At my wit's end - reinstall WHS, switch to Win7 or give up?
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Author:  mike1812 [ Thu May 26, 2011 1:19 pm ]
Post subject:  At my wit's end - reinstall WHS, switch to Win7 or give up?

I still cannot resolve my missing drive problems on my homebuilt WHS (specs below). Whenever I reboot, WHS reports at least 1 drive as “failed” or “missing”. However, time and again, the drives are just fine, and reinstalling them restores them to working order in the WHS. Obviously this doesn’t give me great confidence about my data integrity though. To top it off, the drive reported as “failed” (once I “remove” through the console) isn’t the drive that is actually in error, as when I goto physically pull the drive, WHS signals I’ve removed a DIFFERENT drive. It’s like my drive “mappings” (for lack of a better term) get all screwed up during a reboot. So one major question: when I slipstreamed the WHS installation disk, I’m pretty sure I loaded the driver for the SASLP-MV8 cards only once, even though I have 3 of the cards installed. Should I have loaded the driver 3 times in the slipstreamed installation disk? This goes to my question of reinstalling WHS. Please bear in mind I’m not an IT administrator, I just play one at home (and no, I didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn last night).

A little background:

I have an HP EX470 MSS that I have used for several years for backups and media sharing. Several months ago, I decided to build a new WHS server (I need massive storage for my movie collection) rather than string many USB enclosures together off the EX470. I’ve put together a server grade motherboard, Intel i7-950 cpu, 4g of ram, 3 SASLP-MV8 controller cards, all in a Norco case holding up to 20 hard drives (plus OS drive). Despite having been built for a couple of months, I haven’t moved it into production as I keep having issues with disappearing drives upon reboots; I haven’t been able to sort this out. This is killing me because I finally had to add a 4 bay enclosure to the Ex470 because I was running out of space on the original WHS (which will remain in place for pc backups, music sharing, etc, - everything but dvd and bd sharing).

Because of the above noted drive issue, I am seriously considering scrapping my WHS build on this server and rebuilding it using Windows 7 Pro 64 bit. Essentially I would:
1. Install Windows Pro 64bit
2. Create a 2 partition OS drive – C (OS) and D (Data) (a small partition just to hold shared folders with drive mount points.
3. Setup Shared folders on the D drive (Videos, Pictures, Music, etc.)
4. Use mount-points to install drives in the OS (rather than drive letters, as I will eventually have more than 22 drives); e.g., “Video” share folder with Mountpoint1, Mountpoint2, Mountpoint3, etc.
5. Setup drives in pairs, using the Windows “mirror” function to duplicate each master drive to its paired redundant drive.

Is that a pretty good summary of how I would do a conversion?

If I do move from WHS v1, I really have no reason to goto Vail or Server 2008, because I don’t see any value in those products for this box based upon my technical skills – it’s only purpose is to store and serve videos (and possibly record tv from a cablecard tuner). I’ve worked up some pros/cons re: the potential change to Win7P64 – what I need to know is, what haven’t I thought of, and what below do I have wrong?

• Ability to fully utilize the server/processor/ram combination (better than WHS v1)
• Ability to use larger than 2TB drives AND advanced format drives without issue
• Possibly better stability with newer hardware (especially the SAS cards)
• Potentially faster recovery of dead drives due to restore only a single drive vs. pool recovery
• Mostly seamless migration from view of media players and jukeboxes
• Can backup OS and Data drive to my EX470 (which will still be in place as a WHS)
• Not hampered by WHS 32 drive limitation
• Manual drive management is required (i.e., managing the capacity for each shared folder and its associated mount points ). This concerns me because I’m a computer enthusiast, not an IT expert.
• Using the mount-point method restricts Windows’ ability to accurately report the drive’s free and used space (in fact, I have no idea how I would determine free/used space per drive)
• Sharing seems more challenging with Windows 7 (I’ve yet to successfully share a folder from my main Win7 pc that can be seen by my Dune, but in hindsight, that may have been the Dune’s network browsing quirks).

I would appreciate some feedback – if someone has suggestions on curing my “failing drive” problem in WHS, that would be great. If you have input on the possible Win7 conversion, please let me know.

Author:  Comp1962 [ Thu May 26, 2011 4:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: At my wit's end - reinstall WHS, switch to Win7 or give

While your hardware is different then mine my server was reporting failed or missing drives. When looking which drives were affected they were all WD Green Drives EADS Drives and sometimes the drives connected to the same backplane. What was consistant was the WD Green Drives especially if the drives experienced heavy activity.

Home Server Smart gave these drives a clean bill of health and yet the drives continued to drop out of the storage pool. So I had to rule out if the problem was the drive, backplanes or cables. The easiest thing for me to do was to remove the drives from the storage pool and simply replace them which I did with WD Black Drives. Since doing that the I have had absolutely no issues with drives dropping out of my storage pool so I have to attribute the issue to a quirk in the WD Green Drives.

Now I moved the removed drives to another computer and decided to beat the hell out of them by transfering huge chunks of data from my primary server. Wierd thing is this they have not missed a beat, none of them are dropping out and the transfer speeds from the server to the client were 80-100 mb/s. So here I am with 4 WD Green Drives I can't get to drop out on the client yet they will in the server.

What I can't help you with is which drives are which in your server accept to say to use Disk Management to help you identify the drives. Since Disk Management will also display the S/N then if you were to take the time and shut the server down then record where the drives were based on the S/N and then setup the WireFrame to match then you should be in good shape. It could be that if your using Disk Management and possibly made a mistake setting up the wire frame that it could be the reason why you pulled the wrong drives. If the drives match up then it doesn't make any sense to me how the drive location would be off.

As for loading of the drivers for each of your cards you could look in Device Manager and see if any devices are missing drivers. I don't know if you have populated the server with 20 drives + the System Drives but lets say you did and all the drives show up then I would have to assume you have all the drivers properly loaded with exception to the drivers being the most current available.

As for removing the drive from your storage pool, I would not rush to pull it from the server as it would become an umanaged drive and DE would not basically be looking at it so no real rush there to pull the drive and as an umanaged drive if it were to drop out it would have no impact on the server.

So for me my missing drive issues were attributed to the WD Green EADS drives and yet I beat the hell out of them daring them to vanish and they performed flawlessly. Your issue could be similar or altogether different but at some point you have to go through a process of ellimination. The core hardware you have appears to be solid and I know drives can make for a bad day so I would if possible elliminate the drives and see if the problem goes away then decide what type of drives you might replace them with.

Good Luck and I hope you find a solution and hope others will offer their suggestions as well.

Author:  JohnM [ Thu May 26, 2011 8:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: At my wit's end - reinstall WHS, switch to Win7 or give

What motherboard and what power supply?

for a 4220, your going to need something in the ballpark of a 650w with a single 12v rail. maybe a little more if you have a lot of 7200's in there.

It is possible you dont have enough juice when you power the server up. but once you're going you can re-add the drives.
also if on the MV8's set up staggered spin up.

It could also be something weird like the mv8's in a video slot. again the board model will help.

Author:  mike1812 [ Fri May 27, 2011 10:06 am ]
Post subject:  Re: At my wit's end - reinstall WHS, switch to Win7 or give

Thanks for the replies guys! I'm adding some information you asked about below.

My server specs (mobo, power, etc.) are detailed in this thread:

@Comp1962 - I do have a great many green drives, but they are a mix of EARS (jumpered), EADS, and Hitachis, and the error is not specific to any one drive type. Also, I AM using Disk Management, and the first thing I did when I loaded the drives was match physical serial numbers with the slots on the wireframe. However, when it reboots, this turns out to be mismatched. For example, the storage tab may tell me that drive "WD 7827" is missing (i use the last 4 digits of the sn). When i remove that, the storage tab gets happy and says everything is ok. When I switch to Drive Management tab to find that drive and physically remove it (so that I can re-plug it and tell the system to add to the pool), it turns out that the drive I "electronically" removed via storage tab is NOT the same as what is showing in Drive Management. Hence, there is some real confusion going on with WHS and the SAS cards. This is what is driving me batty - so when i physically pull the drive that matches "WD 7827" I get a new error that I've removed a working drive, the system crashes (BSOD) and reboots.

And yes, in Device Manager, all 3 cards show drivers loaded for the SASLP-MV8. HOWEVER, when I go into disk manager during bios boot, I only see the first card (I think). It gives me the choice to edit 2 controllers (the one onboard running the raid-ed OS drives, and the SAS card with 8 slots). I would expect I would be seeing multiple SAS cards with 8 slots here, so that's why I suspect it has something to do with not loading the SAS drivers during the boot process (stemming from how I made the slipstreamed OS disk - since you have to load the drivers 2x).

@JohnM - I've setup the first board to be staggered spin-up. See my comment above, I can only edit settings for 1 controller when I go into the configuration during boot-up. I suspect that may be part of the problem - the inability to actually modify the other 2 cards settings for staggered spin-up.

No cards in a video slot - all in 3 PCIe slots - 1 x4, 2 x8.

Author:  walkabt [ Sat May 28, 2011 1:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: At my wit's end - reinstall WHS, switch to Win7 or give

Drivers not loading after the BIOS is one thing, but if the cards don't show up in the POST that's another.... I would test each card out to ensure you don't have a bad card, or two. Pull all three, start with one. If it shows up at boot and also in WHS then move to the next one and so on. Only use one at a time until you've cleared them all. If they all work AND show in the POST then start looking at other options.

You should only have to load the driver once, if I recall correctly. Once WHS identifies the devices are the same it should use the same driver for all three.

I didn't slipstream my drivers. I actually installed the cards and drivers AFTER I had WHS up. I wasn't worried about a server recovery the way I store my data and the fact the drives are NTFS and I could pull the files off at any time.

Author:  mike1812 [ Mon Aug 01, 2011 12:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: At my wit's end - reinstall WHS, switch to Win7 or give

Some progress, and more clues.

So, after enduring countless hours of frustration, and with the price of WHS 2011 so low, I decided to give that a shot to see if it would perhaps fix my problem(s). While it wasn't a complete fix, it made it significantly easier to nail down the issue(s).

I have swapped cards, cables, and backplane connections around enough to eliminate a bad backplane or cable (plugging each backplane and each cable into a known good card sees all drives, which show up in OS as well). I'm pretty sure I have it narrowed down to (1) card/mobo combination, (2) bad hard drive(s) (3) OS drivers, or (4) some combination of the above.

So, what I'm seeing and what I think is happening (and as always, if anyone has any suggestions, I'm all ears):
(1) Card/Mobo combination. I don't think that any of my Supermicro SAS cards are bad, but I DO think that there may be a problem trying to run 3 of them on my particular Supermicro motherboard (even though these are X4 cards and I have 4 slots that are capable of running them). When the server goes through POST, all I can ever see is 2 cards. And after playing around with the slot locations a bit, I can see ALL drives (all 16) show up in the POST process (with one card in an X8 slot and the other in the X16 video card slot - yeah, odd I know). I am sending an email to Supermicro support tonight with complete specs to see what they say about running 3 cards on that mobo.

If I can't run 3 cards, then my next step is to attempt to get the last backplane connected via a breakout cable to the SAS connectors on my mobo (not enough open SATA connectors). I tried this before under V1, but either that OS wouldn't recognize it or something else was wrong. Last option is to spend more money on a Highpoint card that has 4 SAS 8087 connectors to connect the other 3 backplanes (replacing 1 of the 2 Supermicro cards).

(2) Bad hard drive(s). I have one WD EARS drive that seems to be a commonly missing drive under both WHS v1 and 2011 (regardless of backplane location/card slot location/card connection), so I'm feeling pretty confident that this one just doesn't like my server (though it doesn't show up with any issues when connected to my Win7 PC). I've removed it from the mix to see if I can further stabilize the server without it. Will probably just pop it in my W7 pc to use. Again, this drive will show up in POST, but not in Windows.

(3) OS drivers. I read on another thread that there are new drivers for the SAS cards, and that may help in reducing the "missing drives", as I find it odd that they all show up in the POST, but then don't appear in Windows after the OS boots. This would lead me to believe this is related to how Windows interacts with the cards. In addition, I'm noticing the same behavior in 2011 as I am in V1 - when a drive doesn't show up in Windows, it is not always the correct drive reported. For example, if I boot the server, and WHS tells me that drive (15) is missing (or rather, it just doesn't show up anywhere - console, explorer, disc management), and I go to physically pull that drive, I get a balk from WHS that I've removed a DIFFERENT drive, followed by a BSOD and data dump. Of course, the message is too long and closes too quickly for me to read what it says! This really seems like the card is not communicating properly with the OS (i.e., driver-related).

If anyone has additional thoughts or ideas on what to do next, please let me know.

Author:  mike1812 [ Mon Aug 08, 2011 9:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: At my wit's end - reinstall WHS, switch to Win7 or give


It appears that it was a combination of all of the above issues (which made debugging quite challenging):

(1) 1 of 3 SAS cards was bad;
(2) 1 hard drive in the mix was bad (at least, WHS did not like it, though Win7 & drive analysis tools still have not identified any issues);
(3) It looks as though I can only use 2 cards at any given time on my motherboard, though Supermicro support still has not responded with a definitive answer. I've solved that problem by using a breakout cable for the last 4 drives and connecting direct to the SAS ports on my motherboard. Not a bad solution, but limits me to USB or eSata for future outboard drive additions.

I also upgraded the drivers for the Supermicro SAS cards to the 4.0 version (thanks Google!), and am running WHS 2011 using Stablebit's DrivePool. The upgraded driver and WHS 2011 allow me to use 3tb drives (though I have to format them in Win7 first to use the full 3tb). Over time, I will be upgrading to 3TB drives throughout to make this a 30TB (net) server (after duplication).

I have tried to break this box (and DrivePool) all weekend and can't. It seems to be pretty solid now. In fact, it even cured some audio dropouts on high bitrate streams that my V1 box faltered on.

Still need a lot more testing before moving into production (and of course, deciding when I trust my data to DrivePool).

all - thanks for your help; @walkabt - thanks for your mention of the 4.0 drivers. They work beautifully!

Author:  Comp1962 [ Mon Aug 08, 2011 11:39 am ]
Post subject:  Re: At my wit's end - reinstall WHS, switch to Win7 or give

When you mention Drive Pool are you running any of the DE replacement software like Drive Bender, Stablebit or the other which I can not recall its name right now? I did some testing with Stablebit and found it to be pretty good but it reduced my drive performance.

A couple weeks ago I ran into a problem with one of my MV8's where drives would appear and then vanish after a reboot but I was able to RMA the card with Newegg and get a replacement in. The card was less than 2 weeks old but sometimes thing just happen and you correct them and move on. There are 2 versions of this card and the drivers are for one card and not the other but I guess its possible the driver may work with both but I am not clear on this so I would be interested in confirming the exact card you have.

This is the card I am using in my server: ... LP-MV8.cfm

This is the other card: ... LP-MV8.cfm

There are differences between the two cards and the model number is different AOC-SASLP-MV8 vs AOC-SAS2LP-MV8 and its the AOC-SAS2LP-MV8 that the 4.x drivers were written for so it will be interesting to know exactly which model card your using and if its the AOC-SASLP-MV8 how the drivers work out for you in the long term. Also did you install the firmware too? If not then I am not encouraging you to do so just curious if you did that as well.

Last thing is I am interested in your experience dealing with Supermicro. For me its important to know if I need assistance from an OEM that they will be there when needed and have good response to their customers large or small.

Author:  mike1812 [ Mon Aug 08, 2011 12:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: At my wit's end - reinstall WHS, switch to Win7 or give

Yes, as stated above, I'm running Stablebit's DrivePool beta add-in to replace DE in WHS 2011.

I'm not moving this thing into production for a while, so I will have plenty of time to evaluate drive performance - as this is purely a video server and I'm only interested in how well it streams video to my Dune players, that's how I'm testing "performance". So far it has outpaced my old MSS EX470, which exhibited audio dropouts on high bitrate blu rays. I'm going to spend a lot of time testing this box before I choose to "rely" on it solely.

I'm well aware of the differences in the 2 Supermicro cards and the drivers. The original SAS cards (which I'm using) are based on the Marvell 6480 chipset, while the newer SAS2 card is based on the newer Marvel 9480 chipset. In fact, I was the one who pointed out on Damian's Shawshank thread that the 4.0 drivers he linked to on the ftp site were for the SAS2 cards; the new 4.0 drivers for the older card are not public available. HOWEVER, 4.0 drivers DO exist for the older SAS/6480 cards, as walkabt pointed out in the Shawshank thread (Supermicro support emailed them to him). I was able to find these posted on another forum for download. I confirmed that the 4.0 driver I downloaded is indeed for the SAS 6480 chipset based cards. There does not appear to be new firmware for the 6480 cards. As best as I can tell, the new driver allows for better transmission of drive info, as once installed and booted up, it further went through a drive type discovery process to configure the Windows drivers for the correct hard drives (WD EARS, WD EADS, Hitachis, etc.). The new driver also allows the ability to connect drives larger than 2tb (though formatting these for full capacity still has to be done outside of WHS 2011 - at least in my experience).

My experience with support is less than positive. I called on August 2nd and spoke with a tech. After some discussion, he suggested I email support with the full specs of my build, along with the issues I had been having. That was done that evening. To date, I've had no response. 2 of my 4 questions could have been easily answered the same day. The others might take a while, but I've heard nothing, not even a confirmation with a ticket # or the like. I suspect for small matters, they may be ok, but I don't think they'll be supporting users like us for larger, more involved issues.

Author:  Comp1962 [ Mon Aug 08, 2011 3:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: At my wit's end - reinstall WHS, switch to Win7 or give

Can you kindly post the link for those drivers so that myself and others can download them should we feel the need to do so?

If and when you play with the 3TB drives please share your experiences with them. I would be very interested in hearing what you find out.

Author:  mike1812 [ Mon Aug 08, 2011 4:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: At my wit's end - reinstall WHS, switch to Win7 or give

The 4.0 drivers for the Supermicro SASLP-MV8 cards (based on Marvell 6480 chipset) can be downloaded from here:

I believe you will need to register on the forum to be able to download the attachment.

I will report back on the 3tb drives. I have one on the SAS card now and will be adding it to DrivePool soon. I also have 2 others that I purchased this weekend that I'll be adding into the server - I'm planning to experiment with removing a 2tb from the DrivePool, then replacing that drive with a 3tb and adding it to the pool to stress-test the combo of the SAS card and DrivePool handling 3tb drives.

It may take a few days for me to get to that part, but I will update you guys with how it's going in a few weeks. BTW, I'm exclusively using the Hitachi Coolspin Deskstar 5k3000 drives. Don't ask me why - I have no quantitative reason, but the Hitachi's (both 2 and 3tb) just seem to be plug and play, without all the fuss that the WD drives cause (jumpering the EARS back when I was running WHS V1). Luckily I have a buddy who is growing his WHS V1 server, and I'll be selling off my 2tb drives to him as I replace with the 3tb drives, so it's a win-win.

Author:  walkabt [ Mon Aug 08, 2011 5:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: At my wit's end - reinstall WHS, switch to Win7 or give

For those like me that only like drivers from the source, if you contact supermicro support via email from their website they will email you the drivers and no worries about anything else potentially being attached.

They emailed me the drivers within an hour or two.

Author:  mike1812 [ Mon Aug 08, 2011 5:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: At my wit's end - reinstall WHS, switch to Win7 or give

walkabt wrote:
For those like me that only like drivers from the source, if you contact supermicro support via email from their website they will email you the drivers and no worries about anything else potentially being attached.

They emailed me the drivers within an hour or two.

I do like 'em from the source, but it's been 6 days now and no response from Supermicro support, so I took a gamble this weekend (after 4 days). I do advise what you suggest - contact Supermicro first - which is why I didn't post the link initially.

Author:  Comp1962 [ Mon Aug 08, 2011 6:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: At my wit's end - reinstall WHS, switch to Win7 or give

I will contact Supermicro for the drivers. Thanks.

Author:  Comp1962 [ Mon Aug 08, 2011 6:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: At my wit's end - reinstall WHS, switch to Win7 or give

WOW I requested the updated drivers and have them in hand already in less than 20 mins.

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