Supporting 18TB drives with Intel Virtual RAID on CPU (VROC)

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To compliment my vSphere Home Lab I use VMware Workstation all the time. It’s great for quickly spinning up VM’s and running nested ESXi. My current workstation (See specs here) was starting to show its age and wasn’t keeping up with my needs. To replace it, I recently bought a ASRock Rack EPC621D8A motherboard in hopes of paring it with a Intel Xeon 6252 CPU, 256GB RAM, GTX 1650 Super video card, Noctua NH-D9 DX-3647 cooler, and 5 x 18TB drives. My hopes were to use this mobo as the foundation for my new SuperWorkstation, Plex Server, and to process videos.

Looking for mobo that will fit a LGA 3647 CPU is pretty hard. The lowest end mobo will set you back at least $430 USD and your choices are very limited. I chose the ASRock Rack as it checked all the boxes – lowest cost, supported PCIe x16, quad Intel NICs, onboard sound, IPMI, Dual NVMe, and many other options, plus it supported the CPU+RAM I already had.

As a test, I did install ESXi 8 on it, and it worked well. However, when I stared my build with Windows 11/PLEX and I hooked up the 5 x 18TB HDD, only one disk would be seen in the VROC, but in Windows 11 all the disks were present. This meant I could not create a RAID 5 group with VROC.

I sent in my findings to ASRock support looking for help. Soon after the video stopped working, so I had to replace the mobo. However, the new ASRock replacement board had that same issue with the 18TB drives. At this point I reached out to ASRock support around this issue.

In the mean time, I decided to start working with the SuperMicro X11SPL-F. This mobo has a similar price point but is lacking in features when compared to the ASRock Rack. It only supports dual Intel NICs, though it looks like it has true x16 PCIe slots they are only a disappointing x8, no onboard audio, and single NVMe. The good news was, there was a current BIOS update that stated it supported my larger 18TB drives. I hooked up the SuperMicro mobo, updated its BIOS, and sure enough all the 18TB drives showed up. Next, I installed Windows 11 and with some quick Intel INF updates everything was accounted for and working.

Soon after I updated ASRock support letting them know my findings. Both the SuperMirco and the ASROCK RACK use the Intel C621 with VROC and with out the VROC update to the ASRock Mobo it just won’t support those larger drives. Their last ASRock mobo BIOS update was from 2019 and their VROC was clearly out of date. I’m hoping this information helps them to reconsider updating their BIOS which should allow for larger HDD support. I got a response back very quickly and they plan to look into this item. Additionally, throughout this issue the ASRock support person was very responsive, friendly, and communicated well through email. Kudos to their support team.

*Update Jan-01-2023 – I got word from ASRock support that they are looking into updating their BIOS and VROC. They asked me to test it out and I will be doing that shortly.*

*Update Jan-29-2023 – Over the past few weeks I’ve been testing the ASRock Beta BIOS and it seems to be working perfectly with my 18TB Drives. Last check I checked on their product page they have not released an update yet. *

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