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BIOS Questions For WHS Install

    Question

  • I've built a new WHS rig with a brand new Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD4P motherboard and four 2 TB SATA drives.  I plan to follow "supported" configurations and not use RAID.  I've been reading some forum posts about not using ACHI and using legacy IDE settings for the SATA ports.  Is this really necessary or advantageous?  I'd like to set everything up to run as fast as possible, even if the network may end up being the bottleneck.  Would it really be a mistake to install WHS in ACHI mode and with SATA ports set to SATA?  I'm never going to add any IDE drives.  Thanks.
    Monday, March 29, 2010 6:55 PM

Answers

  • If all your drives are in AHCI mode (and you've said they are) there are no appropriate drivers in the Windows Server 2003 setup which starts after the first reboot. Setup will blue screen at that point. Never mind the initial GUI which might have drivers for a common SATA interface or three.

    My recommendation is to put your SATA interface into compatibility, legacy, IDE, ATA, etc. mode (whatever the BIOS vendor chose to call it). This will avoid the whole question at the cost of a small amount of performance that you won't get the benefit of anyway, due to latencies and bottlenecks outside the mass storage subsystem.


    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    • Marked as answer by XrayDoc88 Saturday, April 10, 2010 4:23 PM
    Saturday, April 10, 2010 11:55 AM
    Moderator

All replies

  • No it's not a mistake to install in AHCI (not ACHI - won't get you far in google  Advanced Host Controller Interface) mode.  Just you need another step to provide the correct drivers.  IDE mode is more straightforward and you won't see any real performance gain - however if the 0.001% or whatever is important then go for it.

    You can refer to my blog entry that shows you step by step what you need to do (vastly simplified) :
    http://albal21.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/setting-up-windows-home-server-with-alternative-disk-drivers/

    Good luck,
    Al


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    • Marked as answer by XrayDoc88 Wednesday, March 31, 2010 5:11 AM
    • Unmarked as answer by XrayDoc88 Friday, April 09, 2010 11:25 PM
    Monday, March 29, 2010 8:30 PM
  • If you decide to proceed with AHCI mode on your disks, I would advise you very strongly to practice server recovery several times, with various disk configuration, so you'll have a good picture of the required process and some idea of any issues your particular configuration may pose (like AHCI drivers that can't be loaded in text mode setup, which I've seen).
    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Monday, March 29, 2010 9:37 PM
    Moderator
  • Sorry about mixing up the letters.  I knew what the letters stood for, but forgot the correct order.  OK, I guess I need to clarify something.  The last computer I built for my son, I installed Windows Vista Ultimate with the BIOS set to AHCI mode.  I had read that you had to make that determination before OS install.  You couldn't change your mind later without reinstalling Windows.  But I also remember installing Windows without any problems and I didn't have to load special drivers for AHCI mode.  Will the same procedure not work with WHS?  The machine is built with the latest Intel P55 Chipset and LGA 1156 CPU.

    As an aside, I built my current gaming computer with the OS installed on a RAID 0 array.  It is also running Vista Ultimate.  I'm pretty sure I didn't have to install the RAID drivers then either, but perhaps I've just forgotten.  I guess I thought the days of watching for the "hit F6" key were already over.

    Tuesday, March 30, 2010 6:27 AM
  • Windows Home Server is based on Windows 2003, so you are relying on drivers that are within Windows 2003 with a few additions.  Vista has a lot more SATA drivers out of the box, that's why you may not have had to provide a driver disk before.

    Legacy mode will work every time and the performance loss is neglible, hence why it's recommended.


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    Tuesday, March 30, 2010 9:12 AM
  • Thanks for everyone's responses.  I learn something new about computers every day.  I want to make sure I understand AHCI and SATA correctly however.  This is what I think I know.  Please correct me if I'm wrong.

    1.  There aren't "AHCI" drivers per se, but if you set that mode in the BIOS, you will need to have the appropriate SATA/RAID drivers for your hard drives to be detected.

    2.  Those necessary SATA/RAID drivers are not included in WHS, even though my version includes Power Pack 1.  (Why Microsoft wouldn't just include those drivers seems really lazy and shortsighted.)

    3.  My WHS will work fine in AHCI mode if I preload the SATA/RAID drivers "twice" during the OS install.

    Here are a few more questions:

    1.  Ken knows that a "server recovery" done in AHCI mode is more complicated.  If that procedure was necessary because my primary hard drive failed, would there not be the same prompts for alternate drivers or hit F6 that you see during the initial OS install?  Or do you have to somehow install drivers without the usual OS prompts?  In other words, is the procedure more difficult than the first time?

    2.  If I don't use AHCI mode, I still have a choice of SATA "Enhanced" or "Compatible".  At least in my BIOS, I have the option to set the SATA to "IDE" when "Enhanced" is selected.  Can I use "Enhanced" and "IDE" or must it be "Compatible" and "IDE"?  (I clearly don't understand the meaning or differences between enhanced and compatible.)

    3.  Do you happen to know why the SATA/RAID drivers have to be installed first during the GUI mode and then again during text mode?  That just seems weird.

    4.  Finally, the SATA/RAID drivers I would have to preload would be "Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition 32 Bit Intel SATA RAID Preinstall Driver" off the Gigabyte website?  (That's the closest match I could find.)

    Thanks again.

    Tuesday, March 30, 2010 7:30 PM
  • 2. The drivers aren't included because the actual operating system installation is a "sealed" Windows Server 2003 package, which can't be changed without moving mountains.

     

    Then in your additional questions:

    1. Yes, you get the same prompts. The complications arise not so much from the need to install drivers in the first place as from the varied ways people add disks to their servers. If, for instance, you add an IDE disk after you install Windows Home Server, your server will likely continue to boot just fine, but you may have trouble getting the reinstallation prompt after replacing your hard drive because when you boot, the wrong drive (the IDE drive) is detected as the candidate for installation.

    2. SATA enhances may still require SATA drivers. You'll have to test to be sure.

    3. Because the first use of the drivers is in a Windows Preinstallation Environment (WinPE) and it's WinPE 2.0, the version developed for Vista. The second time is, as I said above, during text mode installation for Windows Server 2003. Potentially you could need different drivers in the two phases of installation (though I've never seen that happen).

    4. Maybe. :) You'll have to try it yourself. Note that RAID per se is an unsupported technology. It also adds yet another layer of complexity to the recovery process (and don't kid yourself that RAID would protect you from all faults that would normally require reinstalling the OS, because it won't).


    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    • Marked as answer by XrayDoc88 Wednesday, March 31, 2010 5:11 AM
    • Unmarked as answer by XrayDoc88 Friday, April 09, 2010 11:25 PM
    Tuesday, March 30, 2010 9:28 PM
    Moderator
  • My Windows Home Server Installation got delayed, even though the machine has been assembled for awhile.  I thought I'd post back some surprising good news!  I purchased an OEM version of WHS that states it includes power pack 1.  I can only assume that power pack 1 must have added some SATA/RAID drivers.  I decided (against good advice) to go ahead and choose AHCI mode in my BIOS.  My motherboard is a Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD4P.  I first flashed it to the latest BIOS vF8.  I chose AHCI mode in the BIOS.  I had already dug up an old floppy drive and was all prepared to install the necessary SATA drivers twice.  I didn't have to!  All four of my Hitachi SATA drives were detected fine.  It is finishing the GUI install as we speak.  I guess conditions have changed since the original release of WHS!
    Friday, April 09, 2010 9:05 PM
  • OK, maybe I spoke too soon.  Does this make any sense?  Could I possibly not need the floppy disc SATA drivers during the GUI install but then need them on floppy disc during the "text" phase?  That doesn't seem right, but I'm having a problem.  The GUI portion finished completely without installing any extra SATA drivers.  My computer rebooted and I ignored the "F6 prompt" because I thought I was good.  But shortly there after I'm getting a BSD with the following error message:  Stop: 0x0000007B (0xF789EA94, 0xC0000034, 0x00000000, 0x00000000).  I've restarted a couple times and the same BSD occurs.  I haven't tried hitting F6 yet and using my floppy, but maybe I should.  What do you think?  I assumed I'd either need the floppy at both phases or none.  Please comment.  I'm puzzled.
    Friday, April 09, 2010 11:36 PM
  • Use the floppy. You can supply drivers on USB during the initial GUI phase, but if your system drive requires drivers, that isn't going to be enough.
    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    Saturday, April 10, 2010 2:54 AM
    Moderator
  • I will try that.  But remember, I didn't install any SATA drivers by USB or floppy during the GUI phase.  My hard drives were all detected just fine.  If drivers were needed, I think I would have seen the message about no suitable hard drives found for installing WHS.  I never got that message.  I guess they're definitely needed during text phase.  At least I'm hoping that's why I'm getting a BSD.  It still seems odd to me however.
    Saturday, April 10, 2010 6:06 AM
  • If all your drives are in AHCI mode (and you've said they are) there are no appropriate drivers in the Windows Server 2003 setup which starts after the first reboot. Setup will blue screen at that point. Never mind the initial GUI which might have drivers for a common SATA interface or three.

    My recommendation is to put your SATA interface into compatibility, legacy, IDE, ATA, etc. mode (whatever the BIOS vendor chose to call it). This will avoid the whole question at the cost of a small amount of performance that you won't get the benefit of anyway, due to latencies and bottlenecks outside the mass storage subsystem.


    I'm not on the WHS team, I just post a lot. :)
    • Marked as answer by XrayDoc88 Saturday, April 10, 2010 4:23 PM
    Saturday, April 10, 2010 11:55 AM
    Moderator
  • More follow-up.  I "caved" and changed the BIOS to IDE.  Windows Home Server installed fine with no BSDs.  But before caving, I did try to use F6 during the text phase.  I had to choose the specific drivers which I believe I did correctly.  I chose something like "Intel Series 5 6 SATA Ports".  (I have a P55 chipset which is series 5 and the motherboard has 6 Intel SATA ports.)  However, there were a lot of other choices.  Anyway, the drivers installed and WHS installation proceeded again and went much further.  But before finishing, I got another BSD.  Now I don't know if I could have been successful with a different choice of drivers or if I needed to use the floppy during the GUI phase as well, even though my hard drives were recognized.  But at this point I decided to sacrifice hot swappability and native command queing for the successful IDE install.  Thanks Ken.  I still don't know why it didn't work in AHCI mode.  I think I did everything correctly.  :(
    Monday, April 12, 2010 2:57 AM