Assembling md arrays at boot time.
These notes apply to 2.6 kernels only and, in some cases,
to 2.6.15 or later.
Md arrays can be assembled at boot time using the 'autodetect' functionality
which is triggered by storing components of an array in partitions of type
'fd' - Linux Raid Autodetect.
They can also be assembled by specifying the component devices in a
kernel parameter such as
In this case, /dev/md0 will be assembled (because of the 0) from the listed
These mechanisms, while useful, do not provide complete functionality
and are unlikely to be extended. The preferred way to assemble md
arrays at boot time is using 'mdadm'. To assemble an array which
contains the root filesystem, mdadm needs to be run before that
filesystem is mounted, and so needs to be run from an initial-ram-fs.
It is how this can work that is the primary focus of this document.
It should be noted up front that only the array containing the root
filesystem should be assembled from the initramfs. Any other arrays
should be assembled under the control of files on the main filesystem
as this enhanced flexibility and maintainability.
A minimal initramfs for assembling md arrays can be created using 3
files and one directory. These are:
/bin/mdadm statically linked mdadm binary
/bin/busybox statically linked busybox binary
/bin/sh hard link to /bin/busybox
/init a shell script which call mdadm appropriately.
An example init script is:
echo 'Auto-assembling boot md array'
mount -t proc proc /proc
if [ -n "$rootuuid" ]
elif [ -n "$mdminor" ]
echo "Using $arg"
mdadm -Acpartitions $arg --auto=part /dev/mda
mount /dev/mda1 /root || mount /dev/mda /root
exec chroot . /sbin/init < /dev/console > /dev/console 2>&1
This could certainly be extended, or merged into a larger init script.
Though tested and in production use, it is not presented here as
"The Right Way" to do it, but as a useful example.
Some key points are:
/proc needs to be mounted so that /proc/partitions can be accessed
by mdadm, and so that /proc/filesystems can be accessed by mount.
The uuid of the array can be passed in as a kernel parameter
(rootuuid). As the kernel doesn't use this value, it is made available
in the environment for /init
If no uuid is given, we default to md0, (--super-minor=0) which is a
commonly used to store the root filesystem. This may not work in
We assemble the array as a partitionable array (/dev/mda) even if we
end up using the whole array. There is no cost in using the partitionable
interface, and in this context it is simpler.
We try mounting both /dev/mda1 and /dev/mda as they are the most like
part of the array to contain the root filesystem.
The --auto flag is given to mdadm so that it will create /dev/md*
files automatically. This is needed as /dev will not contain
and md files, and udev will not create them (as udev only created device
files after the device exists, and mdadm need the device file to create
the device). Note that the created md files may not exist in /dev
of the mounted root filesystem. This needs to be deal with separately
from mdadm - possibly using udev.
We do not need to create device files for the components which will
be assembled into /dev/mda. mdadm finds the major/minor numbers from
/proc/partitions and creates a temporary /dev file if one doesn't already
The script "mkinitramfs" which is included with the mdadm distribution
can be used to create a minimal initramfs. It creates a file called
'init.cpio.gz' which can be specified as an 'initrd' to lilo or grub
(or whatever boot loader is being used).
Resume from an md array
If you want to make use of the suspend-to-disk/resume functionality in Linux,
and want to have swap on an md array, you will need to assemble the array
before resume is possible.
However, because the array is active in the resumed image, you do not want
anything written to any drives during the resume process, such as superblock
updates or array resync.
This can be achieved in 2.6.15-rc1 and later kernels using the
'start_readonly' module parameter.
Simply include the command
echo 1 > /sys/module/md_mod/parameters/start_ro
before assembling the array with 'mdadm'.
You can then echo
or whatever is appropriate to /sys/power/resume to trigger the resume.