How alarming

So I've been a fan of 3Ware for some time now. I've used plenty of their PATA/SATA RAID controllers in boxes of varying shapes and sizes for years. I used to run an 8006-2LP in my old workstation, but found that it simply wasn't fast enough. The 9500-8 in one of my big media servers is plenty fast, and as all of the 3Ware products I've used to date, very reliable. With one exception. I built a terabyte media ser

So I've been a fan of 3Ware for some time now. I've used plenty of their PATA/SATA RAID controllers in boxes of varying shapes and sizes for years. I used to run an 8006-2LP in my old workstation, but found that it simply wasn't fast enough. The 9500-8 in one of my big media servers is plenty fast, and as all of the 3Ware products I've used to date, very reliable.

With one exception. I built a terabyte media server awhile back with a 3Ware 9500S-8 SATA RAID controller. The server has a pair of mirrored 80GB boot disks and four 300GB SATA drives in a RAID5 array. I went all out and got the RDC-400-SATA hot-swap SATA drive cage. The drive cage looked cool. It worked well. I forgot about it, and the server ran for a year or so with no problems. Suddenly, it developed one. A very loud one, in fact.

It seems that one of the three 65mm fans on the side of the drive cage was dying intermittently and making a grinding noise. Okay, that happens. What I wasn't aware of, however, was that the RDC-400-SATA is equipped with a very, very loud alarm. As you might have deduced, if the fan RPM drops, the alarm sounds. And no, there's no way to disable the alarm in software. This produced one of the more interesting sounds I've ever heard from a computer -- almost exactly like a guy running a chainsaw through a car alarm.

After digging the failing fan out of the cage, I called 3Ware, only to be told that they can't sell the fans directly, the unit wasn't under warrantee, and to call their supplier to get a new one. Of course, their supplier had no stock, and it might take a few weeks to get the new fan. Wonderful.

I gave up and ordered a fan from another electronics supply company. It was the same size and layout as the failed fan, and only $6. In order to keep the server up and my sanity intact, I taped over the alarm element on the back of the drive cage. This muted the alarm enough so that it was only terribly annoying when you were trying to concentrate in relative silence, but at least it wasn't making your eyeballs jiggle from 10 feet away. It still had an amazing range though.

When the new fans showed up, I again completely disassembled the drive cage and replaced the fan. All went well. I fired the server back up... and the alarm continued its' wail, even though all leads were connected properly. I simply couldn't take any more. I pulled the circuit board out and de-soldered the element completely. I'm thinking of having it bronzed to commemorate the event.

So the moral of the story is that 3Ware should either stock fans for these things, provide a software or hardware method of disabling the alarm and note somewhere obvious on the circuit board where the jumper is, or remove the alarm altogether. While they're at it, I'd really like to see a straightforward way to cable LEDs from the controllers to the cage. Oh, and a pony. Probably in that order.

Recommended
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies