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Issue #720: May 9-15, 2021

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Geek Note: The following came about as a result of a reader query and subsequent e-mail exchange.  I took a few liberties in editing to present them as a question and an answer, but I don’t want to falsely take credit for the solution.  In the end, the reader solved his own problem, and was kind enough to share his fix with me.  I decided to use this in the column because I think this is good information to pass along in case any of you want to perform a similar task on your computer.

• • •

 Q: I made the terrible mistake of creating a Storage Space using three x 4TB hard drives. It was trouble from the get go with every step of the process requiring online searches to resolve issues all along the way. Eventually, I was successful in creating a 12TB Storage Space. Or so I thought.

 When I exceed 4TB of data on the Storage Space it reported that the Disk was full, although by all indications I had 8TB of unused space. It seemed that Storage Space offers more problems than solutions, so I decided to undo what I created.

 Following the online solutions, I removed each disk from the Storage Space. At least I thought I did. I wound up with one drive that is usable and the other two show up as “Storage Pool” but do not show up in File Explorer, nor do they show up on the “Storage Space” app. They only way to see them is through Computer Management but that’s it. I can see them but I can’t change them.

 I cannot reformat these two HDD using Computer Management or any other function available for “normal” HDDs. They’re basically bricks. I removed the two HDD from my computer and connected them each to my wife’s computer using a USB connector. They show up as “Storage Pool” on her computer as well and I cannot access them for data storage, reformat them or use them as I could another HDD.

 I’ve done online searches to see what could be done get the two HDD to become “normal” HDD, but I have not found a solution other than using the “Storage Space” app to remove the drives. The only recourse I can think of is to have the drives degaussed.  Is there an easy fix or should I go nuclear?

 – Roy S.
Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

A: My initial reaction was to think that Roy was trying to set-up some 3rd-party hardware, such as a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device.  But he was pretty clear that he had put the drives inside the case of his computer.  Most modern motherboards have extra hard drive connections, and usually empty drive bays in the case, the exceptions being laptops, and exceptionally small-format computers.  I was also rather intrigued as to his use of the term “Storage Space” with capital letters, as if it was a proper name.    

I wrote back to Roy, and asked him for more information, including the brand and model of the hard drives, and what method he was using to create the “Storage Space” to which he referred.  When he replied, he referred me to the Windows Control Panel, which does indeed have an entry called “Storage Spaces” which leads to a setup for what Windows calls Storage Pools.  The difference between the terms is subtle, but actually quite distinct.

A Storage Pool is a logical grouping of drives so that they appear as a single large virtual drive.  A Storage Space is a virtualized disk (or disks in a Storage Pool) that are used as if they are a physical hard drive.  As you can see in Roy’s text (much of which I had to trim for brevity) he ran into a number of problems in the process of creating his end-goal of grouping and virtualizing his three drives.

As I said above, this is an advanced feature of Windows, and isn’t for everybody, so use caution if you think you might like to walk the path that Roy did.  In the process of working through the process, Roy managed to get himself into a position where Windows wouldn’t even show the drives, much less allow him to format them.  This is not a normal part of the process of building a Storage Pool.  I’m happy to say that Roy avoided the “nuclear option” and ended up solving this problem by teaching himself how to use PowerShell, another advanced Windows feature, which is something like Command Prompt’s larger, far more powerful big brother.  As Roy put it, “I poked around the internet and found out how to reformat hard drives in Powershell and that did the trick.”  Roy appears to be a very resourceful reader!

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