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Windows 7 installation with Intel Storage Matrix Manager (part 3?)
Tuesday, 11 August 2009 06:47

Actually i'm not exactly sure what part this is, but I'm glad to say, that after so much work, frustration, and near the end, exasperation, I jumped feet first back into this doomed project with reckless abandon, knowing that if Windows 7 wasn't going to run, I need a computer anyway so XP or Vista would have to do.

First I booted the system back up to see what state I left it in, and it was pretty much how I remember it - it ran, but you can tell it would periodically hang, and by hang, I mean the hard drive just seemed like it would stop responding, but the system tried its best to chug on.  Ejecting the cdrom seemed to help unhang it so I knew it still had to be issues with the SATA bus and drivers. It was still in ATA (non-raid) mode so Intel's Storage Matrix Manager software wouldn't even think about installing. (Supposedly the controller has to be in raid/ahci mode to even allow the software to install! WTF!)

After putzing with it for a little bit, I got down to business, and installed another SATA card into the machine. In this case a generic CompUsa SATA card (Sil based). Win 7 recognized it and I installed drivers for it. Gave it a reboot to make sure everything was good with it.

Next, I shut down the machine and switched the main drive from the embedded SATA ports to a port on the new controller. Booted back up, and lo and behold it seems to be a bit faster now, even a bit more reliable, but still not perfect and still seems to be locking up. Since the cdrom seemed to affect it, I unplugged the cdrom from the embedded SATA ports, and the lockups seemed to cut back yet it still wasn't perfect or anywhere near how I thought it should be running.

Now that I have nothing plugged into the embedded SATA ports, and only the hard drive plugged into the added-on controller, I rebooted it and switched the SATA mode back to "Raid". I also re-enabled all SATA ports just so it would detect any devices I plug back in later. Upon rebooting, Windows 7 blue screened with an error regarding "iastor.dll". It did that before - so I rebooted again, and again switch the SATA controller back to ATA mode.

Once back into Windows, I went into c:\windows\system32\drivers, and deleted iastor.dll, iahci.dll and anything else that looked related. Rebooted again, and again, switched the SATA controller back to raid mode.

This time - Windows booted, and recognized the Intel ICH8 raid controller. It was looking for drivers so I opted now to install the latest Intel Storage Matrix Manager, which in this case was (Supposedly with this or a recent release after my last posting, Intel officially is recognizing Windows 7, and the release notes for this version had a VERY..LONG...LIST of fixes.)This time...the ISMM installed, and opening the Matrix Manager Console, showed the raid controller! Woohoo I think we're getting somewhere! Plus - it seems like the lockups went away! Woot!!!

Reboot again just for kicks - and WOW - we have ignition! System is much much faster, no more lockups, in fact, I think it seems to be running ok! I also went back and made sure I had the latest Dell Bios for this system - which if you haven't been following, is a Dimension E520 with a 3.0ghz P4 Processor and 3 gigs of ram.

Now for the big tests - previously, it seemed like plugging in a DVD burner is what started a lot of problems, ultimately corrupting the hard drive pretty bad. While it seems like the computer is running ok - I haven't run a disk check since I got it going again, so let's do that. Yeaaaah...after what seems like 100 pages of fixing orphaned files, correcting security descriptors and everything else - its back up and running again, this time with a clean bill of health. Unfortunately a couple files and programs got corrupted as part of the fix, so I had to download a couple things, but I guess I should have done the disk check as soon as it seemed like it was working.

Next big test - the DVD drives/burners. The system has two Toshiba/Samsung (TSST) DVD Drives - one is a reader that was included in the machine and one is a lightscribe DVD burner that I added. The DVD burner was the drive that seemed to set it off last time, so lets get ballsy and try that one first. In fact, let's really do it in and use the embedded SATA controller again.

Woot! Rebooted and recognized with no issues! Plug in the DVD reader and reboot...WoOt again! There's a lot of wooting here, and I never say "woot". (Usually a hooo-ah will do)

Reboot one last time for reboot's sake - and the system seems to be up and running, solidly, quickly, and reliably. 

Summary: Problems installing Windows Vista or Windows 7 on Intel-based SATA controllers - either try the latest floppy disk copy of the driver from Intel's web site (currently the latest is dated July 2009), or bypass the embedded Intel SATA controller altogether, use a cheapo to get it running, then install the Storage Matrix Manager once Windows is up and running. A full install of Windows 7 should take no longer than a hour. Those seeing 7-8 hour install times (you're nuts!) - you're having driver issues and wasting your time. Hope this helps at least one person! Until next time...

 -- Jeff

Windows 7 Installation with Intel Matrix Storage Manager
Thursday, 25 June 2009 19:05

Wow. Just...wow. Almost 3 weeks to try to install Windows 7 on a Dell E520 (messing with it on the side). Countless hours, trying EVERYTHING. For the most part, everything = epic fail. Most of the time it would freeze, hang, or otherwise stay on "expanding files" for hours, and in some cases, it wouldn't even install or recognize the drives properly.

Just now - it flew through the install...FLEW. Figured I'd mention what I did for those going nuts on the internets trying to figure this crap out...

 System: Dell E520, 3ghz P4 w/1 gig ram
             (1) 1tb Seagate SATA drive & SATA DVD-ROM

After countless combinations, I finally believe I figured something out. The Intel ICHx (Storage Matrix) SATA controller built into the BIOS just does not play well with Vista/Windows 7. I believe that if you have the card in "RAID" mode in the bios, regardless of whether or not it seems to work, if you only have ONE DRIVE, do not use Raid Mode. Also, doing a BIOS upgrade (on this machine, the latest is a 2007 bios of 2.3.2) seemed to help a bit.

After putting the SATA mode back to "Non-Raid/ATA" mode, Windows installer could still see the drive but not access/format or otherwise change the config. After download the Storage Matrix drivers from Intel's web site, I optied to install "ahci" driver, and after that, not only does Windows control the drive, but man installation was FAST.

Of course, now that it installed in record time...I'm getting an error of "could not load iastor" driver. CRAAAP!!!! Back to the drawing board...

UPDATE: I booted from the Win7 CD, used the "repair computer" option to bring up the recovery console (dos prompt). I went to d:\windows\system32\drivers (drive letter may vary), and deleted iastor.sys. Rebooted, and it now RUNS! Completing the install..man I hope it finally works!!

Credit for the "delete iastor.sys" is due to this site:

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