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Old 10-30-2010, 06:56 PM   #1
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System Freezes Randomly

Several weeks ago I replaced my primary PATA hard drive with a SATA II drive. I now have two SATA II drives in the box. The second drive is and was primarily a bulk storage location whereas the first drive is where Slackware 12.2 is installed.

At about the same time I replaced the drive I started noticing freezes with the system. The freeze lasts several seconds. The logs seem to indicate that the SATA link goes down. The freeze probably is caused by waiting for the link to get restored.

Otherwise the system acts normally and is responsive.

I could be overlooking the obvious, but I find no BIOS setting for AHCI or PATA mode.

I have been browsing the web for ideas but have not found anything conclusive.

Motherboard: Asus M2NPV-VM, BIOS version 1401
Hard drives: Western Digital WD3200AAKS SATA-II 7200 rpm 320 GB

I welcome any ideas to troubleshoot further. Let me know what further information to provide or anything specific to search in the logs.

As always, thanks much!
Old 10-30-2010, 07:01 PM   #2
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One possibility, you may have a loose sata cable, or a broken wire in the cable. Try re-seating each cable, if that doesn't work, replace one or both. I've done it more than once. Good luck.
Old 10-30-2010, 07:52 PM   #3
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Others may dispute this but I have found Western Digital drives to be unreliable. Western Digital has some free downloadable testing software you might try.

Seagate Barracuda drives seem to be the most reliable.

You should also check to see if there is a motherboard firmware update.

Use Google to see if the chips on the motherboard are known to have any problems. Asus is my favorite motherboard manufacturer but I haven't tested every model that they make.

Last edited by stress_junkie; 10-30-2010 at 07:59 PM.
Old 10-30-2010, 08:40 PM   #4
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You have stated, that the problems started with the second drive added to your box. You were running a similar drive ago, so I wouldn't assume that it is an incompatibility. I would think that your SATA-cable is not set correctly or either the cable or drive are faulty. Check the cable first, then check the drive with the tool recommended by stress_junkie.
Old 04-08-2011, 07:01 PM   #5
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This thread is a tad old, but I dislike leaving threads hanging. That is almost as bad as the suits at the SyFy channel suspending episodes for three and half months during the middle of the winter.

When I posted this problem I had little time to troubleshoot because of a busy schedule. Basically I tolerated the problem for several months, but I was using the computer only a little bit during that period.

Last month I finally had meaningful time to investigate.

Sometimes I would see the freeze two or three times in one day. Sometime I'd go two days without a hiccup. I don't recall surviving longer than two days.

Sometimes I'd see the freeze when running VirtualBox. I decided that was not the cause because I'd see the freeze when I was not running VirtualBox. Further, whenever I saw the freeze I always saw something in the system logs. When VB freezes for many long seconds there would be nothing in the logs.

I tried many things. I tested RAM over night. I ran many short and long SMART tests. I ran fsck many times. I swapped cables. I swapped SATA ports.

I did notice something strange. I never had a problem with any drive connected to the SATA 2 port. I always saw some kind of freeze with any device connected to SATA ports 1, 3, or 4. The logs always verified that behavior.

In the end I decided I likely had a funky SATA port controller or possibly something like sold solder joints. There is the possibility of a problem with the sata_nv driver in the kernel too. I really don't know the root cause.

Yet all was not lost.

In my many tests I also tried various kernel parameters. The one parameter that proved successful was libata.force=1.5Gbps. That parameter limited the SATA ports to 1.5 Gbps rather than allow them to run at 3.0 Gbps. After many days of quiet with that boot parameter, I next fine-tuned the limitation: libata.force=1:1.5Gbps. This limited only SATA port 1 to 1.5 Gbps. After all, SATA port 2 did not have the problem.

As I never saw an error report in the logs related to SATA port 2, I left that second drive running at 3 Gbps. Only the primary drive at port 1 is throttled. Pleasantly, the machine has not experienced a freeze for about a week now.

I am presuming the problem is solved, but I won't tag the thread as such because I don't know the true root cause of the problem. Nonetheless, I hope this information helps others.
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Old 04-17-2011, 09:37 AM   #6
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Some more information:

For the past week and a half my system has not frozen when I use Slackware 12.2 with the kernel. However, as I have been dual booting the past two weeks between Slackware 12.2 and 13.1, I have noticed the kernel parameter libata.force does not work in 13.1 with the kernel. Doesn't matter whether I try applying the parameter to one port or globally. I will build the latest kernel and see whether that helps.

My conclusion is there is something wrong with my motherboard chip set or the kernel sata_nv driver or combination thereof. The freezing problem tends to appear quickly and often when I have more than one SATA device connected and all try to run at 3.0 Gbps. I have resorted to brute force by using jumpers on my hard drives to force them to run at 1.5 Gbps.


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