Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Partial Guide to 4x4 and Windows XP64

I have tried a number of configurations for the install of Windows and I thought I would share what works and what does not on XP64.

Things to know before starting

*Do not install nTune*
Under windows XP64 nTune does not work with this motherboard and will cause a full system halt (no BSOD, mouse will stop functioning system will go unresponsive).

Format new drives
It takes forever, and seems like a total waste of time - but do it. A WD Raptor 150 will format in 45 minutes. Ideally, format each new drive that you are putting into your computer individually. Simply following this procedure would have saved a solid 6 hours during the install process for me. The default drivers provided by ASUS do not deal well with faulty drives in your RAID array - and the latest nVidia drivers do a much better job at hiding the problem. However there are no SMART utilities installed by default - so you have no insight into drive statuses and problems.

Remove USB card reader devices
So I was on my "last install". I install XP only to find that when I boot into windows that my main drive is labeled "E:" LOL. Turns out the USB card reader that I had connected to the computer was detected as a fixed drive even though there was no card installed during the installation. At the time I also had Plug and Play OS set to "No" in the BIOS which may have caused this issue. Regardless USB devices cause trouble (see my previous post) so remove them before starting your install.

Setup the RAID ahead of time
Using the BIOS options, setup the RAID array. There are some posts kicking around on message boards that suggest that the array should be setup post OS install. I have found that this does not work with this particular piece of hardware. If the OS is installed without the RAID controller enabled, XP will fail to boot when the RAID controller is enabled post install. XP will fail to boot properly *even if the drives are not assigned to the controller*. The relevant settings were: MediaShield Enabled (BIOS, First Screen, IDE Configuration), No drives enabled, Sil BIOS enabled (BIOS, Screen Two, Other Configuration). Also of note is that when no drives are assigned to the RAID F10 is not an option.

Before you begin

If you are using a RAID Array, you will need the RAID drivers to boot and install the OS on the new array. This will require one of two things: A slip stream image created with nLite or a floppy disk, and drive attached to the system that contains the F6 drivers. The ASUS disk has these files under \Drivers\Chipset\64bit\IDE\WinXP\sataraid. Optionally you can download the latest nForce drivers and then extract the EXE file using Winzip and grab the drivers under \IDE\WinXP\sataraid.

If you are not using the RAID, turn off the RAID options in the BIOS and you will be able to install without any problem.

My Process

The drives were plugged into SATA ports 1 and 3. I have enabled RAID for ports 1 - 6. Under the F10 menu the RAID method set is to striping, using the the two drives on ports 1 and 3.

No overclocking was used during install.

Boot Sequence
CD-ROM, Hard Drive, Floppy Disk


The asus provided drivers were not used. The latest nForce drivers for the motherboard were used, Version 9.53 released December 21 06. WHQL Certified.

The ASUS provided drivers were used.

The latest 8800 drivers were used, ForceWare Release 95Version: 97.44 Release Date: December 8, 2006.

My local LAN is domain based. As part of the initial install domain membership was added.

The Install

Time required

The install from F6 to cd-key request will take about 15 minutes. From the cd-key request the login prompt will take roughly an additional 11 minutes. This will total somewhere around 26 minutes for the complete install. Pretty fast!

The sequence

Install Method: The non-slip stream, F6 method was used to install Windows on the machine.

F6 was pressed at the initial load screen and at the the prompt "S" was used to install the two nVidia RAID (Class and nForce) Drivers.

The installer asked which drive to install the OS. Only one, the RAID array, was listed. The drive was selected and "Format partition (Quick)" was used (The drives had been previously formatted to verify their integrity).

After copying and installing the files the system rebooted.

The install prompted for a number of pieces of information the requested information was provided. Upon completion of the forms a few more operations complete and the system rebooted.

System boot after the BIOS finishes takes about 14 seconds at this point.

After the system boots and the main user account is logged on the nVidia nForce drivers were installed. The Ethernet drivers were not installed due to issues with my on board devices. However, I would recommend just installing only the Ethernet package and not the second optional install (I forgot its name).

The system was rebooted.

Hard Drive Benchmarks were run on the RAID array. See my benchmarks post.

The 8800 Drivers were installed.

The system was rebooted.

Windows update was run, 51 updates (174.8 MB) were downloaded and installed in 16 minutes over a 6.0 Mb DSL connection.

The audio drivers were installed.

Normal operation of the computer commenced.

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