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What’s Happening With SoftRAID on M1 Macs?

UPDATE: April 28, 2021
With the release of macOS 11.3 yesterday, Apple has now fixed the bug that prevented the SoftRAID driver from loading on M1 Macs. After updating to this new macOS release, the SoftRAID version 6 driver will load correctly, and you will be able to access your SoftRAID volumes.

As many of you know, we released SoftRAID version 6 last week. This means you no longer have to use a beta version of SoftRAID if you have upgraded to macOS 11 (Big Sur). We are really proud of this release. We have been shipping for just under a week, and users are upgrading to this new version and telling us how much they appreciate it.

But what’s the status of SoftRAID and the M1 Macs? Over two months ago, I first wrote about the bug Apple introduced into macOS with the release of macOS 11.2. This bug prevented the SoftRAID driver from loading on M1 Macs.


Here’s the simple explanation

With the introduction of the macOS 11 on the M1 Macs, macOS requires storage drivers to call a special routine just before sending any block of memory to the disks when reading and writing. This routine has been in macOS forever but has never been required before. Starting with the M1 Macs, if a driver doesn’t call this routine, the first attempt to read or write data will cause a kernel panic. In November, following the suggestion of a helpful Apple engineer, we added this routine to the SoftRAID driver. With this change, SoftRAID volumes worked great on M1 Macs running macOS 11.1.


So what happened with macOS 11.2?

It is painful to say, but Apple removed the very routine they require drivers to call on M1 Macs. Starting with macOS 11.2, you can no longer load a driver on an M1 Mac that calls this special routine because the special routine no longer exists. If I remove calls to this routine, the driver will load just fine. It’s just that the M1 Mac will kernel panic on the first read or write to the disk because the driver didn’t call the required routine, the one which no longer exists. This is the type of Catch-22 that would make Joseph Heller proud.

I discovered this bug a few hours after macOS 11.2 shipped. Apple has since restored this routine to macOS starting in version 11.3, and we have confirmed that it works correctly by testing the beta releases. I have been waiting for Apple to release this new version of macOS for over a month. Each week, I expect Apple to ship macOS 11.3, and instead, I just see yet another minor release to macOS 11.2. I feel it must be soon now, but I have no inside knowledge.

If you need to use SoftRAID volumes on your M1 Mac and are stuck on macOS 11.2, you can upgrade to the public beta of macOS 11.3 and SoftRAID 6 to give you the same reliable storage that you have come to expect from OWC. If you are still running macOS 11.1 on your M1 Macs, I suggest you wait to upgrade until macOS 11.3 is released before upgrading.

And now it is time for me to go back to writing code….



Tim Standing
the authorOWC Tim
Vice President of Software Engineering, Mac
Tim Standing has been writing drivers and storage utilities for Mac OS since 1986. He is the creator of SoftRAID for macOS and is currently VP of Software Development - Mac at Other World Computing, Inc. He has patented a write acceleration technique that enables the write speed RAID volumes to be as fast as the read speed. Tim's team is responsible for SoftRAID, OWC Dock Ejector, OWC Drive Guide, and all Mac drivers and utilities that make OWC products exceptional. When he's not writing code, he's creating delicious pizzas in his wood-burning pizza oven.
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21 Comments

  • Has anyone who has had issues in mounting OWC drives taken up the offer to contact support had their issues resolved by the support people?

    • We are still working with Apple on the issues users are occasionally seeing when connecting SoftRAID volumes to M1 Macs. We have finished testing the first fix, which affects USB storage devices connected to M1 Macs and will release the fix shortly. We are awaiting guidance from Apple on the other two issues we know about.

  • Softraid doesn’t work with minimac M1 until now. I have been tried all options available on the internet, and it doesn’t work. I am so disappointed.

  • I’m Currently using Softraid 5 on my intel imac. I bought a Mac M1, is there an update for softraid 6 or is this something I have to purchase?

  • I just updated the latest version of Big Sur and updated Softraid 6.5, I still can’t mount my OWC thunderbay4 mini. Frustrating now trying all the work arounds.Any suggestions please?

    • We could address your issues here but it would be much slower than having you contact our support team. Please email support@softraid.com and Mark or James will help you figure it out. Apple is aware of the driver loading issues. I am hoping that they will all be fixed in the next update to macOS 11.

  • I see this concerns OSX 11.2 and 11.3, but I’m currently running 11.4 on my new Mac Mini and I’m still unable to use my Thunderbay 4. It shows up in Softraid just fine, but won’t mount. Is this the same problem?

    • Apple continues to improve macOS 11 and, as with the last 10 yearly releases, it’s not until many months after the initial release that it finally becomes stable. This release, macOS 11, has been much worse than previous annual releases of macOS. Our customers are usually pretty stable with the new macOS release by the January – February time frame, the x.2 or x.3 release. With macOS 11, we are still not completely there. We continue to see occasional customers encountering a problem were the SoftRAID driver, and all other third party drivers, don’t load. This problem even happens with the version of the driver which Apple ships as part of the Big Sur installer. Apple is aware of this issue and is working on it.

      Our customer support team is now very familiar with the problem and how to work around it. I suggest you contact them for help getting your SoftRAID volume to mount.

      Tim

  • Hey Tim,

    So i just upgraded to 11.3 Big Sur and the lastest update to SoftRaid and i still cant read the OWC ThunderBay 8 . It reads in the softraid software but will not mount at all on the M1 Mac Mini. Anything i can do to make them work? need them for a pretty important gig.

    • Please contact us at support@softraid.com. Mark will get you going.

      The most likely cause is that you have an old drivers installed. Mark has discovered that the most common cause of the SoftRAID driver not loading, with macOS 11.3, is that the user has one or more old drivers installed.

      If Mark can’t solve your problem quickly, he will escalate it to engineering (me) and we will figure out root cause and develop a fix.

      Thanks for your patience while we all waited for Apple to ship macOS 11.3 which includes the fix for the driver loading bug.

      Tim

  • Tim

    I have a number of external drives formatted via SoftRaid version 5. If I upgrade to version 6, does the new version do anything to my drives in terms of reformatting, RAID settings, etc?

    • SoftRAID version 6 “just works” with version 5 disks. In actual fact, the only change with the on-disk structure of the SoftRAID volume data since 2010 was the addition of identifiers for RAID 4, 5 and 1+0. That’s it. You can even take SoftRAID volumes which you create with version 6 and move them to a Mac which has SoftRAID version 5 installed and it will still work perfectly.

      That being said, as we add additional features, like APFS and RAID 6 volumes to SoftRAID version 6, those volumes will not mount with SoftRAID version 5. Aside from that, if a volume format is supported in version 5, it is completely interchangeable between Macs running version 5 and version 6.

      Tim

  • Tim,

    I have three Thunderbay enclosures. Two 6-bay enclosures with 10TB drives which make up a single RAID-5 array with 12 disks at 120TB. That has been running since OWC released the 6-bay enclosure and has been very reliable with SoftRAID

    I also have a single 8-bay Thunderbay that has eight 10TB drives set up as a single 80TB RAID-5 array. When RAID-6 becomes available I will add a second 8-bay array and then create a single 16 disk array set up as a single RAID-6 array at 160TB.

    I have been using 10TB drives at least since 2016 and had hoped to replace the twelve 10TB drives with just eight 20TB drives but they have been slow to come to market.

    I have been using SoftRAID since version 3 and I have found SoftRAID to be one of the most reliable products with the best technical support of any products. I have the impression that most of the problems that I have had with SoftRAID have been created by Apple.

    Mark.

  • How well does this new version of SoftRaid work with OS Catalina and non-M1 iMacs and externally connected drives?

    • Yes, the new version works great with all versions of macOS 10.12 – 11.x. It has many fixes for bugs we found in version 5. All our development effort is going into this new version so I recommend upgrading.

      Version 6 does remove support for booting from SoftRAID volumes. Apple removed support for booting from RAID volumes starting with macOS 10.13. Since supporting booting was eliciting one of Apple’s Installer bugs, a bug which caused the SoftRAID driver to get downgraded after a macOS system software update, we decided to stop supporting booting with SoftRAID version 6. This protects users from encountering this Apple bug

      We will be adding significant additional features to SoftRAID version 6 over the next several months. First up is full APFS support which should be out in a couple of months. Following that will be support for RAID 6 and 6+ volumes.

      Tim

  • Tim, I own a M1 Mac mini and set-up with a ThunderBay 4 with dual thunderbolt 3 in RAID 5 to manage storage lacking in the Mac mini at the beginning of the year.. I set the drive up as my home folder and life was good. Start up was a tad slower as it had to wait for the drive to connect but not unreasonably slower(3 seconds). I heard that 11.2 fixed a known issue with the Mac mini and dual monitors so I was eager to upgrade. Well, 11.2 turn my life upside down and not just do to the loss of well everything. When I tried to course correct and jump on the beta program, I still can’t use the drive for the home drive. This all seems like a timing issue. Pre-11.2 the software enable mounting of the drive during start-up. Now, mounting of the drive occurs at the very last point of start-up (I see my drive appear 5-10 seconds after background and all icons load up). So my question to you (in the words of the pandemic), is this the new norm? Am I never going to be able to use this new exclosure as a home drive?

  • Tom,

    When I discovered that SoftRAID 6 ships without support for RAID 6 I was flabbergasted. I thought RAID 6 was going to be the marquee feature ?

    Mark.

    • Our marquee feature is high reliability and compatibility with macOS and Mac hardware. This is not what users usually ask for but it is what they expect. The second thing they expect is speed and then new features come after that.

      This release incorporates almost a year of testing with macOS 11 and the Macs with Apple silicon. I think we are delivering with high reliability and compatibility for those two new Apple technologies.

      I am curious to know how many and what size disks you will be using with your RAID 6 volume. Can you let me know?

      Thanks – Tim