My 500 GB LaCie Big Disk failed recently, after slightly more than twelve months of continous usage. It is attached to my NSLU2, which ran a subversion repository containing my most important data. Attaching the LaCie disk to various desktop/laptop computers running Windows or Linux showed that the LaCie's USB and Firewire controllers could not establish a connection to the computer. Hoping that the data on the disk was intact, and that just the controller was broken, I opened up the LaCie to find...
TWO disk drives, each 240 GB in size. The full horror of the situation started to become apparant to me. One disk had partition information on it, but the total size of the partitions on that drive totalled approximately 500 GB, larger than the physical size of that disk. The second disk had no partition information on it at all. Reading about failures of various LaCie Big Disks, it became apparant that the two disk drives are being used in a RAID-0 array, a highly unstable and unreliable system which makes data recovery extremely difficult, as data is spread across two drives. The only working solution which people had written about was to buy a new LaCie Big Disk, insert the drives from the old LaCie disk into the new box, and hope that the controller is sufficiently similar to the old controller to recognize the RAID-0 array. However, this was obviously an expensive solution which rewarded LaCie for a bad product.
Some software solutions are available, for Windows, which say they can reconstruct a RAID array. Some of these products claim to be able to recover data from ext2/ext3 partitions as well. I purchased a license to RAID reconstructor, which analyses the two disks (which I had attached to my main desktop computer) and determines the likely RAID-0 construction. It can then write the disk to an image, or directly to a large enough hard-drive. I purchased a Western Digital MyBook Premium Essential Edition II, which attaches via USB-2 or Firewire. This is not the cheapest or the fastest a solution, but I had run out of IDE slots on my computer! RAID Reconstructor took approximately 2.5 days (that's right!) to write all the data from the two 240 GB disk drives (almost 500 GB in total) to the Western Digital disk via Firewire 400. I had the Western Digital setup in RAID-1 format (which reduces it capacity to half). The written partitions are in ext3, which is not officially supported by the Western Digital MyBook Essential Edition II, but could be read when I booted up my desktop computer in Linux mode.
The ext2/ext3 was not recognized by my desktop computer in Windows mode, even though my Windows system has ext2/ext3 drivers. It was recognised by my media centre Windows machine, which does have ext2/ext3 (Ext2 IFS) drivers, but does not have Western Digital's RAID MyBook handling software installed.