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Windows 7: Hardware RAID installation after Windows 7 OS install

11 Oct 2012   #1

Win 7 Professional x64 - SevenForums optimised !
 
 
Hardware RAID installation after Windows 7 OS install

HARDWARE RAID ACTIVATION POST WIN 7 OS INSTALL

Installing a RAID array during a new system build is not so difficult but Once I decided I wanted a RAID 0 array on my existing Win 7 PC, I quickly discovered that it is not easy to accomplish that particular wish. However it can be achieved without hacking the registry. Here is the procedure that worked for me.



Goal – to install a pair of 1TB WD Caviar blacks in Hardware RAID 0 on an already installed Win 7 system.


Win 7 OS resides on a separate 64GB SSD boot disk.

Motherboard: ASUS P9X79PRO,

SATA Ports as follows:
  • 2 x Intel SATA 3
  • 4 x Intel SATA 2
  • 2 x Marvel SATA 2


CPU i7 3820, 32GB
OS Win 7 Professional x64

Drives: (in final configurations)

1 SSD 64GB Win 7 Drive, On Intel SATA 3 controller, Non RAID assigned, but controller in RAID mode.
1 SSD 128 GB Data Drive, On Intel SATA 3 controller, Non RAID assigned, but controller in RAID mode.
1 x 2TB Internal, non RAID drive to backup RAID array, 7200RPM, 64MB, on Marvel SATA 3 Controller/AHCI
2 x 1TB Caviar Black in RAID 0, 7200 RPM, 64MB, on Intel SATA 2 controller, in RAID mode
2 x 1TB External USB 2.0 Drives (Backups)
1 x DVD on Intel SATA 2 controller – Non RAID assigned, but controller in RAID mode.

Issue.

Once windows is installed without RAID it is difficult to get it to recognise RAID hardware.
If you install RAID drivers without the RAID hardware enabled the drivers do not fully install.
If you enable the RAID hardware without drivers installed windows will crash on boot. Catch 22.

Outline of procedure.

  • Part install the latest RAID drivers while the SATA ports are in AHCI mode.
  • Juggle the boot & RAID disks to appropriate SATA ports temporarily
  • Enable RAID in BIOS and set it up with its POST utility.
  • With RAID hardware enabled Windows driver install can be completed
  • Disks are reorganised onto their appropriate controllers if necessary.
  • The BIOS is tidied up & the RAID disks are finalised for use in diskmgr or partition wizard.

Detailed Procedure:

  • I flashed the motherboard BIOS to its latest version (2104).
  • Begin with BIOS in SATA controller in AHCI mode for all disk controllers.
  • I backed up C drive to External Disk prior to messing with RAID drivers.
  • Win 7, Norton Ghost & Partition wizard recovery disks were on hand.
  • Downloaded and installed latest Asmedia SATA Controller driver V1.3.1.0 using the provided setup.exe / Reboot.
  • Downloaded & installed the Intel Rapid Storage Technology Enterprise (IRST) driver 3.2.0.1126 using the setup.exe / Reboot. This is the RAID driver and it gets partly installed at this step.
  • Backed up again, post driver install.
  • Copied these drivers to USB for use later in the process.
  • You may note that diskmgr now has some RAID functionality in its menu options but we are not done yet.
  • Turn off PC

  • Physically connect boot drive (SSD) & CD to Marvel SATA controller.
  • Put RAID drives on the Intel SATA 3 controllers.
  • Boot to BIOS, switch BIOS from AHCI to RAID.
  • Check/set boot sequence to DVD 1st , SSD boot disk 2nd.
  • Save & Exit / Reboot
  • Pass the BIOS, but enter the IRST RAID by CTRL-I during POST.
  • Assign the two Caviar disks to RAID 0, 128K, Save/Exit / Reboot.

  • If all has gone well at this point it will boot into windows.
  • If the driver installation hasn’t succeeded windows will BSOD during the load.
  • If it hangs put the drives & bios back to their original settings and windows will probably load fine in which case you can re-attempt to load the SATA & RAID drivers.
  • If Windows won’t boot, restore the C drive from backup and then reattempt to load the drivers.


  • Carrying on as if Windows booted successfully after setting BIOS SATA to RAID …
  • Windows will now detect the active RAID Controller hardware.
  • I had to direct windows to the drivers I had placed on the USB key.
  • Those drivers were recognised & installed correctly, reboot.
  • Check that the system boots correctly (drive letters may have jumped around but don’t reset them yet).
  • Turn off the system.
  • Now I placed my SSDs on the 6GB Intel SATA ports and my DVD on the SATA 3 ports with the RAID disks.
  • Next I booted to the BIOS and checked/set the boot sequence to DVD 1st and my 64GB SSD boot drive 2nd.
  • Save / Exit /.
  • Reboot to Partition Wizard, the RAID pair should appear as a single drive, in my case with two unallocated areas.
  • I set the 1st area to a primary partition & formatted it. Then I expanded the partition to occupy the full capacity of the pair. Apply & Exit / Reboot.
  • When Windows fires up it may advise that it has found new hardware, in my case it now started calling my SSDs SCSI drives, but it installed the drivers by itself & prompted me to restart again. / Reboot.
  • Once back in Windows, go to diskmgr.
  • Reassign / allocate drive letters, as necessary.
  • My RAID disk was visible but still showing zero capacity so I formatted it again from diskmgr and then it was ready.
  • Note that a drive letter must be allocated before the drive will be visible to applications.

Notes:

I was intentionally avoiding setting up RAID disks on the ASUS X79PRO Marvell controller ports due to the performance constraints of the Marvel RAID Controller.

So that left me with 6 drives across 2 Intel SATA 3 ports, 4 Intel SATA 2 ports & 2 Marvel SATA 3 ports. All the Intel ports go to RAID when the Intel controller is switched from AHCI to RAID. Not all drives on the RAID ports have to be allocated to a RAID array. Windows will fail to boot from a drive on a RAID controller until such time as the RAID drivers have been fully installed. Then it will happily boot from a non RAID drive on a RAID controller.

Prior to succeeding with the above process I attempted to boot into windows with the boot disk on a RAID controller before the RAID drivers were fully installed in windows. Several variations of that were tried unsuccessfully and I had to restore the OS 64GB SSD disk before going through with the procedure I described above.

My System SpecsSystem Spec
.

11 Oct 2012   #2

Win 7 Professional x64 - SevenForums optimised !
 
 

Here is a pic showing various driver details etc

My System SpecsSystem Spec
12 Oct 2012   #3

Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1
 
 

I would have argued that RAID0 isn't worth it at all on a single-user system, and there is plenty of proof of that. However, I have another suggestion to simplify. If you insist on using RAID0, as opposed to the SSD drive for cache, you should do it properly. Don't mess with the onboard controllers that are basically software RAID setups. Get a dedicated RAID controller and run your array off of that.

Aside from leaving your other drives alone and allowing them to run properly in AHCI, you will have your array isolated. In the event of a mainboard failure, you could connect the drives and card into another system and have access to the file system without any reconfiguration or recovery.

I realize I'm late to the party, but it's something to consider. I've been a very big opponent of RAID on a desktop ever since the myth was debunked 5-7 years ago, and I'll freely admit to that stance.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
.


12 Oct 2012   #4

Win 7 Professional x64 - SevenForums optimised !
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by DeaconFrost View Post
I would have argued that RAID0 isn't worth it at all on a single-user system, and there is plenty of proof of that. However, I have another suggestion to simplify. If you insist on using RAID0, as opposed to the SSD drive for cache, you should do it properly. Don't mess with the onboard controllers that are basically software RAID setups. Get a dedicated RAID controller and run your array off of that.

Aside from leaving your other drives alone and allowing them to run properly in AHCI, you will have your array isolated. In the event of a mainboard failure, you could connect the drives and card into another system and have access to the file system without any reconfiguration or recovery.

I realize I'm late to the party, but it's something to consider. I've been a very big opponent of RAID on a desktop ever since the myth was debunked 5-7 years ago, and I'll freely admit to that stance.

Yes your comments would have been handy earlier in the week. In this thread RAID 0 vs SSD cached HDD for video editing I sought advice regarding SSD cache before deciding which way to proceed. Unfortunately, no advice was offered despite 400 or so views and the thread had dropped out of sight to page 3 so I went ahead with investigating it for myself. My last post to that thread shows that I benchmarked the various disk arrangements and concluded that a SSD Cache/workspace solution would outperform the RAID.

I'd have to disagree with your assessment that the onboard Intel RAID controller is no better than a software RAID controller. It's dedicated hardware and I monitored the CPU loading during some significant data movements and it was <3% as usual when my system is idle.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
12 Oct 2012   #5

Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Late951 View Post
I'd have to disagree with your assessment that the onboard Intel RAID controller is no better than a software RAID controller. It's dedicated hardware and I monitored the CPU loading during some significant data movements and it was <3% as usual when my system is idle.
I used to think that too, and used to argue as such that it was a dedicated controller. It was explained to me that the controller still doesn't contain a dedicated RAID chip/processor to handle the RAID functions, which is why it was referred to as a software RAID solution, or SoftRAID for short. It was chalked up as yet one more reason why RAID on a desktop didn't serve a purpose anymore.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
12 Oct 2012   #6

Win 7 Professional x64 - SevenForums optimised !
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by DeaconFrost View Post
Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by Late951 View Post
I'd have to disagree with your assessment that the onboard Intel RAID controller is no better than a software RAID controller. It's dedicated hardware and I monitored the CPU loading during some significant data movements and it was <3% as usual when my system is idle.
I used to think that too, and used to argue as such that it was a dedicated controller. It was explained to me that the controller still doesn't contain a dedicated RAID chip/processor to handle the RAID functions, which is why it was referred to as a software RAID solution, or SoftRAID for short. It was chalked up as yet one more reason why RAID on a desktop didn't serve a purpose anymore.

Whilst there are software RAID solutions out there, the X79 chipset includes an intel RSTE chip to provide RAID functionality. aka ...



Whilst there are undoubtedly higher performance dedicated enterprise class controllers available, that doesn't mean that the integrated X79 RSTE controller is a software RAID system.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
12 Oct 2012   #7

Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1
 
 

From what I understand, that's just a subset of the X79 chipset, meaning it is just that the features are added to the existing controller, not governed by a separate physical chip/controller, still making it a software controller. The way it's always presented online is that you'd need to get a server-class motherboard to have embedded RAID chip/controllers, which partly accounts for the higher cost.

I've been down the same paths and made the same arguments as you are making right now, and I've been corrected each and every time.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
12 Oct 2012   #8

Win 7 Professional x64 - SevenForums optimised !
 
 

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by DeaconFrost View Post
From what I understand, that's just a subset of the X79 chipset, meaning it is just that the features are added to the existing controller, not governed by a separate physical chip/controller, still making it a software controller. The way it's always presented online is that you'd need to get a server-class motherboard to have embedded RAID chip/controllers, which partly accounts for the higher cost.

I've been down the same paths and made the same arguments as you are making right now, and I've been corrected each and every time.

Call it what you will (server grade or otherwise), Intel's website/specs & details for the x79 chipset clearly shows that the ISRT RAID module exists as hardware. This is different to software RAID controllers such as the windows implementations which are CPU tasks and are subject to the constraints of a busy CPU. I'm sure there are many examples of server technology from a few years back being implemented as mainstream functions in todays more demanding consumer grade machines... as would be expected with increasingly demanding consumer applications such as HD NLE video apps.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
12 Oct 2012   #9

Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1
 
 

I don't think you're understanding my point, and I'm probably not using the best terminology, so I found a link to explain it. I shouldn't have referred to it as software RAID, because that's the Windows/OS/file system method. I still stand by my comments that it is not a dedicated hardware controller for RAID. It's still done by offloading the work to the system's CPU, where has a hardware RAID controller handles all of that for you. This article explains what I meant under the FakeRAID section, specifically listing Intel as an example.

Differences between Hardware RAID, HBAs, and Software RAID
My System SpecsSystem Spec
13 Oct 2012   #10

Win 7 Professional x64 - SevenForums optimised !
 
 

I don't want to make this thread into a pissing match regarding the semantics of what constitutes a real RAID system vs a fake RAID system. At the end of the day, when I put my 1TB disks into a RAID 0 array they showed a 40% improvement in sustained write throughput (compared to the disks operating in standalone AHCI mode). When a 4000 file, 9GB, copy to the RAID array is being performed the the CPU attributes a 0.5% CPU load to the RAID IRST service/process (as per attached capture). It's a worthwhile boost/tradeoff in anyone's terms.


Attached Thumbnails
Hardware RAID installation after Windows 7 OS install-raid-controller-cpu-use.jpg  
My System SpecsSystem Spec
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