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SDH
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M.2 PCIe SSD in xw and Z400 Z600 Z800 workstations

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HP has the G1 and G2 versions of the Z Turbo Drive but those are for HP workstations later than the Z400/Z600/Z800.  What about us with those or even us using the still excellent xw6400/8400/6600/8600/4600 generation of workstations?

 

I am now running the Kingston Predator M.2 PCIe 240GB card as my boot drive in one of my W7Pro64 Z600 workstations, and it is running great.  I also did some testing and got that up and running in one of my xw6400 and xw6600 workstations.  Have not yet tried it on a spare xw4600 but have no reason to believe it will not work in that too.  The Z800 works this way just like the Z600.

 

I'll post more details when I get more time.  HP has two storage controller drivers listed for the ZX00 series and the more recent one (11.5.4.1001) did not work when I updated to that, so stick with the original (9.6.0.1014).  The build blue screened the instant boot went beyond BIOS when I used that later driver.  Also, my Acronis clone software would not clone over my installed SSD build correctly until I changed the Acronis mage capture type to sector by sector.  I used the built in Windows DiskPart to clear the Predator before doing the clone.  I used MBR partition type and NTFS long type formatting before the clone.  I removed all other drives from the Z600 before the clone process onto the Predator, and had an external eSATA-attached drive as my image source for this.  My initial attempts had failed with blue screens, but my breakthrough by doing a clean install from a W7Pro64SP1 system builder DVD, from scratch, so I knew then that it would work.  Then I worked my way back to successful cloning of my original SSD's install onto the Predator using Acronis and the several tricks mentioned above.  The Predator now shows up in BIOS as a bootable device and I can change boot devices in BIOS the normal way without issue, and have the Predator set as the primary boot device generally.

 

It is very fast, and stable.  For those who pay attention to such things:  This upgrade is not like we experienced going from HDD to SSD.  The feel is more like an upgrade from a moderate to a very fast video card.  Noticable jump in speed, for sure, and well worth it.

 

You want to place that in a PCIe slot that is generation 2 or higher, and has at least x4 lanes.  For my particular Z600 (my main home office workstation) I have a HP "2x2" Texas Instruments chipset USB3 card up in the top PCIe slot that would work for this, so I put the Predator card down in the lower PCIe x16 slot you'd normally think of as for a second video card.  For those with xw6400 workstations there are zero PCIe Gen 2 slots so you'll run at 1/2 speed.  For the xw6600 and xw4600 the two PCIe x16 slots are Gen 2 so use the lower of those for this card.  You can look up the PCIe slot type posiitons of your ZX00 workstations in the technical and service manual.  The Predator is a PCIe Gen 2 card that can run through 4 PCIe lanes so you want to at least give it that.  When you see "PCIe2 x16 (x8 electrical)" in a manual that means it is a PCIe generation 2 slot (higher speed) and though it is x16 morphology for the slot it only has 8 PCIe lanes available for use.  It is fine to put this card in a slot that has higher capabilities than the card itself, but you'll get no added speed benefit from that.  The notation is still evolving and HP has older notations in the old manuals.  None of these workstations have PCIe generation 3 slots.

 

The ZX00 series are SATA generation II workstations, and this is one way to break through the speed limits of that.  I'm using the Predator as my boot/applications drive, and just put in a nice enterprise grade 500 GB Samsung SSD as my "documents" drive.  That combo is very fast.

 

The HP Z Turbo M.2 cards are two types:  the G1 has an AHCI type of controller and the G2 has a NVMe type.  The G2 is officially only supposed to work in the ZX40 generation of workstations.  You might have a shot at getting the G1 to work on the ZX00 series workstations but I don't think anyone will ever get the G2 to work in those because of the chipset and BIOS limitations of the ZX00 series.  One of our very creative forum members did figure out a workaround to get a G2 to work in his ZX20 workstation (I think it was a Z420), which is not supposed to be possible.  That is an example of something that worked but is surely not "supported" by HP.  The ZX20 and ZX40 generations, however, have a lot in common but there is a big gulf between those and the ZX00 generation.  For the G2 in ZX20 workaround see MtothaJ's input towards the bottom of this page  HERE.

 

http://h30434.www3.hp.com/t5/Business-PCs-Workstations-and-Point-of-Sale-Systems/NVMe-PCIe-SSD-boot-...

 

The Predator M.2 PCIe card has an AHCI type of controller, and is proven to work so I'm advising my need-for-speed friends to go for that now in their ZX00 and xw6600/xw8600 and xw4600 HP workstations.

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SDH
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Some added info from a reply on another post.... trying to make this a single go-to post:

 

I did a lot of research and felt the Kingston engineers had something special in their design.  Remember that there is a custom programmed controller in these M.2 SSDs (which plug into the passive PCIe adapter card that you then plug into a selected PCIe slot).  That controller is in the little M.2 SSD itself, not on that PCIe  adapter card.  The Predator uses a "next generation" Marvell 88SS9293 controller that allows use of 4 total PCIe lanes rather than the 2 PCIe lanes that a number of M.2 SSD controllers are limited to.  It also is unusual in that it has an on-board OPROM, code which provides the BIOS boot process a standardized interface and thus increases the drive's ability to be booted from out of the box without motherboard BIOS updating (which will not likeky be coming from HP for these prior workstations).  Plus, there also is the customized Kingston firmware driving that Marvell controller.

 

I read up on the success of two people using exactly this Kingston device in their HP Z600 series workstations and thus knew I had a good shot at success.  I also read up on other non-HP AHCI controller based M.2 SSDs from vendors such as Samsung where significant machinations were needed to get those to work on recent motherboards.  Not something I wanted to deal with, especially knowing of the success of those two other individuals (one in Italy, and the other from this forum).

 

So, that is why I am favoring  this approach at this time.  I don't mind dinking around, but not that much......

 

The HP workstations currently do not have a dedicated M.2 slot so you need the little M.2 SSD plus the PCIe adapter card to plug it in to.  There are aftermarket non-Kingston PCIe adapter cards you could buy and attach the Predator M.2 SSD to, but I went with getting both as a single combined item (SHPM2280P2H/240G).  I only needed the smallest version because that is my boot/applications drive, and I have an added larger documents drive.

.

Z600user
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I followed your guide and successfully made my Kingston PCI-e Predator 240gb boots at C:, the improvement is very significant.  Thank You!

 

However, I found my Z600 can't boot via the USB slots after the above installation.  Do you have any hints on that?

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toszter
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Hi there! Thanks for this handy article. I have a Z600 sitting here that I'm considering NVMe for using your advice. However, Kingston offers the HHHL adaptor built into the memory chip so there's no need for a PCIe adapter AFAIK, do you agree?

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KM08DPQ


Should I pull the trigger and buy it in the HHHL form factor?

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SDH
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I don't know that I specifically have tried to boot from any bootable USB drives on the Z600s running from the Kingston Predator M.2 dirve other than the Acronis bootable sticks.

 

I'll go find one and try that this weekend and get back to you.

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SDH
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A NVMe based M.2 SSD is different than a AHCI based M.2 SSD..... The BIOS of the Z600/Z400/Z800 does not support NVMe.

 

The Kingston Predator M.2 SSD is an AHCI based one, and there is no M.2 slot on the motherboard of the Z600 etc.

 

So, you do need the kit that includes the PCIe adapter.

 

Another thing..... there is something special with this Kingston hardware.  The Samsung SM951 AHCI M.2 SSD I have cannot work this way in the same Z600.  It never has shown up in BIOS as a bootable drive, but can show up as a usable drive if the OS has been booted from another drive.

 

This is not a project for a novice, just so you know.  Basically I build up a SSD as the boot drive using the proven-to-work storage controller version discussed above.  Then I plug in the Predator to the PCIe generation 2 x8 (x4 electrical lanes) and have both in place.  The Predator comes raw, so from the regular SSD I then partition and format that.  MBR partition type, single default NTFS partition formatted using the long type of formatting option.

 

Then I capture the Acronis image from the regular SSD to an eSATA-attached external drive.  Then I clone that entire build onto the Predator, and shutdown.  Remove the regular SSD, boot from the Predator, shutdown, replace the regular SSD and test that I can dual boot.  You may or may not want to dual boot.... you can leave the regular SSD out.

 

Without knowing the special version of the storage controller that works and having it in place on the regular SSD before you capture the Acronis image you will hard crash if you try to boot from the Predator, and that would be a hard issue to try to figure out or fix without knowledge of the need for the correct storage driver that works (there may be more than one that would do the trick)..... I'm not sure if you could ever get the good storage driver on if you captured the image with a bad driver in place and did not know this issue.

 

So, it surely is not plug and play, but once you have it going it has been rock solid.

 

 

 

Oh, and I got another one for my version 1 experimental Z620.  Same deal..... two versions of the storage controller blue screened every time, but I finally found one that will work.  I need to test a few more too, and then will write it up.

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Z600user
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Scott, thanks for your attention.  Actually I am too eager to see a success in molding my Z600 into a hackintosh,  thus overlooking the usb bootable utility nowaday applies UEFI partition as default. 

 

It's still a long way to go... have you tried to make this toy?  I am not sure also if a B3 board have this chance.  

 

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SDH
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I tuned up my response from yesterday a bit..... take another read.

 

Terminology again..... It is my understanding that there is Legacy BIOS and UEFI BIOS, and that the Z620 is the first of the HP workstatins to offer the option of using UEFI BIOS.  I run our Z620s, however, only under Legacy mode.

 

The Z400/Z600/Z800 only have Legacy mode.  Not UEFI, and never will.  Maybe I need to learn something new?

 

Regarding whether my fix for getting the Kingston Predator M.2 SSD to work as a bootable OS drive will work with a version 1 Z600 I believe it will but don't have one to test.  If that is what you have and do the experiment please get back to us on that.  You should know what version you have from its boot block date in BIOS.

 

Regarding Hackintosh..... our medical software is all on MS software platform, and I have gotten it to work with Windows 10 Pro 64-bit when it was not supposed to be able to do that, but I'm quite sure that I don't have the talents to port it over to the Mac!

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SDH
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I just checked about booting from a USB drive with the Predator M.2 SSD and a regular SSD in place also (my dual boot testbed Z600 so that I can boot from W7Pro64 on the M.2 or W10Pro64 on the regular SSD).

 

I was able to boot from the USB both ways..... cold boot/restart, then F9 into the boot menu and choose the USB.  Or, F10 into BIOS and change the boot order so the USB was higher than the two drives.  Both worked fine for booting off the USB sticks.  I tried a few including both Linux and WinPE based Acronis bootable USB drives, and a HP Vision Diagnostics bootable USB drive for the Z600.

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MrToszter
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Thank you for your thoughtful replies. Somehow my @toszter profile no longer authenticates nor has a record of my email address so I had to recreate a new profile.

 

At any rate, I'm not a windows user, nor a mac user. I want the hardware running Ubuntu 14.04.5 LTS with VirtualBox partitioning out a mess of VMs designed to emulate an Amazon EC2 region full of machines that I abuse to load test the software architectures I write. Every server application will loopback internally, so the machine will essentially abuse the CPUs, the Predators (two of them) and in turn the software I/O capabilities will be tested with only local Network I/O constraint.  My only other constraint will be RAM at 48GB max. So I'll be limited to about 8 VMs @ ~3GB (leaving a little to spare for the core processes).

I wonder if anyone else out there has forgone the Windows world in lieu of Linux on the Z600 with a similar configuration?

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