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  • SATA set to RAID instead of AHCI in Win7– can’t install Linux?

    Posted on jburk07 Comment on the AskWoody Lounge

    Home Forums AskWoody support Non-Windows operating systems Linux – all distros SATA set to RAID instead of AHCI in Win7– can’t install Linux?

    This topic contains 15 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  mn– 1 month, 1 week ago.

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    • #1994586 Reply

      jburk07
      AskWoody Plus

      I’ve run into a problem with my original Windows 7 EOS plan and thought I’d try posting here before giving up on it. Has anyone had any experience trying to install Linux on an MBR/legacy boot computer with a SATA controller which is set to RAID instead of AHCI?

      I’ve been planning to dual-boot Linux Mint with Windows 7 on our laptops, keeping Win7 offline after EOS in January. But now I’ve discovered that both laptops are set to SATA RAID instead of AHCI. These laptops came set up that way, even though of course there is no RAID array since there is only one disk. It’s very strange, but apparently this has been a common practice with a few laptop manufacturers. The Mint installer on the live USB doesn’t see the target disk on either laptop because of the RAID setting.

      If I understand correctly, you have to change the BIOS setting to AHCI in order to install Mint because Linux doesn’t have an Intel RAID driver. But I’m not sure I can actually change to AHCI on our two Windows 7 laptops, or at least not if I want to dual-boot with Windows. The Linux Mint Forum entries I’ve seen about this have involved Windows 10, which apparently has a reliable way to change to AHCI without reinstalling Windows. I’m hoping maybe someone on AskWoody has been through this with a Windows 7 computer.

      Background: our main computers are two older Windows 7 laptops, an HP m6 Pavilion (from 2012) and a Dell Latitude E6410 (purchased it refurbished in 2014). Here are some basic specs:

      1. HP Pavilion m6-1045dx Notebook:
      Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1 (OEM license)
      1TB SSD MBR/Legacy boot (installed May 2019)
      Intel Core i5-3210M CPU, Ivy Bridge
      8GB RAM
      HP motherboard model 18A4 (U3E1) version 73.50
      BIOS: Insyde version F.25 1/21/2013;
      No option in BIOS to change SATA controller mode.
      Intel Mobile Express Chipset SATA RAID Controller; driver iaStor.sys

      2. Dell Latitude E6410 laptop:
      Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit SP1 (OEM license; no installation or recovery disks.)
      750GB hdd MBR/Legacy boot (installed August 2018)
      Intel Core i5 520M CPU, Arrandale
      4GB RAM
      Dell motherboard OK42JR (CPU1)
      BIOS: Dell version A01 3/5/2010
      Intel ICH8M-E/ICH9M-E SATA RAID Controller; driver iaStorV.sys

      In the past year I’ve replaced the SSD in one and the hard drive in the other, and both laptops run well. We’re retired, so I’m not eager to buy new equipment when the old stuff still works.

      To try out Linux Mint, I’ve been dual-booting on two even older Windows XP computers (c. 2007-2009) for the past few months (with XP disconnected from the Internet). I really like Mint, which runs great on both of these really old computers (Cinnamon on one and xfce on the other), and I believe it can eventually replace Windows for our needs. The dual boot was easy to install and gives convenient access to the data stored on Windows. In July I upgraded these computers to Mint 19.2 and everything went smoothly and easily. I had been looking forward to dual-booting with Windows 7 to avoid the morass of Windows 10 forced-march updates and bugs.

      So since discovering this SATA RAID setting problem I’ve tried to find out everything I can about the topic. Several Linux Mint forum entries indicate that you have to change the BIOS setting to AHCI in order to install Mint, but then Windows 7 won’t boot after that change. Apparently what you’re really supposed to do is change the BIOS setting to AHCI before you install Windows. So the sequence would be to change to AHCI, then re-install Windows 7, and then install Mint in dual boot. However, both of our Windows 7 installations are OEM, so I don’t have installation disks.

      I do have recovery disks for the HP, which I suppose would work for reinstallation, but on that laptop there’s no BIOS setting available to change the SATA controller mode! Seriously. I searched long and hard. What I understand from my research is that HP locked/hid the advanced options in the BIOS to keep unskilled users from bricking their machines. There’s an msahci.sys driver in the System32\Drivers folder; does that indicate that the motherboard supports AHCI? But it doesn’t look like there’s a way for an average user like me to change the setting in BIOS.

      The Dell does have a BIOS setting to change the SATA mode to AHCI, but I don’t have any recovery disks or installation disks for that laptop. I’ve seen descriptions of changes that can be made to the registry before changing the BIOS to AHCI, which might work instead of reinstalling Windows 7, but since I’m not technically advanced (i.e. don’t really know what I’m doing, just carefully follow instructions) I worry that I could brick the machine. I know how to back up the registry and I have Macrium Reflect images of the system, but I find it scary to make changes to both the BIOS and the registry. The BIOS in that laptop is very old, from 2010.

      We do have alternatives, at least for a while, since we can just use Linux on the truly old computers until they give out and we have to replace them. I also have a full install of Mint 19.1 on a USB flash drive which works fairly well on both laptops, though that’s probably not a practical solution for the long term. But I keep wondering if there’s some way I could get the dual boot to work on one of the newer laptops.

      One thing that makes me wonder is that a couple of posters on Linux Mint Forum say they’ve been running a dual-boot installation on computers that show the same setting as our laptops in their inxi -Fxz output: “Intel 82801 Mobile SATA Controller [RAID mode] driver: ahci v: 3.0 ….” However, I think those users were running Windows 10, which could be the difference. Another post mentioned that it’s *difficult* to get Mint installed on machines set to RAID but didn’t give any details. I don’t know if that means it’s possible but not feasible for non-techies, or if they were talking about an actual RAID array.

      So I’m clearly in need of some informed guidance. Given my various problems, is there a relatively “safe” way to install Linux on either of these laptops? That is, is there a way that includes a backup for the BIOS so I could recover if something went wrong? Or is it time to give up and look for some refurbished equipment at an affordable price?

      Group A Win7 x64 Home Premium SP1 Ivy Bridge

    • #1994660 Reply

      Paul T
      AskWoody MVP

      First steps, make an image backup of both – done!
      Create a Macrium recovery USB. Attempt to boot from it on both machines. Can you see your Macrium recovery images – I assume they are on an external hard disk?
      Can you see the internal disks?

      Now you are ready to test the Dell as it’s the only one you can change to AHCI.
      Boot to the BIOS and change to AHCI.
      Boot from Macrium recovery. Can you see the internal disk and its partition?
      Boot from a Linux CD/USB. Can you see the internal disk and partitions?
      Boot from the internal disk. If this fails you may simply need to fix the MBR from a Windows boot CD/USB.

      Let us know what happens with the testing.

      cheers, Paul

      1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #1994756 Reply

        jburk07
        AskWoody Plus

        Thanks for the very clear instructions. I have a couple of questions:

        If I already have a Macrium recovery DVD instead of a USB, I imagine I can just use that instead of a USB, right?
        And yes, my images are on external hard drives.
        I do have a Windows repair disk, and there is also a “fix boot problems” utility on the Macrium recovery disk that I could try.
        If I change the BIOS setting to AHCI and then I can’t fix the MBR, would Windows boot again if I just switch it back to the RAID setting? Or is that one of those situations where it *should* work, but things sometimes go wrong?

        Group A Win7 x64 Home Premium SP1 Ivy Bridge

    • #1994678 Reply

      mn–
      AskWoody Lounger

      Another post mentioned that it’s *difficult* to get Mint installed on machines set to RAID but didn’t give any details. I don’t know if that means it’s possible but not feasible for non-techies, or if they were talking about an actual RAID array.

      So I’m clearly in need of some informed guidance. Given my various problems, is there a relatively “safe” way to install Linux on either of these laptops?

      Well. Once you have your backups in order…

      The “problem” at least used to be (in older versions of Mint, not sure if it’s still valid) the simple point that Mint didn’t include RAID management tools on the live install media. The drivers and tools for Intel RAID do exist and can just be pulled in from the repositories though, AFAICT. It’s treated as a special case of software RAID as it still does all the RAID work on the main processor.

      (Some other RAID products need a more complicated install procedure.)

      https://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopic.php?t=210439 has something on this.

      mint@mint:~ $ sudo su -
      root@mint:~ # apt-get install mdadm
      

      which will install the mdadm to the live environment (note – this is temporary and only applies to the current booted session. If you reboot, you will need to do this step again).
      CODE: SELECT ALL

      root@mint:~ # mdadm --assemble --scan

      which activates the existing raid array. If you do not have a raid array set up, please look online for more documentation on proper setup of a mdadm software raid. This is beyond the scope of this post.

      Well, you should have a RAID array already if you can run Windows while set to RAID mode. (It may be a very minimal array of 1 drive…)

      So, sanity check at this point – you should now be able to mount the Windows partitions as NTFS on top of the activated RAID. (Unless you have disk encryption or something.)

      I get to this stage regularly when debugging a Windows installation or resetting someone’s forgotten admin password or whatever… I usually use a Xubuntu or Ubuntu live-usb though instead of Mint. BTW, HPE B-series low-end server RAID is annoying…

      (The guide then proceeds to show how to install Linux as the sole operating system and with the assumption that you want to do it all with UEFI and without firmware RAID boot assist, so is only partially applicable.)

      After checking that the Windows partitions were in order and unmounting, you should be able to resize them to make room for Mint.

      You’ll need to also insert mdadm manually into the installed system and recreate the boot configuration before rebooting.

      Still want to try?

      1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #1994757 Reply

        jburk07
        AskWoody Plus

        Thanks for the clear explanation and great detail. This is very interesting. I’ll have to read through everything carefully, but if I understand correctly, If I continue down this path I’ll get to the point where I’d be running Linux on RAID using mdadm, so I wouldn’t be changing the BIOS, and that arrangement could be less risky to the Windows 7 installation, is that a fair assessment? Or would activating the RAID array also affect Windows? I realize that things like inserting the mdadm manually might be risky for a Linux newbie, but it seems like I’d only be messing up the Linux installation, is that right?

        Is it likely that running Linux on RAID would affect things down the road, too? For example, would I need to adjust things when I upgrade to the next version?

        I have some other obligations today but I hope to be able to get back to this project later today.

        Group A Win7 x64 Home Premium SP1 Ivy Bridge

        • #1994767 Reply

          mn–
          AskWoody Lounger

          If I continue down this path I’ll get to the point where I’d be running Linux on RAID using mdadm, so I wouldn’t be changing the BIOS, and that arrangement could be less risky to the Windows 7 installation, is that a fair assessment?

          At least if you can see Windows partitions after activating the RAID array, yes.

          Because then it becomes just another example of fitting Windows and Linux on the same disk.

          Or would activating the RAID array also affect Windows?

          Technically, yes… you want to avoid doing that if you’re prepping the disks to be sent to a data recovery lab due to suspected physical breakage. On a proper array (RAID-1, -5, etc) it’ll by default try to do automatic error recovery on activation.

          Repartitioning does carry the same risks as it always does. (Don’t lose power while it’s working.)

          I realize that things like inserting the mdadm manually might be risky for a Linux newbie, but it seems like I’d only be messing up the Linux installation, is that right?

          Yes, as long as you keep track of what partition goes where.

          Is it likely that running Linux on RAID would affect things down the road, too? For example, would I need to adjust things when I upgrade to the next version?

          It’s expected to just work, unless the Mint folks get extra stupid. On the server side it’s just too common and useful to let die, but Mint isn’t really a server-focused distro.

          Really wonder if Intel was being sneaky when they were writing the (U)EFI spec… because it’s unreasonably hard to do a proper failure-tolerant mostly-software RAID on UEFI without mdadm and the Intel firmware.

          1 user thanked author for this post.
          • #1995056 Reply

            jburk07
            AskWoody Plus

            jburk07 wrote:
            If I continue down this path I’ll get to the point where I’d be running Linux on RAID using mdadm, so I wouldn’t be changing the BIOS, and that arrangement could be less risky to the Windows 7 installation, is that a fair assessment?

            At least if you can see Windows partitions after activating the RAID array, yes.

            So, another question as I’m thinking about being able to recover from changes if needed:
            If I activate the RAID array but then *can’t* see the Windows partitions, would I be able to “deactivate” the RAID array with another terminal command? (This is probably not the right question or terminology, but I’m wondering about being able to undo the change.)
            Or, failing that, would I be able to undo the changes by restoring from an image backup?

            Really wonder if Intel was being sneaky when they were writing the (U)EFI spec… because it’s unreasonably hard to do a proper failure-tolerant mostly-software RAID on UEFI without mdadm and the Intel firmware.

            My disk is MBR and I’m using legacy boot. Even the Linux live USB boots MBR. Does your comment above indicate this method would require UEFI? I just don’t know anything about RAID (and not too much about this stuff in general!) to understand if you were talking about my specific situation or more in general.

            Group A Win7 x64 Home Premium SP1 Ivy Bridge

            • #1995253 Reply

              mn–
              AskWoody Lounger

              If I activate the RAID array but then *can’t* see the Windows partitions, would I be able to “deactivate” the RAID array with another terminal command?

              A reboot will do that anyway so the only reason to do that is if you want to try something else in Linux.

              But yes, “mdadm –stop <raiddevice>”

              My disk is MBR and I’m using legacy boot. Even the Linux live USB boots MBR. Does your comment above indicate this method would require UEFI?

              No.

              At least not on your hardware. Some newer, “crippled” motherboards disable the RAID functionality in legacy mode.

              1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #1994804 Reply

      Paul T
      AskWoody MVP

      If I change the BIOS setting to AHCI and then I can’t fix the MBR, would Windows boot again if I just switch it back to the RAID setting?

      You should be able to switch straight back unless you tried to fix it and failed. Then switching back and restoring would probably be required.

      cheers, Paul

      1 user thanked author for this post.
      • #1995045 Reply

        jburk07
        AskWoody Plus

        Thanks, that makes sense. I haven’t decided yet what I’ll do, but if switching back and then restoring from an image would get me back to where I started, the simplicity is appealing. I haven’t made a new image backup in a few weeks so I’ll need to do that first.

        Group A Win7 x64 Home Premium SP1 Ivy Bridge

    • #1995735 Reply

      jburk07
      AskWoody Plus

      @mn-,

      A couple more questions, thanking you in advance for your patience:

      If I successfully install mdadm on the live USB,
      and if I run the … –assemble –scan terminal command,
      but there isn’t an existing array, will it just give me an error message? (In other words, no harm done?)

      Also, if these steps work and I can see the internal disk and the Windows partitions, and successfully install Mint, would I then use a similar terminal command using the live USB to install mdadm into the installed system? Or would it be more complicated?

      And then there’s “recreating the boot configuration ….” Is that something that’s done (hopefully) using terminal commands? I’ve used the SuperGrub2 utility before and it worked well. I haven’t edited the grub directly, though.

      Just trying to get a feel for what I might be getting into, haha.

      Group A Win7 x64 Home Premium SP1 Ivy Bridge

      • #1996029 Reply

        mn–
        AskWoody Lounger

        If I successfully install mdadm on the live USB,
        and if I run the … –assemble –scan terminal command,
        but there isn’t an existing array, will it just give me an error message? (In other words, no harm done?)

        Correct. It should tell you “no arrays found” and quit.

        (Note for others – this might also mean that your hardware needs a different array driver and tools.)

        Oh, and a different possible situation – multiple arrays found, in the Windows installation. As in separate arrays instead of partitions on a single array. That’d be otherwise fine, but then there’s no easy way to resize them to make room for Linux.

        and successfully install Mint, would I then use a similar terminal command using the live USB to install mdadm into the installed system? Or would it be more complicated?

        “Yes.”

        There are several steps in the process, but the one that actually installs mdadm is the exact same command.

        That part is actually explained in the linked guide… the installer process, toward the end, actually generates a chroot environment on the target and runs some of the parts inside it… and normally, some of these will fail when on a mdadm-handled array without mdadm, so you need to tell the installer to skip or ignore those.

        (See “man chroot” for what it does.)

        So you need to build that back, go insert the mdadm, and do the rest of the finishing parts manually.

        Now I don’t have the exact commands for you because I don’t use Mint and don’t know how its installer will do things, and also don’t know how your “array” is configured internally, but… the linked guide page has also a legacy-mode example in the discussion parts. The one that uses grub-pc instead of grub-efi-whatever, but that one has 2 physical disks and no Windows so would also need to be adjusted…

        1 user thanked author for this post.
    • #1996197 Reply

      jburk07
      AskWoody Plus

      @mn-,
      OK, thanks for all the great information. I will look into that linked guide again a little further to get a better sense of things, but I think ultimately the whole process is a little beyond me for now.

      I might want to try this approach on the HP at some point since there’s no way to switch it to AHCI anyway and since it looks like I could recover from a mistake with an image backup, or the cloned SSD I have, or with the set of recovery disks (I like to have multiple backups …).

      The HP has Intel Rapid Storage Technology, which might be what’s supposed to manage the RAID since that’s apparently where the iaStor.sys driver comes from, which the controller is using. When I look in the IRST application, it shows the disk usage as “Available” rather than “Array disk,” and I don’t see “Manage Array” anywhere, so I don’t know if there’s an array already set up. The thought of also setting up an array is pretty daunting.

      Plus I still have to decide which of the current partitions to delete from the disk to begin with since it already has 4 primary. On the older computers, the Mint installer set up Mint in a logical partition even though there were only 2 existing primary partitions. Of course, I have no idea how that might work if there’s a RAID array.

      So right now I’ll just keep learning more about Linux first and maybe see if I might be able to get a refurbished Windows 8.1 laptop to play with. At least now I know to look for something like another Dell Latitude so I *can* switch it to AHCI.

      Thanks for all your help. Your explanations and guidance have really helped me get a handle on things, and I will hold on to this information for later.

      Group A Win7 x64 Home Premium SP1 Ivy Bridge

      • #1996208 Reply

        jabeattyauditor
        AskWoody Lounger

        Your HP is probably setup correctly already; I’ve never seen any vendor except Dell insist on sending equipment out with that flaky “RAID” setting enabled for single-disk SATA installs.

        1 user thanked author for this post.
        • #1996296 Reply

          jburk07
          AskWoody Plus

          I hope that is the case. It is true that I won’t really know until I get rid of one of the primary partitions, since that could be the reason that the Mint installer can’t see the internal SSD. All I have to go on right now is the output from the inxi -Fxz terminal command, which indicates that the HP is using RAID mode:
          “Hardware-1: Intel 82801 Mobile SATA Controller [RAID mode] driver: ahci v: 3.0 …”

          Unfortunately, this HP Community forum entry referring to what looks like a similar laptop model (HP Envy TouchSmart m6) isn’t encouraging:

          “The BIOS is defaulted to RAID on your model series because some models come with one of those hybrid drives with a SSD cache and for some technical reason those have to be configured in RAID 0 mode in order for the setup to work right.”

          So I’ll just have to see after I decide which partition(s) to delete.

          Group A Win7 x64 Home Premium SP1 Ivy Bridge

          • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by  jburk07. Reason: Additional information
          • #1996434 Reply

            mn–
            AskWoody Lounger

            “The BIOS is defaulted to RAID on your model series because some models come with one of those hybrid drives with a SSD cache and for some technical reason those have to be configured in RAID 0 mode in order for the setup to work right.”

            Oh, one of those mythical drives that show up as a separate HDD and SSD in AHCI mode? Never seen one but I’m told they exist.

            Separate HDD and SSD being fudged into a single hybrid device by the motherboard was something that happened with late Windows XP era high-end hardware though… I might have a Dell model stored somewhere that supposedly would do this if set to PATA emulation mode (not RAID mode) with the Enable Flash Cache setting turned on and a suitable optional SSD model installed in the mSATA slot, never tested that.

            1 user thanked author for this post.

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