My new home server project...

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My new home server project...

Postposted on Fri Nov 09, 2012 6:40 pm

Or, "because I saw a deal I couldn't pass up on NewEgg"...and this seemed like a more fun place to post the beginnings of my project than the computing threads.

This will actually be my only AMD system in the house, and that's because of what I had to start with. The HP ProLiant MicroServer (AMD Turion II N40L 1.5GHz dual-core)

Image

I have done the following additional work so far:
-Stripped the 2GB memory module and went straight to 8GB (2 x 4GB)
-Installed a SATA DVD-ROM

Added the HP Remote Access card (for lights-out management):
Image

Purchased and installed the not-officially-supported (but compatible with the mini-SAS connector of the server) HP P410 SmartArray RAID controler with 256MB cache:
Image

Right now, I plan on running a 1TB drive in the first bay, and three 2TB drives in RAID-5 in Bays 2-4, with MS Server 2012 Essentials. I'll have a single 2TB eSATA drive for backup. I haven't done the software yet; I'm tempted to replace the 1TB with a 2TB and go all RAID-5, but that'd be another expenditure.

Thoughts?
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Re: My new home server project...

Postposted on Fri Nov 09, 2012 8:16 pm

Neat. What are you going to do with it?
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Re: My new home server project...

Postposted on Fri Nov 09, 2012 8:38 pm

I will call him... mini-me!
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Re: My new home server project...

Postposted on Fri Nov 09, 2012 9:04 pm

The HP MicroServer looks like the successor to the MediaSmart Server that HP discontinued. I upgraded my MSS about as far as it can go - 2GB RAM and an X2 3800+ 35w CPU. It holds a pair of Seagate 1.5tb and a pair of Samsung F3 1tb drives. Next step for me is to add a Mediasonic ProBox hooked to the MSS via eSATA with a pair of 2tb drives for now. I wish the home server market would have fared better than it did, but at least I took advantage of this handy piece of hardware when it was available.
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Re: My new home server project...

Postposted on Fri Nov 09, 2012 9:16 pm

absurdity wrote:Neat. What are you going to do with it?


It will be replacing my beloved HP MediaSmart EX490, which was also a labor of love. Upgraded to a Pentium Dual-Core E5300 (hardware VT-x), 4GB of RAM, and filled with drives.

Image

Pros of the Mediasmart EX490:
Fast for what it is
Nearly zero-management (Windows Home Server v1, augmented by some additional great development from HP)
HP software extras that rocked (full web interface, Mac compatibility, Tivo add-on, )
Downsides: Microsoft killing Windows Home Server (!@#$), headless-only

Pros of the Proliant:
VGA option for easier OS install
More expandable (2 memory slots instead of one, two expansion slots, optical drive bay, more USB ports)
While unofficially supported, ability to add hardware RAID-5/6 through controller in expansion slot
Internal USB port on the system board (can be used to add a bootable USB key)
Downsides: OS not included (and WHS is a dead-end, with 2011 being worse than the decent HP-augmented WHS v1), not a real increase in CPU speed

My current server bare-metal backs up our desktops at home, stores all of my digital media, and all of my software installs (I have an MS Technet subscription) that I use for testing, and I keep a lot of other software for assisting clients). Server 2012 Essentials has the same baremetal backup options, and does a lot of what Windows Home Server does; more in some cases, a little less in others. I'm hoping I can make 2012 Essentials nearly as low-maintenance as WHS is, though time will tell.
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Re: My new home server project...

Postposted on Sat Nov 10, 2012 9:15 am

LoneWolf15 wrote:Purchased and installed the not-officially-supported (but compatible with the mini-SAS connector of the server) HP P410 SmartArray RAID controler with 256MB cache:
Image

Thoughts?


Looks good, but there are a few things with the P410. Without the added cache you can't do RAID 5, and without the battery the extra cache won't be activated. The battery plugs into the memory (so you have to buy the HP stick) and without the HP raid management tools you won't be able to do a running rebuild. If it's not an HP server you may not be able to install the tools.
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Re: My new home server project...

Postposted on Sat Nov 10, 2012 12:05 pm

LaChupacabra wrote:
LoneWolf15 wrote:Purchased and installed the not-officially-supported (but compatible with the mini-SAS connector of the server) HP P410 SmartArray RAID controler with 256MB cache:
Image

Thoughts?


Looks good, but there are a few things with the P410. Without the added cache you can't do RAID 5, and without the battery the extra cache won't be activated. The battery plugs into the memory (so you have to buy the HP stick) and without the HP raid management tools you won't be able to do a running rebuild. If it's not an HP server you may not be able to install the tools.
I do have the 256MB cache module; I thought (according to HP docs) the 256MB would work without the battery, just in write-through mode only.

I'll have to go battery shopping, then. The server is HP (admittedly not high-end HP, but HP) and the enthusiast forums mentioned this as the primary controller of choice, which is why I got it.
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Re: My new home server project...

Postposted on Sat Nov 10, 2012 12:35 pm

As long as you have the cache module fitted you can do RAID5. Battery is not required for this. You just have to press F8 during post for the RAID config and create your array.
As a side note, I would get an extra 2TB drive and have raid 5 over 4 drives. Take out the optical drive you fitted and retro fit your 1tb drive as the OS drive.
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Re: My new home server project...

Postposted on Sat Nov 10, 2012 12:56 pm

satchmobob wrote:As long as you have the cache module fitted you can do RAID5. Battery is not required for this. You just have to press F8 during post for the RAID config and create your array.
As a side note, I would get an extra 2TB drive and have raid 5 over 4 drives. Take out the optical drive you fitted and retro fit your 1tb drive as the OS drive.

Thanks for the info; that's what I thought. The battery is expensive, and may not fit easily in the small chassis, so I'd hoped to avoid it.

I'm looking at taking out the 1TB entirely, and having four 2TB drives, still with the optical drive. I can still have a full RAID-5 container, and I only need, say, 250GB for the boot volume (500GB if I want to go overkill), and a second volume (or what have you) for additional storage. Perhaps two additional volumes, one for storage, and one for client backups.

Tempted to find a mini-Wifi USB stick for the internal USB port (not for everyday use, just temporary configuration) or something else cool. I could do a 64GB USB stick for a boot OS, but that's pricy and I lose the RAID for the OS volume.
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Re: My new home server project...

Postposted on Sat Nov 10, 2012 2:25 pm

Actually, now i think about it It's possible the P410 supports RAID5 without the cache module. It's the P212 that needs the cache for RAID5 support. Don't quote me on that though.
I seem to remember the 410 needs the BBWC only for RAID6. But guess as you already have the memory card my point is moot.

The microservers a great little units. I have one setup with 4 2TB drives in soft RAID5 with freenas loaded on the internal usb. Works great and they're damn cheap too. Not sure about in the US but in the UK they have a £100 cashback offer which has been going on forever! Think I ended up paying about £130 for the micorserver with optical drive and £56 each for the 2TB drives (before the Thai floods!)
I've been meaning to get me a P212 Zero memory (I have so many 256MB modules at work from upgrading customers servers to 512 with Battery, its not even funny) for ages but I'm lazy and disorganised and never seem to get round to it.

Think I'll hit ebay over this w/end and see how much they're going for...
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Re: My new home server project...

Postposted on Sat Nov 10, 2012 3:24 pm

Is there any special reason you want to keep the optical drive so badly? It does seem like a waste to use it for that permanently instead of another HDD. Maybe I'm missing something - would it not be able to be part of the RAID array?
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Re: My new home server project...

Postposted on Sat Nov 10, 2012 4:44 pm

MadManOriginal wrote:Is there any special reason you want to keep the optical drive so badly? It does seem like a waste to use it for that permanently instead of another HDD. Maybe I'm missing something - would it not be able to be part of the RAID array?

Actually, it would be a bit complicated. Unlike the hard disks, which use a mini-SAS cable split up and connected to the SATA backplane that houses the four internal hard drives, the optical drive requires a separate SATA cable that goes into a SATA port on the mainboard. The reason the RAID card ends up being a good fit is that it's a simple disconnect of the mini-SAS connector from the mainboard; it's directly compatible with the connectors on the RAID controller.

There are times when I like the flexibility of an optical drive, and I happened to have a spare SATA DVD-ROM drive left over from something else, so it went in the server.
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Re: My new home server project...

Postposted on Sat Nov 10, 2012 5:06 pm

LoneWolf has a point here. Though the P410 has two mini sas ports each supporting 4 sas/sata channels so it's easily possible but the cables aren't cheap i think.
I'd just go for 4x 2TB over the P410 and if I was me, an ssd on the on-board sata for the OS.

Out of interest, how much did you get you P410 for, LoneWolf?
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Re: My new home server project...

Postposted on Sat Nov 10, 2012 6:21 pm

satchmobob wrote:Out of interest, how much did you get you P410 for, LoneWolf?


$140 on Ebay, not including the cache module. I actually would have gotten it for $130 with, but the first seller was packing their final one to ship to me, and noticed chips missing. At least they noticed prior to shipping; they canceled and refunded my money, and I went with another seller.

Ordered the cache module for another $18, then a day later, talking about it with a co-worker, he said "You mean one of these?" and pulled one out of his desk drawer. We'd just upgraded a client, the odds on that one were a million to one. :-?

P.S. Opinion question for you guys. Currently, I have three Samsung HD204UI 2TB drives. A fourth one is going to be expensive, as they aren't made any more; the new Seagate replacement with Samsung's model has a lousy reputation. Anyone think it'll be a big deal if I go with a 2TB Western Digital Red instead? That would probably be the drive I'd use as a replacement if one of the Samsungs failed anyway.
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Re: My new home server project...

Postposted on Sun Nov 11, 2012 4:49 pm

Welp, due to a weekend sale price, I bit the bullet and ordered one 2TB WD Red drive to finalize the RAID array, and we'll see how it works out. Would have cost me $40 more for an unused Samsung HD204UI (with limited remaining warranty) on Ebay, and if one of them fails, I'd be using another WD Red as a replacement anyway.

Once that drive arrives, and an 8-port Netgear gig switch (needed more ports so I bought a used one to connect to my router), phase 2 of the project will begin.
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Re: My new home server project...

Postposted on Sat Dec 08, 2012 11:11 am

Update: My server has been online for several weeks now. I also replaced my external 2TB eSATA backup drive with a 3TB WD Red (thank you Cyber Monday sale on Amazon). Side note: It took extra time to get the 2TB WD Red for my RAID array because NewEgg ran out of the drive while on sale, auto-canceled my order, got the drive back in stock within 12 hours apparently after cancellation with no option to wait and told me if I wanted I could gladly re-order it for twenty bucks more. Thanks guys for rewarding me being a consistent, well-paying customer for over a decade (ended up ordering my 2TB from Amazon as well).

It took a little to figure out configuration of the HP RAID controller; unlike the Dell PERC controllers I'm used to which can configure multiple logical drives from the controller BIOS, you can't do this on a Smart Array P410. I had to create a bootable ISOLinux disc (at least HP supplies the ISO so it doesn't need to be built) with an offline version of HP's Array Configuration Utility in order to do this. I had to do this because Server 2012 Essentials also doesn't allow GPT partition creation during install; you have to wait until the OS is set up and do it via DISKPART's convert command for the logical drive prior to partition creation, which is kind of awkward considering drives larger than 2.2TB were available long before its release (I really think they could have figured this out as part of the install routine). I created a logical drive on the controller of 160GB, and another of 5.3TB. The 160GB became the MBR Windows boot partition and server recovery partition; the 5.3TB became a GPT-partitioned drive after the install.

Once parity was calculated, the RAID performs quite well. HP's weaknesses mainly lie in a couple of drivers; the Remote Access controller's VGA replaces their onboard AMD, and it uses an odd third-party driver from the company that makes the SoC for that card (Aspeed). I had to go to Aspeed to get it, it wasn't easy to find. Even harder to find was the AHCI (non-RAID) driver for the onboard AMD RS785E chipset SATA controller. HP had RAID drivers, but I didn't have RAID on for the mainboard controller, so I had to find the drivers from AMD, which didn't turn out to be easy. All other drivers ended up being available; my one gripe is that HP's gig ethernet controller for a server is only average. Broadcom-based, and it doesn't appear to support jumbo frames, something they could have easily done. If I ever pull the remote access card, I'll get an Intel PCIe NIC.

The Remote Access Card is neat, but it isn't entirely stable, and the firmware hasn't been updated since late 2010. Fortunately, you can remotely reboot the OS on the card when it gets flaky, without affecting the system. However, Server 2012's "Access Anywhere" functions can take care of almost anything this card can do other than lights-out management. Unless you need remote power-off/power-on capabilities, or if you have multiple static WAN IPs available to you (I'd use one for Server 2012's Access Anywhere, and another for the RAC), I'd skip the RAC in favor of an upgraded NIC. I don't think it's possible, but I wish I could find a way of using a second domain with Dynamic DNS and port-forward with a custom TCP port to redirect to the LAN IP address of the RAC. Still mulling over if I can make that work.

The rest of the server hardware is pretty solid. The Turion II N40L isn't a superman-CPU (usage can spike during sustained high I/O) but it gets the job done, and it does support hardware virtualization, so you could play around with a basic ESXi or Hyper-V config if you wanted to (beyond what I need). Unofficially the server supports 16GB of RAM (I have 8GB) which I'd recommend if you're doing virtualization. Server 2012 itself is interesting; I'm only scratching the surface. I've got it bare-metal backing up the two desktop clients in the house (I could have it do the laptops too, but I don't want to saturate the WiFi), and storing all of my important stuff. I used a known hack to join the desktops to the server without joining a domain, but I'm rethinking that and may do a domain join for better access to server file shares.

I'm working on getting the Access Anywhere feature (allows outside access to the server through a web UI, neat feature) working via Dynamic DNS and port forwarding with one of my registered domain names; this is still a work-in-progress.
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Re: My new home server project...

Postposted on Sat Dec 08, 2012 12:04 pm

LoneWolf15 wrote:I had to create a bootable ISOLinux disc (at least HP supplies the ISO so it doesn't need to be built) with an offline version of HP's Array Configuration Utility in order to do this. I had to do this because Server 2012 Essentials also doesn't allow GPT partition creation during install; you have to wait until the OS is set up and do it via DISKPART's convert command for the logical drive prior to partition creation, which is kind of awkward considering drives larger than 2.2TB were available long before its release (I really think they could have figured this out as part of the install routine).

Kind of like how they never added native SATA/AHCI support to the stock XP installer, even though all common chipsets supported it years before SP3 was released. :roll:

LoneWolf15 wrote:Unless you need remote power-off/power-on capabilities, or if you have multiple static WAN IPs available to you (I'd use one for Server 2012's Access Anywhere, and another for the RAC), I'd skip the RAC in favor of an upgraded NIC. I don't think it's possible, but I wish I could find a way of using a second domain with Dynamic DNS and port-forward with a custom TCP port to redirect to the LAN IP address of the RAC. Still mulling over if I can make that work.

The RAC is HTTP-based and the server is behind a router, right? Shouldn't even need multiple WAN IPs; just forward a high-numbered port on the WAN side to the RAC's IP and port.
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Re: My new home server project...

Postposted on Sat Dec 08, 2012 12:53 pm

RAC does HTTP, and yes, I'm behind a Buffalo WZR-HPG300NH router (connected to a Moto SB6120 cable modem). Good idea on the port forward, JBI. I'll have to see what I can try there.

One other thing: I tried Server 2012 Essential's Media Server function today. After turning it on, it works with zero effort with my Popcorn Hour C-200 content streamer. No muss, no fuss, no extra setup on the C-200's side required. I'm slowly getting more and more impressed with Server 2012 Essentials, though as I said, I really haven't scratched the surface yet.
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Re: My new home server project...

Postposted on Sat Dec 08, 2012 3:00 pm

Y'know, I guess I missed this thread the first time around. Looking over the specs of that MicroServer I'm very impressed, especially given the price. Holy crap, that's a lot of bang for the buck as long as you're not planning to run any compute-intensive services on it.
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Re: My new home server project...

Postposted on Sat Dec 08, 2012 7:35 pm

just brew it! wrote:Y'know, I guess I missed this thread the first time around. Looking over the specs of that MicroServer I'm very impressed, especially given the price. Holy crap, that's a lot of bang for the buck as long as you're not planning to run any compute-intensive services on it.
I got mine for $289 on Shell-Shocker, with a free 2GB memory module.

If I'd waited a couple of weeks, I'd have seen it for $259 without the memory, a better deal, as 4GB wasn't as much RAM as I wanted. It may happen again prior to Christmas, so keep your eyes peeled.

I got the Access Anywhere feature going this afternoon using Dynamic DNS. I can now reach the server's web interface from the outside; I need to figure out how to from the LAN side as well (it isn't letting me do that). Still not getting the RAC to work from outside either, I'll have to futz with that.

I've disabled Microsoft's media server feature of Server 2012 Essentials and installed a third-party app for now. Not my first choice, but I have an issue where if I pause my content streamer for more than a minute, the video kicks off and I go back to the menu. It was posited by someone else on another forum when I brought this up that the Media Server feature may use UPnP and this may have something to do with it.

It's proving to be both an interesting home project as well as a good learning experience for Server 2012, which I've only scratched the surface of. Despite my dislike of Windows 8, I don't have the same issues with Server 2012, even though it does have the Metro UI. Then again, I don't have the same type of desktop multitasking needs on my server, and I can pin most things I need to the taskbar.
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Re: My new home server project...

Postposted on Sat Dec 22, 2012 2:15 pm

Swapped the DVD-ROM drive for a Samsung DVDRW today since they were on-sale and the ROM seemed a little flaky; and then, the additional piece-de-resistance:

1GB Flash-Backed Write Cache for my Smart Array P410 controller:
Image

Someone had two of them new on Ebay for $20 cheaper than the lowest price I'd seen for a refurb-ed 512MB kit. Also, going with flash-backed means a capacitor that (in theory) should never wear out, unlike the battery-backed versions.

Also upgraded my upstairs switch to the Tivo and my content streamer from 100TX to a 5-port Netgear gig switch. I'm kind of doing the full-monty on my network, so my next examination may be a router replacement for my trusty Buffalo WZR-HP-G300NH; I'm thinking ASUS RT-N66U, though I'm still mulling that one over.
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Re: My new home server project...

Postposted on Sat Dec 22, 2012 2:20 pm

LoneWolf15 wrote:Someone had two of them new on Ebay for $20 cheaper than the lowest price I'd seen for a refurb-ed 512MB kit. Also, going with flash-backed means a capacitor that (in theory) should never wear out, unlike the battery-backed versions.

Well there's no battery to wear out, but flash wears out eventually.
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Re: My new home server project...

Postposted on Sat Dec 22, 2012 3:15 pm

I had to do this because Server 2012 Essentials also doesn't allow GPT partition creation during install; you have to wait until the OS is set up and do it via DISKPART's convert command for the logical drive prior to partition creation, which is kind of awkward considering drives larger than 2.2TB were available long before its release (I really think they could have figured this out as part of the install routine).


It is in the install routine. If the system supports UEFI it is the default behavior to create GPT disks. If the system does not support UEFI, you can still create a GPT partitions (albeit you can't boot from it) by hitting shift+F10 inside the Windows installer. This will open up a command prompt that grants you access to diskpart.

Alternatively I'd note that Disk Management, which is after install, can also create GPT disks.

I didn't see anyone ever suggest it, but an external USB DVD-ROM drive seems like a good fit to free up that one bay.
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Re: My new home server project...

Postposted on Sat Dec 22, 2012 4:57 pm

Ryu Connor wrote:
I had to do this because Server 2012 Essentials also doesn't allow GPT partition creation during install; you have to wait until the OS is set up and do it via DISKPART's convert command for the logical drive prior to partition creation, which is kind of awkward considering drives larger than 2.2TB were available long before its release (I really think they could have figured this out as part of the install routine).


It is in the install routine. If the system supports UEFI it is the default behavior to create GPT disks. If the system does not support UEFI, you can still create a GPT partitions (albeit you can't boot from it) by hitting shift+F10 inside the Windows installer. This will open up a command prompt that grants you access to diskpart.

Alternatively I'd note that Disk Management, which is after install, can also create GPT disks.

I didn't see anyone ever suggest it, but an external USB DVD-ROM drive seems like a good fit to free up that one bay.


The ProLiant doesn't have UEFI. I did try creating GPT partitions using DISKPART at the time of install, but using the command prompt mode from the repair install function. Every time I created one, I couldn't go back to regular install, and if I restarted the system after creating the GPT partition to go to setup, it didn't save, and Windows would act as if I'd never created it.

If I wanted to free up the bay, I'd pay some cash and buy this:

ICY DOCK MB994IPO-3SB All Metal 2x 2.5" SATA/SAS HDD/SSD + Slim Optical Drive Backplane in 5.25" bay
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6817994146

This would let me have a slim DVD-RW and two 2.5" disks in that bay; I could use the second port of the Smart Array controller and a Mini-SAS to 4-SATA cable to do it. At this point, it would be cool, but massive overkill, because then I'd be tempted to go put in a slim DVDRW, and two 128GB SSDs in RAID-0 to run the OS ;).
Of course, the 1GB RAID cache may seem like overkill to some, but going from 256MB to a higher cache doubles its bandwidth (from 32bit+8 for parity to 64bit+8), and as I'm using slower, cooler-running (and engery-saving) NAS-class hard drives, there's a real performance benefit.

Also, the shortest Mini-SAS to SATA cable I saw online is about .75 meters, which is really long for such a tiny case. Though I'm sure I could figure out how to fit it if I put my mind to it. Of course, if y'all are interested in this cool project, I could start a Kickstarter project...:D
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LoneWolf15
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Re: My new home server project...

Postposted on Sat Dec 22, 2012 5:13 pm

Well there's no battery to wear out, but flash wears out eventually.

The flash is only used during an unexpected shutdown event to preserve RAID data, so unless constant power failures are part of one's infrastructure, it should last beyond the lifetime one would deem necessary.
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Re: My new home server project...

Postposted on Sat Dec 22, 2012 5:31 pm

LoneWolf15 wrote:The ProLiant doesn't have UEFI. I did try creating GPT partitions using DISKPART at the time of install, but using the command prompt mode from the repair install function. Every time I created one, I couldn't go back to regular install, and if I restarted the system after creating the GPT partition to go to setup, it didn't save, and Windows would act as if I'd never created it.


Yeah, I wouldn't recommend using WinRE to create the partitions before the install.

During install when you're at the graphical disk management screen hit shift+f10 and then use diskpart to create the additional arrays you need.
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