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In The Lab
Build Your Own PC Chapter 6: SATA Drive Setup
by chris

While building our "dream system," Chris learned extra-valuable lessons on how to configure Serial ATA (SATA) drives with Windows XP. Now, he's passing this lesson on to you.

What is SATA?
We covered the definition of SATA in the December's Tech Term.

For most custom systems that I configure, I will always start with the most basic configuration possible. We will need the system board, CPU, memory, video card and hard drive all installed into the chassis and connections made for at least the front panel power switch. While Windows XP is pretty good at identifying hardware during setup, it can get messed up with newer hardware that wasn't available at the time the software was shipped.

Our DFI LanParty Pro875B motherboard has four parallel ATA drive connectors. There are two standard connections (each supporting two drives), and then off to one corner are two more connections for IDE RAID support. Near the parallel IDE RAID connectors are the floppy connector and two SATA connectors identified as "SATA1" and "SATA2".

Installing the DVD Drive
Because this will be the only drive installed on our parallel IDE cables, we can use either the Primary or Secondary IDE connections on the motherboard. As a single drive, the jumper on the rear of the DVD drive should be in the "MA" ("Master") position. If more than one drive were being used, one of the drives would have to be configured as "master" and the other as "slave" by using the jumpers on the drive. There are typically three possible positions on CD and DVD optical drives, MA for "master", SL for "slave", and CS for "cable select". Cable select can only be used with a special IDE cable that has the specific drive-select wire disconnected between the two drive connectors on the cable. The master and slave configuration then results due to the drive's position on the cable, since jumpers for both drives must be configured in the "CS" position.

SATA Drive Installation
Serial ATA drives simplify the configuration part of the installation process. There are no jumpers, so no configuration of primary and secondary drives. This does not mean that there is not a primary and secondary SATA drive, instead this designation is determined by which connection you use on the system board. Only one SATA drive is connected to each system board connector. Because we will want to set these up as mirrored drives, we will install both drives to begin with. Mount both of the drives in the available hard drive bays. Dig into the "accessory kit" box that was included with the motherboard for the SATA cables. The DFI system board includes two SATA data cables with a small L-shaped connector on either end. It also includes a power cable that has the standard "D" shaped power connector on one end and two L-shaped SATA power connectors on the other ends. The SATA power and data connectors are different sizes and only connect one way. Locate the connector labeled "SATA1" and connect one of the data cables to it. Repeat the process for the second drive, connecting it to the "SATA2" connection. Attach the SATA power cable to one of the power supply connections and the two power connections on the SATA drives.

NOTE: Serial ATA drives are disabled by default in the DFI system BIOS. Before we can use SATA drives in this system, they must be enabled using the BIOS Setup menus. Power on the system, and press the "Delete" key to enter Setup.

  • Since we want to use the SATA RAID features, change the "RAID or SCSI card boot" setting from "Highpoint RAID" to "ICH5 RAID". On this particular DFI system board, the Highpoint RAID only supports Parallel IDE drives. The Serial ATA RAID Support is part of the Intel chipset. On the DFI menus, the "RAID or SCSI card boot" choice is under the "Advanced BIOS Features" menu.
  • To use only SATA drives as we will, SATA legacy support must be turned on in the BIOS. If you try and skip this step, you will probably wonder why Windows cannot find any hard drives to install to (and aborts setup), or why FDISK tells you there are no drives present. If you watch for device detection at startup, you will see that no hard drives are detected during the Power On Self Test (POST) sequence. In the DFI BIOS menus, select the "Integrated Peripherals" menu, select the "Intel OnChip IDE Device" menu, and then select the "OnChip Serial ATA Setting." The default is "Disabled" meaning the system will not see any of the SATA drives we have connected. I changed the selection from "Disabled" to "Enhanced," just in case I want to add additional Parallel ATA drives later. The possible choices are:
    • Disabled - This is the Default setting, no SATA drives will be detected or used.
    • Auto - Auto arrange drives by BIOS detection at POST)
    • Combined - PATA and SATA combined mode with a maximum of 2 IDE drives in each channel.
    • Enhanced - Enable both PATA and SATA drive support, maximum of 6 drives total (Two drives each on the primary PATA and secondary PATA and two SATA drives.)
    • SATA only - Legacy mode support for SATA drives.
  • SATA Mode: Once the SATA interface has been enabled, you can select the mode as IDE or RAID. Important! If you do not choose RAID before installing Windows XP, you will have to reinstall the operating system once you change the mode. Once the Intel ICH5 SATA RAID has been activated, a message to press Control-I to configure the array appears during startup. Configuration choices available are:
    • Create RAID Volume
      • Name
      • RAID Level
      • Strip Size
      • Capacity
    • Delete RAID Volume
    • Reset Disks to Non-RAID
    • Exit

SATA RAID Configuration
Hardware RAID configurations are determined in the motherboard's setup or in the secondary RAID controller's setup. Although Windows XP Pro supports software mirroring of your drives, it involves creating or converting the drives to "Dynamic" partitions first. Windows NT and Windows 2000 also support software mirroring but without the conversion step. By using hardware level RAID to mirror the drives, the work is done in the hardware and not on the operating system. This means that hardware RAID may be transparent to the OS or will only require minimal drivers or configuration to be used.

BIOS Setup
Once the SATA RAID has been enabled in the main BIOS, and the drivers loaded during Windows XP startup, all configuration can be done within Windows itself. To simplify the install process, we will go ahead and configure the SATA RAID Level to RAID1(Mirrored) in the Control-I setup menus.

Windows XP Setup
Boot from the Windows XP CD. Once the Setup screen appears, you should see a prompt to load RAID or SCSI drivers.

  • Press F6 to load the Intel RAID driver from the supplied diskette. Since we are not using any Parallel ATA drivers in this system, Windows fails to find any hard drives using the standard drives it already loads.
  • Press "S" to manually select drivers to load. Windows XP should look at the diskette drive and find the disk we put there. In our case, Windows found one driver "Intel(R) 82801ER SATA RAID Controller," and lists it in a box. If multiple drivers were on the disk, all should be displayed at this time.
  • If drivers from additional diskettes were needed, you can insert a new disk and press "S" to select additional drivers. Since this is the only one we will be using, press "Enter" to accept and continue the Windows Setup.

After this, the Windows XP setup should proceed normally, asking for your acceptance of the EULA (End User License Agreement) and then on to selecting a partition to install Windows on. We will pick the first drive listed, and press "C" to create a partition. Once this has been done, a new entry appears in the list of locations "C: Partition1 [New (RAW)] - 131061 MB Free;" select this and press enter. The next screen that appears is the choice to Format the partition. I always select the default format rather than the "Quick" format since this looks for problems as the drive is being prepared. IDE drives should automatically block out bad sectors that may develop over the life of the drive, but the long format will alert you to any problems that may occur due to cable, memory or other issues that could impact directly on the process. If this were a drive that I was re-imaging or reinstalling Windows on for the fourth time, then I would probably go for the Quick Format selection to speed things up. After formatting, Windows copies files, asks for the Product Key and goes through the basics of configuring the name and user details.

Important Setup Tip!
Windows will keep nagging you to activate, but don't do it yet. You have 30 days from the time Windows is first installed to activate the product. But Windows also is watching for hardware changes that have been made since activating. Wait until you are sure everything is stable, all drivers and updates have been installed, and then activate Windows.

The first thing to do at the Windows Desktop is to install the motherboard chipset drivers. Until this is done, many of the integrated peripherals will not function or will show up as unknown devices in device manager.

The user manual provides valuable information that can save you lots of grief and time reinstalling things and tips to improve performance. DFI has a section titled "Important Configuration and Driver Installation Rules" that starts of with information on how to disable the HighPoint RAID IDE Controller if it is not being used. Since we are using SATA drives and the Intel ICH5 RAID, turning this off in the "Genie BIOS Settings" menu will reduce the POST boot delay while the system looks for drives that don't exist. Following this section, the DFI User manual provides the following "Driver Installation Rules:"

  1. Install the "Audio Drivers"
  2. Install the "Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility"
  3. Install the other drivers and utilities.

Checking Device Manager, we find that there are at least six devices that Windows XP could not identify. This are highlighted with a yellow "Question Mark" (?) next to the type of device. Our list includes:

  • Ethernet Controller
  • Multimedia Audio Controller
  • SM Bus Controller
  • Universal Serial Bus (USB) Controller
  • Video Controller
  • Video Controller (VGA Compatible)

All of the drivers for these devices should be found on the CD that came with the motherboard. The exception will be the Video Controller drivers since this is our add-in ATI video card. Even though the DFI manual recommends installing the audio drivers before the chipset, we are going to install the Intel Chipset Drivers first, since the AC97 Audio uses portions of the main Intel chipset. After running the Intel .inf Installation program and restarting the system, our unknown device list only lost the SM Bus Controller. Back to the System Board CD to install the C-Media Audio drivers and another system restart. After installing the network drivers (no restart necessary under Windows XP), we only have the USB and video devices showing in our "Other" list. The USB drivers are part of the Intel Chipset, right click on the device and choose Uninstall to remove this from the list. Click OK to the warning about removing the device. Right click on the Video device and choose "Update Driver." The Add New Hardware wizard should launch and look for the device drivers on your driver CD. If you want to use the Video Software that comes with the card, run setup from the CD, otherwise, all we need are the drivers. Repeat the process with the "VGA Compatible" video device.

If you restart the system or choose "Scan for hardware changes" from the "Action" menu, the "Add New Hardware" wizard will pop up looking for USB drivers. With the USB 2.0 controller on this motherboard, we will need Windows XP Service Pack 1 installed before there are drivers to support it. The only USB 2.0 drivers on the system board CD are for Windows 98, NT or 2000.) After installing Windows XP Service Pack 1a and restarting, the display resolution changed to 640x480, but the USB device was detected and installed properly. Use the Display wizard or right click on the desktop and select Properties to change the display back to your higher resolution configuration.

After the Service Pack and Critical Updates have been applied, restart the system and open the system board CD one last time. On the CD is a directory "IAA" for Intel Application Accelerator. This is the software for the SATA RAID support if you did not put it in during the initial F6 driver load process. The software allows you to configure and manage the SATA RAID Array from within Windows XP, creating or deleting mirrored (RAID 0) / striped (RAID 1) configurations. This software will only install if you have enable the ICH5 RAID and set the SATA Mode to RAID in the BIOS. Changes you make within the Application Accelerator program are transferred to the BIOS configuration settings at the same time. If you enabled the RAID support in the BIOS but only attached one drive to install Windows, you can connect the second drive, create a mirrored or striped array, as well as change the array name from the IAA program.

Since I used one of my original copies of Windows XP Pro for this installation, there are a whole bunch of critical updates that need to be applied. To speed things up, I will be using a CD that I burned with the Windows XP Service Pack 1a and a batch file to apply all of the critical updates that have been released since the Service Pack.

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