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Asus M2R32 motherboard: defective RAID/AHCI?

I mentioned in a previous post here that I picked up some additional hard drives.  The 750 GB drive is running happily in an external eSATA-connected enclosure and is providing backup for my machine.  The other two drives are sitting on a shelf, and will remain there indefinitely.  There is a story behind their banishment from my computer.  It isn’t that there is anything particularly wrong with the drives themselves: I’ve finally concluded that my Asus motherboard has crappy RAID/AHCI support.

I have spent the last couple of days repeatedly building and tearing down my machine.  First I built a RAID 1 array.  Bear in mind that the drives I’m using are good quality Seagate 7200.10 drives: they have full SATA2 support, including Native Command Queuing (NCQ).  The drives they displaced were high-end WD Raptor 1500ADFD drives: arguably, the Raptors are better drives, but I had suspicions that WD drives might be behind my problems putting my system into standby mode in Vista.  I was wrong.

After installing the Seagate drives in RAID 1 mode, I restored my system from Windows Backup.  This worked: the system booted and all looked good.  Putting the system into standby…failed by corrupting the drives horribly, just like with the WD drives.  Note that I tried this both with the current official ASUS BIOS (v804) and with the beta BIOS (v906).  I was also using the most recent ATI RAID drivers.  With the same result. 

My next theory: something might be wrong with the configuration I backed up.  I performed a fresh Windows Vista X64 install from scratch.  Same result: massive drive corruption when restoring from standby.  I then retried both of the above with the drives configured for 1.5 GBPS SATA instead of 3 GBPS SATA: again, same results.  Bear in mind that each test took a couple of hours.

Next I tried configuring the drive without RAID at all.  Since I had the drives configured for 3 GBPS, I had to go with AHCI: base SATA IDE only supports 1.5 GBPS, at least from what I’ve read.  This time, I didn’t even get as far as being able to try standby: the system blue-screened during boot.  It failed during a Safe boot as well.  I tried several iterations of this test, with fresh OS installs, using my backup, with an empty (unpartitioned) drive, or with it partitioned and formatted- same results each time.

I should have been more exhaustively methodical in this process- I spent nearly three days, but didn’t document every step in detail.  But to be honest, I was flabbergasted by the failures.  I kept thinking that there must be something obvious I was doing wrong.  But in the end, there was really only one conclusion: the Asus M2R32-MVP motherboard has pathetically bad RAID/AHCI support, at least in conjunction with Vista.  It’s so bad, in fact, that after nearly a decade of using Asus motherboards, I’m pretty sure I’ll try a different brand next time.  Or maybe I’ll switch to (shudder) Intel/Via/NVidia, since my other Asus MB-based systems seem to be working fine…and none of them are using the ATI chipset.

I’m back to my original configuration with the Western Digital drives.  I still can’t put the system in standby.  I’m keeping the new Seagate drives on the shelf for the future rebuild of my Linux server. 

 

[tags]Asus, M2R32, ATI, RAID, Vista, crash[/tags]

7 comments to Asus M2R32 motherboard: defective RAID/AHCI?

  • Greg

    I’m very new to your site. Last week, I was attempting to create a VPN tunnel from a LinkSys BEFSX41 to a LinkSys RV082 and went looking for others doing this type of thing. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts.

    I’m curious if you have tried your setup with XP? I have not done much with Vista and stories such as yours make me even more reluctant to try. But I like to be fair; Vista may or may not be the problem; it’s just suspect #1!

  • Greetings and welcome to my blog, Greg!

    I haven’t tried installing XP on this particular machine. My suspicion is that it would work (I.E.: that the problems with standby and the ASUS/ATI RAID resulting in massive disk corruption would not occur on XP), particularly if I used the 32 bit version of XP. I should probably give it a try, though.

    I also haven’t tried the 32 bit version of Vista. Many of the problems I’ve encountered seem to originate with the combination of the 64 bit address space and 4 GB of RAM as much as with Vista itself. It would be interesting to see if even simply changing to the 32 bit version of Vista resolved the standby disk corruption problem.

    I like Vista. But it seems that a lot of the hardware developers really have had a hard time making their drivers work well with it, particularly with the 64 bit version (which is what I’m using). When I look at the Asus and ATI drivers for Vista, specifically the Southbridge (SB600) drivers for ATI’s RAID controller, I see that they haven’t been updated since January. This suggests to me that they aren’t really putting much effort into dealing with the problems, either.

  • Greg

    I, too, would be interested in see if 32 bit Vista works better.

    So far, I dislike Vista. But I didn’t like XP when it was first out and now I prefer it. My problem with Vista is fundamental — too much of it’s core was designed to protect interests other than mine! With XP, my complaint was with product activation and, later, with Windows Guinuine Advantage. With WGA, it cannot be designed well enough to see the Microsoft sticker on the box that says I have a license to run this OS. To me, that trumps anything it finds scanning the inside! Vista goes much further trying to make sure I have a license for data files. Way too far.

    I’m not sure that your observation shows ATI isn’t putting effort into dealing with problems; it probably only shows they are spread thin dealing with a host of problems this new OS is providing. I have hated that every version of Windows requires all new drivers but I do think Microsoft had a sufficient reason with Vista — provided they were honost about it.

  • You raise some good points, Greg. I don’t have a problem with the Windows Genuine Advantage program: Microsoft has a right to validate that I own a license for their product before they let me download updates and so forth. But the “trusted computing” and playback channel encryption stuff that they added to the OS in order to satisfy the movie and record industry borders on the ludicrous.

    I suspect these things bother me less than some folks because I don’t use my computer to watch movies. So most of what I experience with Vista relates to the user interface and security features. I’m perhaps a little odd in that I appreciate the value of the extra security, including UAC. I feel these features are long overdue, and don’t find the prompts for privilege elevation to be terribly intrusive. Mind you, I use Linux GUIs like KDE and Gnome regularly, and am used to the “root privileges required” prompts from that environment. One thing that these prompts clearly reinforce for me is the fact that there are far too many programs for Windows, particularly games, that require elevated privileges simply to run. That is poor design on the part of the software authors: they’ve gotten used to having full and complete control of the machine. This is particularly true of the copy protection schemes used by these games, which try to run as core parts of the OS to block or encrypt access to the CD/DVD drive. That is really pretty scary stuff- what is a game doing taking over low level device drivers?

    As for the hardware developers…there hasn’t been a major change in Windows driver requirements for five or six years. The hardware manufacturers had a couple of years while Vista was in beta to comply with the new driver architecture. Microsoft has been saying for years that over 80% of the customer problems they receive are ultimately traced to incorrect or badly written hardware device drivers. I can attest to this myself: I’ve been in server and workstation support for a couple of decades, and have observed first hand how hardware drivers can mis-behave. The new driver architecture in Vista is supposed to limit the damage a poorly developed driver can cause. I guess I’m a little less sympathetic towards the hardware companies than I could be.

    Despite the fact that I like many aspects of Vista, I can’t say I’d recommend someone who is happily using XP should upgrade. I’ve been telling my friends and family that there is no real reason to upgrade, and lots of reasons not to. My suggestion to them is to upgrade when they buy a new computer, unless or until there is something hardware or software wise that they really want that only works under Vista. This is a big difference from the Windows 95 to Windows XP transition: I was strongly recommending folks upgrade that time.

  • Greg

    “I don’t have a problem with the Windows Genuine Advantage program: Microsoft has a right to validate that I own a license for their product” I wasn’t arguing their right to do this; I was arguing their ability to do so. If my box has a Genuine Microsoft tag on the outside that says I have a license for Windows XP Pro then how is a program going to detect that? Not that it is all bad; I worked at a place last year where a number of machines got tagged as “not genuine”. Apparently, my predecessor had upgraded them without paying for the upgrade. I used our Open License to take care of the problem (it would have been cheaper to simply pay for an upgrade but that’s our problem and not Microsofts) but there was no way to tell WGA this.

    I do not watch high definition content on my computer either. I do download tv shows; my computer isn’t very comfortable for watching them though. Netgear has a neat device that would allow to show those files on my tv; that might be worth getting. I’m a little apprehensive about what I’m doing as I am violating someone’s copyright. I keep hoping the producers of these shows would just get with the program and make them available.

    I mostly agree with your comments about hardware drivers. For past version changes, it doesn’t matter if it was major or minor; updating drivers for every thing you’ve shipped in the last 2 years can be a major undertaking. And no one is going to commit major resources to do it unit the product ships; Microsoft can and has made last minute changes that have invalidated all previous work. I do not like the practice; I just understand it.

  • Greg

    “I don’t have a problem with the Windows Genuine Advantage program.”

    And add to this, “What happens if the WGA servers go down?” Could never happen, huh?

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