Vanilla PC RAID card for Boot Camp?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by .macstiled, Jun 5, 2010.

  1. .macstiled macrumors member

    Sep 26, 2007
    Can you just install a vanilla PC raid card into a MP, stripe a few empty drives in a RAID 0 config, and make OS X ignore both the RAID card and the NTFS striped drives when switching to and from Leopard?

    Feels like a long shot, but had to ask. Thanks for any replies :)
  2. .macstiled thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 26, 2007
    Edited for clarity:

    Is it possible to stripe 3 empty internal drives in an early '08 MP under Bootcamp using Windows 7 Ultimate x64 without forking out $700 for the CalDigit card?
  3. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    You only want the card available for Windows?

    Assuming this is the case, then technically speaking, yes. Drive locations could be a bit more difficult though, without any more specifics (i.e. HDD bays, and the model matters, external, or in the optical bays). It has to do with the cabling and adapters necessary, and it differs between models.
  4. .macstiled thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 26, 2007
    Yes! I don't need it for OS X. And thank you for the response :)

    System specs:

    Early 2008 MP
    8 core 2.6GHz
    14GB RAM
    Geforce 8800 GT
    Internal HDD1: OS X 10.6.3/Windows 7 x64 (may switch back to XP x64)
    Internal HDD2: <empty>
    Internal HDD3: <empty>
    Internal HDD4: <empty>

    All four internal HDDs are WD 640GB. And if I've left any important specs out, please let me know.

    Once did a software RAID 0 stripe of the 3 spare drives in Vista, which worked in terms of them behaving as a single drive, but there was zero performance increase. I double-checked to make sure it was a RAID 0, and not a RAID 1. I also noticed that when booting into OS X with those drives (while they were striped from Vista) gave HD read errors that I was able to click ignore for each of them. Now I'm curious as to how OS X will treat the Windows-only RAID card :)

    Oh, and of course, how to go about installing it all, which card would actually work, and so forth.

    Thanks for the help!
  5. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    A few quick questions:
    1. Where do you want to install the RAID drives (internal HDD bays, optical bays, or external)?
    2. More of a note really; RAID cards typically need Enterprise grade drives, as the Recovery Timings are different. This means it's not likely that your existing disks (WD 640GB's) will work. They're certainly not well suited for it at any rate (might be possible to mod them using the TLER utility = recovery timings however, but they're still not going to be as good). READ ON, as there's more detail. ;)

    Consumer models = 0,0 (read, write; in seconds)
    Enterprise = 0,7

    They also have additional sensors and improved ratings (i.e. Unrecoverable Bit Error rates and Mean Time Between Failure rates). The sensors help prevent physical damage caused when the heads hit the platters (aka where the term "crash" comes from). RAID causes additional vibrations which make this important, and are also meant to run in high avialability environments (24/7 operation).
  6. .macstiled thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 26, 2007
    1. I wanted to use the 3 internal drives in a RAID 0 configuration. I keep all my data on a 2TB (4 1TB drives) RAID 10 (1+0) external array, so wanted to use the internal drives as a fast swap drive for rendering HD video, etc. I really enjoyed the significant speed increase of OS X's software raid, but I need a RAID 0 solution for Windows 7 (Bootcamp).

    2. So my 3 WD 640 HDDs won't work at all? Since I've never heard of them, where would I find Enterprise drives? And assuming I picked up a few, which RAID card(s) and procedure is needed to get everything up and running? Is it a pain? :)
  7. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    1. You can't use BC with RAID, and if you create a RAID via Disk Utility, you won't be able to create a separate one for Windows (it changes the firmware settings on the SATA controller).

    Are you trying to run a software RAID under OS X by chance?

    Assuming this is the case, then a separate RAID card is going to be the best solution, as it allows you to have a RAID for both OS's.

    Now to the nitty-gritty on the card.

    Get an ARC-1212, and an extender cable (allows you to unplug the iPass cable from the logic board, and get it connected to the card's SFF-8087 port). This will allow the card to access the HDD bays for you. The reason you need this cable, is that the iPass cable is likely not to reach (some have been successful, though stretched rather hard, others couldn't manage even that).

    The ARC-1212 is assuming you don't want any other ports for future expansion (cheaper to just add drives externally later, than have to replace the card too). Let me know if you'll need more than a 4 port card. Leave the Boot section of the firmware alone, in order to boot Windows. It can however boot OS X as well, but ONLY contain boot code for one or the other (never both simultaneously).

    Get a MiniSAS internal breakout cable, and run your OS X drive from that (physically install it into the empty optical bay). If the bay's not empty, pull the optical drive, and get an external enclosure for it, as it's the cheaper way to go).

    You'd run an OS X software RAID (via Disk Utility) using this cable as well, assuming the drives will fit internally (WD 640GB's would suffice for this task). Of course, this assumes that you want to do this (I'm unclear on this point).

    If you do want to do this, and it needs to go external, let me know.

    2. Drives:
    Check the HDD Compatibility List (direct link to .pdf file) to verify what drives will work with their cards.

    I don't know the size you'd like to use, but I've had good luck with WD lately (RE lines = RAID Edition). Example of a 1TB model that's on the list.
  8. .macstiled thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 26, 2007
    Hmm, this may be the most important issue I'm facing currently (if I'm reading you correctly). When you say no RAID in Bootcamp, does this mean at all? Or did you mean only if I had an existing OS X software raid? If it's the former, guess I'm out of luck as I'm running Windows 7 in Bootcamp. Is that what you meant?

    No. About 18 months ago I created an OS X software RAID via Disk Utility, but found I had no need for RAID in OS X, and thus un-striped those drives to use as independent HDDs in Windows.

    Wouldn't having RAID in both OS X and Windows 7 mean the drives would need to be formatted FAT32? If so, the issue with that is the 4GB file size limit. HD video is typically very large (especially using an uncompressed codec for editing), so a 4GB file limit would prohibit doing much HD video work :(

    Will wait for your reply and check out your links - thank you, by the way!
  9. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    On the existing SATA controller built into the chipset (ICH).

    A separate card eliminates this issue alltogether, and why you have to do it that way.

    Now there's 2x ways of doing this:
    1. Proper hardware RAID controller
    2. Fake RAID controller with BIOS (uses software to operate the RAID via a SATA/eSATA card).

    The hardware RAID controller is the better way to go, and is worth the additional expense (far better stability when used with the correct drives, and fewer hassles over software issues). Less so in some instances, as you'll be running a stripe set (won't benefit from the recovery options available with other RAID levels that do exist in the card). But you can still transfer it from one system to another (though the OS may need to be reloaded, as the drivers for supporting components on the board are almost certainly to change, unless it's an identical system).

    It also gives you additional options, such as changing to an array level not possible in either Disk Utility, or suitable for software based arrays (i.e. parity based arrays = 5/6; look up "write hole issue"). RAID Wiki has it in there somewhere, though you will have to read carefully.

    The Fake RAID method's advantage is it's cheaper, and could be used with your existing WD 640GB disks. But it's not as stable (beyond the compromise associated with a stripe set). This is namely due to software incompatibilities that crop up (and they will at some point). This tends to be more of an issue with Macs as well from what I've been able to determine.

    I've never been a big fan of FakeRAID controllers, or software RAID for that matter, as it's far more problematic. And in my case, I tend to run parity far more than any other level, which makes a proper card a necessity rather than an option.

    Good, as that actually makes things easier for the physical installation. Just attach the 0.5m SFF-8087 to 4i*SATA cable I linked to the logic board, and one of the SATA ends to the OS X disk (physically install it in the empty optical bay). An adapter is easy and cheap (i.e. eBay is a good source that won't rape you on shipping).

    No, as each RAID would be independent of one another. ;)

    But as you're not going to do this, it's not an issue anyway. :eek: :p

    :cool: NP. :)
  10. .macstiled thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 26, 2007
    Thank you for the reply! I'm swamped with some things at the moment, but wanted to acknowledge your response and will get back soon :)
  11. .macstiled thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 26, 2007
    Wow, looks like I'm in for a bit of a haul! Thank you for all the info, nanofrog! Going to check out that RAID Wiki so I soak it all in before starting the process :)
  12. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    As the saying goes, "The devil's in the details", so take your time and get fully acquainted with the information. There really is a lot to learn.

    BTW, there are a few other things I've not covered yet, mainly the need for a UPS (Uninteruptable Power Supply), and the different types. You'll need one, and specifically an Online type (always runs on batteries) is the most stable. You can get away with a Line Interactive (switches from wall to either auto transformer in low voltage conditions, or battery when the voltage drops below the unit's set value, typically 90VAC).

    Yeah, I know... more information... just what you wanted right now... :eek: :p
  13. .macstiled thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 26, 2007

    If going the external route, think an internal Mac/PC compatible PCIe eSata expansion card hooked up to an external hardware RAID enclosure is a viable option for the kind of speed I'm looking for? Well, speed will probably depend on the bandwidth of PCIe x16, I suppose, but I don't know what that is. I've read the data, but I just don't understand it - especially since I can't figure out the exact type of PCIe x16 slots I have :)

    Again, I appreciate you helping me. As I was going over all the info - it just hit me that I was probably being a little stubborn by insisting on an internal solution, so I started considering the possibilities of eSata.
  14. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    A proper RAID card doesn't use eSATA, but MiniSAS to transfer data, whether internal or external.

    You can actually use a card with internal ports, and go to an external enclosure (example) with the right cable (here; run it through an open PCIe bracket). The length of the cable can't exceed 1.0 meters for SATA disks in this case, as the signals are passive.

    You could go with an eSATA solution for what you want to do, but it will be a software implementation (drivers + eSATA card attached to an eSATA enclosure). Use 1x eSATA per disk for improved throughputs. If you do use a Port Multiplier equiped enclosure, make sure the card supports Port Multipliers, as not all do. BTW, max cable length in the case of a PM based enclosure is 2.0 meters (signals are active due to the PM chip), but still 1.0 meter for 1x eSATA port per disk (passive).
  15. .macstiled thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 26, 2007
    Oh, actually, I meant by using an enclosure like this with built-in RAID, and an eSATA PCIe card like this. Since I already have the enclosure (been using it to mirror in RAID 10), figured with an eSATA card installed I could easily link it up for an instant, hassle-free external RAID 0 solution.

    Recently jobless, so, guess I'm just trying to stay on the cheap-as-possible w/o sacrificing too much. And the eSATA card's $50 price tag was starting to sound quite attractive as a possible link to the Windows RAID solution in Bootcamp that I need. Unless of course... eSATA is really bad?

    Edit: Corrected "RAID 1" to "RAID 0" - oops!
  16. .macstiled thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 26, 2007
    I hope this doesn't end up being the case, because this looks like it may be an even better alternative - thoughts?
  17. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    That should work just fine. I presume the card is the LaCie, which does have BIOS on it IIRC (link didn't actually show a card).

    The one thing to remember is, the enclosure linked above only uses a single eSATA port. That means, the throughput will top out at ~270MB/s max, as that's the real-world limit of 3.0Gb/s SATA (theoretical is 375MB/s).

    So if you built a 4x stripe set using disks that can do 100MB/s on their own (combined sequential throughput = 400MB/s), you'd never see that much.

    This will primarily depend on the exact system you have. That is, it will NOT work in a 2008 system, as you CANNOT get a Windows disk to boot natively off of that set of ports.

    RAID would complicate matters, and may also not actually work on models ('06 - '07) that can boot a Windows disk directly off of those ports (ODD_SATA), as you can't get access to the firmware. Windows and OS X operate the GUID system differently, and if you've also set-up a RAID under OS X, Disk Utility will adjust the firmware setting for the SATA controller (means Windows will no longer boot as I understand it).

    The optical bay ports in the 2009 can as well (single disk operation is known to work), but it's a different connector (backplane = data + power).

    Overall, I'd skip this (other issues as well, such as no Hot Swap support in OS X). Just too many headaches possible with it.
  18. .macstiled thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 26, 2007
    Sorry, here is another link to the card @ B&H.

    Even ~200MB/s would be a big improvement over my current setup. And is it still an issue to have an HD array larger than 2TB? I don't have a link to it anymore, but since I have 4 1TB drives in the enclosure and want RAID 0 (currently doing RAID 1+0 = 2TB), that would give me a combined volume of nearly 4GB. Is this an issue I need to be aware of, or does it not apply to me in Windows 7 x64?

    Will it cause any problems if my RAID 0 configuration is more than what eSata can handle? If not, then I'm fine with the transfer speeds you outlined. My internal drives seem to max out around 80-85MB/s after doing just a few HDD benchmarks, with the Windows (Bootcamp) drive coming in more around 60-70.

    Figure - even if each drive averages ~70MB/s, 70x4 = 280MB/s, which comes very close to the max bandwidth you mentioned before. And that's the kind of bandwidth that would complete my setup.

    Understood. Will go with the LaCie card - thank you for saving me from that headache! :)
  19. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    With modern disks, it shouldn't be an issue.

    But to be safe, I'd contact LaCie to be sure of this, and go ahead and confirm if it has BIOS (will allow you to boot Windows if this is what you're after). Otherwise, you'd only need driver support, which it has (both Windows and OS X).

    I'm pretty sure it will boot Windows or Linux (there's a few SIL3132 based cards out there, and most, if not all, do), but it's worth checking for your peace of mind, assuming you want to do this.

    It's called throttling (where the throughput is diminished as a result of a bottleneck), but it won't cause you any problems given what you're telling me.

    This would be just fine for what the card can do. Not much throttling going on there at all (you'd see it in max throughput = burst, but not much for sustained values).
  20. FireWire2 macrumors 6502


    Oct 12, 2008
  21. nanofrog macrumors G4

    May 6, 2008
    It's likely based on one of the Oxford 936 chipset family, which though technically a hardware controller (ARM processor in it), it's not as sophisticated or robust (array recovery) as other controllers (i.e. use of "proper" typically has a separate processor and cache, which the latter is an NVRAM solution to the write hole issue of RAID5), nor is it nearly as fast.

    It's an inexpensive compromise design that's meant to be a step up from either software or a Fake RAID controller (SATA/eSATA card + software drivers).

    Yes, it's a tad better than software based RAID 5, but it doesn't have an NVRAM solution (18Kb cache is for USB and FW signals, and it's volitile - no battery option). It can be improved with a UPS system, but that's the only way to help alleviate the write hole.

    Granted, even a true card should be attached to a UPS, especially if the files exceed the cache, but the battery is typically at least offered.

    That said, they're fine for say backup/archival duties when used with a UPS. But I wouldn't use it for primary data.

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