New Intel Storage Drivers and Windows 7 Don't Play Nice

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New Intel Storage Drivers and Windows 7 Don't Play Nice

Postposted on Mon Apr 04, 2011 6:50 pm

Thought I would post a heads up regarding a Windows "stability" issue I ran into when I unwittingly updated my Intel storage drivers.

I decided to make RAID 0 array out of a couple of non system HDDs. In the process, I decided to updgrade to the current Intel storage software manager (Intel Rapid Storage Technology).

Soon afterwards I noticed intermittent high CPU usage. This seemed to get worse to the point where my system would be frozen for a few minutes at a time while CPU usage spiked. I eventually had a couple of related BSODs. The BSOD error indicated a "driver power state failure". Though BSODs didn't happen often. For the most part, my system would become unresponsive for seconds to minutes at a time at seemingly random times.

At first I was at a loss to the cause, so I downloaded Windows Performance Toolkit so that I could monitor process activity. I had noticed that it seemed to be the nt Kernel & System process that was causing the problem. Thinking I had somehow messed up my OS, I did a clean install of Windows 7 Pro, X64. After loading all my drivers and updating them, what do you know, I started having the same problem.

After a week or so of dead ends, I tried the process monitoring strategy again using Windows Performance Analyzer. It was getting difficult to actually run a trace while the problem was occurring due to the resulting system unresponsiveness, but I finally got a good reading.

As it happens, the iaStor.sys sub process of the System process was hogging resources like crazy during the issue. So this pointed to the Intel storage drivers. But why was this problem occurring so intermittently?

At first I thought that maybe the ICH9R chipset on my X48 board was failing, or perhaps one of the HDDs connected to it, but this still didn't explain the decidedly random occurence of the problem.

After doing a lot of googling, and remembering the BSOD error of "driver power state failure" I was pointed toward the Windows power-management settings.

Long story short, my HDDs were set under power management to spin down after 20 min of being idle. Whenever they did so, the iastor Intel driver would freak out and the two would enter a loop, fighting each other until either the power management would stop trying to spin down the drive, or until the computer would hard lock. The strange thing is that, with the old Intel ICH9R drivers, this never happened.

So, for those of you thinking about upgrading their Intel Storage drivers, at least if you have ICH9R chipset, don't. I think the driver gets updated automatically when you install the newer storage management utility, and is very difficult to revert to the old driver (I don't know how).

For now, I have mitigated the issue by telling my HDDs to never spin down in the Windows Power Management utility. Can anyone point me to a less "band-aid" fix? Like how to revert to an older Intel driver without having to re-install the OS again?

Edit: Perhaps this should have gone in the motherboard/chipset forum...
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Re: New Intel Storage Drivers and Windows 7 Don't Play Nice

Postposted on Tue Feb 25, 2014 9:55 pm

ame issue, windows 7 64bit, and disabling spindown helped me too, but it's a horrible solution.

I've also noticed that individual drives don't show up in benchmark or diagnostic software anymore, when I tried checking SMART data, and RAID sets appear as individual drives in the Intel Rapid Storage app...

Following Intel's instructions to uninstall, I couldn't find any of the drivers I was meant to find in Device Manager either... BUT both my RAIDs are working just as before. ... *claps slowly* nice job, guys.
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Re: New Intel Storage Drivers and Windows 7 Don't Play Nice

Postposted on Wed Feb 26, 2014 1:26 am

I would recommend returning to the Microsoft AHCI drivers and doing software RAID0 with dynamic disks.

The Intel drivers have a long history of causing BSODs in all sorts of various scenarios. You can dig through the change log of the drivers and be appalled about how many kernel panics they cause.

For example:

Link1
Link2

The small performance advantage they bring just isn't worth the trouble, IMO.
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Re: New Intel Storage Drivers and Windows 7 Don't Play Nice

Postposted on Wed Feb 26, 2014 9:52 am

Huh, I wondered if I'd screwed something up.

I'd been running my RAID1 at home with AHCI and dynamic disk mirrors until I upgraded to some WD Reds on Monday. I installed the latest RST and everything went to hell.

The BIOS saw the disks fine but after changing the SATA mode to RAID and creating a 4-drive RAID1 using the Intel controller, I had all sorts of issues:
  • Lockups
  • Drive not visible
  • Samsung Magician claiming it was unable to see the SSD, "please check there is no incompatible software installed"
  • Couldn't connect to the virtual disk service
  • 100%CPU usage
  • Failure to restart correctly (would hang during shutdown)

I uninstalled RST, deleted and recreated the array, waited for Windows to download a storage driver from windows update.
So far, so good - I'd probably change back to AHCI if I hadn't already copied 5TB of data over to them (that takes a whole night!).

What the hell, Intel?
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Re: New Intel Storage Drivers and Windows 7 Don't Play Nice

Postposted on Thu Feb 27, 2014 8:44 pm

I know with my ICH10 board I started running into problems with builds released after the ones that were actually posted to my motherboard page.
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Re: New Intel Storage Drivers and Windows 7 Don't Play Nice

Postposted on Fri Feb 28, 2014 2:24 am

I'm with Ryu on this one. Chipset vendor "software RAID" drivers are the work of the devil; Intel's just happen to be less evil than most (and that's not saying much). Use the software RAID that is built in to your OS, or get a real RAID card.
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Re: New Intel Storage Drivers and Windows 7 Don't Play Nice

Postposted on Fri Feb 28, 2014 3:49 am

Wow... I had no idea people had such grievances with Intel RST. I've personally never had a single problem with it. (anecdotal etc)
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Re: New Intel Storage Drivers and Windows 7 Don't Play Nice

Postposted on Fri Feb 28, 2014 6:25 am

just brew it! wrote:I'm with Ryu on this one. Chipset vendor "software RAID" drivers are the work of the devil; Intel's just happen to be less evil than most (and that's not saying much). Use the software RAID that is built in to your OS, or get a real RAID card.


Any recommendations for consumer stuff?
I only have bad experiences with cheap SATA RAID cards - I've needed to spend at least $200 to get something that isn't a joke, and as bad as Intel's chipset RAID may be, it's completely free.
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Re: New Intel Storage Drivers and Windows 7 Don't Play Nice

Postposted on Fri Feb 28, 2014 10:02 am

Chrispy_ wrote:
just brew it! wrote:I'm with Ryu on this one. Chipset vendor "software RAID" drivers are the work of the devil; Intel's just happen to be less evil than most (and that's not saying much). Use the software RAID that is built in to your OS, or get a real RAID card.

Any recommendations for consumer stuff?
I only have bad experiences with cheap SATA RAID cards - I've needed to spend at least $200 to get something that isn't a joke, and as bad as Intel's chipset RAID may be, it's completely free.

The software RAID that comes with your OS is "free" too, since you already paid for it (Windows) or got the entire OS for free (Linux). That is in fact my recommendation, if you are not willing to spend the $ for a real (which I define as "having an on-board processor") RAID card. The vendor-supplied RAID drivers on the cheap cards are just implementing software RAID anyway (in the device driver instead of the OS), with the added risk that if the controller dies you may only be able to recover the data with another controller from the same vendor.

In a nutshell: The cheap SATA RAID cards are OK if you're on a budget; just don't use the RAID drivers/tools that come from the RAID chipset vendor. Use your OS's RAID capabilities instead.
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Re: New Intel Storage Drivers and Windows 7 Don't Play Nice

Postposted on Sat Mar 01, 2014 7:30 am

So there are no "soft" RAID solutions that are worth using over what the OS already provides then?

If that's the case, it's as I though - go for a dedicated hardware RAID solution or don't bother (unless you just need more SATA ports).
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Re: New Intel Storage Drivers and Windows 7 Don't Play Nice

Postposted on Sat Mar 01, 2014 10:16 am

Chrispy_ wrote:So there are no "soft" RAID solutions that are worth using over what the OS already provides then?

Unless you really want something more than RAID-1 on a non-Server flavor of Windows, I would say no. (Microsoft artificially cripples the RAID capability of the less expensive versions of Windows to encourage people who want higher levels of RAID to buy the Server versions.)

Chrispy_ wrote:If that's the case, it's as I though - go for a dedicated hardware RAID solution or don't bother (unless you just need more SATA ports).

Yup.
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Re: New Intel Storage Drivers and Windows 7 Don't Play Nice

Postposted on Sat Mar 01, 2014 2:03 pm

just brew it! wrote:Unless you really want something more than RAID-1 on a non-Server flavor of Windows, I would say no. (Microsoft artificially cripples the RAID capability of the less expensive versions of Windows to encourage people who want higher levels of RAID to buy the Server versions.)


It's been a while since I've mucked with it, but at one point you could use the trial edition of Server to build the RAID-5 array and then the business edition of Windows client will work with it/allow you to use it.

So there may be some clever ways to do it through WinPE using Diskpart or a Hypervisor that allows that guest OS to directly access disks.
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Re: New Intel Storage Drivers and Windows 7 Don't Play Nice

Postposted on Mon Mar 03, 2014 8:50 am

It's cool; I use Server 2012 and dedicated SAS PERC controllers or proper LUNs on the SAN when I actually want proper arrays.

This was more just a curiousity to see if there were any consumer RAID cards that don't suck, looks like the answer is still no ;)
I was just farting around with my home media server, performance is irrelevant really and I was just surprised to hear that Intel's drivers are so flaky!

As far as I'm concerned, SSD's have killed the need for RAID0 for consumers. Cheap 4TB SATA drives have killed the need for RAID5 for consumers, RAID1 is about the only useful consumer option left, and it seems like Windows dynamic disk mirrors is still the best way to do that. Such a shame that things haven't moved on at all in the last 10 years!
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Re: New Intel Storage Drivers and Windows 7 Don't Play Nice

Postposted on Mon Mar 03, 2014 10:04 am

*raises hand*

Had trouble with the Intel RST drivers on two distinct machines, one running 7, one running 8, the former with a Samsung 830 SSD, the latter with a bog-standard HDD. Had random lockups for a couple minutes and then a message similar to something about about the RAID array timing out (there wasn't one in either case).

On the Win8+HDD machine, it got sorted out with a BIOS update (?!?!).
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Re: New Intel Storage Drivers and Windows 7 Don't Play Nice

Postposted on Mon Mar 03, 2014 2:21 pm

morphine wrote:On the Win8+HDD machine, it got sorted out with a BIOS update (?!?!).


BIOS/UEFI updates can include a new storage option ROM firmware for the Intel controller. Those OROM updates plus a driver updates are often required for not only fixes but feature additions as well.

Some more hardcore enthusiast modify their firmware with each OROM Intel releases because they feel their vendor is too slow.
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Re: New Intel Storage Drivers and Windows 7 Don't Play Nice

Postposted on Tue Mar 04, 2014 6:36 am

Ryu Connor wrote:
morphine wrote:On the Win8+HDD machine, it got sorted out with a BIOS update (?!?!).

BIOS/UEFI updates can include a new storage option ROM firmware for the Intel controller. Those OROM updates plus a driver updates are often required for not only fixes but feature additions as well.

IMO this is just one more reason to avoid it. Since the functionality is highly dependent on the BIOS, a BIOS update also has the potential to bork the array. I trust the RAID functionality built in to the OS kernel a lot more -- it is much more widely deployed, and (in theory, at least) should get more extensive testing before release, so any bugs should be found before they affect you.
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