The new workstation arrived yesterday. Big box. Inside, nicely packed, under a cardboard tray with the keyboard, software, cables, and mouse, was the computer. Big computer. Honkin’ big computer. Normally, I open up a new machine before powering it on to make sure nothing has slipped loose in the journey, but the Dell machines have been really well stuck together, so I just plugged it in.
The BIOS splash screen is pretty, and has a nice-looking progress bar for a couple of seconds. Then there’s the Serial-Attached SCSI BIOS, which is character mode and takes a lot longer. I answered the basic configuration questions, (naming the machine, you guessed it, “Honker”), accepted the license agreements, restarted, watched the colored fireflies, and logged onto the OS. Then I right-clicked on Computer, and joined the domain. Another restart and I could look around the system.
First surprise: almost half of the 256 GB Solid State Disk (Samsung, by the way) is full. A little poking around revealed that the swap file is on that disk, and that it’s 50 GB. Since the 256 GB disk translates to a 238 GB disk when you go from Samsung’s gigabytes to Microsoft’s gigabytes, the swap file is consuming almost half the occupied disk space. Easily fixable, once I get the new disks installed. I also noticed a 40 GB file, hiberfil.sys. This is used by Windows to store the state of the machine upon hibernation. I don’t use that mode, so I opened up a command line window with administrator privileges, and typed “powercfg –h off”. That fixed it so, forgetting about the page file, there is 20 GB used on the Windows partition, and another 10 GB in a restoration partition. When I get things set up, I’ll see if I can move the restoration partition to a spinning disk.
Second surprise: the boot time isn’t any faster that you’d get with a spinning disk. This is really weird.
I popped the side cover to install the 3 TB drives. The inside was pretty clean, with the power supply and SATA wires to the disk drives attached to the chassis with clips that are easy to fasten and loosen – a big improvement over cable ties. When I looked at where the SATA cables plugged into the motherboard I was glad I ordered the disk bays populated with sacrificial disks: the motherboard connections are hard to get to without a lot of disassembly. The CPU cooling is especially classy, with all the airflow shrouded within the box. I pulled out the three 250 GB Western Digital disks and installed the 3 TB Hitachi ones, buttoned up the case, and hit the power button.
It didn’t boot. I checked the boot order in the BIOS. The SSD was last. That shouldn’t matter, but I moved it up until it was second, right after the CD/DVD drive. No dice. I put one of the WD 250 GB drives back in and it booted fine. That’s problem number one.
Problem number two is that the BIOS says the 3TB drives have 2048 GB capacity (2.19 TB in drive manufacturer GBs). That means that the motherboard is not compatible with the large drives.
By the way, the BIOS is very Windows-like, and fully supports the mouse.