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Is AHCI important enough for a new SSD to warrant buying a new MOBO?

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February 18, 2011 8:24:50 AM

I am about to upgrade to a SSD with my tax return money. ;) 

However, I recently bought a NVidia 780i Motherboard...it does NOT have AHCI support. I did a lot of research on this and I am still confused at how necessary this functionality is. (For instance, even without AHCI Windows 7 can still support TRIM using its own native drivers.)

I am already using all Sata (II) connections on my motherboard, so I will have to buy a PCIe controller. (Shockingly both the a drive and a card using Sata III are similarly priced and offer real-world increased speed.) Thus although I am hesitant to remove a relatively new Motherboard, if I find one with enough Sata connections (including Sata III) it may not even be much more expensive than the Sata III card itself.

(I apologize that the following may belong in the MOBO forum: )

But here's the catch: I am running 2 PCIe x16 Video-cards in SLI mode. Almost NO new motherboards still support this. (That was why I still bought the antiquated 780i board just a few months ago. (and the only reason I have not moved over to an Intel chipset.)) However, can I still plug one of my PCIe x16 cards in a normal PCIe slot? I do not use my computer for much gaming; however, I watch movies almost daily and SLI helps with dropped frames on my plasma (using madVR.)

So what do you recommend?


  • Keep my non-AHCI motherboard, buy the Sata III PCIe card and subsequent SSD hard-drive and just turn-on TRIM in Win7?
  • Find a SSD less-dependent on AHCI (I noticed some do not even mention AHCI...I am confused, is there truth to this?)
  • Buy a new AHCI Motherboard and plug-in one of my PCIe x16 graphics cards into a standard PCIe slot (if this works!)
  • If that is not feasible, also buy a new Standard PCIe graphics card? (Even without SLI, I still run my 1080p plasma and two other work-monitors, so two graphics cards are a must.)
  • Skip the PCI-e to Sata card and buy an OCZ RevoDrive (with a direct PCIe connection.) This sounds GREAT in theory; however, I just spend the last few hours researching this and I am not sure my MOBO BIOS will boot from a PCIe port. Thoughts?)
  • I already have a Velociraptor HDD. Should I forget the SSD altogether and buy a second Velociraptor and run both in RAID0

    Thank you very much for your help! I have been at this for hours (days actually) and I am still undecided...

    MikeY
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    February 18, 2011 9:51:08 AM

    For starters please post the brand and exact model of your motherboard. There were quite a few brands and variations of the 780i boards. Which operating system are you using? Windows 7 or something else?

    Have you checked with NVidia or the manufacturer of your motherboard to find out if you might be able to update to a newer version of BIOS that fully supports AHCI mode?
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    February 18, 2011 11:44:12 AM

    Generally speaking, if your current mobo does not support AHCI and you want to realize the full performance of an SSD; then yes, you need an AHCI capable motherboard.

    As suggested, check to see if there is a BIOS update to add/enable AHCI support.

    Quote:
    Skip the PCI-e to Sata card and buy an OCZ RevoDrive (with a direct PCIe connection.) This sounds GREAT in theory; however, I just spend the last few hours researching this and I am not sure my MOBO BIOS will boot from a PCIe port. Thoughts?)
    The RevoDrive is an excellent implementation of an internal storage medium; OCZ deserves kudos for developing the RevoDrive. However, the RevoDrive is overpriced compared to the GB of a stand alone SSD and the RevoDrive does not support trim. Those are reasons enough, IMO, to not purchase a RevoDrive.

    Quote:
    I already have a Velociraptor HDD. Should I forget the SSD altogether and buy a second Velociraptor and run both in RAID0
    Two velociraptors in RAID0 do not come close to the speed and performance of a single SSD.
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    February 18, 2011 12:03:03 PM

    Thanks for the reply JohnnyLucky!

    The exact model is Asus P5N-T deluxe. (again, based on the NVidia 780i Chipset)

    I'm running Windows 7 Enterprise x64

    The graphics cards aren't the best (2 NVidia 8600Gt's in SLI.) However, even graphics cards like that are more expensive than MOBO's and I just confirmed that I still drop frames if I do not run in SLI... (my three monitors are a Samsung 21", a Sony 21", and a 50" Pioneer Kuro plasma...)

    Yes, I checked, and unfortunately it intrinsically does not support AHCI (and I am on the newest BIOS.) From what I gather, this problem is *in* the chipset. (There is an EVGA version that has a single AHCI Sata port; however, it is so hacked that it wasn't even documented!) Unfortunately the ASUS one doesn't even have that.

    I spent a few more hours pouring over the Asus/NVidia/and even the various SSD manufacturers (such as OCZ.) I have not amassed over 20 bookmarks with information and if anything the information is even more convoluted. It does seem that certain SSD's benefit more from AHCI than others ( http://benchmarkreviews.com/index.php?option=com_conten... ) But as mentioned multiple times, SSD's are still relatively new enough that data is limited, especially considering that ATTO and other benchmarks often do not represent "real-world" performance. (The ubiquitous debates over NCQ (Native Command Queuing) still abound.)

    I did notice an increase in AHCI advice when reading reviews about higher-end SSD's, such as ones running on Sata III or those ultra-fast PCIe Revodrives.

    Currently my thought is to start by buying a decent Sata III SSD (I'm eyeing out a Corsair one) and starting with a PCIe Sata III card. That way I can test it myself and compare to some benchmark results I have found. If they are deplorable, no new MOBO comes with 7+ Sata ports, so I wouldn't be wasting $ on the $25 SataIII card and the SSD. (Then I would upgrade the MOBO...) (Oh I should note that many of the Sata controller cards claim *they* are AHCI-enabled, however, I find the claim dubious if the Southbridge itself cannot enable this functionality.)

    Still, any advice would be extremely welcome. Even though I am leaving in a few hours to go to a TigerDirect and MicroCenter and ask the people there, honestly, I know more than most people (I'm a software engineer myself.) However, I know MUCH less than many of the people on this site. Furthermore, less people frequent the ASUS help-site etc (hence this current post here. :) 

    Thanks much!
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    February 18, 2011 12:10:33 PM

    Oh thanks too chunkymaster!

    I agree with everything you have said. See my previous response on my current plan. However, the major flaw in my plan to try the SSD first then upgrade the MOBO if necessary is that I am also using this time to wipe my OS drive and start from scratch. However, I have literally over a hundred programs and customizations on my operating system, so even with backups the software rebuild will take considerably more time than even Motherboard-replacement "surgery."

    I think my question comes down to a matter of "how MUCH does it matter?" I.e. from what I gather, if a single SSD is truly significantly faster than RAID0 Velociraptors, then even if I cannot run at full-speed, a SSD should be considerably faster than my current single 'Raptor. (My WEI for the HDD is 5.9, while every other score is 7.2 or higher...)
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    February 20, 2011 3:23:28 AM

    I apologize for the double [triple] post; however, I wanted to explicitly report that I have everything working perfectly!! :bounce: 

    I was able to buy a Sata III SSD (455MB/s down!) and have it run at full SATA III speed with a MOBO that does NOT support AHCI and only has a Sata II bus!

    Quite frankly I am shocked I was able to do this. I just bought the faster drive to "future-proof" it, assuming I would get less than Sata II speeds because of the aforementioned problems; however, the SSD was on-sale and backwards compatible.

    The trick was that I bought a PCIe 2x Marvell-based Sata III controller and a Marvell-designed SSD: It seem their latest firmware solves these problems regardless of the Motherboard.

    My SSD: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    (Notice the ubiquitous chorus of reviewers saying AHCI is necessary for this!)

    My Controller card: http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...

    If you look carefully at the later, you will see that it is the same Marvell chip as the card mentioned here:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    Looking at the reviews from this last link, people hinted that this card can actually give you AHCI if your board doesn't. So I cross-referenced it with
    This informative link (from my Motherboard site:)  http://vip.asus.com/forum/view.aspx?id=2010032406004731...

    They suggest to flash the controller card with the latest firmware for the Marvell chipset. ( http://www.station-drivers.com/page/marvell.htm )

    Luckily the process was easier than they said. I was able to put the drivers from the last link on a Flash Drive. When installing Windows 7, when picking the boot drive there is an option to "use specific driver for drive." I selected this and pointed it to the folder holding those Inf (driver) files.

    Now during Boot, the post includes Marvell controller and my 6Gbs Sata III speed separate from the other IDE/Sata drives. After loading windows, I now had a "Generic Marvell AHCI Controller" in device manager. Still, I selected "Update Driver," "browse for driver" and pointed it to the same folder from before. (That link contains two drivers.)

    Thus now I see a "Marvell 91xx Config Device" under System Devices and a "Marvell 91xx SATA 6G controller" under "Storage Controller" (and nothing concerning the SSD in the IDE section?)

    How do I know I have TRIM/AHCI/Sata III working? The drive-feedback on the Newegg site all agree that they only see a WEI of 6.9 and d/l speeds half of advertised if AHCI is not working. However, I now have a HDD Windows 7 WEI score of 7.9 (out of 7.9!) :pt1cable: 

    In addition, here are my ATTO test results (455 MB/s down/75 up actually match full specs and are not possible on Sata II nor pseudo-IDE!):



    And finally, AID64 (formerly Everest) reports that AHCI, TRIM, etc are all installed and working!

    Anyway, I thank you very much for the help! I cannot tell you how excited I am! But I did not post this long last message to gloat or anything; quite the contrary, that took me way too long. However, I felt I should write-out my solution in case anyone else may not be utilizing their full SSD speed-performance and would benefit from these procedures.

    Thus here is the answer to my initial question: :sol: 
    "Yes, AHCI (and older motherboards in general) are important, especially at SATA III speeds; however, as new drivers come-out for purchasable Controller cards, it is possible to get AHCI/full functionality even if the MOBO does not support it. (Even though it may still now be a real pain! :??:  "

    Thanks again everyone! :hello: 
    MikeY
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    February 20, 2011 5:07:22 AM

    You're Welcome! :) 
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    February 22, 2011 1:00:35 PM

    While it is true that many add in cards will give you the AHCI you seek, in fact I run an Asus U3S6 and I love it, it is certainly faster than my SB700 chip. That said you have SLI running which fills your x16 slots, in order to get the full performance without bottlenecking you must have a x4 or higher speed PCIe slot free. Check to ensure you have a slot available. I can recommend the U3S6, have been using it since summer 2010 with zero problems, love the addition of usb 3.0. FYI my motherboard was not on the Asus compatibility list for the card and it works flawlessly. I have a Vertex 2 booting the system off the card.
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    February 22, 2011 1:10:40 PM

    I have read your last post and see you have it up and running, excellent! I guess my question is how are you determining TRIM to be functioning? From what it looks like you are using Marvell drivers which from what I gather do not fully pass the TRIM command. Anyway if you know something that I don't, ie Marvell finally has a driver with TRIM please post your source. I have been using MSAHCI driver because it has been the only driver verified to pass the trim command albeit not 100% but better than Marvell offerings.
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    March 11, 2011 3:04:36 PM

    I have a 680i evga mobo and I want to do the same thing. I'm just confused as to which slot you place the sata III card??
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    March 11, 2011 5:33:19 PM

    rackattack_ said:
    I have a 680i evga mobo and I want to do the same thing. I'm just confused as to which slot you place the sata III card??



    Your board has 3 16x PCIe slots correct? Just use one of those to get the full bandwidth. Unless you do 3 way SLI you should have one of those slots open. The U3S6 should work but you never know. At least the card is really cheap to try. Make sure you enable AHCI drivers in Windows Vista or 7 before you install it or it. If you use XP I don't think you can enable AHCI after the install. Good luck
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    March 11, 2011 7:18:13 PM

    blantto said:
    Your board has 3 16x PCIe slots correct? Just use one of those to get the full bandwidth. Unless you do 3 way SLI you should have one of those slots open. The U3S6 should work but you never know. At least the card is really cheap to try. Make sure you enable AHCI drivers in Windows Vista or 7 before you install it or it. If you use XP I don't think you can enable AHCI after the install. Good luck




    It has 2 way SLI, 2 PCI slots, 1 PCI Express Graphics Expansion and 2 PCI Express x1 slots. I have 2 880o Ultras in SLI, so is this still possible get a SSD to work?
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    March 16, 2011 12:19:57 PM

    Well I got my SSD to work last night with my PCI-E Sata/raid controller. It is faster than my two velociraptors in raid 0 but still not as fast as I've seen others get. I bought an OCZ vertex 2 120gb and I'm getting just shy of 200mb/s read which should be about 285mb/s (who cares about write). Just need to use AID64 to see if TRIM is enabled, if it's not then back to canada computers it goes. BTW that ATTO benchmark above seems a little slow is the write department but who cares really.
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    September 22, 2011 8:32:58 PM

    I have a gateway lx6810 with a lockdown BIOS and I am interested in doing this procedure. Unfortunately, the BIOS is locked in RAID mode and there are many forums that state this is not changeable so I cannot just utilize AHCI or trim because of the RAID functionality.

    I was wondering if you think this would work for me since it looks like this controller with the update bypasses BIOS.


    Mikey2 said:
    I apologize for the double [triple] post; however, I wanted to explicitly report that I have everything working perfectly!! :bounce: 

    I was able to buy a Sata III SSD (455MB/s down!) and have it run at full SATA III speed with a MOBO that does NOT support AHCI and only has a Sata II bus!

    Quite frankly I am shocked I was able to do this. I just bought the faster drive to "future-proof" it, assuming I would get less than Sata II speeds because of the aforementioned problems; however, the SSD was on-sale and backwards compatible.

    The trick was that I bought a PCIe 2x Marvell-based Sata III controller and a Marvell-designed SSD: It seem their latest firmware solves these problems regardless of the Motherboard.

    My SSD: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    (Notice the ubiquitous chorus of reviewers saying AHCI is necessary for this!)

    My Controller card: http://www.microcenter.com/single_product_results.phtml...

    If you look carefully at the later, you will see that it is the same Marvell chip as the card mentioned here:
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

    Looking at the reviews from this last link, people hinted that this card can actually give you AHCI if your board doesn't. So I cross-referenced it with
    This informative link (from my Motherboard site:)  http://vip.asus.com/forum/view.aspx?id=2010032406004731...

    They suggest to flash the controller card with the latest firmware for the Marvell chipset. ( http://www.station-drivers.com/page/marvell.htm )

    Luckily the process was easier than they said. I was able to put the drivers from the last link on a Flash Drive. When installing Windows 7, when picking the boot drive there is an option to "use specific driver for drive." I selected this and pointed it to the folder holding those Inf (driver) files.

    Now during Boot, the post includes Marvell controller and my 6Gbs Sata III speed separate from the other IDE/Sata drives. After loading windows, I now had a "Generic Marvell AHCI Controller" in device manager. Still, I selected "Update Driver," "browse for driver" and pointed it to the same folder from before. (That link contains two drivers.)

    Thus now I see a "Marvell 91xx Config Device" under System Devices and a "Marvell 91xx SATA 6G controller" under "Storage Controller" (and nothing concerning the SSD in the IDE section?)

    How do I know I have TRIM/AHCI/Sata III working? The drive-feedback on the Newegg site all agree that they only see a WEI of 6.9 and d/l speeds half of advertised if AHCI is not working. However, I now have a HDD Windows 7 WEI score of 7.9 (out of 7.9!) :pt1cable: 

    In addition, here are my ATTO test results (455 MB/s down/75 up actually match full specs and are not possible on Sata II nor pseudo-IDE!):

    http://i155.photobucket.com/albums/s297/mikeyurkus/SSD-ATTO-Result.jpg

    And finally, AID64 (formerly Everest) reports that AHCI, TRIM, etc are all installed and working!

    Anyway, I thank you very much for the help! I cannot tell you how excited I am! But I did not post this long last message to gloat or anything; quite the contrary, that took me way too long. However, I felt I should write-out my solution in case anyone else may not be utilizing their full SSD speed-performance and would benefit from these procedures.

    Thus here is the answer to my initial question: :sol: 
    "Yes, AHCI (and older motherboards in general) are important, especially at SATA III speeds; however, as new drivers come-out for purchasable Controller cards, it is possible to get AHCI/full functionality even if the MOBO does not support it. (Even though it may still now be a real pain! :??:  "

    Thanks again everyone! :hello: 
    MikeY

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    September 22, 2011 8:41:23 PM

    tcstech - This is an old thread from last March. Please start a new thread to get answers to your question.
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    February 23, 2012 9:11:42 AM

    Hi,

    I have an Asus A8N-SLI Deluxe Motherboard with latest Bios version but not featuring AHCI at all. I decided to purchase a HD replacement dedicated for the OS. I will receive in few days the new Crucial M4 128GB SSD SATAIII SSD device.

    I am quite unhappy, upfront, because I do not have the AHCI feature available as I do value its benefits but tech support and people on IRC keep telling me that I can live without it and should not be concerned about it. Hence, I am told to just plug in the SSD into the eisting SATA-II connector of the Mobo.

    Rather, I wish to see if I can make it to introduce a PCI-e SATA-II controller that has AHCI built in. I will not go faster than SATA-II speed but at least I would have the Device fully working. Why SATA-II rather than SATA-III? Simply because SATA-II tecnology should match more and less the tecnology of my motherboard.

    Asus tech support informed me that I have Ver 1.1 of the PCI Express slot and notice that all new PCI-e cards are Ver. 2.0 even if backward compatible.

    So, I am looking for a controller that has AHCI feature (NCQ and Trim) but that would also be compatible with my current motherboard specs without creating any bottleneck. I have HD Tune Pro to than run some tests.

    Here are my few questions I wish to ask:

    1. The motherboard has SLI but I only have 1 GPU installed. The other PCI-e 16x slot is empty. I than have two PCI-e 1x slots empty. Should I install eventually this new controller I am looking for in the 16x slot or in the 1x slot considering that what I was able to find so far is 1x?

    2. Can someone please advise me of any good and inexpensive controller card? So far I found the InLine InLineĀ®, 2x SATA II, RAID 0,1, PCIe while waiting for their tech support to tell me if I can use it or not.

    Do you have any other suggestion? If so, please adivce me as I do not have past experience with this specific project.

    Thank you,
    Spiro

    PS: If someone from IRC is reading this "I know what you explained to me but wish to find out all the way throguth if i can get this idea to work".
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    !