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Booting From Samsung SM951 SSD (NVMe Version)

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Dan View Drop Down
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    Posted: 28 Sep 2015 at 5:10am
Hi,

Yesterday, I purchased from Newegg an ASRock Z170 Gamer mini-ITX motherboard, supporting the new Skylake processors.  I haven't received it yet, but I have a question about its support for booting from a Samsung SM951 (NVMe version) M.2 SSD.  I also purchased such an SSD.

I see in the online user manual for this motherboard that this it apparently supports booting from a Samsung SM951 (AHCI/SATA version) M.2 SSD.  The manual makes no mention about booting from the NVMe version M.2 SSD.

I would like to be able to select the NVMe M.2 SSD in BIOS as the boot device, but I found no mention in the online manual about such an option.  It only describes selecting SATA or IDE or RAID.  I'll be installing Windows 10 Home, 64 bit, in UEFI mode.

I also understand that in BIOS one should be able to select NVMe mode, as opposed to AHCI/SATA mode, if the BIOS/UEFI has such support for the NVMe M.2 SSD.

So, my question is, can the motherboard I bought support, or can it be made to support, making the NVMe M.2 SSD a boot device and running in NVMe mode?

Clear as mud?

Fritz
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Sep 2015 at 8:47am
Hey, I think I've found the answer to my question right here in the forum, in the following thread:

http://forum.asrock.com/forum_posts.asp?TID=305&PN=7&title=sm951-as-os-boot-device-information


Dan (aka Fritz)

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote parsec Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Sep 2015 at 3:10pm
Originally posted by Dan Dan wrote:

Hi,

Yesterday, I purchased from Newegg an ASRock Z170 Gamer mini-ITX motherboard, supporting the new Skylake processors.  I haven't received it yet, but I have a question about its support for booting from a Samsung SM951 (NVMe version) M.2 SSD.  I also purchased such an SSD.

I see in the online user manual for this motherboard that this it apparently supports booting from a Samsung SM951 (AHCI/SATA version) M.2 SSD.  The manual makes no mention about booting from the NVMe version M.2 SSD.

I would like to be able to select the NVMe M.2 SSD in BIOS as the boot device, but I found no mention in the online manual about such an option.  It only describes selecting SATA or IDE or RAID.  I'll be installing Windows 10 Home, 64 bit, in UEFI mode.

I also understand that in BIOS one should be able to select NVMe mode, as opposed to AHCI/SATA mode, if the BIOS/UEFI has such support for the NVMe M.2 SSD.

So, my question is, can the motherboard I bought support, or can it be made to support, making the NVMe M.2 SSD a boot device and running in NVMe mode?

Clear as mud?

Fritz


Your NVMe version of the SM951 should be bootable with your new board. I assume that board is the ASRock Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac, since there is no ASRock board with the name you listed in your post.

I say should only because I have never used an NVMe SM951 with an ASRock Z170 board. ASRock 100 series chipset boards support NVMe SSDs out of the box, or would have UEFI updates if necessary to insure NVMe support.

ASRock has been and continues to be the leader in providing mother boards that support the latest flash storage technologies. That is one reason I've been using them for several years now. ASRock boards have supported UEFI booting since the Intel 7 series chipset boards (Z77, etc) were released, and possibly before that. I'm glad that you plan on installing Windows 10 in UEFI mode, that will automatically cause the appropriate EFI storage Option ROMs to be used.

But keep in mind that NVMe is a very new standard, and using an NVMe SSD as a boot drive will need more configuration than a SATA SSD. In other words, the NVMe SSDs are not simple plug and play devices, yet. Using a UEFI (EFI) booting installation will save you some of the configuration work.

I use a different ASRock Z170 board with AHCI SM951s. Currently, NVMe is not an available setting of the SATA Mode option in the UEFI. Intel has seemingly put NVMe support (and AHCI PCIe SSD RAID 0 support) into the SATA RAID EFI Option ROM that is part of the board's UEFI file. You may need to set the SATA mode to RAID if the use of a UEFI booting Windows installation does not automatically use the correct EFI Option ROM for NVMe SSDs.

You wrote you "understand" that you should be able to select NVMe as an option in the UEFI. I'm curious where you read or saw anything about that. While selecting NVMe as the storage mode makes some sense IMO (will you ONLY be using NVMe drives?), there's more to consider.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Sep 2015 at 8:04pm
parsec said: "You wrote you "understand" that you should be able to select NVMe as an option in the UEFI. I'm curious where you read or saw anything about that. While selecting NVMe as the storage mode makes some sense IMO (will you ONLY be using NVMe drives?), there's more to consider."

I likely wrote that I "understand" that I should be able to select NVMe in the UEFI because such an option makes sense, because that's what one does now with SATA or IDE or RAID.  I can't say I saw that anywhere.  Also, I didn't see such an option mentioned in the online user manual I reviewed, making me question whether NVMe is even supported in my new Z170 motherboard's UEFI.  It's easy to get confused wen using this M.2 technology. 

I'll be using one other hard drive, a regular SATA spinning platter drive.  What additional consideration do I need to take into account when using a regular SATA drive?

I'll keep in mind your suggestion that I may need to set my NVMe drive to RAID mode in the UEFI to get it to work properly and to be recognized as a MVMe drive.  I wouldn't have thought of that.  That RAID setting likely explains why the online user manual didn't mention anything about choosing NVMe mode.

It would be helpful for the manual to contain more guidance in this regard.  I've spent a lot of time looking around the Internet trying to get educated about M.2 technology.  The time spent is paying off, though.  I should be able to get my new rig up and running with the knowledge gained.  Yeah, it's easy to get confused with this stuff. 

Thanks for the information.  I'll need it.

Dan 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote parsec Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Sep 2015 at 12:44am
I understand your thoughts about the SATA mode, or perhaps more accurately the Storage mode would be more correct. Since we now literally have multiple types of drives in our PCs (SATA, PCIe of AHCI and NVMe, and M.2 of SATA, PCIe AHCI and NVMe types) a single storage mode no longer exists.

Somehow all of these types had to be accommodated at once, and the hardware manufactures have done a good job of that IMO, within the existing storage technology we use. I must say how that is done has not been explained very well (if at all), but at least it works. I'm sure all this will evolve over time, possibly with separate settings for different interface types. When you think about it as you and I have, it becomes confusing mainly due to the apparent lack of information.

There is not much to consider when using SATA drives with a PCIe NVMe drive. Using RAID mode with single, non RAID SATA drives is no problem at all, since they are treated simply as drives in AHCI mode.

The Z170 chipset shares its internal resources between the M.2 ports and SATA ports. So when a SSD is connected to an M.2 port, two of the Intel SATA ports on the board will no longer be available. Check the manual to learn which SATA ports are not available when the M.2 port is in use.

In case you don't know, when installing Windows it is always best to have no other drives connected to the PC besides the target OS drive. Otherwise Windows will put the boot partition on a drive other than the OS drive. A strange thing but it will happen. Removing that other drive will cause the PC to not boot. That can be fixed with the installation media, but why not just do it right the first time.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Sep 2015 at 2:48am
OK, parsec, I gotcha.  I think I can make this build work properly, or you can call me shorty.

Yeah, lack of information is the problem, all right.  This situation leaves the consumer up in the air having to figure it out by himself, somehow.  Good thing we have the Internet.  What a great source for research.

I did notice when I took a look at the online user manual for my motherboard that certain SATA ports are disabled when the M.2 port is populated.  It wasn't clear to me whether this is the case with both the AHCI M.2 version and the NVMe M.2 version.  The user manual only addressed the AHCI version. 

You're saying this is the case for both, even with the NVMe SSD running with the NVMe controller?  I can see that both must share the SATA lanes.  I suppose this is a correct conclusion?  We need separate lanes for this technology.  Sharing is a problem.  I've been wrong before.  Ha!

Keep up the good work.  We need people with information.

Dan
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote parsec Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Sep 2015 at 2:12pm
The sharing of resources on your board (really the Intel chipset) is the same with any M.2 PCIe SSD, AHCI or NVMe. A SATA III M.2 SSD (they exist) used in the M.2 port would not use all of the available lanes, but I doubt those lanes would be available for other drives. The same goes for PCIe SSDs that use an x2 interface.

Just think of these SSDs as another drive connected to the IO resources that are available, which is exactly what is happening! They use more resources per drive than a SATA drive does, which is not the board's fault, we selected these SSDs so who is to blame? Wink

Actually, the Z170 chipset boards have more and better resources than the Z97 chipset boards do. The Z97 boards used the PCIe 3.0 lanes provided by the CPU for PCIe SSDs. The Z97 chipset only has PCIe 2.0 resources, but the Z170 and PCIe 3.0 resources. With Z170, we can have our PCIe SSDs and multiple video cards at the same time. You can use a PCIe slot to M.2 adapter board to use the CPU's PCIe 3.0 resources and not use the chipset resources.

The support for M.2 SSDs has improved with Z170 boards, there are no other boards  that have more... yet. Cool

The board or chipset does not have an NVMe controller, that is in the NVMe SSD itself.

The manual does not go into the depth it could regarding PCIe SSD usage. There are reasons for that I can understand. The support for PCIe SSDs is really provided by the Intel chipset and IRST driver and Option ROM software. It took me several paragraphs to describe one new option in the UEFI related to PCIe SSDs, whose behavior could change with a driver update. That is why manuals only contain things that will not change, but makes life for users more difficult. Confused

Consider this a learning experience, rather than a cookbook PC build. As my professor used to say, do you want to be a cookbook Chemist, or really understand what is happening? I want to KNOW!! Geek
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 Sep 2015 at 6:32am

I have some additional information to relate.  As I wrote previously, I purchased a Samsung SM951 M.2 (NVMe version) 256GB SSD as part of a new build. Since I was unfamiliar with this new technology, I did some Internet research to educate myself.

Among other issues, I was confused by vendors describing these drives as PCIe devices. The SM951 I bought plugs into a M.2 connector on the motherboard, not into a PCIe slot. So, why do they call these PCIe devices anyway?

First, for background, I would like to point out that the UEFI/BIOS in my new ASRock Z170 motherboard contains storage type options only for IDE or SATA or RAID. So, just what type storage device is my SM951 NVMe SSD? I know it's not IDE, meaning it must be SATA or RAID, according to the UEFI/BIOS in my motherboard. What?

The following comments briefly summarize what I learned in my research, to shed some light on the subject. I invite reader comments to clarify any misunderstandings I may have garnered.

I learned that the current PCIe storage devices are enabled by vendor implementation of the latest SATA Express standard. This standard supports both regular SATA storage devices and PCIe SSD storage devices, including the NVMe type.

The SATAe standard requires these storage devices to use the PCIe lanes, rather than the SATA bus to increase storage speeds. Because the current SATAe standard requires they use PCIe lanes, they are called PCIe devices. I think that's it in a nutshell.

This scenario likely explains why the UEFI/BIOS in my motherboard offers only IDE, SATA, or RAID options for storage device types. My SM951 M.2 NVMe SSD will be seen by the system as a SATA device. RAID being just another type of SATA implementation.

Choosing either SATA or RAID in the UEFI/BIOS, and installing the operating system in UEFI mode, should enable the installation process to automatically configure any SM951 SSD to function correctly.

Is this a fairly accurate description of the way this situation stands at the present time, leaving out most of the technical jargon and details?

As a lay person, I don't need all the voluminous and gory specifications that I saw on the Internet.  Ha!

Dan 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Dan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Oct 2015 at 6:48pm
parsec and All,

All the components for my new build arrived, and I finished putting it together.  When completed, it worked on the first boot!  I entered UEFI/BIOS and changed a few items, including disabling CSM.  I noted that parsec talked about disabling that on another post to ensure system will run in UEFI mode, so I followed suit like a lemming.  Hehe.

I then saved, exited and restarted.  I then pressed F11 to bring up the boot options menu, in accordance with screen prompt.  I selected the boot option for UEFI with Windows 10 system disc in the CD/DVD Drive.  The computer booted from the Windows 10 disc and installed Windows 10 on my Samsung SM951 M.2 NVMe SSD drive in UEFI mode with no issues.

I'm now configuring Windows 10 the way I like it.  This takes time, including downloading and installing all the Windows 10 updates.  One can sure spend an inordinate amount of time fiddling with these things.  Even so, I like messing around with computers.

Dan
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote parsec Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Oct 2015 at 1:10pm
Great, glad it all worked well for you!

I would hardly call you a lemming. Wink Some things are just... true.

There is no down side to a UEFI booting Windows installation... if you let the Windows installer format the OS drive. The installer, when formatting the target OS drive to use the EFI boot loader with a GPT partitioning type, will also include a hidden standard MBR partition. That will allow you to boot with CSM Enabled if you choose to do so.

One warning for you Dan, your video source must be GOP compatible when CSM is Disabled. Older video cards may not have that capability (Nvidia 600 series cards and earlier, I don't know about AMD/ATI.) Ironically, the Intel integrated graphics has been GOP compatible since the Sandy Bridge processor generation, given the appropriate VBIOS in the mother board's UEFI/BIOS.

Ok... one downside, potentially the video source. Pinch

ASRock has insured that since at least the Intel 7 series boards.

I'm glad to hear you were able to use the Win 10 installation disk with CSM disabled. I've heard from others that Win 8/8.1 had issues installing from a disk in UEFI mode. Meaning no UEFI entry in the boot list for the optical drive. Win 7 won't install in UEFI mode without a fix, the EFI boot loader is in the wrong folder and the installation program won't find it. What a strange bug MS has with the Win 7 installation disks. Wacko
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