Dell Precision T3600/T5600: how do I add drives to the other 4 undocumented SATA ports?

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Dell Precision T3600/T5600: how do I add drives to the other 4 undocumented SATA ports?

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Just purchased a Dell Precision T3600 Quad Core 3.6GHz with 2x10K SAS drives connected to the PERC H310 RAID controller, with 2 optical drives. Very happy with the purchase. Except... Only 2 SATA ports on the motherboard seem to work: SATA0 and SATA1, both of which are reserved for the DVD drives.

Cannot seem to get the other four SATA ports on the motherboard working; there are no options in the BIOS for them, and no documentation anywhere on what they are for. You would only know they exist of you look at Page 36 of the user manual or glean a look inside the case yourself. I mention the T5600 as well because the SATA ports on that motherboard, according to the T5600 manual, seem to be exactly the same.

Detailed tech specs on the T3600 motherboard in general seem to be impossible to find, other than a very small image on p.36 of the Owner's Manual pointing out that they are "HDD & optical drive connectors" -- gee that's helpful, not. Printed on the motherboard, these other 4 ports are marked HDD0 to HDD3 (yes, you can actually see these in the motherboard pics if you zoom).

All the manual confirms is that one SATA interface is for an optical device, and the other "supports one 5.25–inches SATA device, one media card reader." The part where it mentions "or up to two 2.5–inches SAS/SATA/HDDs/SSDs (with optional adapters)" means it's using an adapter such as the PERC H310 controller.

In my configuration, both SATA0 & SATA1 were used for optical drives, so I rerouted one to an external eSATA plug so I could connect my external hard drive enclosure, and that seems to work well: it's recognized and works fine. Problem is, when I purchased this system I was under the impression that all 6 ports would be available. I guess I shoulda read the literature more closely. And now I can't use one of my DVD drives.

It's also worth mentioning that HDD2 & HDD3 SATA ports in my system were connected to 2 internal SATA connectors respectively, but they don't go anywhere. Are they for an optional RAID HD configuration? The nearest I've been able to deduce is that these are for an onboard RAID controller, which is not being used in my configuration. Can anyone confirm this? There is no documentation whatsoever of any onboard RAID controller, or how to activate those other 4 ports.

So my long-winded question: is there any way to configure the remaining four HDD0-HDD3 SATA ports to gain access to them for RAID or preferably non-RAID devices?

Verified Answer
  • We asked our Dell sales person this very question and basically what it comes down to that they didn't enable the other ports because of the PERC card.  That is something they are considering making available in later interations of the T5600, and I assume the 3600, but not available now which is why you don't get anywhere when you plug into them.

    John Hammond

    ESCO Client Services

    503-778-6860

All Replies
  • Alternately, I suppose I could just add non-RAID drives to the PERC H310 controller via an external extender port.

    According to the PERC H310 spec sheet, it has two x4 internal mini-SAS SFF8087 connectors, which I found means that you can have 4 SATA connections on the end of each mini-SAS port. In my configuration, one SAS port is connected to the 2 RAID drives which came with the system; the other mini-SAS port is empty. So I guess I would need one of these connectors?

    Did a little digging and I found an answer in the Dell PowerEdge RAID Controller (PERC) H310 User's Guide :

    Converting Physical Disk to Non-RAID for PERC H310
    Conversion of a Physical Disk to Non-RAID allows direct operating system
    access to the drive. Non-RAID disks cannot be used within a Virtual Disk nor
    can they be used as Hot Spares.
    ...

    Still, it would be nice to know how to use those undocumented SATA ports on the motherboard.

  • I'd love to be able to use the SATA ports on the motherboard of my T3600 as well so I could disable the PERC H310 because the initialization of the RAID controller is the single longest event during startup.  The initialization of the PERC H310 takes something like 25 seconds and the whole boot into Windows about 1 minute 15 seconds; are you experiencing long boot times as well?

  • Myself, I am using 2 x 10K SAS boot drives in a RAID 1 configuration, so I need to use the PERC H310 controller. And yes, it does add a bit of time to the boot.

    If booting up is taking a long time, you might want to look into the boot sequence listed in your BIOS. In mine the "PCI RAID Controller" was last on the list of boot devices, so with external drives plugged in, sometimes my boot would hang for two minutes on a blank screen before finally going to windows; when I put the PCI RAID controller at the top of the list it booted relatively quickly.

  • I too am having this issue with a Precision T3600.

    I purchased the system with the Perc H310 and a single 15k SAS drive. Everything works fine, I can't say I have noticed excessive boot time yet.

    However I have been asked to add some extra disk space for data storage not requiring a high speed drive. I thought, hey, I'll just buy a cheap 500GB SATA drive and use the spare drive slot and connect to one of the HDD sockets on the mobo. But non of these sockets appear to be live.

    As Joeflash's machine, both SATA sockets are occupied with optical drives. I've yet to try either of them for the SATA HDD. Anyone else tried this?

    I hope the Dell tech guys come up with something soon.

  • Update -  I've unplugged one of the optical drives and connected the SATA HDD in  its place and have a fully working device.

    I don't really need both optical drives, that's just how the workstation arrived.

    This will satisfy my needs for now, but it would be a far more satisfactory solution to have the HDD ports working on the mobo, thus maintaining use of both optical drives.

  • We asked our Dell sales person this very question and basically what it comes down to that they didn't enable the other ports because of the PERC card.  That is something they are considering making available in later interations of the T5600, and I assume the 3600, but not available now which is why you don't get anywhere when you plug into them.

    John Hammond

    ESCO Client Services

    503-778-6860

  • Thanks for looking into that John.

  • Joeflash
    So my long-winded question: is there any way to configure the remaining four HDD0-HDD3 SATA ports to gain access to them for RAID or preferably non-RAID devices?

    Just did some testing with a new T5600 with BIOS A07, and figured I should set the record straight.

    • HDD ports 0-4 on the motherboard WILL activate if the PERC H310 card is removed and a device is connected to at least one of the HDD0-4 ports. 
      • The storage controller activated appears to be the integrated Intel C600 chipset 4 port SAS/SATA controller, with PCI ID 8086:1d6b.
      • This chipset is documented to support SATA III speeds and TRIM but both are untested at this time.
      • When two or more drives are connected, the BIOS option ROM screen is enabled for "Intel(R) Rapid Storage Technology enterprise", with configuration utility available by typing Ctrl-I during boot. SCU Option ROM is version 3.2.0.1022.
      • When one drive is connected, the option ROM setup will not appear but the controller still functions normally.
      • When no drives are connected at startup, the controller will not be activated.
      • All ports 0-4 are activated and usable simultaneously in this configuration.
    • The onboard SAS1 (SFF-8087) connector does not seem to function in any configuration. 
    • The onboard "RAID" controller WILL NOT activate and ports HDD0-4 will be non-functional if the PERC H310 card is reinstalled in any available slot (1,2,4,5), whether any drives are connected to it or not.
      • A non-Dell (non-LSI?) SAS controller I was able to test does NOT cause the onboard SATA controller to be disabled like the PERC controller.
  • The BIOS A07 also enables the HDD ports 0-3 on my T3600 when the PERC H310 card is removed.  I had to take a few extra steps to get Windows to boot because even though removing the PERC card enables the ports in the BIOS and the computer recognizes them, Windows 7 64-bit would not because it doesn't have the drivers for the C600 storage controller.  

    What I did to get Windows to boot:

    • Download the C600 storage controller drivers (for T3600, http://www.dell.com/support/drivers/us/en/555/DriverDetails/Product/precision-t3600?driverId=7YHMF&osCode=W764&fileId=3086816900) and put them on a flash drive
    • Create a system image with Windows Backup and store it on an external drive before removing the PERC card
    • Shutdown and remove the PERC card and plug the drives connected to it into the HDD0-3 ports
    • Bootup and hit F8 to go to Windows Advanced Boot Options and select Repair Your Computer (need the 100mb recovery partition for this, otherwise use the Windows 7 installation disc or Windows 7 System Repair Disc to get to System Recovery)
    • With the " Restore your computer using a system image that you created earlier." Radio button selected, click Load Drivers and load the C600 storage controller drivers from your flash drive
    • select the Windows installation to repair/recover
    • Select the system image created earlier to restore from
    • Click Install drivers to load the C600 drivers into the system image you will restore from
    • Click through the warning about needing to reboot and let system recovery re-image your computer.
    • Reboot and you should boot to Windows with no bsod!
    My primary reason for using the HDD ports 0-3 instead of the PERC card was to reduce boot time.  My boot time to the Windows login screen with a SSD boot drive connected to the PERC controller was somewhere between 40-60 seconds; after removing the PERC card my boot time to the Windows login screen is somewhere around 20 seconds.  A secondary reason is that chip on the PERC card runs hot; the heatsink is hot enough to burn and was the hottest  thing in the computer at idle (not sure how hot the processor heat sink was under load).
  • From where are you getting power for all three drives?

    I see power from Sata 0 and Sata 1 connector (supposed to be used with DVD/Blue Ray/Optical drives), so when you remove PERC (that supplies power for 2  HDDs in the lower bay, from where do you get more power?

    I got a T3600 with 2tb Seagate (that came defective beeping and clicking), but still working, so I run to install a SSD 512GB, and clone the Seagate hard drive into the OCZ Vertex 4, everything works, however I am sure that the connector I'm using (extension of the Blue Ray drive is just SATA II as my SSD is limited to 240mb/s and not the standard 480mbs.

    Also before I boot from SSD the computer was super slow, (like half speed than my old T3500), even when right clicking on the hard drive to get properties, it took like 3-5 seconds, really disappointing... Anyway I just plug my machine like 1 hour ago, will plug off the Seagate and plug my WD 3TB RE, and start moving stuff from T3500 into T3600. Will post if anything else happens (fingers crossed).

  • A little correction power for both HDDs at the bottom cames from the PSU itself. Also Maybe I'm getting lower transfer rates on my SSD because the cable I use is 3gbs cable. Still curious to see from where we can get power, or if we just need to use some Y splitter and live with it.

  • Thanks for sharing these steps.  They work perfectly.  I wanted to remove the PERC card to make room for an additional video card and to reduce the boot time.

  • I've update the BIOS to A07 and now the POST is long as 34 seconds!!

    Anyone experienced this issue?

    Before updating the BIOS from A05 to A07 POST was about 5 seconds... :(

    Something wrong with BIOS setup? Or is the A07 version that have a long POST??

  • forget to mention the configuration:)

    DELL T5600

    Windows 7 - 64bit

    CPU XEON E5 2650 2GHz

    VIDEO CARD NVIDIA QUADRO 4000

    Controller PERC H310

    1 HD ST500DM002-1BD14

  • Yes, I get the same 35 second hang on POST with BIOS A07 and Precision T3600. I have a PERC H310 controller. I came here looking for the answer to this issue....