FAILED Adaptec 2940UW SCSI Controller

I have a Adaptec 2940UW SCSI controller I bought it to replace the classic Adaptec 2940, which came with my Gateway computer. It has worked flawlessly for several years. A few days after I installed my new Plextor it suddenly stopped working. After several hours of thrashing around, trying 3 different SCSI cables, and several single devices to terminate the narrow SCSI chain, I came to the realization that the narrow SCSI chain part of the controller, but not the wide SCSI chain part of the controller was fried. I don't have any idea how it happened. After a few calls to Adaptec tech support, they verified that it was a retail controller, with a 5 year warranty, and they agreed to cross ship me a new controller. Needless to say, the new controller worked flawlessly. I was totally shocked that the controller could fry, and it has been my first hardware failure. But the Adaptec 5 year warranty is really great, and shows they are serious about standing behind their product.

Adaptec 39160

I have a Adaptec 39160 SCSI controller I bought it to replace the my Adaptec 2940UW. I guess I was spoiled by my ASUS CUR-DLS motherboard which had two channel ultra-160 scsi onboard. When I upgraded to my ASUS PC-DL motherboard, I still wanted scsi, and the 39160 seemed like the best solution. It supports 64 bit PCI (though sadly the ASUS PC-DL does not) as well as 32 bit PCI. It also supports 66mhz PCI bus speed if your PCI bus does also. It also has two external SCSI high density connectors. I decided not to get the 38320 card, as I don't have any ultra-320 hard drives, I wanted a 50 pin SCSI connector, and it costs quite a bit more.

It works flawlessly. Works with Windows XP and Linux. Very boring, which is good.

Highpoint RocketRAID 2720 SGL SAS HBA

I bought two of these cards for my file servers. The cards are quite compact and have a small heatsink (which I hope means they use little power). They support 6 gigabits/second SAS and SATA drives. They will work with drives over 2TB unlike some LSI cards such as the SAS 3081E-R. That is the good news. The phone number for tech support is always busy. When you call the main number, they say tech support is only available online. When you register for an account, they say will send you email, but they never do. The card can be put in IT or IR mode, but the process isn't documented on their web site (don't ask me).

One of my cards works fine. The other one used to work fine, but no more. The other one acts quite strangely. I have eight 2tb hard drives attached to it. I noticed this when my disk array got errors and I had to rebuild it. I checked each disk and each disk was fine. I was able to rebuild the array, but very slowly. One is newer than the rest. Using gnome-disks and the readonly benchmark, the new drive does 174 mbytes/second, which is pretty good. The rest not so much. Their performance is 60, 73, 78, 78, 66, 31 and 23 mbytes/second. Also the graph isn't 'smooth' like I am used to see for disk transfer rate over the disk surface, but quite jagged. I pulled the 23 mbyte/second disk and plugged it into the motherboard directly. The 2720SGL has an interface speed of 600 mbytes/sec. The motherboard has an interface speed of 300 mbytes/sec (it is an older motherboard). With the disk plugged directly into the mb, I got read speeds of 75-81 mbytes/sec (it is an old 2tb disk). When the disk was attached to the mb, the transfer curve was much smoother.

I ended up buying a LSI 8 port 600 mbyte/sec card. It is a bit bigger than the Highpoint and the heatsink is bigger. However, LSI (now part of Broadcom) is a brand with great documentation and support. They have firmware on the web site to switch to IT or IR mode. They have a tech support number which worked the last time I used it. I cannot recommend Highpoint anymore.

So my LSI SAS 9210-8i card shows up and I start to take the old Highpoint card out. I was quite surprised that the 2 SFF8087 connectors were loose. Each cable has a locking tab which needs to be released to remove the cable. However, I was able to pull out each cable without releasing the tab. I know I seated the cables properly when I put everything together. Somehow the tabs were released and the cable was not properly seated. So I reseated the 2 cables. Afterwards I measured the read performance of ea sh disk. I got 78, 87, 83, 87, 80, 84, 154 and 83 mbytes/second. Pretty consistent across all the drives except for the newer 2tb hard drive. So I made a new raid array. It is rebuilding 63 mbytes/sec and should be done in about 8 hours. It was a really odd failure mode, but remember that everything is really analog and there are many weird failure modes. Looks like I have a spare LSI SAS card, which isn't a bad thing.

I have a second highpoint 2720 controller in my main fileserver. For awhile I have had an issue with my hot swap hard drive rack and one hard drive in it. I first thought it was the hard drive rack. It turns out when I move the hard drive cables around, the 'bad' location moves. So I thought the cable was bad. I just replaced the cable, and the problem persists. It is now clear that one of the eight hard drive's controlled by the highpoint controller has an issue. It might be in the connector on the board, or it might be elsewhere inside the board. But it isn't the cable or the hard drive rack. At least my array is operational, and I now have a spare cable and a new LSI controller card. I will likely put the new LSI card in the computer the next time I open it up. What is really weird is the 'bad' hard drive gets detected by the card, and is sometimes even visible to the OS. It just doesn't work. Really odd.

The card works great with four 8tb hard drives. When I put in four 10tb hard drives, all kinds of weird things happened. Short form, the hard drives didn't get detected reliably. i was trying many different things. One workaround was to have a 'small' 4 or 5tb hard drive on the same string as the 10tb hard drives. It turns out that I needed to update the BIOS of the highpoint card. The old version v1.5 was copyright 2012. The new version is v1.16, copyright 2016 and it works great. To update the BIOS you need a bootable DOS disk. It turns out that if you use Rufus, you can make a bootable usb flash drive. Copy the files to that, and boot. Flashing takes a few seconds. I did it for my two highpoint cards. I don't update firmware unless needed, but in this case it was needed badly.

LSI SAS 3081E-R SAS Controller

This is an 8 port SAS controller card. It has 2 high density internal SAS connectors, each of which connect to 4 SAS (or SATA) hard drives. It is a low profile card, and can use either a standard or low profile bracket. It works pretty well. One documented issue is it only supports hard drives up to 2tb in size. If you use a bigger hard drive, reads or writes above 2tb will likely be corrupted. Although this is a documented limitation, I verified this out the hard way. The speed of each hard drive is rated at 300 mbytes/second. It turns out that this card isn't that fast. With a reasonably fast SSD (ocz vertex 3), I measured write speeds of up to 136mb/sec and read speeds of up to 143mb/sec, which is quita a bit slower than 300 mbytes/sec. Plenty fast for spinning hard drives, but still a bit disappointing...

Promise Ultra tx-100 and tx-133 IDE Controller

I have several Promise IDE controllers. They enable older computers to support hard drives over 132 gigabytes. They also enable computers with defectively designed IDE controllers (like the Serverworks LE in my ASUS CUR-DLS motherboard to use IDE drives. Based on my experience, they will not allow a computer to boot from cdrom or dvd drives plugged into them. I also had a problem flashing an update bios on one card, rendering it partially useless. Promise says they do not support more than one Promise card in a computer. I have had no problem running Linux or Windows with two tx-100 cards, though when three tx-100 cards are plugged into one computer, they are not all recognized. I had a problem with Microsoft Windows XP not recognizing a Plextor px-740 dvd burner (a older sony burner had no problems).

Supermicro AOC SAT2 MV8 SATA II Controller

For my new fileserver, I decided to switch from PATA to SATA. There are a number of reasons to do so. There is no master/slave thing, so a failing master disk can't affect the functionality of a slave drive. The cables are more managable, being thinner and longer. SATA II allows for hot swap. Most new drives are SATA. The only downside is you need lots of SATA connectors for lots of drives. Fortunately, there are a few products, including the Supermicro card I purchased that solves all the problems. It has 8 SATA II ports. It has a PCI-X interface (which is 64 bits and up to 133mhz) which provides plenty of bandwidth. It uses the Marvell 88SX6080 8 port sata controller. According to the manufacturer, it is also supported under linux. Now the manufacturers support is a few binary drives for very old linux distributions. I did have some issues with recent linux kernels, however as far as I can tell, the latest kernels 2.6.23 and above, seem to work fine.

The card is low profile, which is handy for rack mount systems. It comes with 2 metal brackets, one normal height, and one half height. It also comes with 8 sata cables, and a cdrom with drivers for windows and some linux distributions. It has a bunch of leds on the card showing hard drive status and it has a connector for external status leds. It is much less expensive than a hardware raid sata card. Highly recommended.

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