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GA-M57SLI-S4 HPA workaround? - Need opinions


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I've got an old GA-M57SLI-S4 system I was using for FreeNAS and was wanting to use for unRAID.  I've got revison 2, and after flashing the BIOS to FHL(which seems to be the latest) it still doesn't have the option to disable it in BIOS.  So far I've got a couple ideas, as I really don't want to have to buy another board right now.


1) Just ignore it.  Besides the data drives I do have an old IDE drive in there that had been hosting the FreeNAS image, and I've gotten it to write the HPA to that drive it looks like.  Since I'd never be touching that drive, it should be able to sit there as a dummy drive and take care of it.


2) Flash the BIOS chip with coreboot and SeaBIOS.  This would get rid of the HPA for sure, but I'd also lose easy access to BIOS settings, and potentially brick the motherboard if the flash fails.


3) This is the crazy one.  What if I intentionally made sure every drive added had HPA written to it? i.e. unplug all the drives, and only plug one in at a time, boot up so it gets written to, and do this with each drive.  In theory, if they all lose the same amount, it's the same as not having lost anything. (And what's 1.5MB when you're dealing with 2TB drives?)


Or is there a BIOS version with the ability to disable HPA for this board that I missed?




Anyone there?  I have my drives coming this week and I want to get started ASAP since I need the storage space.  I'm thinking the 3rd option, if longer, may be the safest... is there any downsides to this approach?  Is there any reason NOT to do this, other than losing the small amount off each disk? I'm in a position now where I really can't go buy a new mobo, so I need to know if this will work.

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1) Terrible idea.  What happens when the IDE drive dies?  Your motherboard will write an HPA to one of the other disks and break your array.


2) I've never heard of coreboot or SeaBIOS, so I can't offer any advice on this one.


3) Crazy....crazy enough that it just might work ;D.  This has never occurred to me before, but you are right - in theory, it would work.  It would also be a complete pain, as you would need to ensure that any new drive you add to the array also has an HPA.  If it is worth the hassle to you to avoid purchasing a new motherboard, then give it a try and let us know how it works.  I certainly wouldn't trust any irreplaceable data to this theory without thoroughly testing it first.

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Coreboot is basically an open sourced 3rd party implementation of BIOS: http://www.coreboot.org/Welcome_to_coreboot


They've managed to make it support a ton of boards out there, including mine.  However, there is no fancy GUI in it, so if I wanted to change any BIOS settings it'd be command line time, assuming that they even have a command line option. (Though I probably wouldn't need to touch some of the ones I don't think they'd have, such as adjusting CPU voltage.)  However, as it is the BIOS that does the HPA, replacing the whole thing means no more HPA. 


The other downside of coreboot that I mentioned is: with my board the BIOS chip is soldered to the board.  So, if the flash goes bad, the board is basically dead unless I go grab some soldering equipment and the right kind of chip.


So all-drive-HPA it is then.  The majority of the space will be used by media files I've already backed up to Blu-Ray data discs, so I'm not too worried about those.  The rest would be just a backup sync of what's already on my desktop.  I've never liked keeping anything important or hard to get back in only one location anyways. :)

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