Z68 - SRT cache and boot volume on a single SSD disk - it works!

Discussion in 'Motherboards' started by aszu, Jun 16, 2011.

  1. aszu

    aszu Member

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    Hello,

    Because there seems to be a lot of confusion about what can and what can't be achieved on Z68 in terms of SSD cache (Smart Response Technology) and MB manufacturers and even Intel are providing incomplete or sometime just false info/documentation, I am just reporting the following:

    My setup:

    - 1x 96GB Kingston SSD
    - 1x Samsung F3 1TB
    - Asrock Z68 Pro3 - cheap, rubbish MB with awful design - hate it, but well.. it works)

    My goal:

    Divide single SSD disk as follows:

    - partition for OS (Windows 7) and the small, frequently used programs (AV, Office, etc).
    - rest of the space on SSD - 18GB (maximum possible) - dedicated for STR cache. This cache will be used to speed up 1TB F3, which contains programs and games (i.e. this huge Steam directory).

    Unfortunately the way to achieve this is a bit tricky - if you just install OS on SSD and then try to configure SRT cache - it won't work. Intel tool won't even show "Accelerate" tab.

    In order for this to work, you must _first_ initialize STR cache on SSD, then instal OS on the 'data' part such prepated SSD. Sadly, SRT configuration can't be done from Options ROM (Ctrl-I).

    The only way to achieve this is:
    - temporary install Windows on any spare HDD, instead of SSD
    - instal Intel Rapid Storage tool and initialize SRT cache on SSD - configure 18GB for SRT and rest of the space dedicate to normal volume (this will wipe content of SSD!)
    - disconnect this temporary HDD and boot into Windows setup from DVD (in the Options ROM you should see that SRT cache is now enabled on your SSD)
    - instal Windows on SSD (most likely you will need to provide ICH storage drivers on USB stick during setup) - you should see that setup detect 'data' portion of SSD only (SSD capacity minus ~18GB). Cache portion is completely invisible to OS.
    - once installation is finished, instal Intel Rapid Storage tool - you will see that SSD cache is up and running and you can use it to accelerate your HDD! At the same time your OS resides in 'data' volume on SSD.

    I believe this is the best possible setup (unless you can afford dual-SSD configuration- with boot/cache separated, of course [​IMG]). It gives you a great OS performance and you can utilize SRT to accelerate all this stuff residing on your multi-TB HDDs [​IMG]

    Note: one SSD cache disk can only accelerate one physical HDD (in pass-through mode) or one RAID volume (where multiple HDDs are allowed).
     
    #1 aszu, Jun 16, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2011
  2. ViviTheMage

    ViviTheMage Lifer

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    Let's see some numbers :).

    I wish someone would send me a Z68 board so I can do some testing.
     
  3. Patrick Wolf

    Patrick Wolf Platinum Member

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    Those idiots could've easily made this setup possible within RST. Unless such a setup is "risky" because of wear & tear on the SSD (in which case they should've said so). But most likely they never even tested it.

    Thanks a ton OP. Been waiting awhile for confirmation on this.
     
    #3 Patrick Wolf, Jun 16, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2011
  4. RobDickinson

    RobDickinson Senior member

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    That sounds a bit of a faff to setup! I thought it may be tricky but what a pain.
     
  5. aszu

    aszu Member

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    Actually, it would be difficult for Intel to allow this in RST because of how this process works. When you create cache volume (it is not a regular partition!) on SSD, RST just reserves part of the space (on the controller level) and makes it invisible to OS. This obviously messes up with whatever content might be on SSD already (and partition table, etc), so effectively RST purges all the files from SSD (there is no option to save existing data) and creates new empty volume for data.

    It would be a bit tricky to do perform this process when you have got live OS on this SSD already :)

    However, they should make an option to reserve and create cache volume on SSD available on pre-boot Options ROM (like regular RAID 0,1,5 etc volumes). Maybe in future firmware update (yeah, wishful thinking...)
     
  6. aszu

    aszu Member

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    This may sound complicated, by effectively you just install OS on separate HDD, initialize SSD cache from there and then re-install OS again, this time on SSD in 'data' volume. Nice and simple, and it does not even take that long (Win 7 installation is quick, it takes about 10-15 minutes or so).

    The problem here is that SRT cache configuration is possible only from Windows RST tool. However, you set it up once and then it survives OS reinstallation, disk re-partition etc.

    Is anyone keen to create simple boot CD with Windows PE and RST tool? :D
     
    #6 aszu, Jun 17, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2011
  7. Chaoticlusts

    Chaoticlusts Member

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    My god OP I <3 you so much right now :p

    I have been researching this and asking about it since the Z68 boards launched there isn't one forum post out there like this one confirming it's possible at best I could find out it *should* be...I actually bit the bullet and placed the order for my system earlier..almost changed it to two 60GB drives rather than one 120GB in case this didn't work but at the last moment decided to risk it..then a few hours later you posted this :p I so would have kicked myself had I changed my mind

    Thank you for the confirmation and the guide on how to do it though I have two questions it would be great if you could answer

    first is simply performance benchmarks if you could off both drives cause one thing I always wondered was if the pure SSD partition or cache partition or both would suffer performance loss from running simultaneously (though I imagine that might vary a lot from drive to drive) however if your not comfortable running benchmarks cause of wear and tear I completely understand ^_^

    second question is the last problem I ran into in research was there seemed to be some indication that TRIM might not be supported in this kind of setup (because of the way you have to setup SRT) could you let us know whether the drive is working with TRIM on the OS section (and the cache section if that's possible?) that would be awesome

    LOL was going to ask if it'd cause a problem to throw the HDD and SSD into an already running windows system setup SRT then pull them out and do the install....then realised the system I'm talking about isn't Z68 so couldn't do it (Yey for being sick making you an idiot ;) though I imagine it wouldn't be a problem if somehow you had a second Z68 system lying around...but if you have two Z68 systems you have too much money :p

    Thanx again ^_^ this makes me very happy (and right now I *need* happy)

    *edit* btw this *soooooo* needs to be added to the SSD sticky in the storage board :p
     
  8. aszu

    aszu Member

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    Ah, no worries :p

    I have got very similar situation - got this Kingston 96GB SSD and when Z68 was released I thought that it woudld be great to utilize part of it to speed-up my games/application on F3.

    That was the reason I 'upgraded' from P8P67 to Z68 Pro3 (besides better chipset, it is actually a huge downgrade - but fortunately I paid a very little for this change)

    I did a lot of research on the internet and some people claimed that it *should* work (with no details whatsoever) when some docs mentioned that SRT will only work if boot volume is regular HDD. Really confusing, but I decided to give it a try.

    I was very disappointed when I installed OS on my SSD and "Acceleration" option in RST was not even there :/ I was determined enough to get it working though :)

    I have not ran any benchmarks yet (will do that shortly), but everything feels very snappy. I don't think there will be any noticeable performance impact due to cache/OS residing on the same SSDs - SSDs has got plenty of IOPS and usually there is not much activity going on OS volume once system is up and running. I definitively did not notice any OS performance degradation because of caching in the background.

    Wear and tear on SSD is another thing I do not care about - you can write about 40GB of data per day to SSD and it should still last for > 5 years. My cache partition is only 20GB and even if STR would decide to flush and re-write entire cache every day (quite unlikely), this is still not enough to kill my SSD in any reasonable timeframe. In the next 5 years we will have 1TB SSDs available for very low price, so my current SSD will be a piece of scrap anyway :)

    Regarding TRIM - yes, this is a bit tricky. Intel says that TRIM is currently not supported on any type of RAID volumes (which includes data volume on SSD with caching enabled - which identifies itself as RAID 0). However, my SSD has got some kind of internal, OS-independnt garbage collector - but not clue how efficient it is in such case. So far I haven't got an performance issues, I/O is ultra-fast. There is a small chance that Intel might do something with this TRIM/RAID problem in future firmware updates.

    Cache section is managed purely by ICH and OS can't even see it and I suppose Intel does some garbage management on it. It does not really matter if you have got this cache section it on boot SSD or on a dedicated one - it still works in the same way as far as TRIM is concerned, so I would not bother about it.

    As you mentioned, you need Z68 chipset to initialize cache section on SSD :) I suspect this RAID configuration is stored somewhere on SSD itself, so if you pre-configure SSD on another Z68 PC, it *should* work OK
     
  9. WhoBeDaPlaya

    WhoBeDaPlaya Diamond Member

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    Man, it would be nice if someone hacked SRT to run on X58.
     
  10. Chaoticlusts

    Chaoticlusts Member

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    Well that's where I got confused...Intel does support TRIM through RAID now...but only if the drive is in RAID configuration but not in an actual RAID array (once it's in a RAID array it's not going to happen)...hense the confusion...would the cache partition being attached to the HDD count as a RAID array or since it's 'invisible' will the computer only see the OS drive and just see it as single and do TRIM...so your sure you don't have TRIM going or are you assuming you don't cause of the RAID setting? (of course I don't know if the drive your using is even a TRIM drive at all in which case this question just got a little pointless and I'll have to gunnie pig that last bit :p)

    *edit* here's a link to intels explanation of it
    http://www.intel.com/support/chipsets/imsm/sb/CS-031491.htm
     
    #10 Chaoticlusts, Jun 17, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2011
  11. aszu

    aszu Member

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    Yeah, my drive got TRIM support.

    RAID mode on Z68 works in two ways:

    - pass-through mode - this is when you have got RAID mode (not ACHI or IDE) enabled in BIOS/UEFI, but there is actually no RAID volume configured. In this case OS can talk directly to HDD/SSD and TRIM will work like normal

    - 'proper RAID' - when you create any RAID volume (on one or multimple HDDs - does not matter), OS cannot access this disk directly any more and talks to it using virtual device presented by Intel driver. This is why you need to provide this driver separately duing the Win 7 setup when you have got cache volume configured on SSD. TRIM does not work in such case as OS cannot sent TRIM command directly to physical disk and Intel driver currently does not support any way to handle such situation.

    When you split SSD into cache/data, it is the second case - data volume identifies itself as RAID 0 (it does not matter that only one disk belongs to this volume) and OS cannot access the disk directly any more to send TRIM commands.

    Just in case that Intel somehow supports TRIM pass-through for this particular case of data volume on SSD disk used as a cache I will doble check in Windows tonight.
     
  12. Chaoticlusts

    Chaoticlusts Member

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    ahh thanx for the answer nice to have details even if they aren't the ones I was hoping for :p

    now I just gotta figure out if it'll hurt the drive to much overtime performance wise (was going to split it 64GB cache the rest OS on a Vertex III Max IOPS) hmm decisions decisions :p

    Still having a 3TB accelerated volume and a pure SSD OS seems to nice to pass up...wonder if warranty covers it if the drive wears down before the warranty expires.. :p
     
  13. aszu

    aszu Member

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    You can maximally allocate 19GB or so for cache if you want to keep data volme on it as well.
     
  14. Chaoticlusts

    Chaoticlusts Member

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    hmm? not sure what you mean by that? the max you can set aside for SRT cache is 64GB which should leave about 47GB or so on the SSD I'm buying for the OS which should be plenty
     
  15. aszu

    aszu Member

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    Nope, the max for SRT cache is 64GB only in case if you dedicate SSD completely for caching purposes (no 'data') volume.

    If you want to keep any data on this SSD as well (boot volume or not - does not matter), you can only alocate max 19GB for cache. Rest of space automatically forms data volume.
     
  16. Chaoticlusts

    Chaoticlusts Member

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    so what about statements like this

    "you can choose to use up to 64GB of the SSD as a cache for all accesses to the hard drive. Any space above 64GB is left untouched for you to use as a separate drive letter."

    Thats from the Anandtech Z68 chipset review and every other review i've seen on it says the same thing
     
  17. aszu

    aszu Member

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    Well, this is a bit confiusing.

    This is what it happens when you configure it:

    http://download.intel.com/support/m...ntel_smart_response_technology_user_guide.pdf

    (image on the last page)

    So effectively you have got two options:

    1. 18.6GB + rest for data volume
    2. Full disk capacity (max 64GB) - whatever this means

    I did not check option 2 (as it would make no sense to me, with 96GB SSD) so I am not sure what happens with extra space above 64GB. Possibly, as review suggested, in fact additional data volume is created anyway using excessive space (but what is the point calling this option "Full disk capacity" in such case?!).

    EDIT: Intel doc actually states that "Any remaining space on the SSD may be used for data storage using the simple data
    single-disk RAID 0 volume that is automatically created". So it is just the naming that is confusing, effectively there are two options:

    1. 18.6GB + rest for data volume
    2. Up to 64GB - if SSD is bigger then remaining space is available as data volume
     
    #17 aszu, Jun 17, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2011
  18. aszu

    aszu Member

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    Or P67, lol :D
    I still can't believe how much superior was my old, plain p8p67 (non-pro or anything like that) comparing to crappy Asrock Z68 Pro3 ;)
     
  19. sm625

    sm625 Diamond Member

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    So if I repeatedly load and play that scene from Tommy Boy ("fat guy in a little coat"), is it going to cache the whole movie on the SSD? Or just that scene? I'm not sure I'd want my ssd to be caching files like that.
     
  20. aszu

    aszu Member

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    This caching is done on blocks (not files) level and Intel claims it is 'intelligent' i.e. will only cache data that will benefit from it (randomly accessed small files, etc). Your move should not be cached at all by SRT, as it requires sequential access only and at relatively slow speed.
     
  21. WhoBeDaPlaya

    WhoBeDaPlaya Diamond Member

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    I would hope that Intel could get at least that right. Otherwise, it'd be the equivalent of a ~10 year old caching strategy (ala WinXP, which would apparently cache files being copied).
    I have enough computational power for my needs, and the increased power usage vs SB for the same computational power isn't an issue. What would be nice is to essentially automate the caching of games using the leftover ~40-50GB on my Vertex 2 120GB, rather than manually copying stuff over and creating junctions.
     
    #21 WhoBeDaPlaya, Jun 17, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2011
  22. Chaoticlusts

    Chaoticlusts Member

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    god so much confusion about this tech...so much fail in terms of explaining it properly on intel's part :p I can see why you'd get the impression you got from that wording >_< seems a bit stupid that you can't pick an amount to cache it's either got to be 18.6 or 'everything' up too 64 I was wondering why you'd picked such a small cache for your setup now I know..you didn't have any choice >_<

    A part of me was considering running a little less than 64GB cache to give the OS partition a bit more headroom but..well...looks like that isn't a choice :p
     
  23. Nemesis 1

    Nemesis 1 Lifer

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    You really need to read anand article on z68 and smart cacheing. May I ask what performance level you have Smart Cache(SRT) set at , 2 choices.
    This is from the intel rep who post here now and again!
    Intel&#174; Smart Response Technology User Guide
    Note: This feature requires that the SATA controller be set to RAID mode via the system BIOS.
    Intel&#174; Smart Response Technology is an Intel&#174; Rapid Storage Technology (RST) caching feature that
    improves computer system performance. It allows a user to configure computer systems with an SSD
    used as cache memory between the hard disk drive and system memory. This provides the advantage of
    having a hard disk drive (or a RAID volume) for maximum storage capacity while delivering an SSD-like
    overall system performance experience. Intel&#174; Smart Response Technology caching is implemented as a
    single drive letter solution; no additional drive letter is required for the SSD device used as cache.
    System Requirements:
    For a system to support Intel Smart Response Technology it must have the following:
    &#61623; Intel&#174; Z68 Express Chipset-based desktop board
    &#61623; Intel&#174; Core&#8482; Processor in the LGA 1155 package
    &#61623; System BIOS with SATA mode set to RAID
    &#61623; Intel Rapid Storage Technology software 10.5 version release or later
    &#61623; Single Hard Disk Drive (HDD) or multiple HDD&#8217;s in a single RAID volume
    &#61623; Solid State Drive (SSD) with a minimum capacity of 18.6GB
    &#61623; Operating system: Microsoft Windows* Vista 32-bit Edition and 64-bit Edition, Microsoft Windows*
    7 32-bit Edition and 64-bit
    Setup Guide
    Configure SATA Mode in BIOS Setup
    1. Press the F2 during boot up to enter the BIOS setup menu
    2. Go to Configuration > SATA Drives
    3. Select the setting for Chipset SATA Mode and change the value to RAID
    4. Press the F10 key to save settings and restart the system.
    Operating System Installation
    5. You may now begin installation of the operating system on the HDD (or RAID volume)
    6. Install all required device drivers
    7. Install the Intel Rapid Storage Technology software version 10.5 or later
    Enabling Intel Smart Response Technology
    Note: The Intel RST software denotes Intel Smart Response Technology as Accelerate
    8. Run the Intel RST software through the All Programs menu or the task bar icon.
    9. Click &#8220;Enable acceleration&#8223; either under &#8220;Status&#8223; or &#8220;Accelerate&#8223;.
    10. Select the SSD to be used as a cache device.
    11. Select the size from the SSD to be allocated for the cache memory.
    Note: Any remaining space on the SSD may be used for data storage using the simple data
    single-disk RAID 0 volume that is automatically created.
    12. Select the HDD (or RAID volume) to be accelerated. It is highly recommended to accelerate the
    system volume or system disk for maximum performance.
    13. Select the acceleration mode, and then click &#8220;OK&#8223;. By default, Enhanced mode is selected.
    Note: Enhanced mode (default): Acceleration optimized for data protection.
    Maximized mode: Acceleration optimized for input/output performance.
    14. The page refreshes and reports the new acceleration configuration in the Acceleration View.
    15. Congratulations! Your system is now successfully configured with the Intel Smart Response
    Technology!
    For more information on Intel Smart Response Technology, please visit:
    http://www.intel.com/p/en_US/support/highlights/chpsts/imsm
    * Other names, brands, and logos may be claimed as the property of others.
    Intel, the Intel logo, Intel Core, and Core Inside are trademarks of Intel Corporation in the U.S. and other countries.
    Copyright &#169; 2011 Intel Corporation. All rights reserved.
     
    #23 Nemesis 1, Jun 17, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2011
  24. Nemesis 1

    Nemesis 1 Lifer

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    Its really strange The things that go on in hardware forums . At another forum . I guy asked If he can raid 1 with 2 HDD sata 3 drives and than wants to put his 510 on a sata 2 . Than he goes on about how it won't boot. Than he gets all these guys telling him to switch the 510 SSD to sata 3 and the 2 sata 3 HDDs to sata 2 ports. Which makes sense right . Reading comprehension . What part doesn't he understand about raid single volumn . It makes my head want to explode, You can run multi Hdd drives but only if it single volumn meaning you can't use raid 1 . You have to use RAID 0. Its the same with using SSD with greater volumn than 64g, You assign the remaining volumn as a drive abcd what ever In raid 0 as single volumn.
     
    #24 Nemesis 1, Jun 18, 2011
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2011
  25. aszu

    aszu Member

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    Ymm... and your point is sir? :D

    It seems that you are missing purpose of my post.
    I did not mentioned how to configure SRT normally (yes, we know that - thank you for pasting Intel instructions), but how to keep OS and cache volume on the same SSD. This is something that Intel RST tool will not allow you to do and you have to perform this configuration from another OS instance first, then install OS on SSD in data portion (RAID 0).

    Enabling cache on SSD in RST (whatever configuration you pick) always purges all the data from it.
     
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