the way to go, though sda1 should also work. – psusi Jul 6 '12 at 13:35

If you have a sw-raid1 and you write data to one of the members directly, you will have a corrupted raid immediately. DO NOT write data to a sdaX or sdbX if they are part of a mdX. If you write to mdX, you will have the data copied to both drives, if you read from mdX, you will have the data read from one of the drives..

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