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Wonky Gibbon Ramblings

Getting a SiliconImage Sil3114 SATA RAID card to work in Windows 7 13

Posted on October 29, 2010 by danny

I recently had the experience of moving a pair of RAID1 storage disks from one server to another. It was not without difficulty.
Both server’s had the OS on a third non RAIDed drive, so i didn’t have to worry about being able to boot from them (thank god!)

The server they came from, an old MSI AMD motherboard had a Promise RAID controller built in. The Gigabyte board I was moving to did not, so I had to add an additional RAID controller on a PCI card.
The board chosen used a chipset from SilconImage – the Sil3114. This is an inexpensive card offering RAID0,1,5,10 & JBOD.

The card as delivered plugged into an empty PCI slot easy enough. However the motherboard recognised this only some of the time. (This was subsequently either resolved by a BIOS update to the card – more on this later – or pushing down hard on the card to ensure it was fully in – not sure which).

The Sil3114 card can be used in one of two configurations. As a RAID controller for up to 4 SATA drives. This requires a SATA RAID bios to be installed on the card (the default) and some SATARAID5 manager software to be installed in Windows.
OR – it can be used as a straight disk controller for up to 4 SATA drives (no RAID) – this is called “SATA Link” and requires SATA Link software in Windows. You can also install a SATA Link “base” BIOS to the card as well, instead of the RAID one, but since the SATARAID BIOS has a pass thru mode which allows the use of drives in a non RAID configuration, it makes you wonder why you’d bother.

The job then was to plug the drives in, set them up as a RAID group without losing the data already on them and then get them visible and useable in Windows.

After plugging the drives in, I went into the Silicon Image SATA RAID BIOS utility. Here I was able to create a RAID1 group containing the two drives. I allowed it to re-mirror the data from one drive to the other as part of this. The mirroring process took several hours for my Samsung Spinpoint 500GB drives.

After booting into Windows, Windows 7 automatically downloaded a bunch of driver software which it seemed to think would work. It also added an item to the Windows Control Panel called “Silicon Logic SATA RAID”. Despite clicking on this item many times – it never did anything.
In addition to this you need to install the SATARAID5 manager software which allows you to configure the disks in windows. This can be downloaded from the SiliconImage website here:
Make sure you have at least version of this.

These downloads inexplicably include an old copy of the Java virtual machine runtime environment. Ironically this doesn’t actually work with the SATARAID5 manager software it comes with. Genius! Although it will allow you to view the status of your disks – it won’t allow you to actually do anything with them, all the menu items just do nothing (I subsequently managed to run the manager in a console mode and found that all the menu items were throwing exceptions – ie: broken).
However if you install the latest version of the Java runtime from Sun (available here) – the manager software does work properly.

So now I was able to examine my disks using the SATARAID5 manager. They were marked as a Legacy RAID Group and painted red. In the Windows “Disk Management” window (right click on “Computer” in Windows Explorer, select “Manage” and then clicking “Disk Storage”) they were not visible at all.

So – problem! My disks are there, presumably with data and I can’t read them. And what the hell is a legacy RAID group?

After much reading of the siliconimage website, I downloaded updated versions of the Sil3114 BIOS
Specifically BIOS version: available from here.
The combination of BIOS and SATARAID5 Manager was the one I settled on that finally worked.

The BIOS can be updated by opening Windows “Device Manager”, finding the Sil3114 under “Storage Controlers”, right clicking and selecting “Properties”. One of the tabs has a button for updating the BIOS here – it’s straightforward.

One option offered by the SATARAID5 manager software was to “Convert the Legacy RAID group” to a “New RAID group” – I wasn’t quite sure what this would do but as far as I could tell a Legacy group can be read natively by the card, whereas the New group uses the manager software / drivers instead.
Hardware vs Software RAID then? Not sure. But I’m pretty certain that a New RAID group would be much tougher to setup as a boot drive. So legacy would seem better – if only it could be made to be seen in the Windows “Disk Management” window.

So – I took one of the two drives out and let the system boot. Still couldn’t see it.
Deleted the RAID group in the BIOS and let the system boot. Now we could see the drive. SATARAID5 recognised it as a normal non-RAID disk, went into PASSTHRU mode and allowed it’s use. (It is this PASSTHRU mode that makes the alternative SATA Link BIOS software pretty pointless in my view as it acheives the same result),
NB: Whilst deleting a RAID group only seems to delete the RAID metadata from the hard drives with the Sil3114, leaving the data intact, the same might not be the case with other RAID controllers. Beware!
I now reinstalled the other disk, delete the RAID group from that as well and let the system boot.
The system could now see both drives in PASSTHRU mode, the partitions were intact, but the “Disk Management” window informed me that it couldn’t mount the second drive as it had the same identifier as the first. Which of course it would – so that seemed reasonable.

SO – rebooted again – went back into the RAID BIOS and recreated the RAID group, I didn’t bother to make it copy the data again as it was clearly going to be the same, and then let the system boot.

This time success. The drives were still recognised as a Legacy RAID group, but this time were painted green in the SATARAID5 manager software and were visible and useable in Windows 7. A check in “Disk Management” showed that a single drive was being recognised (ie: the two disks are successfully operating as a RAID1 mirror pair).

I have no idea why they were painted red the first time and green the second, other than that maybe the RAID BIOS was very old when I created the first pair and the metadata was a bit rubbish.

Anyway – all well in the end.

So yes – it is possible to get the Sil3114 to drive a pair of RAID1 disks in Windows 7. (Phew!)

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