04 October 2008

BIOS relief

Here's part two in my BIOS upgrade saga.

After getting some cheers from a Norwegian discussion forum on Hardware matters, I boldly went and bought myself a new motherboard. Unfortunately, I couldn't get hold of same model as the one with amnesia, and not even one with the same RAID controller. But I placed my bet on the devil I best knew, and stuck to an Asus motherboard with a RAID controller made by Intel. I also shot off an email to support at Intel, in the offshot chance that they would bother to reply a single guy like me <g>.
By the time my new motherboard arrived, I was fully prepared to install Vista and all the apps from scratch. No mail had arrived from Intel, so I just had to give it my best shot. Since this could potentially go very wrong, the pulse was in bit of a rush when I pushed the power button.
And I swear that's why I fumbled with the keyboard and missed the timeframe for pushing <ctrl-i> to enter the RAID setup. My heart didn't sink as much as it dropped. Or maybe just skipped a couple of beats. The only thing that went through my head, in large flashing letters, was "uh-oh".
When my heart picked up is vital task again, I cursed myself for being such a sluggish guy and tormented myself by envisioning a full week of installing apps, recovering backups, reconstructing photoshop actions and image database keywords. All the while my eyes were following a yellowish progress bar from left to right on the screen...

It finally sunk in. Lo and behold, the bloody 'puter booted up straight! I was so shocked I turned it off without logging on. Then, from my older PC I found something in the spam-filter. A mail from Support at Intel. In a friendly way they told me that if I found an identical motherboard it would not be a problem. If I had to buy a newer motherboard, I should be able to read the RAID but was advised against booting from it. With no reason stated.

Time to worry again. What would happen at the next boot? With the wrong RAID drivers, the wrong soundcard, the wrong network card, and even the wrong Southbridge chipset! But I supposed whatever damage, I would probably already have caused it. So I pushed the button again, and the PC booted. I logged in, and noticed that the machine was quite slow. A look at the Device Manager explained why. The list was peppered with warning signs for "unknown device". But as I watched, the warning on a couple of entries disappeared. Vista was looking them up and replacing the drivers without any intervention.

In the end, the SMB-driver remained the only unknown entity, and Vista demanded a reboot. Before allowing that, I installed the SMB-driver from the CD that came with the new motherboard. On the next boot, the machine was back to its snappy self.


I'm impressed by Windows Vista's resilience to hardware changes. It kept working, and reconfigured itself quite well when faced with new hardware. Admittedly, I had to reactivate my license by phone, but that's just five minutes of hassle. Compared to installing the whole fleet of apps it's nothing.
And Intel must have done something very right with their ICH-series of RAID controllers. The new motherboard with its ICH10R controller booted fine with a driver in the OS that was made for a much older controller, the ICH8R. Given the warnings from Intel support, I may have been a bit lucky, but according to a test done by "Tom's Hardware" forum, compatibility is more of a rule than exception with the ICH drivers (article here).

So my image archive is back on line, thank goodness! It is just SO nice when such things turn out much better than expected.

For a change. :-)

Edit 06. october:
Intel Support mailed me back and advised cautious optimism. No clear-cut answer on compatibility between drivers and chipset versions, but I guess it's hard to generalise across the myriad of combinations possible of disks, motherboards, driver versions and operating systems. Neither could they know I had used the week-end to move on, of course, so I really appreciate them taking time to respond to a dimwitted customer who goes off and screws up his own PC like I did. Well done Intel, and well done Otto JK. who answered my mails. Dimwitted my PC handling may have been this time, but professional customer service is certainly not lost on me!

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