The AAA-UDMA card officially supports Windows NT 4 Server, all varieties of Windows 2000, and NetWare versions 4.11, 4.2, and 5.0. Again, this is not much of a surprise since Adaptec intends this card for entry-level servers, but it is slightly disappointing that it doesn't support Windows 9x. Although I don't have a Windows NT4 Workstation system around in which to try it, I highly suspect that the card would work with it as Workstation and Server are largely the same. The system must have 64 megabytes of RAM (and no respectable server would have even that little these days anyway) and, of course, a free full-length bus-mastering PCI slot for the card. Finally, the system's chipset must support PCI 2.1. The manual also recommends a UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) for the system, since Adaptec figures any system worth having a RAID controller in is valuable enough to need a UPS if the power fails. I'd have to agree with them there.
The physical installation of the controller was no picnic, although that had little to do with the controller's design. The problem is simply that there are so many wide cables involved, and since the plugs for them are facing down when the controller is in a tower case, and the drives are up near the top of the case, you have to do a lot of bending to get everything plugged in.
And once you do, it looks like a pretty big mess. The only bad thing I can say about the plugs on the controller is that they should have been put in the other way, as in most situations this would require one less half-twist of the ATA cables, making installation easier. Remember, the card is full-length, so make sure you have an available and unobstructed PCI slot if you plan to purchase this adapter. There's a four-pin plug on the card for a drive activity indicator LED if you have an extra one, or you can steal the ones from your standard hard disks if you like.
The driver and software installation under Windows 2000 is simple. Windows automatically detects the controller on booting and asks for the drivers. I didn't run into any problems at all here. Looking in the manual, it seems that installation under NT4 is just a little more complicated, since NT4 doesn't support Plug `N Play. You just have to go to the SCSI Adapters applet under Control Panel and add the new adapter, then reboot. Remember that Windows NT4 has a 4GB limit on the size of its system partition, so keep that in mind. There are instructions in the manual for dealing with that, and the manual also covers all possible installation methods, including upgrading from NT4 to 2000.
Some of you are probably wondering if the controller will work with Windows 9x anyway. Can it? Just to see, I created an array under Windows 2000 Professional and then booted to Windows Me to see what would happen. Windows Me did indeed detect the AAA-UDMA controller itself and asked for drivers, which I gladly provided. I wasn't sure if the drivers would work, since Windows 9x drivers and Windows 2000 drivers are not often compatible, but the installation went smoothly and Windows Me then showed the devices in the device manager as functioning properly. Alas, the system could not see the RAID array, even with NTFS for Windows 9x installed. Oh well.
I should point out here
that Windows 2000 Pro wouldn't format any arrays on this controller with FAT32,
claiming that the partition was too big. This shouldn't be, since FAT32 has a
maximum partition size in the terabyte range. Even when I used a single drive in
a hardware RAID 0 "array", it still refused to create a FAT32 partition on it.
This isn't terribly disappointing, but it is odd. I have to wonder if there's
some sort of hardware block that prevents anything but NTFS from being used with