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Z68 - SRT cache and boot volume on single SSD disk - full success!

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Anonymous
a b G Storage
June 16, 2011 9:22:32 PM

Because there seems to be a lot of confusion about what can and what can't be achieved on Z68 in terms of SSD cache and mb manufacturers and even Intel are providing incomplete or sometime just false info/documentation, I am just reporting.

My setup:

- 1x 96GB Kingston SSD
- 1x Samsung F3 1TB
- Z68 board

My goal:

Divide SSD disk as follows:

- partition for OS (Windows 7) and the small, frequently used programs (AV, Office, etc). A
- rest of the space on SSD - 18GB (maximum possible) - dedicated for STR cache. This cache will be used to speed up 1TB F3, which contains programs and games (i.e. this huge Steam directory).

Unfortunately the way to achieve this is a bit tricky - if you just install OS on SSD and then try to configure STR cache - it won't work. Intel tool won't even show "Accelerate" tab.

In order for this to work, you must _first_ initialize STR cache on SSD. Sadly, this can't be done from Options ROM (Ctrl-I).
The only option is to:
- temporary install Windows on any HDD
- instal Intel Rapid Storage and initialize STR cache on SSD - configure 18GB for STR and rest of the space dedicate to normal volume (this will wipe content of SSD!)
- disconnect temporary HDD, boot into Windows setup from DVD (in the Options ROM you should see that STR cache is now enabled on your SSD)
- instal Windows on SSD (most likely you will need to provide storage drivers on USB stick during setup)
- once installation is finished, instal Intel Rapid Storage tool - you will see that SSD cache is up and running and you use it to accelerate your HDD!

I believe this is the best setup possible (unless you can afford both SSD for boot and additional SSD for caching purpose only, of course :) . It gives you great OS performance and you can utilize STR to accelerate all this stuff residing on these multi-TB HDDs :) 
a c 256 G Storage
June 17, 2011 12:00:24 AM

Excellent! Very useful information.

Let us know how applications on your Samsung F3 are affected by the setup.
July 6, 2011 7:33:26 PM

Any update on this?? sounds very promising, I'm getting my computer Friday so will try this as well.
July 11, 2011 4:29:27 AM

caswe11 said:
Any update on this?? sounds very promising, I'm getting my computer Friday so will try this as well.


I tried this. It works, but it slows my sequential reads. Anyone else have benchmark results to share?

i7-2600k (stock settings)
Asrock Z68 Extreme4
Kingston SSDNow V+100 96GB
WD Blue 640GB
2x Maxtor 250GBs (not really important to this discussion, but they are there)
16GB of RAM (yeah, it's silly, but it was cheap)

Regarding the installation, I basically did everything backwards but eventually got there.

I started with installing Win7 x64 on my 96GB V+100 in AHCI mode.

Crystal Disk showed this:

Kingston SSDNow V+100

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
CrystalDiskMark 3.0.1 x64 (C) 2007-2010 hiyohiyo
Crystal Dew World : http://crystalmark.info/
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
* MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]

Sequential Read : 214.236 MB/s
Sequential Write : 159.649 MB/s
Random Read 512KB : 195.688 MB/s
Random Write 512KB : 154.355 MB/s
Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 18.298 MB/s [ 4467.3 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 27.897 MB/s [ 6810.8 IOPS]
Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 19.822 MB/s [ 4839.4 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 28.019 MB/s [ 6840.7 IOPS]

Test : 1000 MB [C: 67.3% (60.1/89.3 GB)] (x5)
Date : 2011/06/21 20:00:55
OS : Windows 7 Ultimate Edition SP1 [6.1 Build 7601] (x64)


Note the fast sequential reads of over 200MB/s.

Then I switched from AHCI to RAID to support two other HDDs I had. This caused some nice BSOD stop code 7b action, which I used RAIDfix to solve instead of reinstalling the OS. I used this setup for a while without running another bench on the SSD that I can remember. I had the latest Intel RST installed to have my RAID-0 working, but I didn't have an "Accelerate" choice.

To get SRT working, I used cloning software to take the contents of my SSD and put them on a different HDD. I booted with that and then saw the Accelerate tab. I set it to grab 18.some GBs of the Kingston SSD and use them as a cache. I then cloned the OS from the HDD and put it back on the 70-some GBs left on the SSD as the boot drive.

This works. Somewhere along the way (probably the cloning), the alignment was screwed up, so I used the Paragon SSD Alignment program to repair that.

Here's what it looks like in the RST (Array_0002 is just a normal RAID-0, so ignore that; I'm accelerating a single HDD):


However, my annoyance is that RAID mode, required to get this or just a basic RAID-0 to work, appears to slow the SSD a lot (particularly sequential reads) compared to AHCI mode. Here are my new bench results with the "Accelerated" setup:

Drive C: (Non-cache 70GB or so of Kingston SSDNow 96GB V+100)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
CrystalDiskMark 3.0.1 x64 (C) 2007-2010 hiyohiyo
Crystal Dew World : http://crystalmark.info/
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
* MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]

Sequential Read : 90.967 MB/s
Sequential Write : 184.787 MB/s
Random Read 512KB : 101.110 MB/s
Random Write 512KB : 156.064 MB/s
Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 16.681 MB/s [ 4072.5 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 29.253 MB/s [ 7141.9 IOPS]
Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 18.419 MB/s [ 4496.8 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 30.717 MB/s [ 7499.3 IOPS]

Test : 1000 MB [C: 61.5% (43.5/70.7 GB)] (x5)
Date : 2011/07/10 22:57:12
OS : Windows 7 Ultimate Edition SP1 [6.1 Build 7601] (x64)



Drive D: (WD 640 SRT cached with 18GB of Kingston SSDNow 96GB V+100 as "Maximized")

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
CrystalDiskMark 3.0.1 x64 (C) 2007-2010 hiyohiyo
Crystal Dew World : http://crystalmark.info/
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
* MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]

Sequential Read : 91.563 MB/s
Sequential Write : 126.426 MB/s
Random Read 512KB : 91.904 MB/s
Random Write 512KB : 128.831 MB/s
Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 18.899 MB/s [ 4614.1 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 27.816 MB/s [ 6790.9 IOPS]
Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 20.043 MB/s [ 4893.3 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 28.007 MB/s [ 6837.7 IOPS]

Test : 1000 MB [D: 0.0% (0.1/596.2 GB)] (x5)
Date : 2011/07/10 23:09:03
OS : Windows 7 Ultimate Edition SP1 [6.1 Build 7601] (x64)



For reference, here's an old benchmark of that same drive D: disk without any acceleration:

Drive D: WD 640 (1st partition, so outer tracks, no acceleration)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
CrystalDiskMark 3.0.1 x64 (C) 2007-2010 hiyohiyo
Crystal Dew World : http://crystalmark.info/
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
* MB/s = 1,000,000 byte/s [SATA/300 = 300,000,000 byte/s]

Sequential Read : 112.363 MB/s
Sequential Write : 110.867 MB/s
Random Read 512KB : 43.747 MB/s
Random Write 512KB : 59.222 MB/s
Random Read 4KB (QD=1) : 0.580 MB/s [ 141.7 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=1) : 1.284 MB/s [ 313.5 IOPS]
Random Read 4KB (QD=32) : 1.556 MB/s [ 380.0 IOPS]
Random Write 4KB (QD=32) : 1.395 MB/s [ 340.5 IOPS]

Test : 1000 MB [D: 78.3% (203.2/259.3 GB)] (x5)
Date : 2011/06/22 12:45:52
OS : Windows 7 Ultimate Edition SP1 [6.1 Build 7601] (x64)



The "Accelerated" single disk has slower sequential reads with the SSD in front of it than without. Yes, the other specs are better, but why would reads be slower than the no-cache case? If I'm trying to cache game loading, I'm not sure this is an improvement.

Also, the really annoying part is the non-caching part of the SSD used as my boot drive is now super slow compared to its original performance. Reads are less than 100MB/s compared to the over 200MB/s before. That's cheesy.

I suppose it's possible that my problem is that my SSD is on SATA_1 instead of SATA_0. This guy had that problem, so I suppose I'll dig around in my case and see if that helps. Hopefully it won't confuse the whole system.

Edit: SATA port switch didn't help.

-- bo_jangles
!