Intel Smart Response Technology on Windows 10

Intel’s Smart Response Technology is an interesting way of having the storage of a high capacity hard drive but with (some) of the speed benefits of a SSD.

Basically a small capacity SSD is used as a cache for both reads and writes to the slower hard disk.

I have a 512GB SSD for my system drive and a 2TB storage hard drive. I decided to test out Smart Response Technology (or, ‘SRT’, from now on) on my storage hard drive, even though most uses of SRT are for a system/boot drive (which in my case, is already an SSD).

I purchased a cheap Kingston 120GB V300, which has moderate read speeds but terrible (160MB/s) write speeds – but still faster than a hard drive, particularly at random reads/writes. I switched my BIOS over to RAID mode, opened up Intel’s ‘Rapid Storage Technology’ program on Windows 10, and attempted to add the new SSD as a storage cache.

Unfortunately, I came across an error message that was about as useful as a chocolate teapot:

An unknown error has occurred while an operation was in progress. The operation could not be completed.

Determined as I was, I opened up event viewer to see if there was a more detailed error message:

0: SSI Status: Internal Error
0: RAID Config Status: Illegal Disk Action.
TriggerTransaction operation failed for Trigger: CreateVolume
System.Exception: 0: Trigger create failed in internalIsiVolumeCreate
Error returned by IsiVolumeCreateFromDisks() in PsiData::PsiDataSource::ActionVolumeCreateFromDisks

Again, some critical error without any useful information…

It seemed with some further Googling that in fact SRT does not work with Windows 10, or more precisely, if you are running Windows 10 you can’t create a new SRT volume.

The solution to solve this is actually very simple, though a bit time consuming. You need to install Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1 or Windows Server 2008/2012 as a separate installation, set up the SRT caching from that OS in the RST program, then reboot back into Windows 10. Even though Windows 10 doesn’t support creating new volumes, the RST software recognized that an existing cache disk was setup, and just continued to use it.

I personally installed a fresh copy of Server 2012 R2 onto an old 160GB hard drive, connected via SATA (having unplugged my system SSD, but left the cache SSD and 2TB storage hard drive plugged in). Then I simply installed the latest version of RST, tried to enable the caching as I did before, and this time it worked straight away. After shutting down, unplugging Server 2012, and re-connecting my Windows 10 SSD, it picked it up automatically and just worked.

This method of course only works if you are setting up a cached configuration that is nothing to do with your Windows 10 boot drive. It may be possible to accelerate a Windows 10 boot drive using the same method (i.e. using a different OS to configure the RST software, but pointing it at the Windows 10 install), but I would do this cautiously as you risk breaking something.

The real question here is: why on earth hasn’t Intel fixed this problem in Windows 10 yet?! Win10 has been out for nearly a year now, and Intel still advertises SRT as a feature on their website….