Solved Are IRST drivers really required?


BamaInArk

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I see this being posted quite a bit in other topics especially in regards to NVMe drive usage. Where sometimes the M.2 drive is or is not recognized by the Windows installer. Some suggest that if one is installed using an 11th, 12 or 13th gen Intel processor you might need it. Me personally I've never had any issues with this. However when I first began noticing it being posted over and over I decided to try myself.

I have a spare 11th gen system up and running. So I pulled both NVMe drives currently installed and installed a clean, unformatted drive in the primary M.2 slot. I took a freshly created flash drive using Media Creation Tool for Win11 and installed the OS....clean. All installed without any issues. No need for IRST drivers. This is on an Asus Z590 motherboard which shows Native MVMe driver support. I have a 13th gen system using a Z790 board I will have to experiment with.

Anyway from what I can gather doing Google searches IRST is not really needed unless one is using RAID on the motherboard. There is another possibility of something called Intel VMD. But again it seems that is more designed for RAID and/or Xeon processors like you might see in Server environments. I see my 13th gen system does have a UEFI setting for VMD which I can enable or disable. It is on by default but the system is still using the default MS NVMe drivers. The 11th gen system tested above does not have a UEFI setting for VMD.

The other hardware that does seem to require the IRST drives is if using Optane, which is now basically stopped being supported. For @cereberus

It also seems some venders, Dell, seem to use default settings in their UEFI that seems to suggest you have to use the IRST drivers. But there also might be a setting to turn that option off or disable. ????

I found this comment from a post on Anandtech forums from Sept of 2022 discussing Intel VMD....
"Prior to Tiger Lake (IIRC), Intel implemented NVMe RAID and SSD caching (Optane Memory) using a weird feature of the PCH to hide NVMe drives from the regular PCIe system and make them only accessible through the SATA controller, so that only Intel's RST drivers would be able to find the NVMe drives. OEMs were encouraged to have this functionality enabled by default, and it was sure to be on by default for any model where Optane Memory was one of the available storage options.

When Intel started providing PCIe lanes for NVMe drives direct from the CPU rather than through the PCH, they needed a different method to ensure that regular NVMe driver software couldn't find and claim the drives before Intel RST did. That's why they brought VMD to the consumer CPUs (no, there weren't any plans to start offering hot-swappable NVMe drives in laptops). It had the nice side effect of meaning that Intel's storage hacks for the sake of RST no longer caused problems for Linux users, because VMD was already well-documented and fully supported by Linux, quite the opposite to Intel's prior PCH-based strategy.

Now that Optane Memory is dead, Intel sold their SSD business, and DirectStorage is forcing everyone to stick with the regular Microsoft NVMe drivers, these shenanigans should be gone for good."

There are some topics discussed on the 11 Forums talking more about Intel VMD.

Anyway my experience is the typical home user NOT using motherboard RAID does not need IRST drivers except for the rare instances one is also using Optane(unfortunately) and those whom might be restricted due to Bios/UEFI settings.
 

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    I'm a computer enthusiast so have quite a few systems that I run. More like an advanced hobby.
Everything you said is 100% true IMO. When doing a clean install on systems where the OEM has Raid set as default, the drives will not be detected without inserting the IRST driver during install (or incorporating that driver into the installation media). However, prior to a clean install, the user need only to change from RAID to AHCI in UEFI bios for the installation media to detect the nvme drive using MS default storage controller driver.
 

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    i9-10900 10 core 20 threads
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    none-Intel UHD Graphics 630
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    Windows 10
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    Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-4800MQ CPU @ 2.70GHz
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    Product : 190A Version : KBC Version 94.56
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My Computers

System One System Two

  • OS
    Windows 11 Pro 23H2 22631.3447
    Computer type
    PC/Desktop
    Manufacturer/Model
    Dell Optiplex 7080
    CPU
    i9-10900 10 core 20 threads
    Motherboard
    DELL 0J37VM
    Memory
    32 gb
    Graphics Card(s)
    none-Intel UHD Graphics 630
    Sound Card
    Integrated Realtek
    Monitor(s) Displays
    Benq 27
    Screen Resolution
    2560x1440
    Hard Drives
    1tb Solidigm m.2 +256gb ssd+512 gb usb m.2 sata
    PSU
    500w
    Case
    MT
    Cooling
    Dell Premium
    Keyboard
    Logitech wired
    Mouse
    Logitech wireless
    Internet Speed
    so slow I'm too embarrassed to tell
    Browser
    Firefox
    Antivirus
    Defender+MWB Premium
  • Operating System
    Windows 10 Pro 22H2 19045.3930
    Computer type
    PC/Desktop
    Manufacturer/Model
    Dell Optiplex 9020
    CPU
    i7-4770
    Memory
    24 gb
    Monitor(s) Displays
    Benq 27
    Screen Resolution
    2560x1440
    Hard Drives
    256 gb Toshiba BG4 M.2 NVE SSB and 1 tb hdd
    PSU
    500w
    Case
    MT
    Cooling
    Dell factory
    Mouse
    Logitech wireless
    Keyboard
    Logitech wired
    Internet Speed
    still not telling
    Browser
    Firefox
    Antivirus
    Defender+MWB Premium
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