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Cheap PCI Sata Card – XWT-RC040

I recently setup a cheap terrabyte server with an old Dell 2450, 3 1TB Hitachi drives, and this cheap MnssCool XWT-RC040 4-port Sata ‘high speed’ PCI Controller Card.

The best thing about this card was that it was cheap. I got it for $30 off of newegg. The worst part was that it pretty much comes broken. You have to flash the bios to make it work well.

I had to flash the BIOS for 2 reasons:

  1. OOTB, it doesn’t recognize drives larger than 750GB
  2. OOTB, it doesn’t support JBOD

Download

The new BIOS can be obtained here:
http://www.siliconimage.com/support/searchresults.aspx?pid=28&cat=15

…you want to get BIOS Update Utility for DOS and SiI3114 IDE, SATARAID5 and system BIOS.

Now, download and burn a copy of FreeDOS.

Flash

Once booted to FreeDOS, execute the following command:

UPDFLASH.EXE b5403.bin

Note that this will make your card only support JBOD. If you want to retain its hardware raid functionality, use @r5403.bin@ instead of @b5403.bin@. That being said, as suggested elsewhere, if you want to use a software RAID (such as RAIDZ as I am with opensolaris), you want to use the b5403.bin firmware. With an inexpensive card such as the XWT-RC040, I wouldn’t suggest using its hardware raid–it’ll be terribly unreliable.

Once the flash is finished, reboot and it should now:

  1. Support JBOD
  2. Support drives >750GB

Misc Comments

Many people on the newegg review page said that this card had 2 problems with its physical design:

  1. The pci card was too big (it needed to be sanded down to fit into the mobo slot)
  2. the ports broke (leaving a lot of people with a 3-port sata card).

Personally, I haven’t had either of these problems. Just make sure that you’re very careful when plugging in and unplugging the sata cables into the controller’s ports. If you yank on it, you’ll break it–as with most things.

As for the sanding of the PCI connectors, mine slid it with great difficulty, but it *did* go in. Other people have reported great success with sandpaper if you have this issue…

Conclusion

Pros

  1. Cheap
  2. Cheap
  3. Every Con (listed below) can be fixed by flashing the BIOS
  4. Cheap

Cons

  1. Doesn’t recognize drives larger than 750GB OOTB
  2. Doesn’t support JBOD OOTB
  3. Cheap (Quality)

Bottom line:
Get this card: if you want to save money and don’t mind having to go through extra effort to get everything working.

Don’t get this card: if you (a) don’t mind spending an extra dollar and (b) expect to be able to setup a rig with this card in under an hour.

Sources:

  1. http://www.linuxforums.org/forum/coffee-lounge/55654-iso-editing.html
  2. http://www.g-loaded.eu/2007/04/25/how-to-create-a-windows-bootable-cd-with-mkisofs
  3. “man mkisofs”:http://linuxcommand.org/man_pages/mkisofs8.html

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