How to set up raid on ASUS P8Z68-V LX motherboard

Mark
Mark used Ask the Experts™
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I am installing a new Windows 7 on a computer with an ASUS P8Z68-V LX motherboard. I've set the BIOS to raid and I used the Intel Rapid Storage Technology BIOS (entered via CTRL-I) to set my two 4TB SATA drives to RAID-1 (instructions starting on page 16 of http://www.intel.com/content/dam/support/us/en/documents/chipsets/imsm/sb/irst_user_guide.pdf). All seemed well. However, when booting from DVD and installing Windows, it asks me to which volume I want to install and both drives are listed. I expected to see a single, 4TB volume.

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President
Top Expert 2010
Commented:
Don't do it.  This is fake raid.  It is absolute crap.  A $2.00 chip at best. There is no intelligence and not even load balancing.  No dedicated memory, no nvram to save configurations.  Install patches to the  O/S and the array can go away because most of the work is done by a device driver.  Buy a used 3WARE, Promise, LSI, IBM, HP, or just about any other RAID controller on eBay.

(Just make sure that whatever you buy will let you boot off a RAID1 built with 4TB disks and it supports your drives)

P.S.  If you must .. make sure the BIOS & drivers actually support disks > 2TB for boot devices in the first place.  They may not.  Same goes for advanced format (4KB sectoring) if you have such drives.
You're missing the drivers for the raid controller.

Windows is seeing the onboard SATA controller which identifies the two drives, but it does not see the RAID controller which would show you the RAID volume.

You'll need to download the driver, put it on a USB stick and use the "Load Driver" button to load it from the Windows setup.

http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/P8Z68V_LX/HelpDesk_Download/

I have to tell you though, I don't recommend using "fake" raid - aka RAID implemented in software on the motherboard. It's garbage. You have more chance of accidentally destroying your array and losing your data then you do from a physical hard disk failure.

The whole point of RAID is for you to have multiple disks to improve performance and tolerate a hard disk failure without rebooting the system. This is useful if you are running a server. Not so useful on a desktop PCs with "fake" motherboard raid. These chips have poor performance, poor management capabilities, and you have a cabled, non-hot-swappable chassis with two hard drives inside. I don't see the benefit to you.

If you really do want RAID you should do it properly and get a real hardware RAID card, and enterprise quality drives.  If you want to go that route here's what I'd recommend:

RAID controller - either an LSI MegaRAID 9260-4i or the beefier LSI MegaRAID 9266-8i:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816118106&cm_re=megaraid_9260-4i-_-16-118-106-_-Product
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816118169&cm_re=megaraid_9266-8i-_-16-118-169-_-Product

Pair that card with good enterprise-class hard drives, e.g. Seagate Constellation ES.3 SAS or Western Digital RE drives SAS hard drives.

You'll also want a chassis that has an appropriate hot-swap backplane/cage that accepts an SFF-8087 connector, which is what the RAID card will use.

Or if that's not possible, then use an appropriate SFF-8087->SFF-8482 adapter cable this one:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16812400142&cm_re=sff-8087-_-12-400-142-_-Product

This stuff is all pretty expensive, but if you want to go the consumer off-the-shelf route to RAID, you need to do it properly.

You will probably get a lot more bang for your buck by installing the two 4TB disk into the system independently and use one of them as your main disk and use the other one for your backups.
Top Expert 2013

Commented:
i suggest using windows raid; look here for how to set it up :  http://www.pcworld.com/article/132877/RAID.html
DavidPresident
Top Expert 2010

Commented:
I agree with Nobus,  (assuming budget doesn't allow for proper dedicated RAID controllers).    Windows software-based RAID is going to give you a much better solution than fakeraid.

BUT ... the disks are > 2TB, so you had better have a UEFI BIOS or won't be able to boot.  You will get in perfect world 2x read performance than with a single disk, and write performance will be about the same.

A RAID controller will improve write performance, but unless you have a battery backup and non-volatile cache on the controller,  you won't be all that better off ... since all you want is RAID1.

Author

Commented:
Well, I solved my immediate problem. I discovered RAID drivers on the ASUS motherboard DVD (no mention of that in the motherboard manual in the RAID setup section). I followed the F6 setup in the Intel Matrix Storage Manager document I found online. Problem #1: Windows installer would not see the USB flash I copied drivers to. After hours of experimentation I noticed the USB flash was USB 3.0. I transferred driver to a 2.0 USB and it could see it! Sheesh! Problem #2: Windows could not load the driver (I forget the actual message, but not very informative). I tried going to the ASUS site and download new drivers ... and that finally worked! This all took about 6 hours and I got to this point before checking back at EE for hints.

I was going to write about success, but all your messages have scared me!

I will likely look into Frosty555's recommendations yet today.
You'll also want a chassis that has an appropriate hot-swap backplane/cage
I did buy 2 Vantec EZ Swap Bays, and the motherboard setup shows Hot Plug enabled (image, red arrows). Does this seem like it would work with one of those recommended cards?

dlethe:
make sure the BIOS & drivers actually support disks > 2TB for boot devices in the first place
So, first issue - Although the ASUS driver did show one device, it is not, in fact, showing 4TB in Windows. It is only 2TB. Things I've read on this P8Z68-V LX mother board indicate that it can support more that 2TB drives, and the BIOS settings appear to recognize the drives at 4000.7GB (image, red circle). I find nothing in the ASUS BIOS discussing drive size settings.

Any idea how I would go about that? Is this something at the Windows level and I have to get Windows to recognize the larger size? Can I expand the drive size after the fact (after installing OS)?
ASUS-Bios.jpg

Author

Commented:
This is turning into an exercise in PAIN. So, to attempt to get a 4TB partition, at the Windows Installation, "Choose Partition to Install" screen, I first selected disk options, install driver, and I picked the driver I downloaded from ASUS. That then showed the 2 drives single, 4TB-is partition. I've been this far before ...

Then I hit SHFT-F10 to get to a command prompt in order to convert the partition to GPT:

> diskpart
: select disk 0
: clean
: convert GPT
: exit
> exit

Back at the "choose partition" screen, I "refreshed" and it still showed as 4TB-ish. I proceeded with the rest of the installation. When all was finished, I looked at my C: drive and back to 2TB, grrrrr!

I started over. This time after the 'diskpart' bit, I told it to format the drive. It did so dividing it up into 3 partitions:

0 - 100MB System reserved
1 - 2TB
2 - 1+TB, unallocated

However, it also said cannot install Windows to partition 1!!! Arrrrgh.

Is this doable at all? I'm not about to go and buy a "real" RAID controller if Windows simply can't handle it.

Author

Commented:
This is turning into an exercise in PAIN. So, to attempt to get a 4TB partition, at the Windows Installation, "Choose Partition to Install" screen, I first selected disk options, install driver, and I picked the driver I downloaded from ASUS. That then showed the 2 drives single, 4TB-is partition. I've been this far before ...

Then I hit SHFT-F10 to get to a command prompt in order to convert the partition to GPT:

> diskpart
: select disk 0
: clean
: convert GPT
: exit
> exit

Back at the "choose partition" screen, I "refreshed" and it still showed as 4TB-ish. I proceeded with the rest of the installation. When all was finished, I looked at my C: drive and back to 2TB, grrrrr!

I started over. This time after the 'diskpart' bit, I told it to format the drive. It did so dividing it up into 3 partitions:

0 - 100MB System reserved
1 - 2TB
3 - 1+TB, unallocated

However, it also said cannot install Windows to partition 1!!! Arrrrgh.

Is this doable at all? I'm not about to go and buy a "real" RAID controller if Windows simply can't handle it.

Author

Commented:
More info: I went ahead and completed the installation. When Windows was up I went to the storage management window and tried to extend the partition. It says it could not extend the MBR volume.

So, I guess I need to reset and learn how to create a GPT volume (RAID or not) in Windows. After 12 straight hours on this that how-to escapes me, even after I've perused many, may web pages.

I'll post that as a separate issue.
DavidPresident
Top Expert 2010

Commented:
You are confusing a partition with a target ID.  Unless this is a UEFI BIOS AND the controller is designed to work with that, then it just won't work.

A RAID controller, such as a LSI MegaRAID will work.  It will present 2 disks, each 2GB , each a separate RAID1.  Your combination will present a single RAID1 drive that you are trying to partition into 2 parts.s

Author

Commented:
To the best of my ability to determine it, the ASUS P8Z68-V LX motherboard BIOS is UEFI. In fact, I can't find a setting to select otherwise.

I have no idea what you mean by a target ID. I didn't see that term in any of my messing with BIOS, Win7 installation or Storage Manager.
It [LSI MegaRAID] will present 2 disks, each 2GB , each a separate RAID1.  Your combination will present a single RAID1 drive that you are trying to partition into 2 parts
You lost me on that. If I have two 4TB drive connected to the RAID controller, and I configure a RAID 1, what do I end up seeing in Windows? Two, 2TB drives, or one 4TB drive?

0 - 100MB System reserved
1 - 2TB
3 - 1+TB, unallocated
You're experiencing a limitation of the MBR partition table scheme. You are seeing a single 4TB disk, which is correct, but the max size of a partition is 2TB. To make a >2TB partition you must use the GPT partitioning scheme.

Problem is that you can't boot to a GPT partition table using legacy BIOS. You must use UEFI.

Even if your motherboard supports UEFI, it also definitely supports Legacy bios, and you are most likely booting your DVD in Legacy mode. It is necessary that you boot your installation media using UEFI mode, otherwise Windows setup cannot install to a GPT hard disk.

I believe the way to do it is to not use a bootable DVD but instead create a bootable USB that has been specially prepared for booting into UEFI by using a tool like Rufus (https://rufus.akeo.ie/)

At this point though I'm out of my depth, I have not yet successfully installed Windows 7 in UEFI mode. Honestly I've never had a need to install to a >2TB system drive and while it is possible it is sufficiently unusual that I honestly don't think this is the right direction for you to go.

If you have a need to store 4TB of data, the way to do it is to have the operating system installed on a separate, smaller disk. A small solid state drive would do. Or if your RAID controller supports it then you can also take your 4TB drive group and split it into two virtual disks (e.g. a 100GB boot disk, and a 3.9TB data disk).  However I think it is unlikely that your motherboard fake raid will support this.

Either way though, installing the OS onto a smaller disk neatly sidesteps all these problems because you can format the boot disk as MBR and boot using legacy BIOS and install without any special drivers or configuration needed. Then after Windows is installed you can install your RAID drivers format the 4TB disk as GPT, create a big partition and store all your data on it, Windows will be able to see it and access it just fine.
Top Expert 2013
Commented:
Any reason you don't want the windows raid as suggested?
i can confirm your BIOS is UEFI   https://www.asus.com/Motherboards/P8Z68V_LX/HelpDesk_Manual/

Author

Commented:
Frosty555:
Problem is that you can't boot to a GPT partition table using legacy BIOS. You must use UEFI. Even if your motherboard supports UEFI, it also definitely supports Legacy bios, and you are most likely booting your DVD in Legacy mode.
That turned out to be the trick. After hours of surfing for answers I found not very explicit references to using F8 at boot and selecting to boot the Windows Installation DVD in UEFI mode. That did it! I guess everyone on the planet knows this simple fact and therefore is would be a redundant waste of ink to actually put something like, "If you want to use drives bigger than 2.2G, use F8 to get the boot menu and boot the installation DVD as UEFI". For my part, however, although I've installed dozens of Windows systems from DVD, I've never done a +2.2G system and I had no clue about this. I only ever used F8 if I wanted to override the bios settings of boot order and since the DVD was the 1st in the order and it booted, I never gave F8 a thought. Nor, for that matter did anyone mention it in this question. I guess you all figured I just knew that!

Moving on ... you've all put sufficient fear into me about the so called "fake" RAID, that I decided to take a different approach. Plus, I do an image backup using Acronis and if I had to restore that image in case of a crash I'm not sure how that would get handled considering the need to install the ASUS/Intel RAID driver first. I think it's possible, but after futzing with this all weekend I'm disinclined to experiment.

So, I decided to create a normal, 1TB boot drive and go buy a RAID controller and put the database on that drive (this application is for a database server, btw). I could not find the dlethe recommended controllers at my local computer supplier, so I bought a Vantec UGT-ST644R (same manufacturer as for my hot-swap bays). Not many reviews out there on this, but I didn't read anything bad. I hope it's not junk (opinions?). It seems to come with some decent status/monitoring software. We'll see I guess. I've configured the Vantec BIOS for a RAID-1 and installed SQL Server 2014 on that drive.

As to the boot drive, I'm thinking about ideas. Yes, I'm considering the Windows "mirror" option (nobus). howtogeek says, "Windows 7’s mirroring ... is a software implementation of RAID 1". Really? How far does this go? If the real boot drive fails, can the mirror be swapped and it just boots off that? I've read "no" because the 2nd drive doesn't have the boot sector. Or do you have to replace the failed drive and let it rebuild back to the "mirror" state like a real RAID-1? I haven't found details on that yet. Lots of webpages on how to set this up; virtually nothing on restore/recovery.

One problem: for the Acronis software, "Dynamic disks support is available only in Acronis True Image 2014" Premium", which is not what we have at the moment.

Seems like no perfect solution here. Using the BIOS RAID requires the Windows driver which may or may not work with image restore programs like Acronis.

Windows 7 mirroring does not appear to be a true RAID-1 in that I don't think the system will run/boot if the primary drive fails (or will it?) and if the 2nd drive doesn't have boot sector information I don't see the primary drive getting properly rebuilt from the secondary.

If all I've said is true, what's the point of the so-called mirror? nobus? It's really not even as good as image backup software.

Maybe I should get another real raid controller just for the boot drive; or maybe the Vantec can do 2 RAIDs.
Top Expert 2013

Commented:
Windows 7 mirroring  is considered by all experts on EE far better than the fake raid
if it is truely mirrored -  it should have booting info also
DavidPresident
Top Expert 2010

Commented:
Strongly agree - there is NO upside to fake raid.  It won't even do load balancing, and windows updates can and will break it.  Fake RAID is slower.
Top Expert 2013

Commented:
thank you dlethe for supporting my point of view
jmarkfoley - look up the background of dlethe  if you llike -  you'll find he knows what disks are about

Author

Commented:
I am grateful for everyone's expertise on this question. So, no need to beat the dead horse -- "fake RAID" is not an option because of comments in this question and because the requirement to use a Windows driver makes me nervous about whether my imaging software will know what to do if it has to restore a crashed drive.

I'm still looking for more info on the suggested Windows RAID/mirror. The following link,
https://discuss.howtogeek.com/t/how-to-boot-mirrored-drive-windows-7-professional/3940/24, indicates that if the 1st drive fails, the system will continue to run because of the 2nd mirror, but if you try to reboot it won't since there is no boot sector on the 2nd drive.

The following link, https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc738132%28v=ws.10%29.aspx, says,

"Because a problem might go undetected until you try to restart the computer from the second disk, you must create a Windows startup floppy disk that you can use to start Windows on the remaining mirror. In addition, you should recreate your startup floppy disk after you add or remove volumes on the disk that contains the boot volume, after you convert the disk to dynamic, or after you install a Windows service pack."

So, I don't think the system is bootable if the 'main' drive fails. This link, https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc758072%28v=ws.10%29.aspx, describes how to replace a failed mirror drive, but doesn't mention the boot sector issue. I think it likewise would need the boot "floppy".

Do any/either of you have actual experience with reconstructing and/or booting if the first drive fails? Does it work in your experience?

Author

Commented:
OK, here's my plan. It does not seem that anyone here has actually tried recovering from a failed mirror configuration, but according to my research a boot/mirror arrangement will continue to run if one of either disk fails. If the boot disk fails, the computer will continue to run, but won't reboot. A boot sector will have to be installed on the mirror - the mirror sync function does not do that (websites on this referenced previously in post ID: 41465235) -- and the mirror swapped to the boot drive. Not sure what kind of notification Windows provides when a failure happens.

This isn't all bad, but not ideal.

So, since my Vantec controller appears to support 2 different RAIDs of 2 drives each, I will attempt to set up a boot RAID-1 of one or two TB and a data RAID-1 of 4TB. That should give me actual hot-swap failed disk replacement on both RAIDs without worries about boot sectors. The Vantec RAID management software has a setting for 'Email Notify', but I haven't messed with that yet.

My main practical concern at the moment is whether I can actually boot from a Vantec controller RAID. When the POST screen shows connected devices, the Vantec disk(s) do not show up. I'll try this in the next few days and post back.
Top Expert 2013

Commented:
no i never use RAID - why do you ?
i use hardware that is fast enough - and take backups - but there may be other reasons for you

Author

Commented:
nobus:
no i never use RAID - why do you ?
This is a production environment for a State pension fund manager. Staff need continuous access to data -- idle staff is money lost! Also, there is a website for pension members to check their accounts and make changes -- also need continuous access. backups-only are fine for workstations, but even if I were on-site all the time (which I'm not) restoring from backup can take time, esp if it requires the installation, and possible purchase, of new drives.
Top Expert 2013

Commented:
ah - in that case - use the software raid, or a proper Raid controller card

Author

Commented:
Yes, I'm using a Vantec UGT-ST644R for a RAID-1 for the database drives. Currently, I'm just doing image backups for the boot drive with Acronis (btw, what backup software do you use?), but the Vantec appears to support 2 RAID-1s of 2 drives each, so when I get some spare time I'll attempt to convert the boot drive to RAID-1 as well.
Top Expert 2013

Commented:
i caannnot follow you anymore
if you have this card, why try to use the fake raid?

Author

Commented:
If you look at my post ID: 41465235 from 2016-02-15 at 13:01:09 I abandoned the fake RAID idea several days ago:
"... no need to beat the dead horse -- 'fake RAID' is not an option because of comments in this question and because the requirement to use a Windows driver makes me nervous about whether my imaging software will know what to do if it has to restore a crashed drive."

And, my post ID: 41469741 from 2016-02-18 at 01:06:37 said, "since my Vantec controller appears to support 2 different RAIDs of 2 drives each, I will attempt to set up a boot RAID-1 of one or two TB and a data RAID-1 of 4TB. That should give me actual hot-swap failed disk replacement on both RAIDs without worries about boot sectors."

I am not pursuing the Fake RAID option.
Top Expert 2013

Commented:
well - it was not clear for me - sorry

Author

Commented:
Thanks all. It's been an enlightening discussion. I started out with the intend of using the Motherboard RAID when I saw that the ASUS motherboard supported it, but ended up with a real RAID controller card based on your feedback.

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