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Adding another hard drive causes weird system drive issues

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November 26, 2010 4:53:32 PM

This problem is pretty odd, and I've tried everything I can think of to fix it --- I'm hoping someone can recognize it.

First, I've got an I3-530 machine I built myself, with gigabyte H55M-UD2H(running latest F10 bios), antec earthwatts 380w supply, two SATA hard drives (one seagate, one WD), and an LG DVD burner, integrated i3 graphics. Pretty standard.

I've done all my power supply calculations, and there's plenty of overall power, and plenty of power on each of the +5v and +12v rails.

I'm running Ubuntu 10.04.1 LTS. This machine has been up and running for almost a year with no real problems (outside of graphics compatibility with X and the i3 integrated graphics)

I'm rearranging my machines, am trying to move a SATA (everything in this thread is sata) 500g seagate barracuda 7200.11 drive(with SD1A latest firmware) which was windows formatted NTFS to this linux machine. The drive is perfectly readable from within windows, and mounts BY ITSELF(no other HDs in the system) within a linux live-cd environment just fine.

Whenever I attach this drive to the motherboard and try to boot up with the other two hard drives attached(+DVDRW), I get a myriad of problems. First, as soon as the machine is powered on, I start hearing a "ticking" sound coming from one of the OTHER drives. This "ticking" isn't like the hard-drive-death-ticking, but instead constant little accesses which sound like constant read-retries, separated by a pause of 1/4 second or so. All drives fsck clean.

Before I upgraded BIOS (it was F4), it would simply hang at the BIOS screen, or alternatively randomly not detect one or more of the attached drives. After the upgrade, all drives are detected, but when linux boots up, it does so INCREDIBLY SLOWLY, if I SSH in, and look at the logs, I see a bunch of drive errors.

When I look at dmesg and the like, I'm seeing a bunch of hard-drive related messages like read errors, DRDY errors, SMART command failures, media errors, unhandled sense codes, "atax: hard resetting link"s and so on.

I've tried multiple SATA cables, multiple SATA ports, (including using known working cables and ports) and the result is always the same.

It definitely reeks of some hardware incompatibility or issue. Which is why I upgraded the drive firmware and the BIOS to see if that would fix it.

While I'm not entirely sure if this practice is ok to do, I've hot-swapped harddrives before by applying sata power and data cable while the system is powered up. (offhand, I'd think an external e-sata setup would be a similar case) I normally get a few small errors, and then everything seems to come online and work just fine. In this particular case, when I attach the drive power cable (with the machine on), the other drive's power is definitely affected and the "ticking" starts IMMEDIATELY.

I've obviously tried powering everything down, attaching, and powering everything back up. It makes no difference, but the ticking starts immediately on power up (even before BIOS, I think!)

I've read my gigabyte mobo manual, and there's no mention of needing to enable ports in the BIOS, or jumpers to be set if port x is to be used, etc.

I've not tried upgrading the HD firmware of the other drives, but I'm not keen to do so because I'd rather not touch what isn't giving me problems.

It almost sounds like a drive power problem, where the seagate might be drawing too much current(maybe due to a hardware problem), and causes the overall rail voltage to drop, thereby affecting the other drive on the same power rail.

I've got the DVDRW and one harddrive on one run. And two harddrives(including the new one) on the other.

Am I going down the right path here? What else should I try?

Thanks

Keith
a c 415 G Storage
November 26, 2010 5:20:10 PM

My first guess would also be a power problem - have you tried plugging the new drive into a different power rail?
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November 26, 2010 7:17:12 PM

So plugging it into a different rail looks like it worked. It's sharing a rail with the DVDRW. My supply has one rail with (2) sata power connectors, and another one with (3) sata power connectors.

I started out using the 3-connector one with two harddrives, existing & new.
I also started out using the 2-connector one w/ the DVDRW and one harddrive.

I'm basically just swapping hard drives on the rails. But who's to say that the other existing HD is going to work on that rail, if my new one doesn't?

The 3-connector rail should certainly support (3) drives, but I haven't seen it work with more than 1.

Do you think the PSU is defective? Doesn't support the current draw required?

Thanks

Keith
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a c 415 G Storage
November 26, 2010 9:11:25 PM

It's possible the PSU is defective. It's also possible that the wiring harness you were using for the hard drives happens to come off the same internal rail as, say, the motherboard, and the total load exceeded its capacity. It could even be a problem with the wiring harness or the connector itself.
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a b G Storage
November 27, 2010 12:28:39 AM

This problem is the classic signs of capacitors in the power supply going high in ESR (aging). Even though the power supply can supply enough current the noise on the power supply rails is to high. Replacement of the power supply should cure the problem.
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December 4, 2010 12:53:18 PM

Quote:
This problem is the classic signs of capacitors in the power supply going high in ESR (aging). Even though the power supply can supply enough current the noise on the power supply rails is to high. Replacement of the power supply should cure the problem.


Sorry about the delay in replying.

The power supply is less than 1 year old. And it's an antec, which should be a reasonable brand. It's not as if it sat in a warehouse in china for five years prior or something.

I know of the capacitor aging problem, but I guess I didn't realize that this is a common enough problem with recently manufactured equipment. Old computers and stuff, sure.

I had several problems going on, and I think that upgrading the BIOS and/or the HD firmware fixed at least the initial startup hangs, etc. I am actually still seeing read errors in ubuntu, but they are minimal, don't happen at any time other than startup, and don't seem to really affect drive performance.

There are a few bugs filed against ubuntu with these exact type of errors --- so maybe something higher level is going on here. I still had weird power issues, swapping cables around seemed to fix it --- I'm not likely to break it again just to figure out what went wrong. Maybe, the next drive, I add. :) 

Thanks
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a c 813 G Storage
December 5, 2010 1:53:12 AM

a quick test to split the problem from hardware compatabiltiy to power is to install the drive without the data cable, just power. If the clicking starts then you definitely have a power issue. Keep in mind that a drive spinning up can use over twice the power it uses when just running.

If the clicking is only there with the data cable on then its not power related. :) 
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