Spinrite + Zimaboard + eSATA dock

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Mar 5, 2024
Spinrite has been running great with my new Zimaboard however I have quite a number of drives to process and the normal SATA connector that comes with the Zimaboard is very stiff. I've already slightly damaged one of the connectors connecting/disconnecting drives. So I would like to use a hard drive dock with the Zimaboard and Spinrite. I have a dual eSATA drive dock and a conversion cable (eSATA to SATA connectors), so far that has not worked, no drive is seen by Spinrite. My (limited) understanding of the eSATA to SATA conversion cable is that it makes the dock look like an ordinary SATA drive with no hotswap capability, is that right? Or is the dual drive dock the issue, do I need a single drive dock with eSATA connector? Startech makes one but it's realatively expensive and I'd like to confirm it will work.

I know the eSATA dock is working, if I boot into CasaOS it sees the dock and inserted hard drive correctly.

In the meantime I ordered a trayless mobile rack, very cheap, which presents the normal SATA power and data connector combo and will at least solve the stiff connector problem.

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I boot into CasaOS it sees the dock and inserted hard drive correctly.
This sounds like a driver issue. The BIOS on the ZimaBoard probably doesn't provide the necessary support, and SpinRite doesn't have it either. (SpinRite has native support for some drive communication protocols, like IDE, PATA, SATA and ACHI and will use them in favour of the BIOS for reasons of speed and capability. If it doesn't have the necessary driver, it can only support additional devices that the BIOS presents.)
Sorry, I edited my post, the eSATA dock works fine with the Zimaboard's CasaOS, I can work with the drive when I boot into that. The eSATA to SATA cable is a bit of a mystery to me, I have the impression it makes the eSATA dock appear as an ordinary SATA drive. I'm thinking the problem might be the dual drives in the eSATA dock, maybe a single drive eSATA dock with conversion cable would work with Spinrite/DOS?
Googling does not return a reliable answer as to whether eSATA requires (extra) drivers. One thing to note however, is that powering drives form the ZimaBoard is iffy with their provided power supply. You may need a beefier power supply. Steve have recommended one he used elsewhere in these forums. I'll try to remember to find it and link it here.

EDIT: Here you go: https://forums.grc.com/threads/zimaboard-and-ide-drives.1414/#post-10610
That's another reason the StarTech eSATA drive dock is attractive, it has its own power supply. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M3P02FY/

It seems like a single bay eSATA drive dock with an eSATA to SATA conversion cable would "look" like an ordinary SATA drive to the Zimaboard and DOS. But I say that with no knowledge of what is going on in the eSATA dock's firmware/protocols.

This is the eSATA to SATA cable I'm using https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00V6QA4R6?\
The cable definitely works, when the Zimaboard boots into CasaOS it sees the dual eSATA dock I currently have been testing. And of course my current dual eSATA drive has its own power supply.
Also I should acknowledge your point that CasaOS might be loading drivers that make the eSATA connection via eSATA to SATA cable conversion work. Normally I would just conclude that must be the case and leave it at that but even if that's why the dual eSATA drive dock I have now works with CasaOS, I still can't help wondering if the combination of a single bay eSATA drive dock + eSATA to SATA converter cable might "look" like a normal SATA drive to the Zimaboard/Spinrite/DOS.
@jeff2442 :

My guess is that your intuition about the dual drive dock (being dual) is correct. SATA has this notion of a "port multiplier" which allows multiple drives to be attached to a single SATA cable. SpinRite v6.1 punted on support for that since it is uncommon (I don't think we encountered it even once during all of our development) and since it would usually be possible to simply work around it to run SpinRite. I'll definitely be supporting this under v7, but my guess is that this is likely the trouble for v6.1. As Colby suggested, arranging to use some form of single drive adapter would likely work. :)
Thanks for the response Steve! If I may ask a follow-up question please.. StarTech sells a single bay drive dock with eSATA connector and it's own power supply. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M3P02FY/ I already have an eSATA to SATA conversion cable which I have confirmed to work between a dual eSATA dock and the Zimboard when the Zimaboard is booted into Debian (which presumably is loading some drivers to make this work). So, if I connect a single bay eSATA drive dock with its own power supply to the Zimaboard via my eSATA to SATA conversion cable, do you think that could work with Zimaboard/Spinrite/DOS? Or would you guess the firmware in the single bay eSATA drive doc is still using protocols that won't work with DOS, i.e., this combination still won't make the hard drive "look" like an ordinary SATA drive to Zimaboard/Spinrite/DOS?

For now I have at least improved the situation with a trayless mobile rack (see pic below) that makes swapping drives in and out very easy and I just share one of my desktop monitors with the Zimaboard. A monitor riser with narrow shelves that I happen to already be using is also helpful, the Zimaboard is on the shelf below the mobile rack so that's out of the way and not looking quite so much like a science fair project. Finally, a ThinkPad keboard with built-in TrackPoint works well with this setup, very compact.

Jeff (@jeff2442):

I'm a BIT suspicious, due to the presence of that USB 3 connector... but I can let you know tomorrow (Friday) since I've just ordered one of those single-bay docks for early morning delivery, tomorrow. I'll fire it up with it plugged into my ZimaBoard and let you know! (y)
Thanks! Seems like there is a wonderful opportunity for a moonlighting/entrepreneurial engineer to create a 3D printed case that would house the Zimaboard and a tray-less mobile rack like https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00M3WNWB2?psc=1& together.

I've been using this tray-less rack for a couple of days now and it definitely makes inserting and removing a large number of hard drives much easier. I also like sharing my desktop monitor with the Zimaboard, I can see from the indicator light on the rack when Spinrite is finished, I don't even have to switch the monitor input to check on Spinrite progress, I just wait for the access light to go out on the mobile rack and then view the Spinrite summary screen. I know a lot of people run Spinrite on an old PC but my office is already cramped, this tiny form factor approach works better for me.
I'll fire it up with it plugged into my ZimaBoard and let you know! (y)
I can confirm that the single drive eSATA StatTech.com dock works perfectly with the ZimaBoard and SpinRite.

I hooked it up, plugged in a 500GB Samsung SSD, and it's screaming along with about 16 minutes for the full drive at level 2.

So the USB3 connector is not interfering in any way and it's a slick solution.
This might be the wrong thread but as it is ZimaBoard related, I'm looking at buying one specifically to run SpinRite 6.1 so my main PC doesn't need to be offline while checking external drives. Knowing SpinRite is DOS-based, am wondering whether there is any advantage to getting a ZimaBoard with more than 2 GB of RAM or more than 2 cores (current models are either 2 cores with 2 GB RAM or 4 cores with either 4 or 8 GB RAM). I am thinking all would be equally capable at running SR6.1.
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If you think you may use the ZimaBoard for anything else in the future, it may be worth getting one with more RAM. Windows requires 4 GB, and TrueNAS wants 8. SpinRite 6.1 only needs something like 54 MB, and only uses 1 core.