Please report all spam threads, posts and suspicious members. We receive spam notifications and will take immediate action!
Results 1 to 9 of 9

Thread: A Few Surprises Using the ASRock Z97 Extreme 6 Mother Board




  1. #1
    parsec's Avatar
    parsec is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Third stone from the sun
    Posts
    4,824

    Default A Few Surprises Using the ASRock Z97 Extreme 6 Mother Board

    I was a bit surprised to discover a few things about the new ASRock Z97 Extreme 6 mother board.

    This board has two network chips, the Intel I218V (really an interface to the networking capability of the Z97 chipset) and the Realtek RTL8111GR chip. Although two rather different chips, they can be teamed together, at least I was able to in Windows 8.1 when using the standard Windows 8.1 network driver with the Realtek RTL8111GR chip. This is not an advertised capability of the board, and teaming is not mentioned in the manual.

    This may be related to the Orbweb ME application software that requires only one network chip to be enabled when it is used. I consider the teaming capability to be a good thing, so this is a nice surprise.

    Next is the ASRock HDD Saver Technology, which allows one or two disk drives to be powered on or off by the user via software (an option in A-Tuning.) A special SATA power cable is supplied that connects directly to the board and then the drives to be controlled with HDD Saver. The cable has two SATA power connectors and is long enough to reach optical drives in the 5.25" bays in mid tower cases.

    Switching a drive's power on and off is what happens when "hot plugging" a drive to a running PC. That requires the SATA mode to be set to AHCI, and the use of an AHCI driver. That is also required by HDD Saver, no surprise there.

    I found that when using RAID as the SATA mode, the HDD Saver software did not work. I went through the steps in the HDD Saver option in A-Tuning, which requires a restart of the PC. After a restart, I could not get the HDD Saver application to work.

    You could say that HDD Saver did specify AHCI mode, but RAID mode has all the features that AHCI mode has, including hot plugging. AHCI is considered a subset of RAID mode by Intel. The drive I tried to use with HDD Saver was not part of a RAID array, just a single drive.

    It's common for software that works with storage drives to have difficulties when the SATA mode is set to RAID, and while there are standards for RAID implementations (SNIA) I'm not aware of any common RAID implementations in use that can be used with different SATA chipsets and software. So I guess I can't fault ASRock to much for this situation, but I'm not pleased about it, unless I am missing something.

    Finally, I found that this board (and no doubt most if not all ASRock Intel 9 series chipset boards) can only provide the CPU core VID(s) instead of the true VCore. This is also the case for ASRock Intel 8 series chipset boards, but I hoped they would have gone beyond only reporting VIDs.

    Since Haswell processors have voltage regulators on the CPU itself, and these processors are supplied with one main voltage (CPU Input Voltage), it is more difficult to provide true VCore readings. But at least two of the other major mother board manufactures provide a VCore reading on their Haswell mother boards, and did so with the original 8 series chipsets. So no progress from ASRock in this area.

  2. #2
    parsec's Avatar
    parsec is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Third stone from the sun
    Posts
    4,824

    Default Re: A Few Surprises Using the ASRock Z97 Extreme 6 Mother Board

    UPDATE: In my previous post I said that the HDD Saver option was not working with the SATA mode set to RAID. I was wrong about that!

    I decided to try it again, and I was able to get it working, but only from the UEFI option. The HDD Saver option in A-Tuning still did not seem to work for me, I assume because I'm using RAID mode.

    The trick is using the HDD Saver option in the UEFI to turn power on to the drive(s) connected to the HDD Saver power cable. This UEFI option also allows you to "hot plug" drives into the HDD Saver power connector with a SATA drive enclosure also connected to the standard SATA data ports, by using the "Rescan" option. You then must set the HDD Saver power to "On" in the UEFI, save and exit, and the drive(s) will appear in Windows once it boots.

    I'm not sure if the way HDD Saver is working for me now is normal or not. If I restart or shutdown and start the PC after activating power to the HDD Saver cable, the power to the HDD Saver cable is set to Off, and the drives of course are not seen by Windows. That may be the standard behavior of the HDD Saver option, which makes sense given the intent of this option. If this option worked in A-Tuning when using AHCI mode without a restart, then it would be a more convenient, but I'll take what it does now in RAID mode.

    I really like this feature, it is a great idea for optical drives that we may not want running all the time, and for having drives available for use only when we really need them.

    ASRock, I was wrong about how HDD Saver worked, but no one from ASRock support posted in this thread to correct me. Not doing so permits incorrect information about this feature to be read by others that then may decide HDD Saver is a worthless feature. You're not helping ASRock and their customers by letting false information to be posted in this forum.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    N/A
    Posts
    12

    Default Re: Additional HDD Saver experience on ASRock X99 Extreme4

    System Info: ASRock X99 Extreme4 motherboard with Windows 8.1 x64.

    I don't think this post will help parsec (but perhaps the underlying issue is similar), but I want to add a few comments about my experience with HDD Saver in case this helps somebody. I have been able to successfully use HDD Saver when I use a standard drive configuration (hdd saver drive maps to a standard NTFS drive with drive letter). However, I have not had much success in using HDD Saver when the aforementioned drive has been joined to a windows 8 storage space. It works fine if the drive is powered on at system startup (per parsec's comment about toggling it in the UEFI).

    The behavior is as follows: the drive powers on, shows up in device manager, is detected by the storage spaces and then about 30 seconds to a minute later, the drive disappears from the system (while still powered on), disappears in device manager, storage spaces says the drive was disconnected and A-Tuning HDD Saver reports that the drive has changed and that the system must be rebooted to perform a re-detection operation. No amount of power-on/power-off cycles will make the drive appear again after this happens, it is almost like A-Tuning/HDD Saver has sent a command to the motherboard telling it to disable the port entirely! The first time I saw this happening, I thought it was a bad SATA cable, so I changed it out with no effect. I also did some more exhaustive testing to verify this, including doing a hard drive quick and extended self-test.

    A few notes about this from my research as relevant background information. Storage spaces hides the physical disk from disk management when it has been added to a virtual disk storage space. To me, it appears that HDD Saver is waiting for the drive to show up in disk management or for a drive letter to appear mapped to that drive before it acknowledges success of powering on the drive. When the drive doesn't appear to it, it disables the port on the motherboard. It seems that this motherboard is using a Nuvoton NCT6791D controller to control the HDD Saver port via standard fan control on a PWM fan port.

    Rebooting the system to turn the port on and off isn't very useful for me (or likely anybody else), though I guess it is a minor improvement over always-on if you can live with rebooting your system just to do it. For me, I really needed this to work through RDP, so rebooting isn't really an option for me. I was attempting to use storage spaces in a two-way mirror with the two HDD saver power connectors to effectively provide "RAID 1" fault tolerance to address the possibility of drive failure. The only workaround that I could use at this point (but this increases complexity) is use the drives as normal drives and host VHD/VHDX files on them which then get mounted on the system and then create a storage space virtual disk on top of those two VHD/VHDX's which reside on the two physical drives. Confused yet? That's why I don't really like this workaround.

    I really wish that ASRock would do a few things with regards to this.
    1) Do NOT disable the SATA port on the motherboard when the drive isn't detected by the A-Tuning/HDD Saver software!
    2) Provide an option to ignore "verification" of the drive powering on correctly or relax their verification process in order to support different environments, such as this (or maybe the RAID environment that parsec is using).
    3) Provide a standalone command line executable (or powershell cmdlet) that accepts a parameter to power on or power off so that this could be scripted with other actions that might need to be taken in non-standard environments. It could even take the password to control the drive as a parameter. asrsp.exe doesn't seem to do this at the moment and only listens for the keyboard shortcut to power on/off the drive.
    4) Provide sample code to be able to customize this. It is only a matter of time for somebody to generate the code to do this, so why not release the code since the motherboard is really the main product we're buying anyway.

  4. #4
    parsec's Avatar
    parsec is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Third stone from the sun
    Posts
    4,824

    Default Re: A Few Surprises Using the ASRock Z97 Extreme 6 Mother Board

    Hmm, what you are describing sounds like the Storage Spaces pool you are using has run out of physical space, which causes any storage spaces in that pool to be unmounted. This of course is done by Win 8 itself, not HDD Saver. Storage Spaces is known to not provide enough warning about what it's doing, unless you have its control panel running. Which in a sense, makes sense, since providing enough drive space is an administrative task, not a user task.

    There might be further interaction problems with HDD Saver and Storage Spaces, but I doubt that HDD Saver is sophisticated enough to do the things you think it is doing. Unmounting a drive is a file system/OS level task that HDD Saver should really not be doing.

    Your problem may be that the drive(s) used in your Storage Spaces pool that are connected to the HDD Saver cable are not starting up, so the pool runs out of space and is unmounted as a lack of physical space problem.

    HDD Saver seems to be a simple power switching capability for SATA drives, and you are probably right that it is using the Nuvoton controller to toggle power to the drives. I've used SSDs with HDD Saver (poor name really ), and 99.9% of SSDs only use 5V power, so the controller chip may be capable of more control than just 12V PWM, and 12V voltage control. My Z97 board's HDD Saver cable has a three pin connector, your X99 board may be different.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    N/A
    Posts
    12

    Default Re: A Few Surprises Using the ASRock Z97 Extreme 6 Mother Board

    In one of my trials, I had the storage spaces stored on one volume controlled with HDD saver and the other without. In this case, storage spaces presented the volume without any issue, but in a 'failed' mode when only one disk was powered on. It rightfully showed that the other disk was failed/disconnected. When I powered on the other disk, it came back online and started a synchronization process. Unfortunately, because of HDD Saver failing to detect the drive and shutting off the SATA port (port shut off is the best thing I can gather from what is happening), the synchronization process only gets about 15-25% of the way through and then disconnects. Once this happens, the drive goes back into the disconnected mode and will never come back (despite the drive being powered on) without a reboot. Overall, storage spaces only dismounts the SS volume if *both* mirrored volumes are missing/disconnected/failed. In this case, only one volume is considered failed. I was monitoring this with the control panel as well as the powershell cmdlets for storage spaces. The pool was mirrored and was only 10% full (I was doing a thorough reliability verification test before trusting my real data to it).

    Using process monitor, I noticed that HDD Saver enumerates the keys in [HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Enum] as well as querying[HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Enum\PCI\VEN_<hdd Controller="" Drive="" Saver="">]. I'll have to do some more monitoring and tests to determine what registry queries it is making when it fails.

    Regarding the HDD Saver pins, it is a 4-pin connector. It is certainly reasonable to assume that they could provide +12V, +5V, GND and use either the +12V output or the PWM signal to toggle the power to it with some gain for the additional load from the hard drives. I had no problem running various WD Black drives on this, which have higher current requirements than many drives.

    Also worth noting, it *appears* that the password is stored and encrypted in the system RSA cryptography store, so that appears to have been implemented well (further research would be required to verify this since I wasn't really trying to conclusively determine this).</hdd>

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    N/A
    Posts
    12

    Default Re: A Few Surprises Using the ASRock Z97 Extreme 6 Mother Board

    I have done some more troubleshooting on this issue. It seems to only be an issue when an automatic rebuild is triggered.

    My new theory is that storage spaces is saturating or locking the drive during the automatic repair which causes HDD Saver to not be able to properly perform its detection routine during this period of high I/O. During some other configuration tests with HDD Saver, I also saw some similar issues using automatic unlock for bitlocker when longer-lasting high I/O occurred immediately upon detection of the drive which then caused it to drop off as well (requiring a reboot). However, I was new to HDD Saver and this behavior was very infrequent and didn't seem to be persistent so I didn't pay as much attention to it. Storage spaces is very consistent when a rebuild is required. For reference, my storage pool is currently configured to use a parallel repair policy which could be causing the high I/O. I'm going to check later to see if the sequential mode causes the problem (set-storagepool -FriendlyName 'storage pool' -RepairPolicy 'Sequential').

    Overall, I think I have finally found a workaround for my issue to avoid the conflict between HDD Saver and storage spaces and the I/O issue. By setting the virtual disk to manual attach (set-virtualdisk -FriendlyName test -IsManualAttach $true), this allows storage spaces to properly detect the drive, but an automatic repair will not begin until the virtual disk has been attached (connect-virtualdisk test). Essentially, I have to ensure all drives are attached and then connect the virtual disk. Likewise, before powering down a drive, use the command disconnect-virtualdisk test and then use HDD Saver to power down the drive.

    It is entirely possible that this won't be an issue with two drives running on the HDD Saver since they'll be presented simultaneously and a be powered down simultaneously and there wouldn't be a rebuild taking place as a result. My testing has primarily had one drive powered on and one controlled by HDD saver. I was considering using the half on and half on/off configuration as a sort of 'super fast sync offline backup' solution which could be scripted out and run every day or by using an external disk for this configuration. My research continues.

    I still think that HDD Saver is doing some 'device attached/online verification' of some sort, but I haven't been able to pin it down yet and I'm still not sure why exactly the drive gets permanently disconnected with a resulting process create for the full blown a-tuning app with a /FrameId argument to display the 'HDD Saver drive needs re-detection' message ("C:\Program Files (x86)\ASRock Utility\A-Tuning\bin\ATuning.EXE" /FrameId=28).

    Well, I'm not sure if any of this helps you [parsec] in any way, but thank you for your feedback about my issue. If I get a chance, I'll try to configure these disks in RAID 1 and see what happens with HDD Saver on this motherboard to report back to you. I'm still focusing on the storage space solution, but once I feel satisfied and have a plan of action, then I'll revisit the RAID 1 configuration.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    N/A
    Posts
    12

    Default Re: A Few Surprises Using the ASRock Z97 Extreme 6 Mother Board

    Parsec,
    I tried using the Intel RST RAID1 configuration with HDD Saver and A-Tuning just displays an incompatibility message. The message is "The HDD Saver only works under AHCI mode. Please reboot and enter UEFI SETUP to set it to AHCI mode. Reboot Now?" It works fine when using the UEFI to control the power as you mentioned. Again, it seems to be a software limitation being imposed on it. To me, this seems to indicate that the software isn't just toggling the power (and ejecting/flushing the buffers of the drive, when possible) as we were hoping.

  8. #8
    parsec's Avatar
    parsec is offline Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Third stone from the sun
    Posts
    4,824

    Default Re: A Few Surprises Using the ASRock Z97 Extreme 6 Mother Board

    Thanks for all the information about your various configurations to get HDD Saver working with Windows Storage Spaces. If it does not help me, that does not make it worthless to me at all.

    My ASRock Z97 board's HDD saver power cable IS a four pin cable and four pin mother board header, I was wrong about that in my previous post. Whether or not the software control in the UEFI and OS are the same, I don't know.

    The detection problems may be related to HDD Saver's need to run a re-detect on the drives whenever one is changed that uses the HDD Saver cable. But there may be more to it than that. My board's manual describes it like this:

    Re-detect SATA Power Connection

    Re-detect your SATA Power connection. It is recommended to proceed the re-detection
    for any changes of your HDD configuration. You can also proceed the re-detection via the
    HDD Saver application under your OS.


    The "... recommended to proceed the re-detection for any changes of your HDD configuration" makes me wonder, does that include changes to drives not connected to the HDD Saver cable? That implies SATA port numbers and OS drive letters can affect HDD Saver, which fits into your more sophisticated notion of how HDD Saver works, rather than my simplistic view of power alone.

    Since Storage Spaces must be fairly sophisticated software, I imagine any changes to drive attributes used by the file system and Storage Spaces software by a third party application (HDD Saver in A-Tuning in this case) could cause all kinds of issues.

    But since I stopped using HDD Saver in A-Tuning, and use the UEFI options only, I've had no problems. So I agree with you about the software limitation. Not that I really disagreed, I was simply uncertain either way.

    The UEFI HDD Saver options function in the pre-OS environment, but at that point any Intel RAID arrays exist and are active to the extent they can be using the Intel RAID option ROM. I can see them with the IRST RAID utility that is available directly from the UEFI in the Advanced menu, when using a UEFI booting Windows installation. That is different than a Storage Spaces virtual disk, that does not exist until Windows boots, isn't it?

    I haven't played with HDD Saver lately, so can't add anything else that might help you. I've been trying Windows 10 TP, but probably should not use that as a basis for testing the Storage Spaces software it has with HDD Saver.

    Too many things I want to do, which I start but never finish.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    N/A
    Posts
    12

    Default Re: A Few Surprises Using the ASRock Z97 Extreme 6 Mother Board

    Parsec, maybe we should have started a separate "Tips, Tricks and Limitations of HDD Saver" thread instead. I share your sentiment about "too many things started without finishing."

    Another thing I discovered with the HDD Saver in the UEFI. When you load a saved profile/configuration in the UEFI, it performs not one, but TWO HDD saver power on/power off cycles to re-detect the drives whenever you do a load. Maybe
    this is particular to this UEFI version (P1.60 on X99 Extreme4), but it is a waste of time waiting for it to do it twice.

    I rebooted to the Windows 8.1 recovery console (command prompt) with HDD Saver configured as powered on in the UEFI. The storage space virtual disk was immediately present and required no extra commands to access the data (e.g. mounting/loading drivers/etc). As usual, you may want to confirm that it will work for your purposes before relying on it.

    HDD Saver appears to toggle the power fine for a pair of mirrored (and striped?) drives utilized in a storage pool. However, it does not properly flush the data (SS+NTFS tested) before powering down (disk surprise removal), so a file
    that is being written when the drive is powered down gets corrupted. The file will appear to still be there when the SS virtual disk returns, but the source and destination files don't have a matching SHA256 hash and chkdsk may need to
    be run.

    I have attached the powershell script (rename extension .txt to .ps1) which I am using to control the power state of the HDD Saver drives when using a storage pool. It can be adapted for use in other environments, but it requires some external dependencies (SysInternals sync.exe). It flushes the write buffer before invoking HDD Saver and it terminates the AsrSP.exe process to reduce the likelihood that another user (any non-admin) or myself can accidentally trigger HDD Saver power down without executing the script to flush the write buffer and reduce the likelihood of data corruption. By killing the AsrSP process, it also limits the attack possibilities to turn the drive on and off since any process could run through every possible combination of the possible key presses to turn the drive on and starting the process requires UAC onsent/admin credentials. Unfortunately, the AsrSP process is also started every time you start the A-Tuning app.

    For my purposes, this powershell script seems to be an acceptable solution. Now, I can just launch the powershell script (wrapped in a batch script for ease of execution), type in the admin account credentials and it takes care of
    powering it on and off (and flushing write buffers). This is an interactive process, of course (I don't think it could be done through a scheduled task, but I don't intend to test that). This script supports my need to manage the HDD
    Saver over RDP in my testing.

    While it is entirely possible to use storage spaces in an offline mirror capacity (similar to Intel RST RAID on-demand recovery configuration), it would require changing the virtual disk to manual attach and scripting out the connect
    vdisk and disconnect vdisk commands along with including the HDD Saver commands. As a result, I'm going to continue with my alternate methods of offline file synchronization (primarily robocopy) for backups. As you probably already
    know, two-way mirror storage spaces will only protect from single drive failure but not from data loss which is where the offline backups come into play.
    Attached Files Attached Files

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •