Windows 7 on a RAID

This is a documentation installation of a Windows 7 x64 on a Asus P5K motherboard using a RAID0. First of all I must say, that I’ve managed this RAID0 installation and the speed increase was very impressive, and I’d like to share my experiences on how to set up a hardware based RAID0 with Windows 7 x64, since it was all, but straight forward.
In advance: I do not use a RAID anymore, because I’ve noticed some ugly side effects, which urged me to drop this RAID idea again. FarCry2 and Crysis Warhead simply didn’t work on my RAID system. Maybe more titles are affected. Feedback welcome.

This is roughly the overview of the steps one has to perform in order to install a Windows 7 on a hardware RAID (e.g. Intel ICH9R/ICH10R):

  1. Cable and BIOS setup
  2. Pull all disks
  3. Use only one display
  4. use JMB36x driver (ASUS P5K)
  5. Diskpart

I though I’m a more or less experienced Linux user and administrator, and a MS-Windows could not shock me, but I was thought else.

  1. Cable and BIOS Setup
    The first curiosity started, and here is Windows not involved at all, with the connection of the cables for my RAID on a Asus
    P5K motherboard. The manual states:

    This connector (2) is for a Serial ATA single cable that supports a Serial ATA hard disk. To configure RIAD 0, RAID 1, or JBOD, install
    an internal Serial ATA hard disk drive to this connector and an external Serial ATA drive to the external (1) SATA port.

    Well, here you need a eSATA to SATA cable in the first place, and I bet you don’t call such a one your own. Even then you have to imagine, that
    your precious RAID is connected via an external eSATA connector, which somehow, have to find its way into your computer case again!

    If the cable is connected, you have to setup your RAID with the built in JMicron BIOS. This is done by pressing whilst in boot POST
    the Ctrl+J buttons. Use there the create menu, and choose the default values for a RAID0 (striped) configuration. Safe and leave it.
    Setup to use RAID in your BIOS, too.

  2. Pull all disks
    I’m mentioning this at this point of the installation, because if I do it later, it will be too late.
    If you have connected a card reader or a bunch of other disks, at least something which shows itself to the system as a mass storage device, unplug it for the installation process. Windows 7 x64 won’t install on anything different than on drive C: To make this possible you have to unplug all you can. Else you risk your primary partition won’t be drive C:
  3. Use only one display
    Use only one CRT or TFT for the installation procedure.
    It’s funny (not really), but I once had an already working installation, and didn’t even noticed it, because the active video signal decided to switch
    onto the other display. The previously active one went black, but the new signal didn’t kicked in for the second display. I only noticed this, by accidentally
    pulling the cable from my primary display. This usually happens when the native monitor resolution is being chosen, so actually almost at the end of the installation process.
    I’ve used to sit and look at my HDD-LED blinking in an one second interval for almost half an hour, while the display was dark.
    At the second attempt, and only because I was slipping down the chair while getting asleep, I accidentally pulled the display cable with my foot, which revealed this misery. That’s why: Use only one display for installation.
  4. RAID driver
    Start now the installation. In my case it took almost 20 minutes, until something of interest starts to happen on the screen. This is when Windows
    finally can’t find any drive to install to, and you have to provide your device drivers for your RAID on a floppy disk or CD/DVD.
    Although it seemed to me pretty obvious an clear, that I had to choose the Intel driver for my ICH9R RAID chipset, it was absolutely wrong.
    (it took me a while to realize that). All you need is current driver from JMicron:

    and in our case the driver with the eSATA extension is to choose. I’ve took the driver from 9th of November, 2009 (was the most current one).
    After that Windows recognized my previously created RAID.

  5. Diskpart
    If you’ve done all as described above, and nevertheless you get this error message:

    Setup was unable to create a new system partition or locate an existing partition

    then you have to do some manual investigations and create and set your own system partition as active. Choose therefor a partition size of 100MB (Mega-! not Gigabyte)

    1. start a command shell with Ctrl+F10
    2. cd into x:/windows/Panther
    3. or search your logs with >dir /s *.log
    4. perform a
      >type setupact.log | find "0x06069e"
      and look for this output in your logfile:

      [0x06069e] IBS GetMachineInfo:Couldn't find boot disk on the BIOS-based computer
    5. This means, Windows is unable to create a small system partition on its own, so you must assist. Do this by starting diskpart
    6. list all available volumes:
      >list volume

    7. select your disk volume in question:
      >select disk=1
    8. list all partitions on this volume, and select the one you’ve created before (100MB), and set it active.
      >list partition
      >select partition=1
      >active

      to verify the result, perform a
      >list partition
      Exit diskpart
      >exit

Proceed with the Windows 7 installation as usual.

Additional Notes regarding Windows 7 installation

  • Total freezes accessing Samba shares
    In my case, I had to update the Atheros L1 Gigabit driver, because I had freezes accessing Samba shares with large files. It turned out the driver is buggy, and needs an update. Use the Windows mechanism to do it.
  • Can’t access files on Samba shares
    The Samba integration with Windows 7 needs correction. The cooperation within a Workgroup doesn’t work right. I’ve made these additional entries/changes:

    1. Turn off password protected shares
    2. Add these values into your registry with regedit
      HKLMSystemCurrentControlSetServicesLanmanWorkstationParameters
      DWORD DomainCompatibilityMode = 1
      DWORD DNSNameResolutionRequired = 0
  • Printer Problem
  • Windows 7 won't be able to add your Cups/Samba printer the default way.
    Add it as network printer, but you eventually need drivers first. That's why connect your printer directly to the box, wait until drivers are installed automatically, then plug your printer into your Linux server again.
    Add your printer now e.g. like this:
    http://server:631/printers/Canon_i865

  • Some games crashes, don't start or stutter
    FarCry2 started to work, after I gave up my RAID0 solution, and Crysis Warhead didn't stutter anymore (fluent game play now).
    Some games e.g. Need for Speed - Shift are known not to work with Windows 7 occasionally. For the latter I don't have any solution yet. All drivers are up to date, so I can exclude an old driver issue.

3 thoughts on “Windows 7 on a RAID

  1. Raja

    Hi,

    I did a search for an error I was getting when I was trying to install windows 7 64-bit, and saw this post. I followed your directions and was able to get a system partition to show up, as well as a secondary data partition. The system partition is 100MB and the Data partition is about 280GB. When I try to install on the data partition it still tells me the same error though. Any other advice or tips you have that might help me get past this error would really be appreciated.

    Thanks!

  2. acmelab68

    I’ve installed my system recently one more time (with a Sil3114R RAID controller), and ran into the same message. The only thing I’ve done, was to manually create the 100MB partition, and set it also manually as active. The strange thing was, it didn’t work the first time, only after a seccond or even third attemp I was able to proceed with the installation.

    Just keep trying.

    Btw: If you’ve got a P5K board, and want to use it for gaming, then you must know, that the JMB363 Jmicron RAID controller is sharing the same (here IRQ16) interrupt with the your graphics card. You can’t change this, because it’s fix. Either the most recent RAID BIOS and/or latest driver is totally screwed, and you’ll get freezes as long as you have hard disk access.

    I worked around this problem by inserting a cheap RAID controller (Sil3114R for 20€) into PCI slot number two. It’s not as fast as the JMicron (JMB323: 119MB/s; Sil3114R: 98MB/s), but it’s working reliably and is steady over the whole spectrum (I think it’s due to a good NCQ)

  3. anSi

    All I needed to do was to remove usb-memorystick (which was arranging itself to drive c). This article help me to open my eyes though, so thanks pal!

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