RAID10 and Bootcamp on Mac Pro using ODD SATA port
Mac Pro ( I am talking about the “early 2008″ version) is a miracle of industrial design.
It two 5.25″ CD/DVD bays. By default one of the 5.25” bays is empty. Currently this CD/DVD “SuperDrive” is connected via a Parallel ATA interface. There are Parallel ATA and 4-pin molex power connectors in place for the second CD/DVD drive when you choose to install one.
Once you take off the side panel you will see four 3.5″ Hard Drive bays. These bays accept any standard SATA drive (in a position that, according to Seagate installation manual, is upside-down, but I am willing to assume that since it works fine, it’s Ok. Feel free to compare Apple HD installation manual and Seagate Installation Manual). These drives can be configured totally separately, or as a RAID array (0, 1, or even 10). You can also format one or several of them with FAT or NTFS and run MS Windows (using Bootcamp, or not).
Interestingly, Mac Pro motherboard has not four, but six SATA connectors. The two extra ones are hidden out of sight and are clearly not intended for consumer access. These connectors are known as “ODD SATA” ports. Odd indeed – they are not bootable. The most common speculation is that some day these ports might be used for a BluRay or HD DVD drive (which is why they are close to the front bays).
Finallly, Bootcamp (the way to boot and run MS Windows on a Mac) is essentially a Mac BIOS (firmware) feature (with drivers thrown in for a good measure), and it requires that you boot your Windows from an internal drive. Not a USB drive. Not Firewire. Not over the network (would not that be sweet). You cannot boot Windows from an internal drive connected to ODD SATA ports either (you cannot boot any OS from them.) See Apple FAQ.
Messing with computer guts can be dangerous. You can destroy expensive equipment and/or electrocute yourself. Enjoy!
ODD SATA uses
Many enthusiasts have looked into utilising the ODD SATA ports. The main reasons have ranged from “because they are here” to “I want more drives” to “I have this neat ESATA enclosure”.
It is possible to run a long-ish SATA cable all the way from an ODD SATA port to the back of a Mac Pro and then into an external SATA drive. There is a site out there that will sell you a nice eSATA kit for your Mac and will charge extra for putting all the pieces together.
You can also buy a standard eSATA kit for PC (or call any of your PC hobbyist buddies – they would have it sitting in their boxes of electronic junk and will give it to you for free). If you go this route, you will also need a long (36″ recommended) internal SATA cable. make sure that it has an angled connector – otherwise it won’t fit. To make your life easier, find one with 90-degree angle on one end and 270-degree angle on the other – this way you won’t have to wonder if it will fit all right.
Keep in mind that eSATA does not guarantee hot plugging. In fact, currently Mac Pro does not suport it. So, at power-up you will have to make sure that your eSATA enclosure is up, and then switch on your Mac Pro. Still several people have failed to make this work.
Instead of (in parallel with) palying with an eSATA solution you can mount your extra drive internally, into the empty 5.25″ bay. There is an excellent walk-through with all the necessary pictures and advice by Oliver B. here. I followed it myself and did not regret it.
To fit a 3.5″ drive into the 5.25″ bay Oliver used X-Swing HDD decoupler. It is virtually impossible to find in the US, but I have used its cousin: Nexus Double-Twin. Either theoreticaly allows you to fit two drives into the space of one bay.
If you really insist on putting in two drives, make sure that at least one of them is slimmer than usual – get a single-platter drive. I had to turn in Seagate ST3320613AS three times for warranty replacement, so get those at your own risk.
IF you put in two drives, the lower one will likely bump into the guide pins – be ready to understand what is going on instead of alying brute force.
So, how do I configure both RAID10 and Bootcamp? RAID-10 requires four(4) drives. There are four bootable drive bays. Bootcamp would not boot from an external drive. And still I want both!
The Path Ignored
It might be possible to partition a bigger HD to be used part-RAID part-Bootcamp. Feels too funky though. You do it if you have time.
Configure RAID 10, move one of the drives to an ODD SATA port, put a new drive into its former (bootable) bay, install Bootcamp.
Step by Step
This has been done on Mac OS X Leopard 10.5.3. It has survived the upgrade to 10.5.4.
There is no guarantee that this process will not cause irreperable harm to you, your computer, or your karma.
1) Using your Mac OS X Disk Utility configure your hard drives. Set up your RAID 10 (or just JBOD). Reboot (just in case). Make sure everyting works fine.
2) Open your Mac Pro and move the drive from Bay 4 into your CD/DVD bay. Conect it to an ODD SATA port (and don’t forget the power!). Use the walkthrough by Oliver.
3) Boot up your Mac. Fire up your Disk Utilities. Make sure your RAID is working fine. This step is important – your RAID will keep working even if you messed up (I did). [You may pull the drive from a different bay, but I suspect that the actual bootloader is on the drives in Bays 1 and 2 (or not), so you might be sacrificing some reliability if you pull one of those drives.]
4) Shut down your Mac and install the HD for your Bootcamp into the Bay (say, Bay 4). Start your Mac, make sure it sees the drive.
5) Mac OS X has so-called “Bootcamp Assistant”. Mine got very confused (probably by the RAID10) and refused to help. It was complaining about “External drive” and such. No worries.
6) Download Bootcamp drivers for Windows from Apple site and burn them on a CD – you might be able to get them directly via the Internet later, but why take chances? [A USB memory device might also work]
6) Insert your Windows CD and reboot your Mac while holding “C” key. That should make it boot from CD and you will see your friendly blue Windows installation screen. Pretty, eh? [ Note: I heard that in some firmware versions “C” only works if you are doing a “cold start”, not just a reboot. ]
7) Install Windows on your new drive. Please watch where you are installing! If you mess up and wipe Mac OS partitions in the process… what were you thinking? Not my fault and not my problem.
8) Windows installation will require you to reboot the computer three times. Each time you must remember to hold “option” (“alt”) key when you are booting – that will bring up a menu asking you which drive to boot from. If you somehow miss the moment, you will boot into Mac OS X. No problem. Nothing lost. Shut down and start it up while holding “option” key. Boot from your Bootcamp drive. Windows will continue its installation just fine – it won’t even notice that you have been flirting with another OS.
Note: my Mac Pro has a second graphic card with no monitors attached to it (it’s waiting for me to buy a big-ass flat panel TV – hey, a guy can dream!) Probably as a result of that, when I boot with “option” pressed, instead of a nice menu I just get a blank screen. I bet the menu is displayed on one of the non-existent screens attached to the secondary card (do not ask me why). Pretending that I can see it helps: I just press left arrow key and then “Return” (or, sometimes, just the Space bar), and the computer continues to boot the way I want it. Uninitiated observers get very impressed.
9) Once you have installed Windows, install those Bootcamp drivers. Reboot Windows (remember the “option” key).
10) You are done! You have RAID10 and Bootcamp! You are using an ODD SATA port! You are ten feet tall and you can get Blackjack with a single card! – just don’t bet any real money on it 🙂
Drop me a word, let me know how it went. It took a while to write this up, so it would be nice to find out that it actually helped someone.