New Build MSI Neo4 Platinum 939 Nvidia nforce4 Ultra



I am planning to build a new system in a few months with the following parts.

AMD Athlon 64 4000+
MSI Neo4 Platinum 939 Nvidia nforce4 Ultra Motherboard
MSI NX6600-TD256E PCI-Express x16 Video card
Aspire X-Plorer ATXB8KLW-BK Case
Rosewill RP550 PSU: 3.3 V (30a) 5v (50a) 12v (35a)
2- WD Raptors 36.7GB Sata
2- Crucial Balistic 512MB DDR 400 PC3200
LiteOn DVD/RW 1673s
LiteOn CD/RW SOHR-5239s
Sony 1.44 Floppy Drive
5 Case Fans ( 1-120mm Rear) ( 4-80mm ) 2-Front, 1-Top, 1-Side Window.

My questions are: Has anyone used this Motherboard yet with the Sata Hard Drive features?

I have read far to much about Raid combinations and am not the least bit interested in that what so ever. I hope to connect both of the WD Raptors up on the Nvidia Sata connections and have them both to be bootable. I am in the habit of cloning my drives as a means of backing up all my files and programs. In doing much research and googling, I have not been able to find much information on a setup such as this. 2 Hard Drives Sata with No RAID of any kind. Any help with the Hard Drive setup would be greatly appreciated. This will be my second build and I want it to be a kick butt machine without breaking the bank.
Thanks: Pop’s


Well I haven’t used that board, but I did use more than enough boards with onboard SATA/RAID controllers.

For starters: you should be abled to boot from it. With most (all?) boards, it’s pretty simple. They come with a floppy disk. Upon installing your system, Windows setup will ask if you need to install additional controller cards. At that time you can load drivers for any additional non-standard IO controllers by using the supplied disk. After doing so, drives attached to the controller work just like harddrives on a regular controller.

The WD’s will do a nice job alright. I’m wondering though if this is the most optimal setup. You say you do not want a RAID of any kind. May I ask why? If you want to do mirroring, I don’t see a reason not to pick RAID. Even if one disk in the RAID-1 array fails, the system will keep going. This can be done by using your controller’s RAID, but also by a softRAID system. Windows XP doesn’t support that out of the box, but a patch can help you there (yes that’s legal).
If you don’t want RAID, you’ll have to look into some form of automated backup tool. That’ll work of course, but it won’t gain you anything over a RAID-1, except that it’ll cost some extra time as you need to do everything manually.

If I were in your shoes and I didn’t want to use RAID, I guess I’d alter the setup slightly. For starters, get rid of the 36GB Raptors and get 1 74Gb Raptor instead. Next to that, I’d get a standard drive (7200rpm) and use that for backup purposes. It won’t cost that much more, but the overall performance will be better and you’ll have lots of more harddrive capacity.

The rest looks good I must say… maybe I’d get another DVDRW drive, but that’s all.


Well, how much “bank” you got?

Also, replace the Lite-On DVDRW with either a NEC or BenQ.


Dee-ehn; Thank you very much for the input. I have read so many conflicting articles on the Internet that it gets rather confusing. It seems from one such read, if a person uses the latest release of XP Pro that has service pack 2, it will load the proper drivers for SATA. I have also read, that a Raid 1 array can be comprimised by a virus. IF on drive gets it, the other will also have it?? I have been using a program called Casper XP from Future Systems Solutions for a couple years now and it does a very good job of making a bootable exact bit for bit clone of my drives. When ever I make much of a change in my system, I make sure all is well with it and clone to the other hard drive. I then just unhook the clone and re-hook it as master and check to make sure it will boot (just to be safe). As for setting up a Raid array, I am just not ready for that type setup yet. To complicated, to many drives involved, far to many ways it can get screwed up in my opinion anyway. I prefer to use the 36.7GB Raptors, as I rarely have over 6GB of used drive space on my drives. I have made it a habit to backup anything I want to save on CD/R or DVD/R. Again, thanks for the information as I will be saving all suggestions until the time I am ready to build this next system.
Sincerely; Pop’s


I see. Of course, when your system is affected by a virus, so’ll be the mirror. But, don’t forget that the same will happen to an image. Of course, an antivirus tool would help preventing this from happening, but that goes for both solutions.
Setting up a RAID array is really really easy. Anybody that can compose his own system will know how to do this. The mainboards come with 2 manuals nowadays: 1 for the mainboard and one for setting up the RAID arrays. If neccessary, I could talk you through in less than 5 minutes. Yes, it really is easy.

I see your reason for getting small drives; sounds reasonable to me. But, as you only use a small amount of space, let me advice two other options to you

  1. When backing up, use a DVDR. I think that by compressing your filesystem you can fit all your data on a single DVDR. Get a few rewritables and make a backup once a week. I think that’s the cheapest solution possible
  2. If you don’t want to go for RAID and you don’t care about keeping that option open, why not get a regular harddrive for backup purposes. A standard 40Gb disc costs about 40% of a 36Gb Raptor disc. For the money that the Raptor disc costs, you could get a 200Gb regular disc (maybe even 250Gb!).

If there are any questions left, feel free to ask :slight_smile:


Dee-ehn; I see your point with the second hard drive not being one of the Raptors. I have in my present system, 2- 20GB WD 7200 rpm drives. I was looking at the Raptors because of several reasons. 8MB Cache, 5.2ms seek, 5.9ms write, 2.9ms latency and they have a 5 year warranty. What I do with my system now, is to trade back and forth between the drives about every 3 months or so. I think the benefits of a Raid array has a lot of merit, but I just do not prefer to use it. No offense to anyone here, but I am from the old school and have kind of made up my mind as to what I would like the new system to be setup as. I sincerely appreciate your offer to help setup a Raid array, but I really do not care to get into that type of setup just now. As for Virus software, I do use NAV 2005 Pro and always scan downloads and hardly ever open an attachment in Email, even from someone I know. Before I do clone my drives, I always do a complete maintenence on them. I am just very comfortable with the succes I have had in the past. Therefore, my plan is to setup the new system quite the same as the one I now have, except to utilize the Sata functions.
Regards; Pop’s


Well there’s one good thing to the Raptor drives (compared to most others): they are made for heavy usage and thus less easy to destroy… yes they have quite a nice durability and guarantee. I have two of those drives myself (in a RAID-0 setup) and I love them… they are fast, don’t run that hot, don’t make a lot of noise etc.


Just wondered what the system was aimed at? If it is gaming then it might be worth saving the money by getting a A64 3800 and spending it on an X800XL graphics card.


After having the Neo 4 Platinum, I have to say it is a great board, possibly the best board I’ve ever had (my first build was a 386DX-20 in 1994 which should give an idea of how many I’ve had). Full featured, stable, and performs well.

You can choose the boot order in the BIOS, so if you want to choose which SATA drive you want to boot from, that’s definitely an option. There are a couple of changes I’d make in your build, though.

I wouldn’t choose a Rosewill power supply. There is no way to tell who made it, and they’re a rebrander. Spend more money on a brand-name power supply such as an Enermax, or the Fortron Blue Storm. You will be happier in the long run. Power supplies aren’t glamorous, but choosing the wrong one can result in system instability and wierd quirky issues, and choosing an average one means you’ll need to upgrade the next time you rebuild to a beefier system. Don’t rely on watts alone; a lot of cheaper manufacturers specs range from misleading to outright lies; buying a brand name PSU will help you avoid this. Amperage is important; make sure you have a PSU with at least 20 amps on the 12V rail, or a dual 12v-rail PSU with at least 15 amps on each rail.

For hard disks, Seagates also have five-year warranties. Raptors are fast, but they’re noisier than other drives and run hotter, and cost a lot more. For that kind of money, you can get larger capacity Seagate 7200.8 SATA2 drives which are fast, quiet, and run cooler, and also have Native Command Queuing that the Raptors don’t have. Unless you’re going for server performance, I don’t see the need for Raptors.

Another user recommended downgrading the CPU to upgrade the video card. If you’re going to game, this is wise advice. An ATI X800XL will cost you a bit more; save money by dropping to an Athlon 64 3500+ or so. Spending big bucks for the fastest CPU isn’t the best idea. Like someone else said, I’d also change the DVD-RW drive from LiteOn, I’d probably go with NEC or Pioneer. LiteOn burns CD’s great, but has a hit-and-miss record with burning DVD’s (though their DVD-ROM drives work pretty well).

If sound is important to you, get an aftermarket sound card and disable the onboard sound. Very few boards have good onboard sound these days, even if they’re good boards. An OEM SoundBlaster Audigy 2 ZS can be found for around $50 on Ebay and is worth considering.

Finally, your fan setup is going to make for one heck of a noisy case. It’s far better to replace 4 80mm fans with one 120mm, which is quieter and delivers plenty of air. Look for a quality case that takes two or three 120mm fans, then go with low or medium noise fans such as Panaflo or Vantec Stealth. You’ll be a lot happier.


Dismembered Ninja; I had thought of the AMD 64 3800+ CPU, but the 4000 does have the 1MB of L2 Cache and don’t know how much of an advantage that would be. Otherwise, there may not be that much difference in peroformance from what I have read. I selected the Video card from reviews and past experience with MSI/Nvidia cards. I will be doing some gaming and normal computer use, DVD backups and such. I thank you for the information and input.

LoneWolf15; Thanks for the information. How do you now have the 2 Seagate Sata hard drives hooked up and configured?? Also, during install did you have to load any drivers by doing the F6 step when loading the OS? I have read that the latest release of WinXP Pro with SP2 incorperated into it will load the drivers for Sata during install without the need for the F6 step?? When I first set the machine up, I would like to try just the 2 WD Raptors Sata mode (without) any sort of RAID array. I can see the advantages of Raid, but it is very hard to get an answer to the one question I have and that is:
How to setup just 2 Sata drives (WITHOUT) Raid. Many forums have a suplus of information on Raid setups of all configurations. But it seems impossible to get the information on just: 2 Drives Sata No Raid.
After running the machine with this setup for a while, I will probably try some sort of Raid array. But, as stated above, I need input from someone who has a setup without Raid using 2 drives that are Sata capable. Thanks for the information and please add what you can to help me figure this out. I have been a memeber of CD Freaks since Jan. of 2005 and have posted and helped others in the LiteOn Standalone DVD Recorder section.
Regards; Pop’s


I have the two drives in a non-RAID configuration. Each drive has two partitions currently set up for the following:

C: Boot & Games
D: Audio
E: Video
F: Backup

I only have one OS partition, but if I wanted to I could have two, and just select which drive to give boot priority to in the BIOS. For NForce4 Ultra boards, I recommend using the included floppy disk and pressing F6 to load the drivers, both SATA and RAID (there are two drivers on the disk) in order, before continuing to set up the OS. It may not be necessary but it doesn’t hurt to do it either. Doing a non-RAID setup is simple: You keep the SATA controller enabled in BIOS, but the RAID feature disabled, and you’re set. It’s pretty much a no-brainer, and if it wasn’t, MSI has a floor layout sheet with the board for BIOS settings and a comprehensive manual too. I thought my Neo 2 Platinum board was pretty good. The Neo 4 beats it hands down.


LoneWolf15: Thank you very much for post #11. This is exactly the information I have been looking for. I will probably revise my build somewhat before actually ordering all my parts. Looking at PSU options and possible change in Video card. All the people on this site are temendously helpful and courteous. Thanks much and keep up the good work. Of course NewEgg is where most if not all my parts will come from. I have had very good results with them in the past 2 years.
Sincerely; Pop’s


LoneWolf15; If I could pick your brain just a bit more, the 2 Drives you have hooked up now. There are 1 through 4 Purple connections and 5 through 8 Orange connectors for Sata Drives. Can you tell me which numbers you are now using?? Thanks much.


Ports 1-4 = nVidia NForce 4 Ultra
Ports 5-8 = Silicon Image SATA

I’m using ports 1 and 2. There are distinct advantages to either. The NForce 4 ports are SATA2, supporting both Native Command Queuing and 300Mbps transfer rate (though even with the latest SATA2 drives, this is just a burst rate at best, so the advantage of increased transfer rate is theoretical). The Silicon Image ports are SATA1, with 150Mbps transfer rate, and I don’t believe they have NCQ support; however, this controller supports RAID 5, useful should you ever want a 3-4 drive array with reasonable speed and good data security.


LoneWolf15; Thank you very much for the information on the Ports you are using. This answers all the questions I was needing answers to. I see my AMD CPU dropped in price by $60.00, so maybe it will drop a little more in a couple of months. Have a good one and again, I thank you very much for the help.
Sincerely: Pop’s


Do you perhaps know how they are attached? If the Sil controller is attached to the PCI bus and the NVidia one directly to the southbridge using a HT link, it may be very very wise to use the NVidia one instead of the Sil controller (as PCI bandwith is quite limited).


The nVidia one is through HT I believe. As for the Silicon Image controller, you may very well be right, according to Silicon Image’s references it goes through the PCI bus; however I wonder if it could be properly routed through a PCIe connection like was done with the second Gig NIC based on the Marvell chip. I’ll do a little research. In the meantime, it probably makes sense to keep hard disks on the nVidia controller and optical drives (unless you have less than four hard disks) on the Silicon Image unless RAID 5 is important (Note: after checking, it appears RAID 5 may be done in software, so if low CPU overhead is important, I’d probably skip it or find a hardware RAID-5 controller such as the PCIe cards remarketed by Tekram).


LoneWolf15; Do you agree with Dee-ehn as to using the Nvidia instead of the Sil controller? I plan to use 2 WD Raptors in Sata with No Raid to begin with. I have a cloning software that I plan to use once I get the first drive all setup and running properly with WinXP Pro SP2 and the rest of my drivers and software. Thanks for the opinions, it is very helpful when trying to decide on a new setup.


For hard disks, most definitely. The nVidia controller has SATA2 support (300Gbps burst transfer rate, though that’s theoretical) and support for Native Command Queuing. The Sil does not, and might also have a bit more CPU overhead, and be on a slower system bus.
For optical drives, it probably doesn’t matter which controller you use (assuming you use SATA optical drives, choices are limited). If you have only two hard disks, I’d put them on the nVidia controller as well, if you moved to 3-4 hard disks I’d move the optical drives to the Sil setup to put the hard disks on the nVidia controller. Currently, I have my DVD-ROM on IDE0 and my DVD±RW on IDE1; one advantage of going SATA with my hard disks was that I could have an optical drive on each IDE channel so that both are masters with no slave drives present.


LoneWolf15; Are both of your Sata hard drives master on the nvidia controller? And are they both bootable or is that not an option? My plan is to have 2 hard drives on the Sata nvidia controller and clone from one to the other. This way I will always have an exact copy of my drive.