Setting up my new computer / server

Media ServerI’ve built my new desktop computer / server and now have it up an running. It’s been 4 years since my last PC, so it was time for an upgrade. The biggest advantages of the new computer are a dual-core processor, a super-quiet case, and a RAID hard drive controller card that provides protection against drive failures and lets me add disks to the array to make one huge drive. Biggest advantage: all of my movies stored on my network, so that I can use the PC in my basement to browse and play movies. Just like TiVo, only with a better looking interface (Windows Media Center 2005 + My Movies plugin).

Update 2006-Mar-19: Asus released a new beta bios, version 10.11-006, that fixed the A8N-SLI Premium / RAID card compatibility issue. I’m glad that it is released and fixed, but disappointed that it took them so long.

Old Info about Hardware Incompatibility: For the first time in years, I’ve had a hardware compatibility issue. The is odd because I’ve probably built or upgraded 15 different computers over the past few years and issues seem to be a thing of the past. Not now; my Asus A8N-SLI Premium motherboard does not properly recognize my Areca ARC-1230 RAID card. I had to place it into “dual video card mode” to even get it to acknowledge the card. Now, exactly every other time I reset the system, the motherboard fails to recognize the card. So every single time I reboot, I have to wait for the BIOS power-on self-test to complete and then hit CTRL+ALT+Delete to reboot and recognize the card. BIOS updates have not helped and I’ve changed every single setting in the BIOS to no avail. I e-mailed ASUS technical support, but 6 days later and they still have not even acknowledged the request.
I did find some info on the problem, here are the relevant links:
From planetamd64.com
From anandtech.com

Anyway, these are the components I used in my system:

  • CPU: AMD Athlon 64 X2 3800+ Socket 939 Dual Core Processor (better value than any Intel dual-core processor)
  • Memory: Kingston ValueRAM 1GB 184-Pin DDR SDRAM DDR 400 (PC 3200) ECC Unbuffered System Memory Model KVR400X72C3A/1G (ECC to offer a little more reliability, but purchase unbuffered instead of registered for compatibility and speed)
  • CPU Fan: ZALMAN CNPS7000B-CU 92mm 2 Ball Cooling Fan/Heatsink (very quiet)
  • Case: Antec Performance I P180 Silver Steel ATX Mid Tower Computer Case (very quiet)
  • Motherboard: ASUS A8N-SLI Premium Socket 939 NVIDIA nForce4 SLI ATX AMD Motherboard (ASUS has a great reputation for reliability and compatibility)
  • Card Reader: Atech Flash XC-14U 15-in-1 USB 2.0 Int/Ext media Card Reader (more important than a floppy drive)
  • Video Card: ASUS EN6200TC256/TD/64M Geforce 6200TC 64MB PCI Express x16 Video Card (fast and cheap)
  • Power Supply: SeaSonic S12-380 ATX12V 380W Power Supply (very quiet and high efficiency)
  • Floppy Drive: Sony Black 1.44MB 3.5″ Internal Floppy Drive (still need these for operating system installs if you install to a drive on the RAID card)
  • RAID Card: Areca ACR-1230 12-drive PCI Express to SATA controller card with 256 MB cache
  • Hard Drives: Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 ST3500641AS 500GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive (quiet and they have a 5-year warranty)

I did run into one issue when I installed Windows. My card-reader was plugged-in and it has 4 drive letters. My main hard drive, instead of being Drive C, was Drive G because Windows assigned C, D, E, F to the card reader (ahead of the hard drive). Brilliant. I had to unplug the card reader and reinstall Windows because that is the easiest way to fix the problem. This really needs to be fixed in the new Windows Vista.

Written by in: Tech | Tags: | Last updated on: 2014-May-27 |

5 Comments »

  • enderox says:

    Have you had any more luck with this Areca and the Asus A8N-SLI ???

    I don’t really want to go down the Opteron s940, Reg ECC DDR, PCI-X route if I can avoid it.

    Seems like PCI-e support is hit and miss for anything other than video cards. I really dont give a toss about SLI gaming. Stuffed if I can find a PCI-e AMD motherboard with a PCIe x8 or PCIe x4 (with open end and thus physically x8 compatible) slot.

    Those darn s939 Opteron servers boards, except for one limited Supermicro/Aplus model, seem to be nowhere.

    It all make my head hurt.

    Have you tried Linux at all ? I read about a few users with some sort of timing issue when using the Areca PCIe controller.

    Mike…

  • Carlton Bale says:

    I’ve installed the latest beta bios from Asus and still no change with the A8N-SLI Premium. It only boots properly every other time. I’ve exchanged e-mails with other users and the A8N-SLI Deluxe version does work properly with the Areca RAID card; not sure why the near-identical Premium version won’t. Very frustrating. I guess I need to “downgrade” to that motherboard. I agree that server boards are too rare and expensive to consider; there are just not many alternatives to consider. It is possible to use an exacto knife to cut the end off of a a 2x or 4x PCI-e slot, but you wouldn’t get the full 8x performance, so I’m not considering that.

    I have not tried Linux at all. I’m using WinServer 2003, though I wish I just would have going with XP as I’m not really using any of it’s extra features. I’ve also read of timing issues with the Areca controller; I’ve haven’t noticed anything with Windows because it apparently takes-over and resolves any issues.

    I do have another problem with the computer. It will just completely turn off for no reason. It won’t reboot or show a Windows BSOD crash screen, it will just completely shut down. It is not due to a power failure, so I’m not sure what the issue could be.

  • Carlton Bale says:

    The 1011-006 bios from Asus fixed my RAID card boot compatibility issue!  —  link

  • zegermans says:

    Hey, I randomly found this post while googling. So this raid card works with the premium now? I have 5 WD 320GB’s just waiting for a raid card and apperently the promise offering is terrible. Glad things worked out for you 🙂

  • Carlton Bale says:

    Yes, the Asus A8N-SLI Premium motherboard now works with PCI-E RAID cards. ASUS apparently figured this out in early December, 2005 but didn’t release it to the public until March, 2006. I’m frustrated I had to wait that long, but a least everything is working now!

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