Neighbor of mine (who is a part-time video editor) recently had his Mac Book die on him and asked me to do some data recovery for him from a bunch of old HDDs, all, of course, formatted as Apple HFS+. Since he plans to replace his dead Mac with a Dell XPS, he needed me to extract all data from his old drives and reformat them as NTFS. Even though I’ve never ever owned any Apple hardware, I have no problem recovering data from Mac formatted drives, thanks to Paragon’s NTFS/HFS+ Linux driver (free version with limited functionality available here).

But there was one small problem. Two of the hard drives (2TB WD Blacks) were originally used as an Apple software RAID-0 array. While Paragon’s driver can mount HFS+ file systems, it cannot reconstruct or operate RAID arrays. Also, Apple’s RAID format is proprietary and there is no support for it on OS’es outside of OS X/macOS. Since I don’t have access to a Mac, I had no way to recover data from those two HDDs.

Out of curiosity, I’ve plugged in both RAID-0 HDDs to my main rig (booted to Ubuntu 18.04) anyway to check how they’re formatted. Both drives showed as GPT partitioned disks with three partitions on them: EFI, “Apple RAID” and “Apple boot”. It was pretty clear to me that the actual data I needed to extract was on “Apple RAID” partitions. Now how to I get Linux to recognize them as a RAID-0 array ?

I do know that RAID-0 is basically a stripe, alternating chunks of data between multiple drives.
Linux has it’s own RAID implementation in form of mdadm, which, apart from it’s own format, is also capable of reading some other RAID array formats, like Intel’s firmware RAID. But unfortunately, it does not support Apple RAID.
Since RAID-0 is just a stripe, that got me thinking: is there another way to get Linux to treat two block devices as a stripe ? Why yes there is. Say hello to Device mapper. Device mapper is a kernel driver (more precisely – a kernel framework) which allows you to remap physical block devices into virtual ones, including mapping multiple devices as a single device and even doing transparent block device encryption (in form of dm-crypt). This framework is widely used in various Linux-based OSes. For example Android uses dm-crypt for adoptable storage and app containers on SD cards. Device mapper is also used by LVM as a more flexible way to partition HDDs.
And, you probably guessed it, Device mapper supports mapping disks as stripes !

Could it be that Apple just uses a simple stripe for RAID-0 instead of some custom format ?
Again, out of curiosity I’ve tried mapping the two “Apple RAID” partitions as a Device mapper stripe using a simple script which I found online (can’t find the link right now, sorry). And to my pleasant surprise, the resulting stripe was happily recognized by Paragon’s driver as an HFS+ volume ! I did try to open a few files and all were perfectly readable.

I’m now in the process of copying all data from that RAID-0 array to another location, after which I will dismantle the array and reformat both HDDs as NTFS.

So it turns that at least Level 0 of Apple’s software RAID isn’t as proprietary as it seems.