A Server Build with a GA-Z77X-UD5H in a Lian-Li PC-K9WX–Part 2
In part 1 of this series on my build of a Hyper-V Server Home Lab using a GA-Z77X-UD5H in a Lian-Li PC-K9WX case I had concluded that the “Z77X-UD5H with the i7-3770 is a great board with the only glitch that I encountered, and it’s a big glitch, is the lack of official drivers and support from Gigabyte for any OS other than Windows 7.”
The Server 2008R2 install had not been as trouble free as I had originally expected though I had been able to work around the issues with the Intel 82579V 2nd NIC driver and manually loading the drivers mother board drivers I needed. The Intel Rapid Storage Technology worked very well but I found that the USB 3.0 drivers were only operating at USB 2.0 speeds. While it seemed likely that my root issue with the USB 3.0 drivers not providing the proper speeds was the Server 2008R2 operating system I felt the only way to know for sure was to test that theory by loading Windows 7 onto the Z77X-UD5H.
I upgraded the BIOS from 7 to 8c and then loaded Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit onto the OS drive. I installed Windows 7 by burning a DVD from the Windows 7 iso and erasing all partitions on the OS drive before doing a clean install from the Windows 7 DVD. All of the drivers loaded easily and everything worked very well.
Windows 7 Performance
ATTO test of the USB 3.0 with Seagate GoFlex 4TB attached – this performance is slightly better than that achieved with a WD USB 3.0 PCIe card in a MicroServer.
The OS drive ATTO performance on the GSATA III Port 6. The performance is not as good as is advertised for Crucial M4’s but I attributed it to running off of the non-Intel GSATA III port. This may or may not be the case and in retrospect I should have tested that theory against the Intel SATA III port by actually moving the SATA connection to the motherboard and testing. A future project.
Performance of the WD20FAEX drive on SATA III Port 1 with Intel Rapid Storage Technology turned on using Corsair Force 3 60GB SSD on SATA III Port 0 for caching in maximized mode – outstanding and similar to what I was getting in Server 2008R2.
The performance of the Z77X-UD5H with Windows 7 is a dream. After some additional testing I decided it was time to install some additional hardware onto my build.
Additional Parts installed
In the 1st part I had listed some additional parts that I had planned to install onto this build:
General Data Drives: GSATA III Ports 7 & 8: Seagate Barracuda ST3000DM001 3TB 7200 RPM 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5″
Server Back-up Drive: SATA II Port 3: Western Digital Caviar Green WD20EADS 2TB 32MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5″ This is my spare drive for my EX-487. I had also been using this drive temporarily in my MicroServer as a Server Back-up drive.
1 ST3000DM001 ready to install. The other is already in the case.
StarTech USB 3.0 2 port on the left and USB 2.0 4 port on the right before installation
New hardware installed
The additional USB ports on the back case
With these parts installed I did some additional testing:
This is the performance of my old WD20EADS. With the WD20EADS attached to the Intel SATA II Port 3 it should be able to select it for caching with the Intel Rapid Storage Technology, so……
With caching from the Corsair Force 3 60GB SSD on Intel’s SATA III Port 0 the performance on an old WD Green drive on a SATA II port was outstanding. This raises a lot of interesting possibilities for the future.
I attached the 2 Seagate ST3000DM001’s to GSATA III Ports 7 & 8. Compared to a standard WD Black drive this is very impressive.
Windows 8 Release Preview
From Windows 7 it is very easy to upgrade to Windows 8 Release Preview so I thought there would be no need to worry about driver installs because they would just all carry over. During the update to Windows 8 Release Preview, Windows 8 asked me to remove MicroSoft Security Essentials since the new version of Windows Defender in Windows 8 encompasses MSE. I did that and the update resumed smoothly.
In Windows 8 everything worked very well just like in Windows 7. I loaded Hyper-v and started loading up some different operating systems in VM’s. In the interim I installed new Intel drivers from Gigabyte’s web page for the Z77X-UD5H and the new BIOS F8 which was an update from F8c-Beta. In my initial excitement I neglected to test my WD20FAEX with the Intel Rapid Storage Technology that was enabled.
My testing was very disappointing. No matter what I did, any drive that I was accelerating (and Intel’s management software said it was accelerating) I was only getting the performance of the underlying stock drive. I even broke the caching and tested the Corsair Force 3 to make sure it was working properly.
Performance of Corsair Force 3 60GB SATA III Port 0
The Corsair was working properly. I re-installed all Intel drivers but that had no impact on performance.
I then developed a theory that I may have screwed up when after I installed the new driver updates and new BIOS (doing the BIOS update from 8c to 8 while Hyper-v was running may not have been a good idea either) from Gigabyte. When I did finally start to test my drives in Windows 8 with ATTO one of those time I accidently did ATTO on my optical drive (the optical drive is attached to Intel SATA port 2. The machine didn’t like that and locked really bad requiring me to shut the machine down at the power strip. When I got it back up and running Intel Rapid Storage Technology said it was running well but I could get no acceleration on my drives off of the Intel SATA’s. I changed so many things at once that I didn’t know if it was something I did or an issue with Windows 8 Release Preview. Everything else was working fine except for the Intel Rapid Storage Technology acceleration.
My solution was the re-install Windows 7. Which was what I did. I reran all of my tests in Windows 7 and confirmed everything was running correctly again like before in Windows 7. I then carefully upgrade all of my drivers and again checked as many things as I could think of including my drives performance with and without caching acceleration turned on in Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology.
After satisfying myself that everything was performing properly in Windows 7 I again did the upgrade to Windows 8 Release Preview.
The same problem existed. Apparently, it is an issue with the interaction of Windows 8 Release Preview and Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology. I wrote up what I had found and posted it to Gigabyte’s Technical Support, Intel’s Technical Support and I have posted a trouble Report with MicroSoft’s Window’s 8 Team using the Window’s Feedback Tool from the MicroSoft Connect Site.
The more I use Windows 8 the more I began thinking that it would be an ideal future Hyper-V lab so I set about using the Z77 platform to test out Windows 8 (I already have Server 2012 RC installed onto my MicroServer).
I believe that Gigabyte, Intel, and Microsoft will have a solution for the incompatibility with Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology and Windows 8 RP by the time of Windows 8 RTM in the next few months.
This is more serious than I thought
With 2 spare SATA II ports (Ports 4 & 5) I decided to install 2 more drives in my K9WX. The installation went well and when I power up my machine I saw the additional drives in the Intel splash screen during post showing the Intel ports with hard drives attached but when I got into Windows 8 I could not find the 2 new drives. I also could not load the Intel Rapid Storage Technology Management program. This was perplexing. I ended up disconnecting the SATA cables to the 2 new drives and the WD20EADS as well as the Optical Drive before I could load IRST in Windows 8 RP. Then, when I tried to reconnect the WD20EADS and the Optical Drive they would not show up in Windows 8. Ultimately I decided it best to remove the drivers for Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology. After that I was able to reconnect the WD20EADS and the Optical Drive and all drives are functioning normally at stock speeds.
The last time I checked (June 19, 2012) Gigabyte is up to Beta BIOS F9d. I’m still running on release 8 and will wait till F9 is available before upgrading.
I love this board. With everything I have thrown at it and tried it has continue to perform well. Obviously, Gigabyte’s first priority was to optimize their Z77’s in the Windows 7 environment and their engineers have done that remarkably well in my opinion. Even with ISRT removed this board outperforms anything else I have while running Windows 8 RP loaded down with various Hyper-V clients. There’s no doubt in my mind that once Windows 8 is RTM or close to it that Gigabyte will be well on their way bringing their Z77’s to the same reliability they showed me in Windows 7.
After more testing and upgrades in BIOS and drivers in the future I’ll post additional parts to this story. You can also follow the continuing discussion in the Home Server Show Forums.