A Reason To Finally Use Vista


Owners of motherboards based on Nvidia’s reference design probably didn’t notice one feature tucked into the recent P29 BIOS update but it’s something big disk owners should take note of: support for partitions greater than 2TB.

But getting past 2TB isn’t just a BIOS update. To finally break past the 2TB limit, you’ll need Windows Vista and an additional drive to boot your system from. Why not use XP? To get beyond 2TB, you need to run a GPT or GUID Partition Table. XP does not support GPT and can’t even read or write to it. Windows Vista can, but it cannot boot into a GPT partition. So you’ll need an additional drive besides your array to get it to work.

To test out the functionality, we took four 1TB Hitachi Deskstar drives, an EVGA 680i SLI motherboard, a Western Digital Raptor drive and Windows Vista Ultimate to build our 4TB array.

First, we made sure our nForce board was updated to the latest BIOS. In this case, we actually used the P30 BIOS which was just released a few days ago. Besides also including the Release 9 RAID ROM, it includes a slew of other fixes and tweaks to the BIOS.

We first installed Windows Vista Ultimate on the Western Digital Raptor drive and left the other drives disconnected so as no to confuse the OS install process. We then downloaded and installed the latest nForce drivers and graphics drivers and powered down the system. We plugged the four Hitachi 1TB drives into the respective SATA ports, and booted the box. We then go into the BIOS and enable the RAID functionality. You’ll also need make sure you know which ports the Hitachi drives are on and only enable those ports in RAID. If you've already buttoned up your system, you may have to enable/disable the ports to be included in the RAID until only the Hitachi's are on it.

Now go into the RAID ROM and add the four Hitachi drives to your RAID and select whether you want RAID 0 or spanned. Save your changes and boot into Windows. From Windows, Go to Start and right mouse click on Computer and select Manage. Now select Storage and then Disk Management. It should ask you to initialize. Click yes, and when given the option, click the GPT option


Format the array and voila, you’ve got 4TB of space (well, it depends on how you define 1TB doesn’t it?) ready.

We ran two basic HD Tach tests in compatibility mode to see how the four 1TB Hitachi’s would do. With no redundancy, the 1TB drives gave up an average read speed of about 156MB/s – a little disappointing considering that two spindles wouldn’t be too far behind that. In spanned or JBOD, performance was an expected 74.5MB/s in reads.

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