Why to buy standardized systems

This is something that almost never happens when you buy a prebuilt and tested system from a vendor such as Dell or Apple. Things are tested for compatibility and performance before sale. You can sometimes pay a considerable amount more, but it does tend to work well when you get it.

A couple of years ago in my case, I wanted a cheap but dependable RAID 5 array and a multipurpose server. I couldn’t find any for any reasonable amount of money, so I decided to make my own.

I put together a custom system for myself consisting of an ASUS A8V Deluxe mainboard, a brand new AMD64 processor, a large aluminum server case, a Highpoint RR1820A SATA RAID controller capable of supporting 8 drives, a pair of IDE boot disks in their own drive coolers (to be mirrored), and a bunch of supporting fans with a separate fan controller.

Not a bad configuration, I thought.

I assembled all of the components and made sure everything was working. I installed FreeBSD on it but became distracted by other projects and a lot of work travel and it was forgotten for a while.

Recently I decided that I would put it to use as a personal business and media server. I built the one terabyte RAID array. That is when the most recent of problems began.

The system would no longer boot or even get past BIOS thrashings.

I tried a large variety of things.

Today I had given up troubleshooting by myself and am contacting the vendors, ASUS and Highpoint, about resolving the issue. I suspect that they will blame each other, and I’ll end up having to buy yet more hardware to get a system that does what I want it to do.

It is my suspicion that may be something like an IRQ conflict with the Highpoint SATA controller, so I disabled the BIOS IRQ control. This didn’t accomplish anything, but did make me feel a little clever until I booted the system again to discover that it still wouldn’t work with all of those SATA drives.

I’ll now post some of the configuration details in the hopes that if someone else is having the same issue as I am, that they will at least be able to know that they are not alone in their plight.

*Name : Ian Gorrie
*Country : United States

[Product Information]
*Product Type : Motherboard
*Product Model : A8V Deluxe

[Motherboard Specification]
*Motherboard Revision : A8V DELUXE
*Motherboard BIOS Revision : 1018 BETA 1

[CPU Specification]
*CPU Vendor : AMD
*CPU Type : Socket939
*CPU Speed : 3800+

[Memory Specification]
*Memory Capacity : 4G

[Problem Description]
None of these other details matter as system will boot and operate without issue if my RAID card is not seated.

When booting my ASUS A8V Deluxe mainboard system with a Highpoint rr1820a SARA RAID controller in a PCI slot, I have the following conflict.

The system freezes upon entering bios configuration or when system boot should occur if the delete key has not been pressed.

Interestingly enough, my system booted without issue before building a 1Tbyte array comprising of 6 200G SATA disks in RAID 5 configuration. Now that this has been completed, the system will not boot.

Nothing is listed on the highpoint site or on the ASUS site to further troubleshooting of this matter.

I have upgraded mainboard bios to latest and tried a variety of other methods to circumvent this problem. I have reset my CMOS. I am running the latest BIOS. Nothing works except for removing the RAID card that I have tried so far. The card is slotted in the port next to the AGP card.

I would have to research date of purchase from newegg and the other details, but they do not seem relevant. There is no help in your forums either.

My review on Newegg for the HighPoint RocketRAID 1820A:

Pros:
Moderately priced SATA controller that supports 8 drives. Now supported natively under FreeBSD, though you may need to rebuild the kernel.

Cons:
Isn’t real hardware RAID. Poor support. Hardware conflicts with my ASUS A8V Deluxe mainboard.

Other thoughts:
I thought that I would get this card since it was supported under FreeBSD and was a fraction of the price of a 3ware card. Big mistake. I’ll likely have to pitch it in favor of a card that will actually boot with my system.

2 responses to “Why to buy standardized systems

  1. I suspect you have to wait–a long time–for the first reboot as it synchronizes the entire 1 TB of RAID 5. I bet creating the logical volume was simply a “write metadata to disk” operation–the actual creation of the volume will take a while. It probably has to do it on first boot, perhaps.

    Did you try starting it and let it “hang” for a few hours?

  2. Nope. That’s not it when it <b>locks up the bios</b> upon entering setup. I built the array. It took a rather speedy 8 hours or so in the card bios interface. It just will not boot with the drives attached and the card seated. It sits on the splash screen and waits.
    This whole splash screen waiting thing is typical of ASUS A8Vs when there is a problem. It’s why I upgraded the BIOS as that was the very symptom of other conflict problems.
    Alas, no luck. I’ve been shopping 3ware cards, but that’s like going duck hunting with a howitzer.

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