I’ve been experiencing strange boot problems on my ASUS A8V-VM SE motherboard where by fsck would run on nearly every boot, finding and fixing problems on my SATA II 300Gb Maxtor hard disk. Now I wouldn’t mind so much but this is a quality enterprise grade hard disk with a 5yr warranty. So some investigation was required……
I swapped out the motherboard for an ASUS A8V-XM board, the problem got worse, no SATA drives detected in Kubuntu 9.10 64-bit, not even the SATA DVD recorder. A BIOS update made no difference!
Digging around on the Internet, I discovered after about a week of tearing my hair out (I didn’t have much to start with!) that the problem is down to the SATA II Southbridge chip-set used by ASUS on a lot of their boards, namely the VT8251.
sudo lspci -vvnn
displays the culprit
SATA controller : VIA Technologies, Inc. VT8251 AHCI/SATA 4-Port Controller
To fix (really this is fudge) you need to:
1. Change your SATA Controller Mode in your BIOS to AHCI. This is normally found under on board device configuration.
2. Add pci=nomsi to the GRUB menu.lst file which can be found in /boot/grub.
To do this edit menu.lst as sudo and find the first menu item after the section, add pci=nomsi (see below in red) for each kernel boot option (if you wish). Below I’ve just given the example of the first one.
## ## End Default Options ##
title Ubuntu 9.10, kernel 2.6.31-17-generic
kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.31-17-generic root=UUID=93eb10b9-97c9-46f4-a6b5-cb16a6626692 pci=nomsi ro quiet splash
What the command pci=nomsi does is to disable the MSI-style (Message Signaled Interrupts) interrupts. If you want to know more about MSI-style interrupts see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Message_Signaled_Interrupts .
I’ve yet to find out whether this has any I/O performance hit on SATA II drives, but the problem seems to be common across all Linux distributions an seems to stem from a problem in the Linux Kernel. Judging by past performance the speed those kernel guys operate at, the fix is no time soon!
Note, if you want to see what you system is doing on boot-up, you can remove the quiet option in GRUB, see above in green.
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