My rig consist of an ASRock Z97 Extreme4 motherboard with 8 SATA ports. 2 Optical drives occupy 2 of these, one is occupied by an SSD drive (system drive) and 4 are occupied by 1TB HDDs set up as a RAID 5 array. Unfortunately one of these is connected to port 0 which preferably should be used for the system drive. Can I move this drive to another free port without messing up the array?
First of all, let me clarify some things,
- The chipset supports only the first six SATA ports (SATA3_0 through SATA3_5). The last two SATA ports, SATA3_A0 and SATA3_A1, are supported by a separate ASMedia Controller and thus cannot be used to support RAID.
- SATA ports SATA3_4 and SATA3_5 are shared with the M.2 socket and the SATA Express port (SATAE_1). If you use either the M.2 socket or the SATA Express port, you cannot use the corresponding SATA3_4 or SATA3_5 ports.
- The performance and priority of SATA ports SATA3_0 through SATA3_5 are all equal. Nothing says that it should be "preferable" to use SATA3_0 for your system drive other than this is the BIOS' default entry to use. Making the entry for another port the default is a simple enough operation - simple enough in my mind to wipe out the "preferable" standing.
Let me first summarize what I think you should be doing. I will explain why afterward.
- The ODDs should be connected to SATA3_A0 and SATA3_A1.
- The HDDs of your RAID array should be connected to SATA3_0 through SATA3_3.
- Use port SATA3_4 for your SSD.
Ok, so let's discuss the why's,
- Moving the ODDs to the secondary SATA controller ensures that the impact of having shared SATA ports doesn't adversely affect you in the future.
- Your upgrade path would be to replace the SATA SSD with a M.2 NVMe SSD. This will garner you at least a 2x improvement in drive performance and more likely a 4x improvement -- but there are some that will actually get you a 7x improvement! Now, since you will lose the ability to use SATA3_4 if/when you install a M.2 NVMe SSD, it makes sense to have your existing SSD connected to this port.
- Using SATA3_0 through SATA3_3 for your RAID array ensures that it will not be affected by any system drive upgrade you do. This is why I also suggested you move the ODDs to the secondary SATA controller.
Back to the raw question that you asked: Can you move the HDDs in the RAID array to a different port? I believe that you can, but remember that you cannot involve ports SATA3_A0 or SATA3_A1. If moving them is not supported, you will know it immediately and can put it back. Avoid any heartache and make a backup of the RAID array contents before you make any changes.
Hope this helps,
Thank you! This was much more than I had hoped for. 😁
First and foremost: The ODDs are already on ports 3_A0 and 3_A1 so that matter is straightforward. Two of the HDDs are located on 3_4 and 3_5 respectively while the SSD is on 3_3. Port 3_2 is available. So if I want to install Win 10 on an M.2 NVMe SSD then I have to move the two HDDs. I guess it would make sense to move one at a time in case I have to rebuild the array.
I have already thought about installing Windows on an M.2 NVMe SSD, but I have some doubts about what is supported. According to Asrock's support pages (QVL), only 9 disks based on various PCIe Interfaces are supported and none of them can be obtained today. (It takes weeks and weeks to get a reply from Asrock support.) Will it be possible to use any M.2 NVMe SSD as long as it is based on PCIe, PCIe2 or -3? I also expect to have to upgrade the BIOS since the machine today has version 1.3. Newer BIOS versions appear to have enhanced support for NVMe.
I can't comment on what this particular mobo can or can't support (well, other than to say that this *is* an older mobo), but very few M.2 NVMe SSDs support - and none (yet) absolutely require - PCIe4. You should, in theory, be able to use most of the existing drives - after you update the BIOS, of course. I would think that that list you saw is old and only referenced the first few drives that existed. If you want a second opinion, call ASRock technical support and ask them for an update (hopefully this doesn't get you dead air in response).
Once again: thank you. Your replies have been very helpful. A Corsair Force Series MP510 980 GB is in the mail, and I can't wait to get it installed. Have to Upgrade the BIOS first, though.
(One small remark: In the installation guide from Asrock it says: "To minimize the boot time, use Intel Z97 SATA ports (SATA 3_0) for your bootable Devices." But that'll be of no concern once I get the M.2 running. 😁
Yea, that's one of the standard boilerplate statements that they always include. In fact, most modern BIOS (ably assisted by Intel's UEFI technology) perform the boot device scan so quickly that it adds very little to the boot time (sadly, external - and especially older - USB Hubs can slow things noticeably).
Let me know how the upgrade goes...
Prepairing the system for the M.2 (still in the mail) I moved one of the HDDs from port 3_5 to 3_2 yesterday. The array was marked "degraded" in the RST Control panel but after having chewed bits and bytes thru the night everything seems OK now.
I'm a litle puzzled about what to do when installing Win 10 to the M.2 when time comes. As far as I can see I have to install RST from a CD in UEFI to get RAID support in the "new" installation. Right now I don't know where I left the original installation CD for the mobo so I'll probably have to download it from Asrock support and burn it to a new CD. (Along with other drivers and utilities I may need.) Or can I use a USB memory stick? And what version should i use? The onboard RST OPTION ROM is version 188.8.131.525 and the latest driver and utility available from Asrock support is version 184.108.40.2069. (The current version from Intel support is 220.127.116.111 but as far as I can see it is not recommended to use any newer than the one supported by the mobo manufacturer.)
Intel implements support for RAID within the chipset and firmware (including BIOS). At runtime, nothing is actually needed unless you want to monitor the array's health and/or change its configuration. As a result, you do not need to worry about the drivers during the Windows installation process. Do the following:
- Use the Windows 10 Media Creation Tool to prepare a Windows 10 installation USB flash disk. You can download the tool from here: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10. It will handle both the formatting of the disk and loading of the installation files.
- Using a separate USB flash disk (or a folder on the Windows 10 installation disk that you just prepared if this disk is large enough (I use a 16GB disk)), download to it all of the driver and software packages that you will need from the Asrock web site.
- After ensuring that UEFI is enabled in the BIOS, install Windows 10 to the M.2 SSD. I recommend that, if there are any existing partitions on the SSD, you delete them all during the Windows 10 installation process and then tell the installer to install Windows 10 to the free space on the SSD. This will both ensure that a GPT partition table is created and allow the Windows 10 installer to make the best decisions regarding what partitions to create and how it will load them.
- Once Windows 10 is installed and you are able to boot from it, you can then move on to the installation of the driver packages that you downloaded from the Asrock web site. Order of installation typically does not matter (I usually just do it alphabetically). Note also that, to save time, I reboot once - and only once - during this entire process. While you are installing the packages, if they ask for permission to reboot, say no. When you are installing the very last of these packages, if it asks for a reboot, say yes. If it doesn't ask for a reboot, then, once it terminates, do a restart manually.
- Once everything is installed and you have rebooted that one time, you can run the RST GUI and verify that you can see bot the SSD and the RAID array on the other drives.
Hope this helps,
The M.2 runs just fine. I had to do some justifications in UEFI naturally but installation of Win 10 went like a house on fire. The RAID array is working just fine. The rig boots pretty fast but the improvement wasn't as big as I expected it to be. Starting and running apps like Adobe Creative Suite seems to benefit greatly from the upgrade. :-)