PCI RAID Controller card, installation problem.

  MAJ 19:07 22 Sep 2005

I have installed the above controller card to enable me to install a few more hard drives in my computer, I have no intention of setting up a RAID configuration, just have the drives installed to play around with. My operating system is XP Pro.

The card installed okay and I got the drivers installed (don't know how). Now when I boot the computer, with the controller card installed and two hard drives attached to the controller card, the computer detects my two usual hard drives (C: and D: drives)that are connected to the motherboards IDE channels, then goes on to display the message "Press F3 to enter RAID setup" (this is expected). I don't press F3 because I don't want to setup a RAID array, so it continues on to detect any drives connected to the controller card. It detects the two drives I have on the controller card without problem and gives this report:

Primary Channel:

Drive Number: 0.....Maxtor............Drive size.

Drive Number: 1.....Maxtor............Drive size.

Secondary Channel:

Drive Number: 2.....Blank

Drive Number: 3.....Blank

Set: 1 0> ..Maxtor..... PM>..........Drive Size.

Set: 2 1> ..Maxtor..... PS>..........Drive Size.

The PnP system BIOS installs Sil0680 Devices as:

Maxtor.................Drive Size.... as 82h

Maxtor.................Drive Size.... as 83h

Then the computer gives the usual POST OK beep and looks as though it's going on to load Windows XP as normal, but it goes to a black, blank screen with just a flashing cursor in the top left corner. It just sits there and does nothing else, it wont load into Windows and has to be turned off via the power button on the computer.

One more point: If I then disconnect the two drives from the controller card but leave the controller card in the PCI slot, the computer will not boot any further than the black flashing cursor screen. It does go through the same routine of detecting the drives and the "Press F3 to enter RAID setup" message, but it obviously doesn't detect any drives as there are none attached to the card, it then says "BIOS Disabled". I have to then remove the controller card from the computer to get the computer to boot normally.

Has anyone any idea what is happening?

  Dorsai 19:34 22 Sep 2005

If I remember from when I set up my raid array, you Have to set it up, even if you go on to set it up as "non raid," so to speak.

In other words, you have to tell the raid card "how" to use the two disks. At the moment it does not know what to do with them.

Press F3 when prompted, and one option should be "normal" (IE non raid). Select "normal", and allow the card to do it's thing to the disks.

Then you will have to go into Control panel/administrative tools/computer management/Disk management and "turn on" the new disks. I don't know how to do this bit, as I have never done it.

  ade.h 20:33 22 Sep 2005

Dorsai is correct. The big caveat with PCI RAID controllers (as distinct from onboard controllers) is that the system BIOS does not include any ability to configure the RAID chip. When a RAID chip is native to a motherboard, the BIOS will include extra options for choose how that chip is used; as a RAID platform or as regular IDE channels being one of them.

In your case, you need to work around this by following Dorsai's advice. Your choice of card is not ideally suited to what you are trying to do - the best bet is to configure the RAID chip to run in JBOD mode (Just a Bunch Of Disks) if you don't want full RAID. A plain old PCI IDE card would be simpler to set up, of course.

Before you go ahead and use your drives as you currently intend, are you really sure that you want to miss out on the benefits of RAID? You could have any number of permutations including RAID 0+1; data security coupled with performance gain.

  MAJ 21:17 22 Sep 2005

Thanks for replying guys, I've been fiddling around with this thing ever since I posted (with a break for tea of course :-)).

Dorsai: There isn't a "Normal" option in the RAID utility, or even anything that comes close to that option. I can see and understand what you're saying alright and it makes sense to me, but the options are only about setting up an array of whichever type, 0, 1, etc. Even looking at the documentation that came with the card doesn't yield anything helpful, even if I did set up an array, there are no options to use the drives as normal IDE separate drives.

ade.h. I know now that I have chosen the wrong card, in fact I suspected as much when I bought it. You are correct in that what I should have bought was a bog-standard PCI-IDE card but I couldn't get one at that time so I thought the RAID model would do the same job. If I could set it to that "JBOD mode (Just a Bunch Of Disks)" that you mentioned, that would suffice, but I can't even get that far or see an option (probably Dorsai's "Normal" option) to achieve that.
I don't have any interest in setting up a RAID array, ade.h, as I repair a lot of computers for family and friends, I was going to use the extra space that these drives would give for transferring and backing-up their files.

I might just scrap this card and look for a standard PCI IDE card that will do what I require........... so if anyone wants to swap... :-)

  ade.h 22:17 22 Sep 2005

Any RAID chip worthy of the name should be capable of JBOD; it's a standard RAID option (though slightly different to Dorsai's "Normal mode" suggestion. By that, he means that the chip can function as a standard IDE controller. I have used native RAID chips as standard controllers in the past, but it does normally require an option to allow for it.

To get a JBOD setup with a Highpoint onboard chip (I'll use that as a good example because it's what I'm using at the moment) you select the option to create an array, which brings up a second menu on which JBOD is listed. Your's might well be similar, but without knowing what make/model you have, I can't be more specific. click here for some pictures of what I've just described. Let us know what model you're using and I'll try to find out how best to set it up in a fairly simple configuration to allow you to do what you want.

By the way, if you usage is capacity-critical, you could still use RAID 0 (striping) if all else fails. That way, you'll have access to the full capacity of your new disks. Hope that helps.

  MAJ 22:29 22 Sep 2005

The card is a Silicon Image PCI-0680 UltraDMA 133 & RAID to IDE Controller. I have it taken out at the moment (in order to get into XP), but if you can suggest a way to get it going, that would be great. I will try to set up a RAID array tomorrow, or at least go through the motions, see if that JBOD option appears somewhere. Thanks for thinking about it, I appreciate the help.

  ade.h 17:46 23 Sep 2005

Right, I've had a look at the Silicon Image site and the page for your card is click here. It has a link for a User Guide, which includes a good pdf file that explains the setup process. As I described above, it can be a bit misleading when you're asked to press whatever button to create a RAID array when you don't want RAID. On page 14 of 48 it mentions the setup screen; this includes F2 to create RAID and F3 to create a spare drive, which I think is what you need to select in this case. Page 21 of the guide covers the spare drive option. It looks pretty straightforward once you know what does what.

  MAJ 20:44 23 Sep 2005

Thanks for that, ade.h, an interesting read even for someone like me who knows nothing about RAID arrays. I did see that "Spare" option previously but on reading the bumph, I took that option to be only used in case one of the drives in an array failed, a backup drive if you wish. I gave it (the "spare" option) a go and it did recognise the drive as a Spare, so I pressed Esc to exit the RAID utility, a message then appeared saying "The BIOS is disabled" and then it went straight to the blank screen with the flashing cursor again. I then expected it to revert to the motherboard's BIOS and continue to boot Windows, it didn't, it just sat there at the flashing cursor screen.

What's worrying me also is the fact that the computer will not boot when the card is installed in the PCI slot with no drives attached, surely it should recognise that no drives are attached (it does recognise that fact) and then disregard the card and continue to boot Windows as normal? Again, what happens in that case is that I get the "The BIOS is disabled" message and then it goes to the flashing cursor screen, where it sits until I turn off the computer with the power button and remove the card.

I did a search, of that PDF you linked to, for "JBOD", the search came up blank.

  ade.h 22:15 23 Sep 2005

That pdf doesn't use the term JBOD; the near equivalent is the spare drive option. This will allow your card to function as an extra IDE controller, which will meet your requirements.

That the card won't function without drives connected is perfectly normalas far as I'm aware; its own BIOS actively expects to have drives connected, just as your PC wouldn't boot completely if there were no IDE devices installed.

It should work fine if you keep the drives connected and set it up as a spare array, with or without RAID. If, by some quirk of the card's design, it needs the two disks to be RAIDed in order to create a spare drive setup, then choose RAID 0 to avoid any loss of capacity. If you need to use this configuration, the two disks attached to the card will appear as just one of twice the size.

Windows disk management will allow you to choose your partitions as required.

  MAJ 14:03 24 Sep 2005

I've done a bit of reading about this card on the net, ade.h, and it seems, from other peoples experience at least, that my motherboard, the PCI slots specifically, might be a little old to support the card. I think I'll buy one of those "bog-standard" PCI IDE cards (without the RAID option)and see if I can get any joy from it. Many thanks for your help, ade.h, it is appreciated. I know who to shout for now, if I do decide to setup a RAID array in the future. ;-) The Mirror option (RAID1 ??) looks interesting.

  ade.h 14:37 24 Sep 2005

Hey, no problem; glad to be of some help. The mirror option is particularly good; I've always used it in preference to striping if only two disks are available, as data integrity trumps performance when you use your PC for a living.

Shame about your motherboard; that's so often the case with PC technology, isn't it! Though my `board is pretty old, it at least has onboard RAID. I wonder if a BIOS flash might bring your motherboard in line with the card, if they don't currently work well together. It's not too hard; you'll need a floppy drive and the right BIOS for your `board, which should be on the maker's website. If you want to try it, let us know if you need more info.

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