CentOS 6 – Blocked by the installer not quite doing things as I want

RHEL 6 has been out for some time and promises some nice new features. Finally CentOS 6 has been released so I was looking forward to getting it installed and upgrade my existing system.

This is currently running CentOS 5.6 and has quite a few services on it.  The best way to upgrade is usually to do a fresh install and then migrate existing over existing services. That’s what I was planning to do.  I only have a single PC so was trying to figure out the best way to go about this and at the same time minimise downtime.

I use LVM quite a lot. It makes worrying about which disk is used and where the partitions are located much less of an issue. My current setup is quite simple: 2 disks with 2 partitions each. sda1 holds /boot, sdb1 is free. sda2/sdb2 are configured in RAID-1 and hold a single volume group.

Plan A

My first plan was to use a free USB disk drive and install CentOS 6 onto that, leave some space on the USB disk and migrate the CentOS 5 volume group to the USB disk. Then I could move the CentOS 6 installation to the hard disks and complete the migration. That should have left me with the option during this process of booting CentOS 5 or CentOS 6 and migrating data from one system to another.

Plan 1 worked in the sense I was able to complete the install of CentOS 6 on the USB disk but I couldn’t get the installer to install grub on /dev/sdc (MBR): it insisted on doing it on sdc1 which of course the BIOS just ignored.  So I couldn’t get CentOS 6 to boot. I could have spent some more time fiddling around with this but then came up with what I thought was a better plan B.

Plan B

Plan B was simpler: given my setup I had a free partition I could boot from (/dev/sdb1) and also an existing volume group where I could put the new partitions. There was plenty of free space in the existing Volume Group so this should be much easier.  However, this does not work. The CentOS 6 installer shows the disks correctly and it is possible to edit /dev/sdb1 to be /boot. It also shows you the previously created Volume Group. However, it does not show you the existing logical volumes inside that volume group. The list is empty. So I could not tell it to reuse my swap partition, or to use /home from my existing home partition, and I was also fearful of creating new partitions and have the installer perhaps recreate the VG and thus wipe out my existing system.  So I have reported the problem to the CentOS team, though this looks like a bug with RHEL 6, and will play around further to see if I can get this to work.

This makes me wish I had a bigger environment at home.  In a work environment you can afford to install a new server, and set it up, migrating existing functionality from the current one, and then finally switch over. I don’t have the hardware to do that so upgrading is quite a bit more work, at least as I want to minimise downtime.

So I will continue to work out how to best to get the CentOS 6 install running and then migrate everything over.

2011-07-30 Update

After further investigation Plan A seemed to be a problem of my own making. The installer first shows you a list of disks and then asks which one you want to install the OS on, the others being called “data disks”.  There’s an option here to install boot loader. I missed this and if you do then later you are not offered the possibility of installing the bootloader on that disks MBR. So human error though I would prefer perhaps the install disks MBR to be an option, even if there’s a warning “You indicated you did not want to install the boot loader on the MBR of this disk”.

Published by

Simon J Mudd

Born in England, I now live in Spain, but spent a few years living in the Netherlands. I previously worked in banking (financial markets) both in IT and as a broker, but IT has always had a stronger influence. Now working at booking.com as a Senior Database Administrator. Other interests include photography, and travel. Simon is married, with two children and lives in Madrid.

Leave a Reply