Tuesday 30 October 2007

System Builder Tip: DQ35JOE SATA Port Order and Optical drive placement

With the advent of optical drives utilizing a SATA interface for data, one needs to keep in mind where that drive will plug into the motherboard.

This was true with the IDE optical drives as well. One would not plug the optical drive into the same cable as the hard drive as the data bus would configure itself according to the slowest device on the cable and system data throughput/performance would take a huge hit.

While this may not be the case with SATA with regards to connected device speed, one still must consider the order of devices connected to the SATA controller. This is especially important if we are integrating a RAID setup via the on board RAID controller.

In the case of the DQ35JOE, one must also take careful note of the SATA connector order on the board itself. For whatever reason, the ports are not in an intuitive order.

Note the following:

DQ35JOE SATA Port Order

They are as follows:
  • eSATA [port 3]
  • SATA2
  • SATA5 --- SATA1
  • SATA4 --- SATA0
Note that the last port in the order, SATA5 (in bold), is situated in the middle of the cluster of connectors. The eSATA port would otherwise be labelled SATA3.

So, which port would be the one to connect a SATA optical drive into?

While there may be no actual convention in place, we would say the last SATA port in the connector set: SATA5.

We would populate SATA0 and SATA1 for a RAID1/0 setup or SATA0/1 and SATA 2/4 for a RAID 1/0 or RAID 5 setup.

Time and testing will reveal how the system will behave with the optical drive plugged into other ports, but while at the Intel Technical Solutions Training (TST) event last Friday, our Intel instructor, Eric, did indicate to us the people in other TST build sessions had troubles before they realized that they had the optical drive plugged into the "wrong" port or in the wrong order relative to the hard drive.

Some links: When integrating desktops or servers - especially in the case of servers - one must investigate the various support materials for the products being integrated into the system. The first two links are especially important in JOE's case!

Why? Because it will save a bunch of time troubleshooting those "beep codes" or BIOS messages or server board "Error Light Conditions" or spontaneous system reboots or seemingly no action at all ... etc ... etc ... etc.

Remember, we cannot satisfy Intel's warranty validity requirements if the integration conditions laid out in the support materials are not followed.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Small Business Specialists

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