Hassles with Intel RAID – Rapid Storage Technology

I have recently fitted a new Intel DH67CL motherboard and decided to use the on-board RAID controller to achieve resiliency against drive failure. I have four 1TB Sata drives, and chose to create two separate mirrors. This is not the most efficient form of RAID, but mirroring is the simplest and easiest for recovery, since if one drive fails you still have a complete copy ready to go on its mirror.

I thought this would be a smooth operation, especially since I have two pairs of identical drives. Everything was fine at first, but then I started to get system freezes. “Freeze” is not quite the right word; it was more an extreme slowdown. The mouse still moved but the Windows 7 64-bit GUI was unresponsive. I discovered that it was possible eventually to get a clean though time-consuming shutdown by summoning a command prompt and waiting patiently for it to appear, then typing shutdown /s. After reboot, everything was fine until next time, where next time was typically only a few hours.

I was suspicious of the RAM at first and removed 8GB of my 16GB. Then I discovered that others had reported problems with Intel RAID (also known as RST) when you have two separate arrays enabled. The symptoms sounded similar to mine:

When the second RAID array is enabled (tried both RAID1 and 0), Windows (Win 7 Ultimate 64bit) will freeze after 10+ minutes of use. This initially manifests itself as my internet “going out”. While I can open new tabs in the browser, I cannot connect. I can’t ping via CMD either. I can’t open Task Manager, but I can open Event Viewer (and nothing really is shown in there re: this). If I try to Log Off or Restart the PC via Start Menu, Windows hangs on the “Logging Off” or “Shutting Down” screen for at least 10 minutes, up to several hours (or indefinitely).

There is no solution given in the thread other than to remove one of the arrays.

The system is 100% stable when I remove the second RAID1.

says one user.

I broke both of the mirrors and used the system for a while; everything was fine. I found an updated driver on Intel’s site (version 10.8.0.1003, dated 17th October 2011) and decided to re-try the RAID. Now I had another problem though. Note that I was using the Windows management utility, not the embedded utility which you get to by pressing a special key during boot, since it is only with the Windows utility that you can preserve your data when creating a new array. My problem: I could not recreate the arrays.

Problem number one was that the drive on Sata port 0 disappeared when you tried to create an array. All four drives looked fine in the Status view:

image

but when you went to create an array, only three drives appeared:

image

Following a tip from the Intel community discussion board, I removed and reinstalled the RST utility, following which I also had to reinstate the updated driver. Now the drive reappeared, but I still could not recreate the arrays. I could start creating one, but got an “unknown error.” Looking in the event log, I could see errors reported by IAStorDataMgrSvc: FailedToClaimDisks and FailedVolumeSizeCheck. Curious, especially as I had used this very same utility to create the arrays before, with the same drives and without any issues.

Just as an experiment, I booted into Windows XP 64-bit, which I still have available using Windows multiboot. I installed the latest version of the Intel storage driver and utility, and tried to create a mirror. It worked instantly. I created the second mirror. That worked instantly too. Then I booted back into Windows 7 and checked out the RST utility. Everything looks fine.

image

The further good news is that I have been running with this for a few days now, without any freezes.

Is it possible that the latest driver fixed a problem? There is no way of knowing, especially since Intel itself appears not to participate in these “community” discussions. I find that disappointing; community without vendor participation is never really satisfactory.

Postscript: Note that I am aware that Intel’s embedded RAID is not a true RAID controller; it is sometimes called “fakeraid” since the processing is done by the CPU. Using Intel RST is a convenience and cost-saving measure. An alternative is Windows RAID which works well in my experience, though there are two disadvantages:

1. Intel RAID performs slightly better in my tests.

2. Windows RAID requires converting your drives to Dynamic Disks. Not a big problem, but it is one more thing to overcome if you end up doing disaster recovery.

Related posts:

  1. Breaking Intel RAID: what happens to your data?
  2. Drobo storage devices: beyond RAID

12 thoughts on “Hassles with Intel RAID – Rapid Storage Technology

  1. MikeDoug

    Holy crud! I’ve been fighting with brand new systems based on Intel’s DP67BG motherboard for the last 2-3 weeks. I’ve done more troubleshooting, and more pulling out of my hair than ever before trying to figure out what’s wrong. Your description of the symptoms matched my experiences almost exactly. Random freezes that would go away if you waited long enough (sometimes), and especially when unlocking the system after being away for a long time. The system would function perfectly until you tried to unlock it and resume its use.

    Before this driver update, I tried tons of things. Disabling almost all of the power saving functions. Downgrading video drivers. None of it worked.

    The annoying thing is that the 10.8.0.1003 driver isn’t listed for the DP67BG’s downloads. If it HAD been, then I would have installed it long ago and never suffered these last few weeks.

    I am 90% confident that this has fixed my issue. I won’t be 100% confident until I can go 7 days without an incident. We’ll see!!!

    A quick update — I typed this response out last night and went to bed to see if the system would still be running when I got up. I’m pleased to say that it is still running! However, I wrote a perl script to dump the time stamp to a file every 5 seconds to test drive latency and watch for system hangs; I ran this overnight. For about an hour and thirteen minutes, in the middle of the night, the system suffered 33 incidences of pauses (at least for writing to disk) upwards of 45 seconds. Here’s a breakdown:

    10-15s 16
    20-25s 6
    25-30s 3
    30-35s 2
    35-40s 3
    40-45s 3

    You can see the majority of them were really short — but not all of them. This lessens my certainty that this has resolved my issue to about 80%. I’ll try to post again as I know better (time will tell).

    MikeDoug

    1. MikeDoug

      Quick fire responses here, I know. I just went through my event logs for last night, and around the time of the pauses the system was doing an automatic defrag of all my drives. I could see a defrag causing intermittent pausing.

      Optimism back to 90%!

      I really hope anybody looking for a fix to freezes on Windows 7 64-bit on Intel P67 chipsets finds THIS post and gets the answer they need. I searched long and hard to find it.

      1. Michael Douglass

        So after work, my computer was still functioning perfectly!

        Also, my latency script didn’t have ANY pauses all day long!

        Confidence up to 95%!!!

        I am so thankful for finding your post!

        1. Michael Douglass

          I am 100% confident that this did, indeed, fix my system. I have had NO latencies detected with my script, and I have had 0 lockups.

          I am now, once again, at peace with the computing world. :)

          MikeDoug

  2. MikeDoug

    Though I now question: would I be better off and happier if I used the built-in Windows software mirroring? I’m very jaded after this entire debacle.

    1. Tim Post author

      For what it’s worth, my system has been running sweetly since I installed the new driver and removed the Desktop Utilities.

      Tim

  3. Michael Douglass

    Interesting and confusing. The Intel site now includes the 10.6.0.1022 dated November 29, 2011 listed in the downloads for my motherboard… So 10.8.0.1003 from October is installed and working, but 10.6.0.1022 from November is now out.

    Intel chat support said to stay on the 10.8.0 line — but I’m not sure they put much effort into really looking. I have two of these sytems, I’m going to put 10.6.0.1022 on the second one and see how it behaves.

    1. Michael Douglass

      I continue to post in case it can help anyone else who finds this article in the future.

      WARNING: The download from Intel that says 10.6.0.1022 is really 10.6.0.1002 — I just installed it on my second system and it installed 10.6.0.1002. I think someone typoed. Now why someone would have “updated” that driver on the website last night, I don’t know.

      I’m putting 10.8.0.1003 on my second system.

  4. David Kuehner

    I have the same symptoms but I have an intel DX58SO board. The intel site doesn’t list my board as one of the boards that use the new 10.8.0.1003 driver.

    I’m using the latest driver that they list for my board. Does anyone have any thoughts on using the newer driver on this apparently unsupported board?

    When I run performance monitor I am astonished at the amount of disk activity going on during these “freezes”. In my case, the system always comes back, but only after a half minute or so. The odd thing is that performance monitor shows a lot of disk activity going on for files that should no longer be being accessed (i.e. jars for an apache web app after the web app has been shut down)

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