Another Raid card upgrade – IBM M5110

Finally… it’s here. Small brown box with the massive red label “Customs Fee to Pay”. OMG, right now I’m feeling like I have done something terribly wrong. Never mind VAT of £3.82 but “handling fee” of £8 it’s a bit funny.

Inside, I could find loads of bubble wrap (nice) and two sealed antistatic bags: small one with Super Capacitor (main reason why I got my new RAID card) and bigger one with actual IBM M5110 Raid card.

Of course, me being me: just shoved new card straight to the desktop… Bad idea. Potentially very bad idea… There are few steps you have to do before you can do anything of that:

  1. Backup, backup, backup! Before you fiddle with it at all, you need a full backup, just to be sure. You have been warned! For me AOMEI Backupper is the best tool and after a full backup, even if I lose my raid setup I can just recreate it from scratch. I have my trusty NAS4FREE, so plenty of space for backups.
  2. If you replace raid card in your main system, keep in mind, that Windows will breakdown unless you remove old drivers before installation of the new card (and I forgot that) otherwise you will have problems later.

My old card the M5015, it’s a nice device, but with few problems: it has only 512MB of cache and battery backup unit (BBU) based on LiON technology, prone to getting cooked and dying very quickly. Those batteries don’t like high temperatures and on M5015 they are onboard with close proximity to the onboard CPU, with no fan around… You can image what is happening there. My BBU lasted only about a year and after that soon as M5015 discovered that BBU doesn’t keep its charge, started to drop RAID speed, from 450MB/s down to about 250MB/s sequential read.

The M5110 is backed up by NAND flash onboard (only 32MB but it’s for internal data), 1GB of cache and Super Capacitor (technology far superior to LiON batteries), so no more dropping speed soon as a battery is dead.

After the full backup was finally over, I quickly installed my M5110 in my desktop. Pressed start button on the case and I wait… and wait… Finally, I can see LSI information page with M5110 description. Nothing else, no warning, no “import foreign configuration”… Straight to Windows 10. NICE!

…and soon after I got hardware reset. Windows don’t even get to the login screen. What a heck?! What just happened? I saw Windows 10 logo… spinning wheel… and reset without cause. Drivers! It happened to me before: if you have a Windows installed on RAID and want to change to AHCI (or vice versa) it would not start. To fix this, you need to start in safe mode first (using your old card), remove drivers, shutdown, change card and let it start normally, for Windows to revert to current device (new card) drivers. D’OH!

Ok, so I have to swap cards again. Start with the old card… and I got the message: “Press F to import foreign configuration”, What foreign?? It turned out that soon as you start newer card connected to HDDs, it will write some info on the disks and with M5110 as a newer generation, there was no problem with swallowing older’s card config… but to revert to from new to old one it’s no go.

Pressed “F”… nothing happened, just information about missing hard drives. Ups… I didn’t want to fiddle more with M5015 as my goal was to utilise the newer one and not fix an old unit. Swapped cards again, so now we have my shiny M5110 inside. Booting… booting… reset. At least it can see my RAID configuration (one good thing), but Windows 10 refuse to start. Oh, drivers… Sure.

The trick is to force Windows into safe mode, but on W10 you need to get to msconfig.exe within running Windows before you can ask it to start into Safe Mode… and I cannot boot from either card 🙁

Luckily there is another trick: hold Control + F8, while booting and you should get to Recovery Console, then option Troubleshoot/Advanced Settings/Startup setting and reset. It will boot into Startup Settings where you can pick the option for Safe Mode. Windows will start with default drivers and you are able to remove from Device Manager all the IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers. Once done, you can restart and Windows will boot normally as nothing happened under your new card.

Testing, testing

I have to admit that I am very happy with the new performance. My system on Raid 10 array, is doing over 450MB/s and feels very snappy. Much better than previous M5015. With 1GB and no degrading BBU, it runs just fine… As was my new M5015 at the time. Time will tell. The overall cost of this upgrade was about £86, so it was well worth it.

Another good thing about this card is the fact that I have additional features with this model, not expected:

Summary

Very happy with this purchase. The computer goes into and back from hibernation just fine, where with M5015 I had a bit of a problem. In general, my system is very snappy now. Next stop: 4x MX500 500GB SSD in Raid 0… when I finally win the lottery. 😉

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2 Responses to Another Raid card upgrade – IBM M5110

  1. RHead says:

    i have also m5015 and battery died. Where is you buy that m5110 for that price? Thanks for great blog.

  2. OrioniS says:

    eBay is your friend. This card was marked as brand new and the capacitor backup as used. The only negative thing is a delivery time of about 4 weeks, but it was well worth it.

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