Storage

Administering removable storage with a snap-in

If your server is running Windows 2000 and has removable media storage devices, you?ll want to know how to deal with the interaction between the two. Talainia Posey introduces you to a variety of tasks with the Removable Storage snap-in.


In a previous Daily Drill Down, I explained how Windows 2000 interacts with removable storage devices. I also discussed some of the terminology that you’ll encounter when preparing and maintaining your removable storage devices. Now that you understand the basic idea and vocabulary, it’s time to begin working with your removable storage devices. In this Daily Drill Down, I’ll explain how to perform a variety of necessary tasks through the Removable Storage snap-in.

Before you begin
This Daily Drill Down is geared primarily toward users of tape drives and robotic tape systems. Before I get started, it’s important to remember that Windows 2000 treats all removable storage devices the same, whether it’s something as simple as a CD-ROM drive, a standard tape drive, or a full-blown robotic tape system. Therefore, some of the tasks that I’ll be demonstrating won’t be appropriate for all devices. As I progress through the Daily Drill Down, consider whether each of these tasks would be appropriate for your device before attempting the action.

Setting up libraries
Remember that the whole idea behind setting up removable storage devices is to make the devices work with removable storage-enabled applications. The first step in preparing your devices to work with your applications is to define which removable storage devices the applications may and may not use. Open the Microsoft Management Console by running the MMC command at the Run prompt from the Start menu. Once the Microsoft Management Console opens, from the main window select Add/Remove Snap-In. When the Add/Remove Snap-In window opens, click Add and then scroll down to Removable Storage Management. Highlight Removable Storage Management, click Add, make sure Local Computer is selected, and then click Finish. Once you click Finish, the new snap-in will be added; click Close on the Add Standalone Snap-In window and then click Close on the Add/Remove Snap-In window. With the new snap-in created, you will want to save this configuration. Select Save As from the Console drop-down menu and name the snap-in Removable Storage Media. To open your new snap-in, navigate through Start | Programs | Administrative Tools and select Removable Storage Media from the list. Beneath the Physical Locations container, select a removable storage device and right-click on it. Now, select the Properties command from the resulting context menu. When you do, you’ll see the device’s properties sheet. By default, the General tab will be selected, as shown in Figure A. At the bottom of the General tab, you’ll see a check box labeled Enable Library. If you want the device to be accessible to your removable storage-enabled applications, make sure that this check box is selected and click OK. If you don’t want your removable storage-enabled applications to use the device, deselect the Enable Library check box and click OK.

Figure A
Enable or disable a library through the General tab on a removable storage device’s properties sheet.


Building an inventory
Once you’ve decided which removable storage devices will and will not be accessible to remote storage-enabled applications, it’s time to start building an inventory of the contents of your remote storage library. The method that you’ll use to do this will really depend on what type of removable storage devices your network is set up to use. If your network uses standalone removable storage devices, such as CD-ROM drives or tape drives without tape loaders, then you don’t even have to worry about building an inventory. Windows 2000 is designed to automatically inventory a removable storage device every time that media is inserted or ejected.

If you’re using a robotic tape library or a tape auto changer, then there’s a good chance that you’ll want to reconfigure the way Windows takes an inventory. For example, you might tweak the process to make it faster or more comprehensive. You might also change the circumstances under which Windows builds an inventory. If you’ve got a standalone removable storage device, then you can still go through the motions of adjusting some of the settings I’m about to show you, but the impact of doing so will be minimal.

To control the way Windows 2000 builds an inventory, begin by opening the Removable Storage console. Navigate through the console tree to Console Root | Removable Storage (Local) | Physical Locations. Right-click on a removable storage device and select the Inventory command from the resulting context menu. Windows will build an inventory of the device’s contents. The method that Windows uses to complete the initial inventory will be based on the default inventory method. This means that if you’re inventorying a tape drive, the process could take a while.

Once you’ve established an initial inventory, you’re free to change the way that Windows builds the inventory. Navigate through the console tree to Console Root | Removable Storage (Local) | Physical Locations. Right-click on a removable storage device and select the Properties command from the resulting context menu. Once again, you’ll see the removable storage device’s properties sheet. On the properties sheet’s General tab, you’ll see an Inventory section, as shown in Figure A. This section contains an Inventory Method drop-down list that you can use to select the method that Windows uses to build an inventory for the device. The choices are None, Fast, and Full. If you choose None, then Windows will never take an automatic inventory; you’ll have to perform a manual inventory in the manner that I used earlier.

Fast inventory
By default, Windows is set to use the Fast inventory method. This method deserves a little explanation. As you may recall, I said that setting an inventory method was primarily designed for robotic tape systems. Setting the inventory method to Fast tells Windows to perform an inventory by using a bar code reader to determine which tapes are currently mounted. However, some robotic tape systems aren’t equipped with bar code readers. In such a case, rather than looking at bar codes, Windows simply looks at which slots have had media changes and performs a comprehensive inventory on those slots by reading the media’s identifier.

Full inventory
The final inventory method that’s available to you is the Full method. This method examines the media identifier of every media that’s available to the device. This process can take a long time, especially if you’ve got a lot of tapes. For example, imagine performing a full inventory on your entire tape library every time a tape has been changed and you’ll see why using this method is usually a bad idea.

Now that you know what a full inventory consists of, you may want to clear the check box just below the Inventory Method drop-down list. The check box is labeled Perform Full Inventory On Mount Failure. If this check box is selected, then any time Windows is unable to mount a requested media, for whatever reason, it will perform a full inventory, which could tie up your system for some time. If your tape library frequently has manual intervention and doesn’t use that many tapes, then using this option may not be a bad idea, though, since it may help Windows to locate a “missing� tape that could have simply been loaded into the wrong position within the library. Whether or not you should use the Perform Full Inventory On Mount Failure option depends on your own individual removable storage library and on what best meets your company’s needs.

Changing media types
Occasionally, you may end up having to support a removable storage device that accepts more than one type of media. If this is the case, you’ve got to make Windows recognize every type of media that the device supports and that you plan to use. To check on which types of media a device is set to accept, navigate through the console tree to Console Root | Removable Storage (Local) | Physical Locations. Right-click on a removable storage device and select the Properties command from the resulting context menu. This will display the device’s properties sheet. This time, instead of looking at the General tab, select the Media tab. The Media tab contains a Types window that displays the types of media that Windows is prepared to use in the device, as shown in Figure B. If all the media types you need to use are already on the list, then you’re good to go. However, if you’ll be using media not on the list, click the Change button. When you do, you’ll see a dialog box containing two windows. The window on the left contains a list of the media types that the device is prepared to accept. The list on the right contains a list of the media types that the device can support. To add support for a media type, select the desired media type from the column on the right and click Add. Likewise, to remove support for an undesirable media type, select the media type from the column on the left and click the Remove button. You can see an example of this dialog box in Figure C.

Figure B
The Media tab tells you which types of media a device is prepared to accept.


Figure C
The Change Media Types dialog box allows you to add support for alternate media types to a device.


Controlling individual drives within a library
So far in all of my screen captures, I’ve been working with standalone devices. If you missed part one of this series, you might be wondering why I’ve been referring to standalone drives as libraries. Windows is designed to treat all removable storage devices the same. On larger systems, a single device (or library) can actually have multiple drives. Therefore, the device is actually a library of drives. Whenever you’re dealing with a device that contains multiple drives, you may sometimes need to be able to control the drives individually. For example, suppose you have a tape library that contains four drives built into a single unit. Now suppose that one of the drives is damaged. By controlling the drives individually, you could disable the broken drive and leave the other three drives running rather than having to take the entire unit offline, as would be the case if you were unable to control the drives individually.

To enable or disable individual drives within a library, open the Removable Storage console and navigate through the console tree to Console Root | Removable Storage (Local) | Physical Locations | the device that you want to interact with | Drives. You’ll see a list of the drives that the unit contains appear in a list on the window on the right, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D
The Drives container lists the individual drives that a device contains.


Right-click on the drive you want to enable or disable and then select the Properties command from the resulting context menu. When you do, you’ll see the drive’s properties sheet. As you can see in Figure E, the properties sheet has quite a bit of useful information about the drive. At the bottom of the properties sheet, there’s an Enable Media check box. To take the media offline, deselect the check box and click OK.

Figure E
The Drive properties sheet displays information about a drive and allows you to take the drive offline.


Conclusion
In this Daily Drill Down, I explained how to perform a variety of common tasks through the Removable Storage snap-in. In part three, I’ll continue the discussion by discussing more of Windows 2000’s removable storage configuration requirements.

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