I needed to add some new storage to my server at home, which I recently upgraded to Windows Server 2012. The chassis has no room for new drives but it had several open PCIe slots, so I thought I’d just add a USB3 controller and a couple of external drives, shouldn’t be too hard?

As with most things PC it’s never as easy as it’s supposed to be. I Newegg’d a controller from SIIG that claimed to have a TI chipset, and a few 2TB external drives from Fantom, who I have a nice ESata drive from already. Things went well until the second day, when I realized that the drives were failing to show up only after warm reboots. If I’d power cycle them after the system was already up, or if it was cold booted, everything would be fine, but warm boot no dice. This was clearly a deal breaker for a largely unattended and remote managed system.

I tried everything. Bios settings, obscure registry flags, nada.

Today I decided to try the cheapest potential fix, a different controller. I made a quick run to the local retail hardware place, and found a Vantec card that did the same thing but with a NEC/Renesas chip. Went home, made the swap, powered up, and……

New problem! Yellow bang on the controller in Device Manager. Seriously? Hit the interwebs… It turns out that there is firmware in the controller chip that’s upgradable and a quick download from some random French website (why doesn’t the manufacturer post this stuff?) and luckily the problem was solved rapidly.

Thankfully, this was the end of the story- the drives now work normally under all conditions. I’ll be RMA’ing the TI controller back to newegg.

Now I have them set up with the new Storage Spaces feature as multiple virtual drives- some mirrored for safety, some striped for speed, and one with the ReFS file system for ultimate reliability. And all thin-provisioned: when the space starts running out, you just add more physical space to the pool and the space seamlessly grows to take advantage of it. Now that’s cool!