It all started to happen when I tried to convert a large video to iPod format within iTunes. Since the conversion takes time I left the computer for a while. When I returned I got "Unable to boot screen" because Vista x86 bluescreened. The frightening fact was that it couldn't boot even though I am on RAID 10 (controlled by Intel ICH8R). Next I went to check into the RAID diagnostics utility and saw an even more frightening fact: 3 out of 4 drives were marked red saying "Failure". Fortunately the utility offered to recover RAID array and marked all but one drive as Normal. So there was still hope. I restarted and I could boot to Vista. As soon as I logged in Intel Matrix Storage Console warned me that my RAID array was degraded (since one of the volumes wasn't operational this info was correct). So I marked the fourth drive as normal as the RAID array was rebuilt in a couple of hours or so. Good for me, everything was working again and nothing was lost.
Now it was time to investigate the cause of this hard crash – I mean taking out 3 of 4 disks isn't just a normal blue screen and if there is a system problem I am in trouble. My first suspect was my Intel E6600 Dual Core CPU. Last thing I did to my computer before crash was to start a lengthy conversion that utilizes 100% of one CPU core (50% of entire CPU). The theory was that it could warm up too much during the conversion and when a CPU is overheating odd things happen. I crated a simple .net application that does an endless loop and run it twice so both cores would be pushed to the limit. Before that I've installed and run SpeedFan utility (one of the few sensor reading applications that work on Vista) that reads the temperature info from motherboard/CPU. I saw that when CPU is pushed to the limit the temperature of the cores raises to 53C/51C. The numbers don't look too high for me – before running Intel I was running an Athlon 2800+ that could reach 70C without problems – that was one hot CPU hard to cool. Back to my investigation. If my CPU crashed because of that relatively low temperatures it would mean that CPU is probably faulty and I would have to change it – I guess I would loose almost a week. Ouch. But this wasn't it. Vista was happily running without and problem for half an hour. Good for me. What was then? As a good programmer I tried to recreate the situation – I fired up iTunes and started conversion again – after some minutes it bluescreened again with similar RAID problems – disks were failing. That made iTunes the prime suspect that I would torture for a confession if I had to. I mean it can't be coincidence. I figured out that doing a conversion does something bad, very bad. Because I don't want to debug iTunes I decided to avoid the conversion feature and do conversions using other software available – Videora iPod Converter is an excellent choice, furthermore is free. Of course there were no problems converting video using Videora stuff. However, when I tried to update my iPod (again using iTunes) with converted video (that means just updating iPod data) Vista bluescreened again having a bunch of failed disks.
For now I decided to avoid using iTunes at all costs since I don't have time to rebuild my RAID array for couple of hours per crash through each day. I don't know what the exact problem is but it only manifests when iTunes is doing something (i.e. updating iPod). OK, I know that Apple doesn't recommend running iTunes on Vista for now, but this problem is just too much – that an application kills RAID disks isn't acceptable for Apple (destroying RAID), Intel (perhaps there is something wrong with RAID drivers?) and [MS] (letting iTunes destroy RAID).
The bottom line is beware of iTunes on Vista.
UPDATE: Although I managed to rebuild RAID volume, NTFS was damaged beyond repair. chkdsk just gives up on errors and all I can do is to login in safe mode. Thus I'll have to reinstall Vista today. Oh well.
UPDATE 2: A reader (in a comment bellow) reported that Apple Quicktime causes the same problem. Consider yourself warned.
UPDATE 3 (18.4.): I contacted Intel technical support and they say it certainly isn't their fault. The only explanation from them: it happens only with iTunes. I doubt that they bothered checking at all. But how can they say that it isn't their fault as their driver/controller (the last line between disk and other hw) should protect the integritiy of RAID array and shouldn't let any application destroying it. I will try to issue a PSS request to [MS] asap. I would ask Apple, too, but I don't have any contact e-mail…
UPDATE 4 (26.4.) One of the readers might have found the answer and solution to the problem. See for yourself here. Note that I didn't tested it nor I can confirm it or anything. However, it seems that he is on the right track.
UPDATE 5 (7.5.) A reader is reporting that it happens on opteron 170 in a DFI Lanparty nF4, too. This info sort of moves finger away from Intel to [MS] and Apple.
UPDATE 6 (11.5.) A breakthrough: Intel acknowledges the problem.