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iceaura

Time to build a proper server

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Well, I've been contemplating this for years but I've only just now come across DrivePool, which is exactly what I've been hoping for! I got a little excited when Windows 8 was released and Storage Spaces looked like what I was after, however I discovered its (unacceptable) flaws after some research, then stumbled upon DrivePool!

 

First, my current system started as a large gaming/CAD workstation and has since ballooned into an always on media server too. Now, I'm really struggling for space and SATA ports (I have installed PCI to SATA adapters, PCI to USB and then to USB to SATA adapters, HDD docks, etc etc). The system runs fairly well and performs fine but I've decided to build a dedicated system with plenty of space, room to expand and lower power consumption.

 

Just for interest, the current system is:

OS: W7 Pro 64

CPU: Core i7 920 with Noctua NH U12P cooler

MOBO: ASUS P6T-Deluxe

GRAPHICS: Dual Radeon HD 5850 (running 4 screens, 3x23", 1x42")

CASE: Silverstone Raven case

RAM: 6GB triple channel RAM

An SSD for the system drive

About 10-12 mech drives ranging from 2 to 4TB - a range of brands and speeds (Seagate, Samsung, Hitachi, WD).

 

I have a 10 Gb switch running to several devices, including PC's, gaming consoles and an IP camera, wireless router (for laptops and mobile phones)

 

I've built a few PC's in the past (including this one) without any issues, but I'm no IT guy - well, nothing formal anyway, just tinkering. The idea of a server has always seemed "too professional" for me, but after some research over the past few days, I reckon I can handle it.

 

I don't like the idea of hardware RAID due to the drive limitations (I have a very multi-cultural collection of drives), which is where DrivePool will fit my needs perfectly.

 

This is my current plan for my build:

OS: W7 Pro 64 (Maybe W8 Pro 64)

MOBO: Asus H97-Plus

GRAPHICS: Use the onboard

CPU: Intel Corei5 4590

RAM: 16GB kit (2x8GB) G.Skill Ares DDR3 1600

CONTROLLER: Highpoint RocketRAID 2740 16ch

CASE: Norco RPC-4224 in a 12RU cabinet

PSU: Thermaltake Toughpower 850W

NETWORK: 24 port managed switch

UPS?

HDD: I've got a spare SSD that I'll use for the system, then transplant my mech drives over onto the controller using breakout cables

 

If I need to add future drives I will add in Highpoint Rocket EJ340 expanders - which I have a question about. Can I just keep daisy chaining EJ340's together? What happens to speed performance?

 

Also, I briefly saw something on a "landing spot" or something, where files are initially copied to an SSD before being re-distributed to the pool. This is an awesome idea and will probably end up taking advantage of this. Is there any way to kind of do the reverse? i.e. select a few files or folders in the pool and "mark" them for the landing zone because I know I will be transferring them to an external drive later or streaming them later?

 

Another question and a reason why I've been hesitant to put up a server; is there any decent "network recycling bin" type software around? I don't like the idea of deleting something over the network and then that file is gone forever.

 

So that is my build plan, what do you guys think? I've done some research, but I really don't want to have made some fundamental mistake, buy the parts and THEN realise I've messed up. Any input is appreciated, also any suggestions on a cheaper solution would be great!

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I haven't got StableBit Scanner or Drivepool yet, as I've said I want to get the system up and running first and then do the trial before buying. I REALLY hope it's not the card as it was new, bought from Germany for $388. I'm hoping it's the driver, so I'll be investigating that route.

 

EDIT: The dump has been uploaded

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Yeah, it specifically looks like the 3WareDrv.sys driver is what crashed the system.

 

 

The only other thing that jumps out at me, is that it looks like you have AVG installed?  If so, see about uninstalling that (ideally) temporarily or disabling it, and see if that helps.

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Ah yes, I did hear about AVG possibly being a problem with Windows 10. I have been using AVG for about 10 years now and have installed it on every PC I have owned, built or repaired without any problems, it would be sad to have to switch but if it is causing the problem, it will have to go. I downloaded and installed the latest driver from the LSI website, it is still crashing. I'll uninstall AVG when I get home. I'm still curious as to why I have 5x 16MB disks showing up in Disk Manager, I have 9 drives on the controller, 3 SSDs on the motherboard (1 system, the other 2 are not formatted).

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It could be an interaction here... so it may be worth uninstalling it, at least temporarily.

 

 

As for the 16MB disks ..... honestly, I'm not sure about why it's showing those disks.... but that may be related to the issue. 

 

If you can, check the management software (or the boot management option), and see if it has any arrays being created.

 

Aside from that, if it's new, .... if it's under warranty, you may want to consider replacing the card (or maybe refunding it, and getting something newer)


Also, contacting Avago (or whatever the company is now), may be a good idea, as they may be able to help solve the issue.

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OK, I uninstalled AVG, and it didn't crash for two days.... but then I decided to do a reboot, after it was booted I left it running as normal and it crashed after about 30mins. So AVG wasn't the problem. Another interesting observation;  EVERY 2TB hard drive I install, has a little 16MB unallocated disk show up in disk manager. I tried each one by one and all of them together - it creates a 16MB disk for each 2TB drive. I tried a 3TB drive and it created an extra 1TB unallocated disk. There were no extra disks when I tried a 320GB and 500GB drive. So it seems that it has a problem with any drive at or over 2TB. Interesting. Any ideas on whats going on here? They are all showing their nominated sizes in windows fine and seem to run fine (when it's not crashing).

 

EDIT: Just looked it up and there is new firmware that is supposed to allow support up to 4TB (I tried to install it previously but couldn't get it installed, I think it was because the .exe wouldn't run on Windows 10, I'll try it again). It also added support for Windows 8 and Windows server 2012.

 

EDIT2: Yup, can't install it on Windows 10, is there another way? Also, I'm planning on getting some 8TB drives, is this just going to be further issues in the future? (If I can solve this issue first).

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Could you see what this looks like in Disk Management (run "diskmgmt.msc").  Are they showing up as seperate physical disks? Or as different partitions? 

I'm guessing partitions... and if that is the case, manually initialize the disks (and make sure you initialize to "GPT").

 

As for the EXE, do you have a Windows 7 or 8 install disk? If so, try booting from that. Hit "Shift+F10" to bring up a command prompt, and then try running the EXE from there. That may work better.

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They come up as separate physical disks. For eg it shows the 3TB as 3TB and then there is an extra physical disk unallocated at 1TB. I do have Windows 7 and 8 install disks, so I'll try that. If that doesn't work, I can pull the card and put it in my W7 machine to flash the firmware. I'll try that tonight if I have time.

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They come up as separate physical disks. For eg it shows the 3TB as 3TB and then there is an extra physical disk unallocated at 1TB. I do have Windows 7 and 8 install disks, so I'll try that. If that doesn't work, I can pull the card and put it in my W7 machine to flash the firmware. I'll try that tonight if I have time.

Ah, then that's an issue with the controller.

 

Just to make sure, with the management utility/firmware, the drives are "unconfigured", and not JBOD's right?

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What I managed to achieve last night:

Pulled the controller and installed it in a Windows 7 machine, while it was in there, I created a DOS bootable USB and flashed the controller so it is now on the latest firmware. I installed the latest driver again. It still has a little extra physical disk (17MB this time) when I attach a 2TB drive. I have left it running for about 8 hours now with no crash but I still think that the little disk showing up means there is an issue.

 

Hmm. I think I did change it to JBOD (I think because the drives weren't showing up or something) but that was at the start when I was first setting things up, so I'll have to check.

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Here's hoping with the firmware upgrade and me checking the options in the BIOS, I could have this solved tonight :) . Although, I'll still be worried about adding 8TB drives (which I want to do). Maybe I could start by adding 8TB to the mainboard, if I fill those, maybe get a second, newer controller for the 8TB drives.

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The good news is I fixed the issue with the extra physical drives showing up. I went into the firmware settings. First of all the setting "export JBOD disks" has to be set to yes, otherwise the drives won't show up, so I couldn't turn that off. Then I noticed another setting - carving factor = 1863. I don't usually mess around with settings I don't understand or know about (especially in BIOS/firmware but this looked close to 2TB in MB. I disabled auto carving and those extra physical disks are now gone.

Excited, I put the card back into the server, bad news is it's still crashing. I performed a system reset, still crashing.

I just installed the new driver for W7 (I usually install the one for W8), so I'll see if that makes a difference

 

EDIT: That didn't help, still crashing.

 

Next step - I'm going to disconnect all drives (including the system drive), then use one of the unused SSD's and install W7 Pro on it. See if I can get it working with that.

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Well, awesome! Glad to hear that you got the one issue fixed!

 

However, if it's still crashing, that's not.  Have you tried using BlueScreenView to see what the specific error is? This may be much simpler than uploading the dumps to us. 

Though I suspect that it's still the controller in question. If it is, I would really recommend returning it, or seeing if it has a warranty so you can replace the card, because I suspect that it's a defective card as opposed to a driver or firmware issue here.

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Damn, I really hope not as I got the card off eBay (from Germany), so returning it/warranty is probably not an option. I'll look into BlueScreenView and trying out W7, although I'm about to go on holiday, so it will probably be a month or so before I revisit this.

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I've tried a fresh install of W8 Pro 64 on a fresh SSD but I'm still getting crashes (both before and after driver updates). So it looks like the card (or could it be some kind of incompatibility between the card and the mobo?). Okay, so I still have a couple things I want to try - I will try Windows 7. I will also try installing this card on another machine.

 

I've emailed the seller to see if they can do anything.

 

However, for now it looks like it's back to the drawing board and hunting for another card/expander solution. It just seems like such a minefield out there - I see cards for $1500+ and cards for less than $500 (like mine, which SEEMS like it would've done the job). I think I would like to get something newer to try and avoid another situation like this.

 

EDIT: On second thought, you mentioned you had some cards for sale; any chance I could buy a card and expander to support up to 24 drives from you?

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It really doesn't look that bad to me (the minefield lol).  You probably just got a bad board.  eBay, NewEgg, Amazon, they all sell controllers and expanders.  I'm going to pick up the HP Expander (link) once I save up some more for my own build.  I'm not sure what your requirements are, but I've heard lots of good things about this card.  As for the controller, Chris sold me one of his flash-updated Intel MegaRaid cards.  It works ok so far.  I've been having some issues in my error log though about an AHCI connected drive being reset.  Might be the controller, might be the cable, might be the motherboard, might be a specific drive.  I have to wait until the rest of my upgrade parts arrive before I can narrow it down.  The only problem, I think his card is only capable of expanding out to 36 drives based on research I've done with the model number printed on the board.  So future expandability might be locked out for me.

 

Keep your hopes up.  That's the best I can say!  I'm in the same boat in a way, trying to build my server.

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Thanks, that does look like a good expander but I couldn't find it searching eBay AU, even if I selected international.... Had to go to that link (US), add to watchlist, then I can see it. However, doesn't that expander require a PCI slot for power? I'd rather use molex power than waste a PCI slot. I'm thinking 36 drives would probably be plenty, lol, especially with the larger drives coming out now (I'd like to start acquiring 8TB drives).

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Yea, this card does require PCI power.  But it also has an external port if you want to expand to another JBOD case.  Just gotta make sure your initial controller can handle that many drives.

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Thanks, that does look like a good expander but I couldn't find it searching eBay AU, even if I selected international.... Had to go to that link (US), add to watchlist, then I can see it. However, doesn't that expander require a PCI slot for power? I'd rather use molex power than waste a PCI slot. I'm thinking 36 drives would probably be plenty, lol, especially with the larger drives coming out now (I'd like to start acquiring 8TB drives).

The HP card does requires PCIe power, IIRC, though there are solutions for that. 

 

The Intel card can use either, and is why I tend to recommend it over anything else. More flexible. 

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I think I may end up going with that Intel card you suggested earlier. However, for the IBM controller card, is there something cheaper (possibly with less ports and more expansion capabilities)? I calculate that to buy both cards (from overseas, sigh, more time lost) will cost $461 AUD and I have already spent $388 AUD on the card that doesn't appear to work properly (still diagnosing, haven't heard back from seller).

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As for cheaper, it depends if your'e able to find it or not.

 

However, something like the LSI SAS 9211-4i  would work.

 

As for where to find them, I'm not sure. Since I'm in the US, that's the results I get, and finding results for you apparently, fairly difficult. 

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Thanks Christopher, I have installed W7 Pro 64 on my third spare SSD and running that, so far no crashes, so I will see how that goes. If I get a crash I will pull the card and put it into my Workstation PC and see if it is OK in there. If it still crashes after that, I think I can consider the card as useless  :(  . I've had a look and there is no way I would be buying the cards locally ($450 AUD for the LSI SAS 9211-4i vs. $131 AUD from eBay (china) - and that is for the LSI SAS 9211-8i). I'm eyeing up a couple of cards now and it would only be slightly more than I paid for my current (not working and only 16 ports) card.

 

Thanks for sticking with me this long guys, I really appreciate it. I WILL get there, lol

 

EDIT: I was just looking at the Intel 24 port expander, it only has six SAS connectors on it, does this mean that you can actually only get 20 drives on it? IE one of the SAS connectors is for the controller input?

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That's the way I interpret it.  So I don't understand how they can market it as a 24-port expander.  It's very confusing.  The HP exander I'm going to get has 8 ports plus 1 external.  So to me, that's 32-ports, not 24.  Maybe on the HP, the external only works if you're not using an adjacent internal one.  There's also the double-bandwith thing I saw, where if you use 2 ports on your controller and connect it to the expander, you'd get twice the through put.  So I can see that being 24 in that case.  Who knows?  (Probably Chris ^_^)

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