Wednesday, February 24, 2010

SATA driver - ata_piix - problem with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 Installer - SOLVED

I was trying to install RHEL 5.3 on one of the new industrial computers we had in our office. I had installed MS DOS 6.22, Windows 2000 and Windows XP on these machines without any issues. This PC model has Intel Core2Duo processor with an Intel main-board chipset.

The RHEL 5.3 installer, unfortunately, was getting stuck in the very beginning with "loading ata_piix driver". Doing Ctrl+Alt+F4 took to a terminal that showed periodic attempts to access the SATA HDD with different modes (UDMA/133, UDMA/33 etc.), but nothing worked.

In the BIOS, in 'Intergrated peripherals', there were three options for the SATA controller - IDE, AHCI and RAID, the default being "IDE". In addition, there's another setting "Enable legacy mode" that was set to "Disabled" by default.
I tried enabling the Legacy mode and the installer worked fine. But after (and during the installation), I noticed that the system was running quite slow. It seemed disk access was taking too much time. The HDD was detected as /dev/hda, instead of /dev/sda. I guess there was some IDE emulation happening in legacy mode.

Anyway, this wikipedia article on AHCI says that Intel recommends setting SATA mode to "RAID" instead of IDE or AHCI. I tried that too, but setting it to anything other than IDE, the DVD drive was not getting detected and the RHEL DVD won't boot at all. So, back to square one!

Then I tried linux noprobe at the RHEL installer prompt. The installer started in text mode and asked me to choose the driver to access the CDROM. I selected 'Intel ata' (or something similar with Intel in it), and everything was fine after that. The installer switched to graphical mode, formatting 150GB space and installing files only took around 12 minutes.

After installation, everything is working smooth and snappy. So, if you run in to the same problem (from the internet searches, I'm guessing there are quite a few souls with this issue), try the noprobe option. It worked for me!

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