Test for SATA Ports?

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Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Thu Jul 12, 2012 8:38 pm

I'm curious if there are any tests that will determine whether a SATA port is functioning correctly.

I ask because sometimes two of my HDDs won't respond. It's the same 2, no matter what port they're on. One, the Spinpoint, takes a minute to "wake up" - while the green progress bar crawls along the top. The other, a new Caviar Black sometimes won't respond at all and I have to reboot.

Since it happens regardless of what port they're on the problem has to be the drives, right? And yet they pass every test I throw at them; both drives appear to be 100% healthy using any 3rd-party test I can find - WD Diagnositcs, Seagate Tools, HD Tune, etc. But Windows Degrag won't run, chkdsk won't run... Actually I haven't tried either one since yesterday when I couldn't boot into Windows because of this problem. Now that the system is up and running again I don't want to try running Defrag or chkdsk...afraid it'll crash the system.

The Spinpoint has been like this ever since I installed it over a year ago. It always responds... eventually, rarely caused me to reboot. I ran Degrag and chkdsk on it no problem.

But this new WD drive is having nothing but trouble. It passed all the initial tests (WD Diagnostics, chkdsk, SMART) but once it was carrying data it suddenly stopped playing nice with Windows.

So I was wondering if there's any way to test the SATA ports. I can't imagine what kind of test it would be... is there anything I can do with a multimeter, to ensure I'm getting continuity at least?

Something is wonky, either both HDDs or the SATA ports or something completely different. I doubt it's a PSU problem...it "feels" like a driver issue but I don't know...

Thanks - if you have any suggestions I'm open to anything.
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Thu Jul 12, 2012 10:01 pm

"It's the same 2, no matter what port they're on"

You might look at getting new/better cables, as the ones that come with motherboards aren't very high quality.
The ones with locking clips are around $3-4 each.
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Fri Jul 13, 2012 7:08 am

Thanks but I've swapped around the cables too, same thing happens.

So what is it when a HDD is slow to respond - or never responds? Once you rule out the disk itself, and the cables, and the SATA ports...what else could it be?
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Fri Jul 13, 2012 7:25 am

Is it that they're just taking too long to wake up from sleep? What happens if you disable power management on the drives?
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Fri Jul 13, 2012 8:24 am

Norphy wrote:Is it that they're just taking too long to wake up from sleep? What happens if you disable power management on the drives?


Yes and no - the Spinpoint nearly always has a hiccup at some point, either when first accessing it or sometimes in the middle of whatever it's doing. I have movies on that drive and the movie will freeze, the green bar makes its way across the top... when it reaches the opposite side the movie starts again. PITA but manageable.

The new WD drive has had nothing but trouble staying online. Disk Defrag hangs (I use MyDefrag but I tried Windows Defrag too), Chkdsk hangs and both operations force a reboot.

Not sure about the power options - thanks for the idea, I'll look into it. I didn't know you could "disable power management" on a single drive.

[edit: just checked Power Options - did you mean in the Power Plan? I have the HDDs set to "Never" turn off - in fact most of my Power settings are set to "Never."]
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Fri Jul 13, 2012 8:31 am

canoli wrote:I'm curious if there are any tests that will determine whether a SATA port is functioning correctly.


The usual way is to swap the drives into a system that is working correctly and see if the problem follows the drives.

Another option is to update the chipset drivers, and see if the problem persists.
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Fri Jul 13, 2012 8:51 am

Thanks FS. I don't have another system handy - except a laptop - maybe I can pop the drives into a USB enclosure, see what happens.

As far as the chipset driver I'm up to date - according to the MSI download page for my board. The Intel 3/4/5 Chipset driver they have was released back in July 2010 (ver 9.1.2.1008) and that's the "current" one.

I've looked through Intel's site a bunch of times and don't see anything more current than that.
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Fri Jul 13, 2012 9:20 am

Can you tell me what is the chipset I'm running by looking at this? According to Intel I should be able to determine it from this section of Device Manager but I'm a little confused by all the entries.
Thanks!

Image
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Fri Jul 13, 2012 10:44 am

Try CrystalDiskInfo, it'll read SMART status of the drives, give you things like cycle counts, hard-errors.

It's also worth filtering the eventviewer for any disk events. Might shed some light on the situation, if there's a problem.

EDIT
You're on an X58 chipset which includes the ICH10R integrated IO controller hub which governs SATA and RAID amongst other things.
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Fri Jul 13, 2012 11:57 am

Stickem wrote:You might look at getting new/better cables, as the ones that come with motherboards aren't very high quality.
The ones with locking clips are around $3-4 each.

Actually, they're less than a buck at Monoprice. 8)

To the OP: I would not dismiss the possibility of a PSU issue so quickly. If the drive is spinning down, there will be a substantial spike in power draw when it spins back up. If the PSU's +12V rail is marginal, this could be enough to cause problems with the drive, or even destabilize the entire system.

Try temporarily disabling power management for the hard drives, and see if that helps. If the problem goes away, then the issue is either your PSU or a software (driver) issue that occurs only when the drives come out of sleep.
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Fri Jul 13, 2012 3:22 pm

thanks you guys - I have all my HDDs set to "Never" turn off in my power plan...I guess that means power-management is disabled...?

The PSU I'm running ihas a 12V rail that's rated for 70 amps. While i do have a fair bit of devices (see my sig) I'm only running 1 GPU. I'm not ruling out the PSU of course but it's always felt pretty rock solid.

If it is a driver issue how do I start attacking that? There aren't any drivers to roll back to - on the new drive anyway - so I don't know what else I can do.

Thanks again for your replies.
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Fri Jul 13, 2012 4:28 pm

Intel has a driver auto-update utility, which will detect your chipset and drivers where applicable.

Are all the ports on the same controller? If the controller is going bad (which it sorta sounds like), it'll affect all ports. In general if a motherboard is going bad it would affect more then just one port. If you have other drives that work fine (didn't see it mentioned), then you can pretty much rule this out.

You could just have two bad drives too. It doesn't matter if they pass SMART tests. Those are predefined thresholds set by the manufacturer. A lot of the time most of the categories aren't even used or have numbers so high they'd never be reached. So, you can't accurately gauge a HDs health with them.

Are you running in AHCI mode or IDE too? AHCI is what you want to run, but you'll get a BSOD if it's your main controller and you switch it to it. A option is putting the drive on another controller, then enable AHCI on the primary one, reboot into windows, let windows update the drivers, change the drive back to the AHCI controller now, and reboot. If it doesn't work just change the mode back.
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Fri Jul 13, 2012 4:51 pm

Thanks - no i've got 1 of the problem drives on the Marvell port the other is on an intel port. All my other drives work perfectly fine. My boot drive is on the other Marvell controller, had some trouble early on with Marvell's buggy drivers....it was fairly new technology at the time, SATA 6Gb/s on a drop-in bus....but since i switched to the msahci driver all is well.

I've always had AHCI enabled.

I figured the SMART data was unreliable, but the WD Diagnostics report healthy drives. Not sure what's going on at this point... But thanks for your reply. I'll have to buy an external enclosure, see if the problems continue i guess...
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Fri Jul 13, 2012 5:13 pm

canoli wrote:I'll have to buy an external enclosure

Do yourself a favor and get a dock instead of an enclosure. They're so much easier to deal with.
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Fri Jul 13, 2012 8:21 pm

really? a dock? every time i look into them on newegg i see more bad reviews than good reviews; the ones I come across anyway..Thermaltake, IcyDock... maybe they've got some better models these days?

If it really worked as advertised... like a toaster... I can see how it would help guys who need to swap drives on a regular basis. Is that the idea? It sure would be useful to me tonight but I think all in all I like my HDDs in some sort of container... maybe for the protection an enclosure offers.

Which docks are you happy with? If you care to give a recommendation I'd love to give them another chance.

thanks!
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Fri Jul 13, 2012 8:36 pm

I've got a Rosewill e-Sata and have never looked back.

It works for me. I grab the drive out of its bag, drop it in the dock, and run the backup. When it's done I remove the drive and put in the bag and on the shelf. I don't really care how long it takes, just that it works and finishes without errors.
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Fri Jul 13, 2012 8:59 pm

I've got the ThermalTake BlacX 5G. It has worked well for me.
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Sun Jul 15, 2012 9:04 am

Thanks CN, JAE but you guys are braver than me I guess. Not that newegg reviews are the last word or anything...but when the majority rates a product 1 or 2 stars?
I just can't summon the will to take the chance :-?

Thanks again for your replies.
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Sun Jul 15, 2012 9:45 am

I use the BlacX Duet and leverage the eSATA.

I'm not sure I'd lend much credence to the NewEgg reviews.
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Sun Jul 15, 2012 8:07 pm

Those docks always irked me somehow - maybe it's because they're solutions to problems that don't exist.

They're the exact same principle as a charging cradle for your phone. Unless you have some severe disability that makes plugging a cable into a port difficult, what do they acheive? Convenience? four seconds saved? How many thousand disks do you need to swap into a dock before the cumulative four seconds saved adds up to enough time to make it worth spending $35 on a lump of plastic that lines up a $4 joint sata/power cable?
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Sun Jul 15, 2012 8:37 pm

One would ordinarily have to:

1. Remove the side of the case.
2. Leave the side of the case off.
3. Attach an SATA power lead to the modular power supply.
3a. One might not have any excess SATA leads on a currently install module.
3b. Even if one does have an excess SATA leads they might be routed into the cable management side of the case and zip tied.
3c. One might have a more traditional power supply with fixed leads and all excess leads are hidden and zip tied.
4. Have to attach an SATA cable into a motherboard header.
4a. The motherboard has the horizontal oriented ports, great for installing PCIe card, not so great for actually attaching a cable.
4b. The installed PCIe card may have to be removed to get the necessary leverage to install the SATA cable.
5. The need to undo all the mess above.

Additional issues:
1. Maybe I have an mini-tower instead of a mid-tower or full-tower. Increasing the difficulty of putting anything in the case.
2. Some modern cases come with SATA backplanes. These would make life considerably easier and alleviate many of the issues above, but not everyone has a case with HD bays loaded with SATA backplanes.
3. I might have a power supply oriented at the top of my case. Any power leads would hang all the way to the bottom of the case.
3a. I'd have to lay the hard drive down based on whatever slack I have in the power cables coming from the top of the case. This could result in precarious positioning in full-tower and some mid-tower cases.
4. The case might not have toolless entry.
4a. Even if it does have toolless entry odds are I can mount a HD into a bay faster than I can twist the thumbscrews off.
5. This doesn't even get into laptops or other portable computing devices.

I'm not saying your way is wrong, I'm simply saying you're engaging in a common failing I see in tech forums. Assuming your perception matches everyones reality.
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Sun Jul 15, 2012 11:48 pm

Drive docks also make it possible to use bare drives as (essentially) removable backup media. Cost-per-GB was pretty reasonable until the price hikes from the Thailand flooding...
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Mon Jul 16, 2012 6:43 am

You guys are taking my comments waaaay out of context again, to make me look like a grumpy old jerk (I am a grumpy old jerk but that's not relevant here) - I have only talked about USB to SATA cables in this thread, nothing else.

How is a $35 dock better than this?
Image
....which can be picked up for under $10, assuming you didn't get one lying around because it came "free" with an SSD.

It's not that I don't like those docks; If I had one, I'd probably use it, but my beef with them is that they're overly expensive for a made-in-China piece of cheap plastic that helps you guide an easy-to-fit USB to SATA into a hard drive. Apart from the fact that they look prettier than a bare drive on a desk or a drive dangling off a USB port on your machine, they're not easy for me to justify, and the average user (as in this case) will need to use it no more than once of twice in the lifetime of a disk.
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Mon Jul 16, 2012 7:26 am

I have a couple of 1½ TB drives that I use for backup. I just plop one in the dock and let the backup run, then I remove it for off-site safe-keeping.

Anything that makes backups easier increases the probability that folks will make backups.
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Mon Jul 16, 2012 8:54 am

Chrispy_ wrote:You guys are taking my comments waaaay out of context again, to make me look like a grumpy old jerk (I am a grumpy old jerk but that's not relevant here) - I have only talked about USB to SATA cables in this thread, nothing else.

How is a $35 dock better than this?

It's not that I don't like those docks; If I had one, I'd probably use it, but my beef with them is that they're overly expensive for a made-in-China piece of cheap plastic that helps you guide an easy-to-fit USB to SATA into a hard drive. Apart from the fact that they look prettier than a bare drive on a desk or a drive dangling off a USB port on your machine, they're not easy for me to justify, and the average user (as in this case) will need to use it no more than once of twice in the lifetime of a disk.


You don't have to connect the cables. Swap two or three hard drives a day, and you'll see how much of a pain that is. I have an adapter like that for work and home, and it works well enough since I only use it once in a blue moon. In a past job where I did swap hard drives quite regularly, a dock would have been the better option. I had case with the side off that I would hook drives into. Yeah, it was a pretty ghetto system.

An average user can't justify a hard drive dongle. To them a computer is just a box which gets replaced if it malfunctions. For instance, my wife asks me why I don't just get a computer from Dell whenever I talk about parts or upgrades. At this point, she's just teasing me, but the first couple of times the sentiment was real.

Hard drive docks serve a niche. You're not part of that niche, so docks don't fill a purpose for you. We get that, and that's ok. For instance, I have no need for heavy equipment like bulldozers or backhoes. Yet, I don't go around telling construction workers that heavy equipment is useless, and they could do the samething with a shovel.
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Mon Jul 16, 2012 12:42 pm

Flatland_Spider wrote:I don't go around telling construction workers that heavy equipment is useless, and they could do the same thing with a shovel.

Heh, I get your point, but heavy equipment vs shovel isn't really an analogy for dock or cable; Whilst it takes two seconds to drop a disk into a dock, hooking up a USB cable takes five. It's hardly a deal-breaker when it takes another eight seconds for the disk to spin up and the OS to discover it.

There's definitely a niche where a dock makes sense, but even I don't fit that niche and I use my cable several times a week. Perhaps if I had gobs of data to move around, a dock would be good because I could pick up an eSATA variant for the extra bandwidth.

But anyway, I'm not telling people docks are no good, I'm just stating that I don't like them:
Chrispy_ wrote:they're not easy for me to justify

...and was wondering if anyone else shared my sentiment that they're overkill for most people.

I guess not, but it's cool - I won't take it personally ;)
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Mon Jul 16, 2012 12:53 pm

Chrispy_ wrote:Heh, I get your point, but heavy equipment vs shovel isn't really an analogy for dock or cable; Whilst it takes two seconds to drop a disk into a dock, hooking up a USB cable takes five.

An eSATA-capable dock has other advantages though: much better transfer rate (unless your adapter cable is USB 3.0), and the ability to run low-level diagnostics (which don't work over a USB to SATA bridge). If those things don't matter to you, then yeah I agree there's really no compelling reason to use a dock instead of an adapter cable.
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Re: Test for SATA Ports?

Postposted on Mon Jul 16, 2012 3:53 pm

Chrispy_ wrote:
Flatland_Spider wrote:I don't go around telling construction workers that heavy equipment is useless, and they could do the same thing with a shovel.

Heh, I get your point, but heavy equipment vs shovel isn't really an analogy for dock or cable; Whilst it takes two seconds to drop a disk into a dock, hooking up a USB cable takes five. It's hardly a deal-breaker when it takes another eight seconds for the disk to spin up and the OS to discover it.

But anyway, I'm not telling people docks are no good, I'm just stating that I don't like them:
Chrispy_ wrote:they're not easy for me to justify

...and was wondering if anyone else shared my sentiment that they're overkill for most people.

I guess not, but it's cool - I won't take it personally ;)


It was the best analogy I could come up with at the time. :)

I agree most people don't need them, but I also understand why people might need them.
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