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Saturday, October 16, 2010

WHQL Windows 7 and nVidia RAID

@ all users with an nForce2, nForce3 or nForce4 RAID system
Preliminary notesThe now officially available final version of Windows 7 seems to be the best Windows OS yet and has plenty of actual drivers in-the-box, which makes it very easy for the big majority of users to get it installed without any problem onto nearly each hardware configuration with an nForce chipset.
Nevertheless there are a lot of nForce chipset mainboard owners, who ran already or will run into problems, if they try to get Win7 (32bit or 64bit) installed by booting off the OS DVD:
NForce2/3/4 RAID systems are not supported by Win7 (32/64bit).
Win7 Setup will not detect the RAID by just booting off the DVD!

Meanwhile some nForce4 RAID users have reported in different threads of this Forum about their experience with the installation of Win7 and gave some important informations about how they succeeded at least. 
Since nobody else has done it yet, I have started this new thread. My intention was

  1. to concentrate all nForce RAID related Win7 installation problems and their possible solution into 1 single thread (makes it easier for the users and the "helpers") and
  2. to present somewhere an actual guide about how to get Win7 installed onto an nForce RAID system, which is not detected automaticly by the Win7 Setup.
General infomationsHere are some informations regarding the support of the various nForce Raid systems by Win7:
  • Both final Win7 versions (x86 and x64) have new in-box nForce S-ATA and RAID drivers v10.6.0.16 dated 05/12/2009, which do fully support all actual nForce chipsets and nForce SataRAID systems. Consequently nearly all users with an nForce4xx/5xx/6xx/7xx SataRaid system don't need to load any separate nForce IDE driver or patch to get Win7 installed onto their system by booting off the OS DVD.
  • nForce2 RaidnForce3 Raid and nForce4 PataRaid systems are not supported at all by the in-box nForce IDE drivers of Win7 (the same as with Vista). Nevertheless there might be a (painful) way to get Win7 x86 and even Win7 x64 installed onto nForce2/3 SataRaid and nForce4 PataRaid systems (for details you may look into part I point c of this guide).
  • nForce SataRaid systems on mainboards with the option to create S-ATA and P-ATA RAID arrays simultaneously (=LEGACY mode nForce SataRaid systems) are not fully supported by the Win7 in-box nForce IDE drivers. Affected users will realize that, when the Win7 Setup routine will not detect the RAID devices/partitions automaticly. These users have to load either a special nForce IDE driver or a patch (for details see below).
  • Only WHQL certified nForce IDE drivers, which are designed for Win7 or Vista, can be successfully loaded during the installation of Win7. Other drivers will not be accepted by the Win7 Setup routine.
Important for newbies:
Before you continue reading this guide, you should verify, if you really have an nForce RAID system. There are a lot of nForce chipset mainboards with different RAID controllers (mostly from NVIDIA and Silicon Image). Assure yourself, that your S-ATA hdd's are connected to the nForce RAID ports and not to other RAID connectors as Sil3112/3114, otherwise your RAID won't be detected by loading any nForce SataRaid driver mentioned within this guide.
Guide for a clean install of Win7 (32/64bit)
Last update: 07/19/2010
I. Installation onto an nForce RAID array
(especially for "LEGACY mode" nForce SataRaid systems)
  • Win7 can be installed onto each available spacious partition, but the active boot partition (normally on drive C) has to be within the nForce RAID array and should have the NTFS file system.
  • The RAID has to be set as bootable (within the RAID configuration tool) and as first bootable HDD (within the mainboard BIOS option "HARD DISK BOOT PRIORITY").
  • Since the nVRaid BIOS (newer name: MediaShield IDE ROM) is part of the mainboard BIOS, you should check, if you have flashed the latest available mainboard BIOS version.
  • Win7 Setup needs a rock stable system during the installation. If you have an overclocked system or critical RAM sticks, you will get BSOD's, missing files or sudden reboots during the Win7 installation.
  • Users reported about problems during the Win7 installation, when the Setup routine detected other storage devices (RAIDed or non-RAIDed hdd's, USB devices, card readers etc.) outside the RAID array.
    Suggestion: Unplug all storage devices outside the active RAID array and disable all unneeded controllers within BIOS before you begin with the installation of Win7.
Since none of the currently vailable Win7 versions has nForce SataRaid drivers "in the box", which are suitable for allnForce chipsets, users with an old (= Legacy type) nForce Raid system should do the following preparations:
  1. Creation of the "LEGACY Patch Boot Floppy/CD"
    Download the small Patch file package from >here<, unzip it and burn the ISO file as bootable CD. Alternatively you can create a bootable floppy disk with the patch by running the make_floppy.bat file, which is within the package too.
    This "LEGACY Patch Boot Floppy/CD" can be used with Win7 x86 and Win7 x64.
    The LEGACY Patch method has been developed and published by nForcersHQ Forum member hwti in November 2006.
  2. Preparation of special WHQL signed nForce SATA and RAID drivers
    1. for the 32bit version of Win7 (x86)
      • nForce4 SataRAID systems:
        Users with such system should download the 32bit Vista SATA_IDE and SATARAID drivers v9.98 dated 08/09/2007 from >here<.
      • nForce2-3 Sata/PataRAID and nForce4 PataRAID systems:
        These users may download the last WHQL signed XP nForce 2-4 IDE drivers v5.21 dated 03/14/2005 from >here<.
    2. for the 64bit version of Win7 (x64)
      • nForce4 SataRAID systems:
        The suitable 64bit Vista SATA_IDE and SATARAID drivers v9.98 can be downloaded from >here<.
      • nForce3 SataPataRAID and nForce4 PataRAID:
        Unfortunately there are no suitable 64bit WHQL certified drivers available. Users with such configuration probably will not be able to get Win7 x64 installed this way.
    Unzip the downloaded driverpack (don't mix the 32/64bit version!) and copy the complete driver folders onto an empty USB stick. Alternatively you can copy the content of the appropriate driver folder(s) onto a separate floppy disk.
Now you are hopefully well prepared for a successful Win7 installation.
Additional preparation tips:
  • Please look into the tips, which were given by the nForcersHQ member DabHand. You will find them on top of>this< page.
  • It is a good idea to prepare an empty partition of your Raid array for the later Win7 installation before beginning with the Win7 Setup by booting off the DVD. This preparation is not really needed, but it makes it easier for you. (You can create, delete and format any RAID partition during the Vista installation too. You will get these options when the Vista Setup shows the correct list of your existing partitions and you have hit the "Advanced" button). 
    Run any OS of your Raid and create a new partition (minimal space requirement: 25 GB, better are 50-80 GB) or do a quick format of an equivalent and not needed existing partition. Be aware to format the designed Win7 installation place with NTFS file system.
Different Win7 Installation methods:
a) NForce4 RAID standard installation procedure
(adopted from nForcersHQ member Poser)
  1. Boot off the WIN7 DVD.
  2. When you are asked where you want to get Win7 installed and you won't see your RAID array(s) and RAID partitions, plug in the prepared USB stick or floppy disk with the SATA_IDE driver v9.98.
  3. Hit the "load driver" button.
    Attention: Be aware of loading the correct driver package (Win7 x86 needs 32bit drivers, Win7 x64 needs 64bit ones!).
  4. Point to the SATA_IDE driver folder content of your prepared USB stick or floppy disk. You will get a popup window, where the "NVIDIA nForce Serial ATA Controller" is shown as compatible device.
  5. Select the compatible device and let Win7 Setup load the prepared driver.
  6. After having loaded the driver (maybe you have to hit the "Refresh" button), you should see all hard disk devices and RAID partitions of your computer (if not, you may have to restart the Win7 installation by booting off the prepared "LEGACY Patch Boot Floppy/CD", for details see below).
  8. Use the "Advanced options" button and format the partition, where you want Win7 to get installed.
    Important: You should use the "format" option at this point even if you have done it already before by using another OS or a tool like Acronis Disk Director Suite, because Win7 has a slightly different NTFS file system.
  9. Select the just formatted partition and let Win7 install onto it.
  10. The rest will Win7 Setup do by its own. Even the restarts should not induce any problem.
Once Win7 is up, you should do a look into the "IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers" and "Storage Controllers" sections of the Device Manager (choose the "View" > "Show hidden devices" option): 
You will see the following devices:
  • "NVIDIA nForce Serial ATA Controller(s)" using the nForce SATA driver v9.98 and
  • "NVIDIA nForce RAID Controller(s)" and "NVIDIA RAID Devices" (maybe with the names of the RAIDed hdds) using the in-box nForce RAID driver v10.6.0.xx.
Although at the end of this installation method Win7 is using different nForce SATA and RAID driver versions, you should be able to work with this new OS nevertheless.

b) Special LEGACY Patch method for nForce4 RAID systems:
(detected and reported by the nForcersHQ members aksal and crisao23)
  1. Boot off the "LEGACY Patch Boot Floppy or CD" you have prepared (see above).
  2. When prompted, remove the Patch Boot Floppy/CD, insert the Win7 DVD and press any key. 
    The computer will now boot Win7 Setup from DVD similar to a non-LEGACY mode nForce RAID system.
  3. Although the RAID and its partitions will already been detected, you should hit the "load driver" button.
    Attention: Be aware of loading the correct driver package (Win7 x86 needs 32bit drivers, Win7 x64 needs 64bit ones!).
  4. Point to the SATARAID driver folder content of your prepared USB stick or floppy disk. You will get a popup window, where all compatible NVIDIA RAID and SATA are shown.
    Select all compatible devices and let Win7 Setup load the prepared SATARAID drivers.
  5. If the device named "NVIDIA nForce Serial ATA Controller" will not been shown as compatible while loading the content of the SATARAID folder, you need to load additionally the content of the prepared SATA_IDE driver folder. Choose the device, which is shown as compatible. It should be the NVIDIA nForce S-ATA Controller.
  6. After having loaded the drivers you should still see all hard disk devices and RAID partitions of your computer.
  8. Use the "Advanced options" button and format the partition, where you want Win7 to get installed. Choose the partition where you want to get Vista installed.
  9. The Win7 installation hopefully will finalize without any problem. According to aksal there is no need to insert the LEGACY Patch Boot Foppy/CD again, when the computer is going to reboot.
At the end you have a Win7 installation, which will use the v9.98 instead of the in-box nForce SATA and RAID drivers. Contrary to the easier "Standard installation procedure" you will be able to update the v9.98 nForce IDE drivers to the customized v9.99.09, which seem to be the best choice for NF4 chipsets.

c) Last option: Installation of Win7 by using XP drivers:
(not yet certified for each configuration, but this method may work with all NF2-4 Sata/PataRAID systems)
Since the normal Setup of Windows 7 (32/64bit) does not accept any XP (32/64bit) drivers, you have to start the Win7 (32/64bit) installation from within a running Windows XP (for Win7 x86) resp. Windows XP x64 (for Win7 x64). So you additionally will need a Windows XP or XP x64 CD (depending on the Win7 version you want to get installed at least).
Here is the procedure:
  • Install Windows XP resp. XP x64 by using an OS CD with integated WHQL certified nForce SATA/PATA and RAID drivers. I recommend to use a tool like nLite. For details of the exact integration procedure you may look here.
  • Once XP (32/64bit) is up, yo can start the Win7 (32/64bit) installation by running the SETUP.EXE of the DVD.
  • Although your RAID array and its partitions will be detected by Win7 Setup, you have to load the original WHQL certified XP nForce SATA/PATA and RAID drivers (otherwise you will get a BSOD at next reboot). Choose all devices, which are shown to be compatible. Users with an nForce4 SataRAID system should let Win7 Setup load at first the SATARAID and then the SATA_IDE driver folder.
  • If the XP drivers have been accepted by Win7 Setup, the rest of the Win7 (32/64bit) installation will run by its own.
II. Installation outside the nForce RAID array
Users, who want to install Win7 outside the nForce RAID array, should be able to get Win7 up without any problems and without the need to load any drivers, but they will not see the RAID partitions and datas within their Windows Explorer and Disk Management.
The problem can be solved by installing the needed and appropriate nForce SATA and RAID drivers from within Win7. This can be done either by running the installer of a suitable Vista/Win7 nForce chipset driver set or manually from within the Device Manager.
The details about the installation/update of nForce SataRAID drivers are layed down within the start post of >this<thread.

The problem is, that the RAIDTOOL v11.1.0.43 expects, that the appropriate nForce SATA and RAID drivers are present, but they aren't.
So if you want to use the MediaShield Control Center, you should try to get these actual drivers installed. Since you got Win7 installed onto your RAID without loading ay separate drivers, I am very confident, that you will get these modded v11.1.0.43 nForce IDE drivers installed too. You can do it either by running the installer of my 64bit "Actual nForce Driverpack" by choosing the MediaShield (=Storage Driver) option or manually from within the Device Manager according to my special guide about "How to safely update the nForce SataRAID drivers". You will find the guide within the start post of >this< thread.

1. Disconnect all other storage media. Especially IDE and USB media (after using USB to load drivers if so chosen).
2. I know this common sense, but it bares repeating... RETURN OC'D RIGS TO STOCK!!!! I know you 1337 system is rock of gibraltar stable, but save yourself the headache...really.
3. Do not use 3rd Party software to resize partitions for 7's new home. I am an Acronis junkie... but I have now "successfully" installed seven to two systems....and both times I had to redo partitioning using Windows disk management to get a "stable" install.
---Alot of my problems getting seven installed related to the above. I however then tried multiple install methods to see which yielded the easiest and most repeatable success. This is what I found. 
1. Download Fernandos Special "NF4 RAID WHQL Driverpack"
2. Extract SATA_IDE v9.98 Folder ONLY!!!! & Place on USB Stick 
3. Boot off WIN7 DVD
4. When Prompted to do so, plug in USB Stick and point installation to aforementioned SATA_IDE 9.98 Folder
5. Load Drivers.
6. At this point you should be able to see your ARRAY (If not, then you may have to use the"LEGACY Patch Boot CD"... though I tried this install method numerous times...and while it will work, it is more labor intensive...and not as satisfactory...IMO)
8. Use advanced options in installer to create, delete, manage etc... new partition.
9. THIS NEXT STEP MAY NOT BE NECESSARY (but I have been doing since installing win95): Use advanced options to format new WIN7 partition. Repeat this twice more...for a grand total of three passes. Again not necessary... but it takes about 2 minutes total and ensures a clean slate
10. Select Partition and Install.
11. Note: from here on out, the installer should be able to pass off to system restart without any problems.
When Installation is finished... and restarted, use device manager (show hidden device view) to examine the drivers in storage manager (Nforce raid controller, and instances of nforce raid device)... you will note that they are in fact the boxed version
Happy Win7 BETAing 

I understand your worry regarding the safety of your data. Nevertheless I recommend to install the new nForce SATA and RAID drivers. The actual MediaShield Control Center will give you much more options to handle your RAID1 array than the nVRAID ROM Utility.
This is what I would do:

  1. Open the "Control Panel" > "Storage and Recovery" and create
    1. a System Repair CD/DVD and
    2. an actual image of your 100 MB sized boot partition and your actual OS partition (you have to do a backup of them both simultaneously!)
  2. Store the created image file somewhere outside the PC.
  3. Now you can start with the nForce SATA and RAID driver update.
  4. If the driver update should fail, you can try the F8 option "Last good configuration". If this will not work, you can easily recover your current system by booting off the prepared "System Repair CD/DVD" and pointing to the stored image backup file.

AFAIK I do not have a boot partition right now, I only have one partition which is the whole C: drive.
I doubt, that you are right. You should keep in mind the difference between the physically and the virtual drive C.
Win7 Setup usually creates a special 100 MB sized boot partition (=physically drive C with the Win7 bootloader) and installs the OS onto the next partition (physically drive D, but named "Drive C" by the OS).
You can easily verify that by running the "Disk Management" of Win7. There you should see the 100 MB boot partition, which has not gotten a drive letter by the OS. That is why you don't see it within the Windows Explorer.
If you don't do an update of both (boot and OS) partitions simultaneously, you will not be able to boot into Win7 after having done the system recovery.
Reason: The bootsector with the Win7 Bootloader and all the RAID informations are outside the OS partition, but absolutely needed to get a recovery of your RAID system!

    What program do you suggest to backup the partitions? Is CloneZilla good enough? I'd rather stay on free programs.
You don't need a separate backup tool/program, because Win7 has a very good and easy to manage image storage and recovery tool "on bord". Open the "Storage and Recovery" option, which you will find within the "Control Panel".
By the way: If you are searching for a better image storage and recovery tool, I do recommend to take the actual Acronis "TrueImage 2010 Home" version. Although this is not freeware, it might be possible to get a 30-days test version.

Since you have a PataRAID array you will not be able to get Win7 installed by just booting off the Win7 DVD.
None of the Win7/Vista nForce IDE drivers do support nForce Parallel ATA Controllers.
The only chance to get Win7 installed onto an nForce4 PataRAID array is to start the Win7 installation from within Windows XP (for Win7 x86) or Windows XP x64 (for Win7 x64), but I am not really sure, if you will succeed that way at all.
The easiest way for you to get Win7 installed is by breaking your PataRAID array, disabling RAID within the mainboard BIOS and installing Win7 onto a single (=non-RAID) IDE hdd.

 suspect, that your Win7 source is an All-In-One DVD containing Win7 x86 and Win7 x64.
That might be the reason for the misleading error mesage you got while trying to load the nForce SATA driver.
Here are some advices regarding your problem:

  1. Since you will need to load the correct 64bit nForce SATA driver, you should boot off a clean Win7 x64 DVD (don't boot off a Win7 32/64bit mixture DVD).
  2. Please check, if you really have put the 64bit version of the WHQL signed nForce SATA_IDE driver v9.98 onto the USB stick.
  3. It will be a good idea to unplug all hdd's except the Raptor RAID0 array before you start with the Win7 x64 installation.
As long as the RAID function of the NVIDIA nForce SATA Controllers is disabled within the BIOS, you don't need to load any driver while installing Win7.

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