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DAW & Windows XP RAID Tips, ProTools error -9086

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Old October 24th 03, 06:45 AM
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Default DAW & Windows XP RAID Tips, ProTools error -9086


I'm a relatively new ASUS P4C800-E owner. I'm using the motherboard in a PC
to be used as a Digital Audio Workstation with a Digi002 Rack and ProTools
LE software. I'm new to the ProTools world and this is my first experience
with the P4C800-E motherboard, but I've been writing software and building
PCs for over 20 years. I've been lurking a bit but thought my recent
experiences might be helpful to others on a similar journey. I'll give a
quick summary for those that want to get to the point, followed by a
detailed story for those that want to laugh, cry and feel my painJ

I originally wrote this message for the Digidesign User Conference, but felt
there was enough information that could be valuable to a wider audience
regarding the ASUS motherboard, disk performance and RAID experiences that
I've posted it to usenet as well. While the ProTools specific tips might
not help you out, I assembled this PC with 4 identical Seagate SATA drives
and took the time to configure and performance test them in a variety of
RAID configurations. The message contains the details of that experience
and should be valuable to those interested in RAID, SATA and the ASUS MB.

TIP #1: In the ProTools software, setting a limit on the "open ended record
allocation" may eliminate the -9068 type of errors and improve your ProTools

TIP #2: I could not successfully use ProTools to record to a RAID0 partition
provided by the onboard Promise controller on an ASUS P4C800-E motherboard.
I was successful recording to a Promise RAID1 partition.

TIP #3: ProTools successfully recorded to other drives without disabling the
Promise controller in any way.

TIP #4: I have successfully used ProTools with Windows XP built-in RAID0,
but only on drives connected to the Promise controller. It did not work
with drives connected to the ICH5R controller using default allocation

TIP #5: I am able use ProTools successfully with RAID0 and RAID1 partitions
on the ICH5R southbridge controller on an ASUS P4C800-E motherboard.

Now, the rest of the story.

I've been playing various guitar, keyboards, amd wind synthesis gear through
my home "studio" consisting of a Mackie 1604, Mackie 824 monitors and
various effects for many years. I have always wanted to be setup for
recording and have dabbled at it, but I finally decided to get serious about
it. After a brief stint with a Roland VS-1880, I decided to move to the DAW
world and bought an M-Box (Jan '03). The M-Box was returned in short order
due to lack of multiprocessor support. More research led me to the
firewire-410 interface, which would have suited my needs pretty well if it
would have been released! Frustrated by the wait, I again bought an M-Box
(Sep '03) since multiprocessors were now supported and I was impressed by
the ProTools software package. Arrgh. After days and days of trying to get
beyond USB challenges (solved later, BTW), I got fed up and upgraded to the
002R. Despite moving to the firewire device, I still could not get ProTools
to record reliably on the Windows PC I was using (Dell WS 410 with dual PIII
850s). I could play back the demo session just fine, but when I recorded a
single channel of audio, I would get stuttering in the recording. I tried
all of the DAW/Windows XP Performance tuning tips I could find, including
replacing the firewire interface with a supported version. No improvement.
I even removed the 2nd CPU to see if multiprocessing was the culprit. After
a great deal of research, I found some good information on RME's web site
regarding problems with PCI throughput on 440BX motherboards with a specific
Intel USB chipset. I disabled the onboard USB controller in the BIOS and
installed a PCI USB interface. Success! I was now able to record without
the stuttering!

In parallel, I was researching and purchasing components to build my next
desktop that would serve as my DAW. It had to be both quiet and fast... I
ended up with:

Hardware Environment

ASUS P4C800-E motherboard

Antec SLK-3700-QBE Quiet Case

Intel 3.0Ghz 800Mhz FSB CPU

1GB of TwinX Corsair memory

4 Seagate 120GB SATA 7200.7 drives

Thermalright SLK-947U CPU cooler with a Panaflo 92mm cooling fan (with RPM!)

Sapphire Ultimate Radeon 9800 Pro with the Zalman passive cooling heatsink
built in (I added the Zalman ZM-OP1 fan as well)

Creative Audigy 2 ZS Sound Card

Seasonic 400W quiet power supply

2 Papst 120mm quiet case fans

A Super Flower Fan Controller (Nice! I think the model number is SF-690)

Plextor 52/32/52 CDRW

3.5" floppy drive

Software Environment

I am running under Windows XP Pro with SP 1 and all Windows Updates.

The ASUS Motherboard BIOS version is 1011

The Promise drivers are version

The Intel Application Accelerator Raid Edition Drivers are version 3.5R

I'm using Sisoft Sandra Standard version 2004.10.9.89 for performance

BTW: I'm using two Windows XP hardware profiles, "Default" and "DAW". The
DAW profile is really lean. I've removed most extraneous hardware, drivers,
services and unneeded background tasks.

To my great surprise, the hardware went together quite well and I had
Windows XP Pro running fairly quickly. To my dismay, I still had problems
running ProTools! Despite my best tuning efforts, I was only able to record
a single channel of audio if the HW buffer was at 1024 and even then it was
sketchy. I was continually running into error -9068, OS is holding off
interrupts too long, try increasing the HW buffer size...

Frustrated and tired, I again called Digi tech support and they helped me
solve the problem. They initially thought that the problem was due to two
of my drives being configured as a RAID0 (striped) pair via the onboard
Promise controller, but I was having the problem while running/recording to
a single SATA IDE configured as master on its own channel (I had two drives
set up this way on the ICH5R southbridge controller, one as the system/OS
drive, the other as my backup Ghost drive and pagefile drive). I went ahead
and disabled the Promise controller in the BIOS to see if that would solve
the problem. It didn't. Tech support suggested one more tweak which was to
limit the max recording length for the session. In
Setup-Preferences-Operation there are settings to control "Open Ended
Record Allocation". The default is to use "All available space". Since my
drives had more than 110GB of free space, this seems to cause ProTools grief
when it pre-allocates for recording. I changed that to a 10 minute limit,
and I realized instant success with ProTools operating behavior! I was now
able to record to 32 tracks at a time without really taxing any component of
my system (CPU, disk, etc.). I have not yet run the official DaveC test but
I suspect (and have always expected) that this machine would be more than
fast enough to excel on the DaveC test.


TIP #1: Setting a limit on the open ended record allocation may improve your
ProTools experience.

I have not tried longer limits than 10 minutes yet. It would be nice to
know why this is a problem and if it is related to pagefile / virtual memory
settings. My current setup should have way too much pagefile with 1GB on
the OS drive and 4GB on a separate paging partition.

TIP #2: I could not successfully use ProTools to record to a RAID0 partition
provided by the onboard Promise controller on an ASUS P4C800-E motherboard.
I was successful recording to a Promise RAID1 partition.

While I was successful recording 32 tracks to the Promise RAID1 partition, I
did not get the feeling that it was a stable environment. More testing
should be done before committing to a RAID1 Promise environment for
ProTools. Interestingly, I could play the "Be There" sample session from
either a RAID0 or RAID1 Promise partition.

TIP #3: ProTools successfully recorded to other drives without disabling the
Promise controller in any way.

As mentioned, I tried first with the controller disabled. Next, I enabled
the controller to make sure the mere presence of the controller didn't cause
the problem. It didn't.

This process led me to do more research on RAID & ProTools issues. After a
pretty thorough search on DUC, Google Groups and elsewhere, I came to the
following basic ProTools/RAID conclusions:

1) RAID is not a Digidesign supported configuration

2) Some folks can get ProTools to work on RAID configurations, some can't.

3) RAID is not necessary for good ProTools performance. Most modern IDE
drives (if configured properly) are more than fast enough.

This research didn't really answer my questions about RAID and ProTools.
While I may not need RAID for ProTools performance, I would like it for
digital video work and I might enjoy some of the redundant security that
RAID1 provides as well. My original partition configuration plan with the 4
drives was to use 1 for the OS, 1 for the pagefile and Ghost backups of the
OS drive and a striped RAID pair for digital media work. The digital media
drive was expected to be a temporary workspace where speed and size would be
appreciated. I also have a separate fileserver with RAID 0+1 for more
permanent safe storage.

Since I had two different RAID controllers onboard the motherboard, I
decided to experiment a bit with the various RAID configurations. (Thank
goodness for Ghost!)

One configuration I was really interested to try was RAID provided by the
built in software RAID capability of Windows XP. This is a RAID
topic/configuration that I have rarely heard people discussing. I have not
studied XP Home's capabilities, but Windows XP Pro and Windows XP Server
(and various versions of Windows NT and Windows NT Server) offer the ability
to initialize a drive as a dynamic disk (as opposed to a basic disk) and
then join multiple dynamic disks in a variety of ways to create NTFS
partitions. Windows XP Pro supports spanning and striping capabilities.
Windows XP server also supports mirroring and RAID 5. These are setup and
managed using the same disk management tools you use under XP to initialize,
partition and format basic drives. I open the disk management tool using
Run and typing diskmgmt.msc but you can get there from the control panel,
administrative tools, . as well.

So I tried just about every software and hardware RAID configuration that
was easy for me to try. I never paired drives on different controllers and
I didn't bother putting the OS on a bootable RAID partition. I have done
this in the past and while it can be done it usually takes a bit more
fiddling than I had time for.

Here's what I found:

TIP #4: I have successfully used ProTools with Windows XP built-in RAID0,
but only on drives connected to the Promise controller. It did not work
with drives connected to the ICH5R controller using default allocation

I recorded 32 tracks simultaneously and the system load was pretty low. The
filesystem performance was not as fast as either of the ICH5R or Promise
RAIDs, but it wasn't too far off, maybe 8-10% slower. I have no idea why it
worked with drives on the Promise but not with drives on the ICH5R. It gets
even more interesting:

TIP #5: I have successfully recorded with ProTools on RAID0 and RAID1
volumes created on the ICH5R hardware RAID controller.

I was expecting this to fail in the same manner as the Promise "Hardware"
RAID setups, but I was pleasantly surprised. This was the last
configuration I tested late last night so it deserves a bit more study, but
it was encouraging that ProTools seemed to work without any trouble.

For those of you that would like some performance data, I've included the
following figures. Please remember that they are relative figures from
Sandra based on my configuration and usage, but they may be helpful for
comparison. I created all of the partitions using the default allocation
parameters so for audio you could probably improve the performance by
bumping the allocation size to 32K. I'm interested in how that would
improve the performance, but I wasn't certain how it might affect the Sandra
benchmarks and thought this would be easier to compare against existing
benchmarks. They are organized from fastest to slowest.

ICH5R RAID0 72000 kB/s

XP Software RAID0, drives on ICH5R 71973 kB/s

PROMISE RAID0 69000 kB/s

XP Software RAID0, drives on Promise 57984 kB/s

ICH5R RAID1 39648 kB/s

PROMISE RAID1 38510 kB/s



Sorry for the very long message. I needed to both purge and capture the
information and felt that it might be very useful for others on the same
path. I am not a regular reader of forums and newsgroups so please don't
feel offended if I don't respond right away. Hopefully this will be another
useful data point and perhaps a catalyst for additional discussion. My
apologies ahead of time for cross posting. I felt there was enough info
that could be useful to those outside of the DUC forums that I also posted
to usenet.

All the best,



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