Sunday, February 12, 2006

And Computers, too -- Installing XP on ASUS A8N

Our computer died last Sunday. I'll tell that story another time. Right now, I want to crow about the new computer.

For context, I'll mention that the old computer was about six years old, a Dell 700 MHz. Rather pokey by today's standards. I missed building my own machine, and since things are tight, but I run my company from that machine, so I decided to build my own. When I priced it out, I realized that I could build, for under $900 shipped, what would cost $1600 assembled.

To keep this to a reasonable length, here are the key facts: The motherboard is an ASUS A8N-E. The motherboard has a built in RAID controller that supports RAID 0, RAID 1 and RAID 1+0.

The challenge -- and the point of this post -- was getting the Windows XP install started.

Naturally, the XP installer needed the driver for the new RAID controller. The motherboard came with a CD-ROM with drivers (many drivers). After realizing that none of the three laptops in the house have a floppy drive and running over to Staples to get a USB floppy, I put the CD-ROM into the drive and was horrified to see that it wouldn't run. It reported "Can't load ASCDDMI.DLL" So I put it into my wife's laptop, which has a optical drive in a drive bay, compared to my laptop, which has a USB CD-ROM. In my wife's laptop, the CD-ROM loaded the ASUSACPI.exe, but it reported "Detect no proper item" and didn't give me the option of creating a driver disk.

So, I had to find which of the drivers I should use from the CD-ROM. As we all know, using the wrong driver can have consequences ranging from the innocuous (it didn't work) to the terrible (ruins the hardware). I didn't want to risk the latter.

I searched the ASUS technical forums, which I found really quite bad, for help. There were a few postings on which files to use, or the contents of which directory to use. However, the directory structure of the CD-ROM didn't match the directory structure listed in the technical articles and postings, and the suggestions didn't work. The XP installer kept prompting for the hardware drivers.

Oh, and when I did find a list of detailed instructions for installing a RAID driver, it was too much information -- there were 10 different RAID controllers listed, and no way to determine which RAID controller is on my motherboard! Oy Vey!

So I guessed. I guessed that since I was using SATA hard drives, that I would want the SATA RAID drivers from the Windows XP directory.

Here's the summary:

Asus A8N-E Motherboard, revision 2.00, BIOS 4.84
Support CD-ROM "NVIDIA nForce4 SLI Serices support CD Rev.99.06"
2 Maxtor DiamondMax SATA 100 MB hard drive

I used the drivers from the following directory:


I copied all the files from this directory onto a formatted floppy and the XP installer found the two drivers necessary -- just as the instructions said it would. We are 95% done formatting the RAID array and I am happy.

Or at least, I will be happy until the next problem.

Thanks for reading!

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