The RocketRAID 404 comes in a professional or if you like non-exciting box, and since the card is aimed at the professional consumer rather than the enthusiast this isn't too surprising. The box is rather large which considering it's just a PCI card makes you wonder what else is included in the package. Well to answer that, Highpoint also include 4 flat ribbon 80 pin IDE cables (complete with those pull tabs at the headers), which is a good thing to see.
Many users probably won't consider the need for these cables, at least not at first but of course, if you don't have the cables you would be kind of stuck otherwise. At the bottom of the box, beneath the protective foam sandwich which holds the card and cables, you will find the Manual, a Software disk and a Floppy Device Driver disk (to use during Windows installation).
The card itself fits into a single 33MHz PCI slot (it isn't a 66MHz card, so this could decrease its overall maximum performance, depending on what else is using the PCI bus at the same time), and I would suggest you put it into a slot that has a free slot beneath it so as to allow room for the IDE cables to be connected. Naturally, having another 4 cables in your system is going to add to the clutter in your case, so I guess its time to start reading up on folding and tidying cables.
Starting at the top of the card we find two of the four IDE headers, side exiting rather than being flat onto the card. This orientation can go quite a way into reducing the clutter of cables on the card itself without having to add extra size to the card. Moving down we find another two IDE headers of the more traditional orientation. Below these we find the brains of the card, the HPT374 Controller.
To the right of this is the onboard warning/notification buzzer, which will let you know the card is powered upon boot up as well as audibly notify you of any problems in much the same way as the POST on your motherboard will. Right of these are 4 LED headers, providing users with the possibility to monitor disk access via a separate LED for each channel.
To the left of the HPT374 controller we find a jumper, to control the enabling of bios defaults or on-chip defaults. Next to this on the far left we find the BIOS chip itself which is capable of being updated to support new features. The card overall looks quite bare but this is mainly because its functions are controlled by one chip alone, the HPT374, so apart from the connectors, the buzzer, the controller and a few caps, there isn't much to see on the card itself. It can be a misleading sight, looking like an oversized network card but don't be fooled; the card is both clever and simple.
Installation of the card itself is the same as any PCI card, but please do bare in mind my earlier suggestion about leaving a slot free below it. It isn't a necessity but it will make life easier for you in the long run. When you power on the system the card will emit a high pitched beep (to let you know it's there) and the motherboard POST process will complete. After the motherboard POST the 404 card will kick in and begin scanning for drives. This will add about 7 seconds on to your boot time. Whilst it's scanning for devices, you can press ctrl-h and enter the 404's setup screen to create and delete arrays (much like using the BIOS for your motherboard, or the setup screens of Windows 2K/XP Installation) or alternatively let it continue booting into windows and create the arrays from the comfort of your desktop with a nifty graphical user interface provided by the Highpoint Software. I think you can guess which one I like :) . The Card will install into Windows in pretty much the same way as any device, once windows has detected it you supply Windows with the CD and location for the device drivers, in our case here, for WinXP, although support for Win98 and upwards is available. Speaking of support, this card is also able to work via drivers downloaded from the net under Linux (For Red-hat, SuSE, Turbo, FreeBSD and Caldera).
The main interface has a total of 5 tabs to navigate to the different parts of the software and perform different tasks. The configuration tab allows you to create arrays, delete arrays, manage your spare drives as well as duplicate drives.
The management tab is a great addition for system administrators. With the Event Notification you can have the software inform you by e-mail when any problems or other specified events occur. The view tab gives you a graphical tree view of your disks under the System View tab, Event View gives you a list of any events recorded whilst the software is running and finally the Icon view explains the meaning of the icons in the software.
The final tab is the help tab and gives a complete overview of creating arrays and managing your disks. Creating an array literally takes seconds; although a reboot will be required before it will recognized by Windows as a disk. After the reboot you can format it as if it where any other drive on the system.
I would have to say the software whilst easy enough to use wasn't totally intuitive, or perhaps retro looking, almost 'shareware' in appearance, but that doesn't negate the fact that the software works well enough.
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