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shae

Good/bad SATA controllers for Win98?

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shae    5

I'm thinking about getting a SATA controller card with eSATA for use also with Win98 (on an ASUS P2B mobo). Are there any specific things to look for or to avoid?

I found a noname card with VIA 6421A which looks interesting. Besides Win98 driver from VIA it also has an IDE channel which could be useful in the future for having IDE (or an extra channel) on modern mobos.

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Multibooter    0

I'm thinking about getting a SATA controller card with eSATA for use also with Win98 (on an ASUS P2B mobo). Are there any specific things to look for or to avoid?

I found a noname card with VIA 6421A which looks interesting. Besides Win98 driver from VIA it also has an IDE channel which could be useful in the future for having IDE (or an extra channel) on modern mobos.

I had bought in Feb.2009 an eSATA-PATA-USB combo card VIA VT6421A for my dual-core desktop with an Asus P5PE-VM motherboard, mainly to be able to connect my eSATA/USB Thermaltake HDD enclosures via eSATA. The Asus P5PE-VM has onboard SATA; its onboard USB requires a special version of the Orangeware driver. I fiddled around with the eSATA combo card, but was never able to get it going properly, after inserting the card the onboard USB became really slow. Maybe it was a conflict with my specific motherboard, maybe the USB of the combo card didn't get along with the special driver for the onboard USB, I don't know. The card is now sitting in a box and I had no time to try another card. Whenever I'll get another eSATA card, it probably won't be a combo card with USB. I was looking briefly for a Win98-compatible eSATA/Firewire card but couldn't find one. Again, my experience was specific to my motherboard, maybe there is no such problem with your motherboard.

About 6 months ago I bought for my 10-year-old 700Mhz laptop a "Silicon Image Sil 3512 SATALink Controller" PCCard (Vantec UGT-ST350CB). This eSATA PCCard works great with my laptop.

Now my slow laptop has a fast eSATA connection, while my fast Desktop doesn't :}

Edited by Multibooter

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Queue    1

I have a Silicon Image Sil 3512 SATARaid in my 98SE machine and love it; it can also do non-raid (which is how I'm using it).

The firmware and drivers had to be, as I remember it, the second from newest versions to work properly on 98SE. The newest versions made the drive run in compatibility mode (aka slow).

Queue

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shae    5

Thanks for the info. I think I saw some Sil (maybe 3512) cards but the VIA looked better as it had Win98SE specifically mentioned on their site (besides the other pros: PATA port, and eSATA). But a card that includes USB2... that's actually an interesting idea. :)

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Multibooter    0

I have a Silicon Image Sil 3512 SATARaid in my 98SE machine and love it... The firmware and drivers had to be, as I remember it, the second from newest versions to work properly on 98SE. The newest versions made the drive run in compatibility mode (aka slow).

The CD in the box of the Vantec eSATA PCCard UGT-ST350CB contained a newer Vista/XP driver, but no Win98 driver, even if Win98 was printed on the box. The older driver, which I used also under WinXP, was on their web site at http://www.vantecusa.com/front/product/view_detail/8 the exact download location of the drivers with Win98 is http://www.vantecusa.com/system/application/media/data_file/ugt-st350.zip

Very good card, my 10-year-old laptop, with onboard USB 1.1, now can connect via eSATA. My only gripes are that the e-SATA PCCard is too big, I can't fit both the USB 2.0 and the eSATA card into my 2 PCCard slots at the same time, maybe I have to get a smaller USB 2.0 card.

The Vantec eSATA PCCard can also be used to determine whether some problems are caused by USB or by the USB driver. I did have some issues with the Vantec eSATA card when I was experimenting with a 500GB UDF-formatted HDD connected via eSATA, but this is not important, and may have been due to the UDF-formatting software. Again, a fine card.

Edited by Multibooter

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shae    5

BTW, did anyone try booting from an SATA card on an old computer (to Win98 or otherwise)? It appears many of these cards aren't bootable but it seems you can integrate the needed code into (some) standard mobo BIOSes using appropriate utilities.

I'm still unsure if a modified mobo BIOS is all that's needed or that's only for passing control to the card's option ROM, so a card missing that would be unbootable in all cases.

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dencorso    531

From the times of the original IBM PC (1981) to the present, it's a de-facto BIOS standard to have it pass control to any present add-on board BIOS extension, before it actually boots. That's the reason why the string from the video board always appears early on the boot process. I bet most, if not any boards should be bootable and BIOS hacks would be necessary only for very badly written BIOSes.

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shae    5

I ended up getting a SiI3512 based card. Works fine so far.

In the process I updated the card's BIOS (adds support for larger drives and fixes problems), which makes me wonder, are there any BIOS updates for VT6421-based cards?

I thought about getting another controller for another computer and it's an opportunity to try the VT6421. But if there aren't publicly available updates and it might come with an obsolete BIOS (like this card had), that's a reason to avoid the VT6421. I only found a reference to an old BIOS file being included in older driver versions.

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Cyker    2

My advice:

AVOID ANYTHING WITH A VIA 6421A CHIP IN IT!!!!!

I've wasted about £50 finding this out and I don't want anyone else to go through the same experience!

The Via 6421A is a bloody awful controller chip. It's not that it's a first generation SATA-I controller or even that it's limited to 1.5Gbit.

The problem with it is that it doesn't support auto negotiation!

Now, this is not a problem if you're using SATA drives with a 1.5Gbit limit jumper, but if you're using SATA-II drives at 3Gbit the controller freaks out and keeps trying to resync. This will cause weird slowdowns because the controller will be jamming everything with IRQs as it tries to sync with the drive.

The Silicon Image-based controllers are much better for one reason: They DO support auto-negotiation.

Even if you get a SiI that only supports 1.5Gbit, it will be able to tell the drive that and the drive will lower it's speed accordingly, without needing us to mess about with jumpers. For some reason, the Via doesn't and just keeps trying to connect at 1.5Gbit to a 3Gbit drive!

The problem I'm having is that PCI (Not PCIe!) eSATA-capable controllers based on Silicon Image chips seem to be rare as smeg. I haven't found any that are in stock anywhere! :(

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shae    5

50 pound! Why so expensive?

I think I read about similar 1.5/3.0 problems with SI (though I don't remember clearly now). Perhaps the connected devices are also part of the problem. As for 1.5Gbit being a limitation, in this case the PCI bus is going to limit you first (and, well, only recently drives started really reaching faster speeds).

Solution to the rareness problem: eBay. Quite a few sellers, mostly from Hong Kong and China, sell new controllers.

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Cyker    2

£50 was how much money I wasted trying different cards :}

I haven't read any real problems with the Sil (Just stupid PEBKAC ones), and TBH I can't think of any other chipsets available on a PCI card anyway...

I know the PCI bus can't handle the full speed of SATA-II, but it's more the signaling speed between the controller and drive that is the problem.

Without the autoneg, it's like trying to connect a 10Base-F to 1000Base-SX!

I'm starting to think you're right about eBay; The only retailer I can find that sells a Sil PCI eSATA card and really has one in stock is in the USA!

Was hoping to avoid eBay but doesn't look like I have much of a choice :unsure:

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Cyker    2

Gave up and just bought one on eBay!

It's some no-name card based on the Sil 3512 chipset.

As usual with these things, there are good and bad points!

Good points: It works! I can plug eSATA 2 stuff into it and it successfully negotiates down to 1.5Gbit.

Bad points: Safely Remove/Unplug doesn't work (Devices connected don't get recognized as 'ejectable' devices so they never get added to the remove dialog :( )

Firmware flashing doesn't work!

I was going to update the firmware in this, but it turns out the card doesn't have a Flash chip (Or it uses an unsupported flash chip?!) so the BIOS upgrade from Silicon Image don't work! :(

So, buyer beware! Don't get anything that uses a Via VT6421 and if you get a Silicon Image-based card, make sure it has a supported Flash chip!

Edited by Cyker

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shae    5
Bad points: Safely Remove/Unplug doesn't work (Devices connected don't get recognized as 'ejectable' devices so they never get added to the remove dialog :( )
I think that's just how the SI drivers work. Is that a bad thing? I never got this "safely remove". It's like technology regression; you didn't have to tell the OS before removing diskettes, now you have to notify it in advance? I think if you just give it a few seconds to write any delayed writes it should be okay.
I was going to update the firmware in this, but it turns out the card doesn't have a Flash chip (Or it uses an unsupported flash chip?!) so the BIOS upgrade from Silicon Image don't work! :(
How did you try upgrading and what BIOS version do you have? I think you might still be able to update it. (I also think the BIOS doesn't matter for anything but DOS/int13 access).

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Cyker    2
Bad points: Safely Remove/Unplug doesn't work (Devices connected don't get recognized as 'ejectable' devices so they never get added to the remove dialog :( )
I think that's just how the SI drivers work. Is that a bad thing? I never got this "safely remove". It's like technology regression; you didn't have to tell the OS before removing diskettes, now you have to notify it in advance? I think if you just give it a few seconds to write any delayed writes it should be okay.

I agree it is a hassle, but actually, it is *ESSENTIAL* to unmount modern journaling filesystems like NTFS. All modern OS have this facility, even Linux (Which actually is even stricter!), and for good reason!

You can't treat modern high-speed storage (esp. hard disks!) like you would a floppy disk; Floppy disks didn't use any buffering and didn't do stuff like delayed, out-of-order and batched writes.

With hard disks it's especially important as the journal is always active; If you just unplug the drive it will become inconsistent and you risk nasty data corruption.

When you run safely remove, it flushes all buffers to disk, syncs up the journal and then closes it properly; If you just yank it out, none of this gets done and at the best case the drive is marked as being uncleanly unmounted and will trigger a chkdsk request next time it's plugged in.

Worst case, the buffers are lost and the journal is corrupted and having had this happen to me before, it's not something I intend to risk again!

I was going to update the firmware in this, but it turns out the card doesn't have a Flash chip (Or it uses an unsupported flash chip?!) so the BIOS upgrade from Silicon Image don't work! :(
How did you try upgrading and what BIOS version do you have? I think you might still be able to update it. (I also think the BIOS doesn't matter for anything but DOS/int13 access).

I tried updating it using the Silicon Image firmware updater which is available in the download area with the actual firmware update.

It sees the card but won't flash it because it doesn't have a supported flash chip (Assuming it even has a flash chip; Apparently it's common for cheap ones to be fitted with ROMs).

If you have any suggestions I'll listen!

The firmware updates don't affect the BIOS hooks much; They're mainly for better support of SATA protocols (Presumably fixing some bugs?). Supposedly there is a speed boost too but I'm not sure if that's just for RAID'd drives or also singles.

@dencorso - Yeah; It looks like neither Via nor SI bothered to code hotplug routines into their drivers; It's especially ironic for me because the nVidia drivers for my motherboard's SATA do support it and the internal disk with my Win2k install appears in the Safely Remove dialog! :lol:

Pity there isn't a card with an nVidia SATA chipset! :lol:

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