Real life debugging with ASRock Z97m OC Formula and ASRock H97i

OK, somehow we are buying mainly ASRock boards these days, some hard won tips, tricks and traps:

ASRock H97i

This is a nice non-overclockable board for about $100. We are using it for our basic machines. The main things to note are:

  • The m.2 slot is on the back and isn’t well documented. There is a funky screw on the back that is actually a screw within a screw. You need a set of pliers to unscrew them. Then place the bottom screw at the right distance. M.2 has different heights. The most common is 80mm or the 2280 form factor. So put it there and then screw it down. It is on the opposite of the motherboard and hard to read.
  • The lights. I had lots of confusion about the colored lights. Basically, when there is a problem the RAM light flashes red and won’t start. Before you put the whole thing together, don’t put the heat sink on, instead, put the RAM and the CPU in and then boot it to make sure that it POSTS. In our case, we had a bad RAM slot on the second slot and it wouldn’t boot.
  • You also want to check in the power on that you are getting dual channel. It is confusing with four slots, which ones give you dual. On this board, it is the first two that get you to dual memory.
  • You can also tell by the power on beep that things are running

ASRock Z97m OC Formula

This is a relatively low end board but it does allow overclocking and isn’t a bad deal at $120-135 depending on rebates.

  • This board does not have a beep when it starts nor does it have any lights on the motherboard at all, so the only way to tell that it works is to watch the display. Make sure you have a monitor which switches to the right input, otherwise, you could be looking at the thing wondering if something went wrong. Really different from other boards.
  • There is a funky molex connector for VGA at the outer edge of board that is facing out. It is basically impossible to wire up once you’ve put the board into a chassis. So make sure you put that thing in first before putting the motherboard down.
  • Again, like all boards, as soon as you have the motherboard and cpu and ram on, turn it on and check to make sure you get a POST. You also want to make sure that the RAM is in the right slots. In this case, it needs to be in alternating positions (the two gold or the two blue) to work correctly. That is different than the H97i as an aside.
  • The board is extremely tight, so you also want to install the SATA connector before you put the board down. Also, there is massive sharing going on with the SATA, so if you are using M.2 shares with SATA3 and SATA4, so don’t use those ports.
  • To maximize performance you want a native two lane PCI Express m.2. Currently the Plextor M6e is the only SSD that supports this. It gives you just over SATA3 speeds (10Mbps maximum).

nVidia GTX 970

This is a new world for us, most of the time Ubuntu drivers just seem to work, but the new GTX970, we get a low resolution unaccelerated driver. The system doesn’t detect this for additional drivers. One suggestion is:
““
sudo apt-get install -y nvidia-331
“`
But this then hangs the video card.

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