Windows Home Server Motherboard Swap Questions RRS feed

  • Question

  • I have been having issues with the Atheros 8131 PCI-E ethernet controller in my ECS 945GCD-M motherboard .  My current server has 16TB of data distributed across 16 Hard drives, utilizing the PCI and PCI-E slots with drive extenders and outboard JBOD towers, as well as the 3 onboard SATA ports.  Except for the ethernet issue, the server has been running wonderfully without a single problem for the past year.  When I start my WHS, the Atheros ethernet controller frequently fails to initialize, and sometimes I have to restart the machine several times before it will initialize.  (I know, I shouldn't turn it off, but there are days when I do not use the server and I hate to let it run continuously when it's not being used!)  My plan is to replace the motherboard with a Supermicro motherboard , leaving all the other hardware alone.  The motherboards have identical CPUs, north and southbridges, same number and type of PCI and PCI-E slots, and will have similar or the same memory; the only significant differences between the two motherboards are the ethernet controllers (Atheros vs. Realtek), and the lack of audio capability on the Supermicro board.  When I make the swap, before I shut down the old motherboard for the last time, I will remove the Atheros ethernet drivers and the audio drivers. 

    I am thinking that with the similarities of the two motherboards, I may be able to get by without doing a server reinstall, but if I do, I'm worried about getting the proper drivers installed at the right time for the PCI and PCI-E cards, so that the data on the outboard drives connected will be integrated during the WHS server reinstallation.  They are currently listed in Device Manager under SCSI and RAID Controllers as Silicon Image Sil 3114 SATALink Controller, and Silicon Image Sil 3132 SATALink Controller.

    Does anyone have a similar experience with swapping almost identical motherboards?  When I start up the new motherboard for the first time and WHS loads off the system drive, will I have some warning if bad things are going to happen to my data, or will it just fail to start?  Should I be conservative and just plan on doing a WHS reinstall, without seeing whether the system will load off of the prior installation?  I'd rather not take any chances with my data, but if there's a reasonable chance of the swap going smoothly, then it would save a lot of time to avoid a reinstall.  I realize that I will probably have to reactivate WHS, but that happens frequently with the ethernet issue (Windows detects hardware changes).  I'd appreciate any advice on this situation.


    Friday, January 28, 2011 5:53 AM

All replies

  • That's a real challenge!

    With the amount of data you have stored on your WHS a server reinstall will most likely take days or even weeks to finish, not to mention getting the server to recognise all storage drivers properly. I have no experience with this scenario, however I would start with copying chipset drivers of the new MB to C drive of your current install, then install chipset drivers. Shutdown, swap MB, reboot.

    If WHS console complains about missing disks check in Windows Explorer or disk management console if the disk are properly recognised by Windows system. If one more disk are missing from the console you may need to connect them to another port.

    Good luck, and if success please let us know how you did it.

    Henk Panneman - http://www.homeserverweb.nl
    Friday, January 28, 2011 9:20 AM
  • Hi I've moved my disks twice to new servers without having to re-install. Granted I only have two SATA and two IDE but when I moved them over WHS sorted out the new main board drivers then told me there had been a significant hardware change and had to be validated again. Did it with no problems. I was only risking 2TB that were backed up to a single disk in my main PC not 16! Good luck. Dave
    Friday, January 28, 2011 9:31 AM
  • ...Except for the ethernet issue, the server has been running wonderfully without a single problem for the past year...

    ...The motherboards have identical CPUs, north and southbridges, same number and type of PCI and PCI-E slots, and will have similar or the same memory...

    Do you have a spare PCI or PCI-e slot to drop in a network adapter and then disable the onboard ethernet controller?  You could even try a USB to ethernet adapter.

    Another challenge with swapping a motherboard (even with identical motherboard controller chips) is the bios, which may not let your drives boot in the same way your previous board did.  May want to consider picking up an identical ECS board on ebay and then insure that the bios is configured the same.

    Friday, January 28, 2011 7:17 PM
  • I too have swapped disks to a newer mobo in the past. Pre-loading drivers for the new chipset has worked but once I had to run the server recovery due to repeated BSOD's. In both case the data was secure although re-indexing in the latter took a little while (16Tb?). I think I would agree with Russell, drop a new net card in if you can and disable the onboard. Before playing around too much I would certainly look at protecting your data independantly, just not sure how!
    25 years of loving (and too often hating) everything Microsoft.
    Friday, January 28, 2011 7:54 PM