Possible Symptoms and Solutions for Basic Barriers, The Basics (3)

Hard Drive Size Limitations and Barriers
The Basics

Possible Symptoms and Solutions for Basic Barriers

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In the first two segments, we touched upon the basic drive barriers and limitations and where all of the problems began. However, the barriers and limitations we have mentioned thus far are just the tip of the iceberg. Our in-depth discussion covers most, if not all, of the known barriers and limitations through April of 2002, and our segment on Resolving BIOS and Drive Size Barriers covers most, if not all, of the tested and verified solutions through the same period.

Before moving to the in-depth discussion, let’s take a brief moment and review the basic symptoms of these barriers and their potential solutions.

528 MB Barrier
Symptom: The total disk space reported to the operating system will be 528 MB or less.

Cause: Outdated BIOS and/or system motherboard.

Possible Solution: 

Hardware:

  1. Upgrade the system BIOS and/or replace the motherboard.
  2. Use an Enhanced IDE (EIDE) Interface Card or BIOS Extender card that provides the correct LBA support for large capacity disk drives.

Software:

  1. For those systems that cannot take advantage of a LBA BIOS feature, both Maxtor and Western Digital have solutions. Maxtor has had one software solution in place since 1993, with its MaxBlast® software. Software translation is an effective, but non-conventional means, of translating sector addresses of large capacity hard disk drives. Instead of loading a driver in the start-up files, MaxBlast® loads drivers before the operating system is loaded. The latest version of MaxBlast® can be obtained directly from Maxtor’s Internet Web site.
  2. As in the case with Maxtor, Western Digital also has drive software for enabling the use of large hard drives in systems with outdated or legacy BIOS and/or motherboard. Western Digital’s version of this software was known as EZ-Drive®, which is now referred to as Western Digital’s Data Lifeguard Tools®.

2.1 GB Barrier
Symptom: A system hang occurs when the BIOS has a problem translating the cylinders and heads and locks the system during POST (power on self test).

Cause: Outdated BIOS and/or system motherboard.

Possible Solution:

Hardware:

  1. Upgrade the system *BIOS and/or replace the motherboard.
  2. Use an Enhanced IDE (EIDE) Interface or BIOS Extender card that provides the correct LBA support for large capacity disk drives.

Software:

  1. If you are using an operating system that requires the use of the FAT 16 file system, such as DOS, MS-DOS®, Windows® 3.x and the initial installation of Windows NT®, multiple partitions will have to be created in order for you to be able to utilize the capacity of the hard drive should it be larger than 2.1GB.
    • Note: If you are using Windows NT, you can format the drive in another machine as an NTFS volume rather than MS-DOS and then move the drive back to the original machine.

  2. If you are using early versions of MS-DOS® or the Windows® 3.x operating system, you will need to update these operating systems to currently available releases.
  3. For those systems that cannot take advantage of a LBA BIOS feature, both Maxtor and Western Digital have solutions. Maxtor has had one software solution in place since 1993, with its MaxBlast software. Software translation is an effective, but non-conventional means, of translating sector addresses of large capacity hard disk drives. Instead of loading a driver in the start-up files, MaxBlast loads drivers before the operating system is loaded. The latest version of MaxBlast® can be obtained directly from Maxtor’s Internet Web site.
  4. As in the case with Maxtor, Western Digital also has drive software for enabling the use of large hard drives in systems with outdated or legacy BIOS and/or motherboard. Western Digital’s version of this software was known as EZ-Drive®, which is now referred to as Western Digital’s Data Lifeguard Tools®.

*For additional BIOS information, see below!

4.2 GB Barrier
Symptom: System hangs at boot after the creation of partitions on the drive.

Cause: Of the many times we have seen this problem, 99% of the time it is because of the installed operating system or the partitioning and formatting tools from the operating system being installed. Operating systems that usually cause this problem to surface are: DOS, MS-DOS®, Windows 3x, Windows 95® (version 95A) and on some occasions Windows NT® 3x and Windows NT® 4x when deployed on drives using the FAT file system. When deployed on NTFS volumes, the problem disappears unless there is an underlying BIOS issue.

Possible Solution:

Hardware:

  1. Upgrade the system BIOS and/or replace the motherboard.
  2. Use an Enhanced IDE (EIDE) Interface or BIOS Extender card that provides the correct LBA support for large capacity disk drives.

Software:

  1. If the motherboard and BIOS are still supported by the manufacturer, update the BIOS to a more current version to overcome the barrier.
  2. Upgrade or replace the motherboard, processor and memory.
  3. On Windows NT® based systems utilizing the FAT file system, convert the drive (volume) to NTFS.
  4. For those systems that cannot take advantage of a LBA BIOS feature, both Maxtor and Western Digital have solutions. Maxtor has had one software solution in place since 1993, with its MaxBlast® software. Software translation is an effective, but non-conventional means, of translating sector addresses of large capacity hard disk drives. Instead of loading a driver in the start-up files, MaxBlast® loads drivers before the operating system is loaded. The latest version of MaxBlast® can be obtained directly from Maxtor’s Internet Web site.
  5. As in the case with Maxtor, Western Digital also has drive software for enabling the use of large hard drives in systems with outdated or legacy BIOS and/or motherboard. Western Digital’s version of this software was known as EZ-Drive®, which is now referred to as Western Digital’s Data Lifeguard Tools®.
  6. Replace the problem system.

Caution! Since this barrier is almost always a limitation of the operating system, don’t make any hasty hardware changes unless you’re certain that the hardware is the cause!

8.4 GB Barrier
Symptoms: Given that this is a relatively recent barrier, (1998-1999) it is quite conceivable that all of the possible symptoms are not known at this time. The following are the known issues when installing drives greater than 8.4 GB:

  1. The total disk capacity reported to the operating system is 8.4 GB or less.
  2. A system hang occurs during the boot process when the BIOS attempts to translation of the cylinders and heads. Often this is a hard system lockup during POST (power on self test).
  3. When attempting to format the drive, errors occur. Usually the basic operating system (eg: MS-DOS® in Windows 9x/ME) reports that there are bad sectors on the drive or that there are lost allocation units it is trying to recover on the drive, when in fact the drive is fine.

Cause: This barrier is almost entirely either BIOS (motherboard) or Operating System related. The BIOS is incapable of translating the new cylinder and head configuration of larger drives because the BIOS does not have the current Extended Int 13 functions, and most probably does not employ LBA BIOS features. In those situations where the BIOS can provide limited LBA translation, the Operating system may be too old to use it. As a side note though, even operating systems as recent as Windows® 96, 98 and Windows® 98 Second Edition had a problem with 8GB drives. You may want to review this article from the Microsoft Knowledge Base  – Microsoft Knowledge Base Article – Q245213 : Fdisk.exe Limits Non-MS-DOS® Partition End to 8 GB.

Solution:

Hardware:

  1. Upgrade the system BIOS or replace the motherboard is flashing the BIOS is not possible.
  2. Use an Enhanced IDE (EIDE) Interface or BIOS Extender card that provides the correct LBA support for large capacity disk drives.

Software:

  1. If you cannot upgrade the BIOS, and replacing the motherboard is not an option for those systems that cannot take advantage of a LBA BIOS feature, both  Maxtor and Western Digital have software solutions available.
  2. Maxtor makes available a software package called MaxBlast®, which involves software translation of drive information. Software translation is an effective, but non-conventional, means of translating sector addresses of large capacity hard disk drives. Instead of loading a driver in the start-up files, MaxBlast® loads drivers before the operating system is loaded. The latest version of MaxBlast® can be obtained directly from Maxtor’s Internet Web site®.
  3. Western Digital also has drive information translation software for enabling the use of large hard drives in systems with outdated or legacy BIOS and/or motherboard. Western Digital’s version of this software was known as EZ-Drive®, which is now referred to as Western Digital’s Data Lifeguard Tools®.

*If you are certain that the barrier is a limitation of the operating system, see our comments below.

One particular problem involves Microsoft’s FDISK. On drives larger than 8 gigabytes (GB), the Fdisk tool (Fdisk.exe) reports that any non-MS-DOS partitions end at 8 GB. This problems surfaces because early versions of Fdisk.exe do not use Logical Block Addressing (LBA) when computing partition table information for unknown partition types. You can review the entire article here: Microsoft Knowledge Base Article – Q245213 – Fdisk.exe Limits Non-MS-DOS Partition End to 8 GB. You may also want to review the discussion immediately below regarding System BIOS issues and the most recent release of FDISK.

Within the information that follows, you will find BIOS references, a list of EIDE or ATA interface card manufacturers, as well as operating system specific data and the capacity handling of each. This is not, by any means, an all-inclusive listing, as new solutions and new devices surface monthly!

SYSTEM (Motherboard) BIOS

NOTE:  The BIOS information we have listed below refers to “Core” BIOS issues only! A core BIOS is the basic BIOS code created by a BIOS developer. Although a BIOS may be dated so as to give you the impression that it is the current version, it may not necessarily support the Extended Int (Interrupt) 13 function. This may be the result of modifications to the “Core” of the BIOS by the motherboard manufacturer after having received it from the developer. At times motherboard manufacturers do not consult BIOS manufacturers and request that a particular BIOS be updated. In turn this sometimes causes the functions of Extended Int 13 to work incorrectly or not at all.

One recent example of a lack of BIOS support, along with an alleged failure by Microsoft to update FDISK, resulting in what has been termed the Windows 98/98SE 64GB Barrier. Initially the BIOS limitation created the stumbling block, but after many hours of BIOS redevelopment, developers attempted to test drive sizes of 64GB and above only to find that a barrier still existed. Although the BIOS appeared to be identifying the entire drive size, FDISK was still unable to see its full capacity. Several versions of FDISK exist beginning with the earliest versions of DOS and MS-DOS® through Windows 98® Second Edition and Windows ME®. The problem now lay with the the early versions of FDISK, all versions through the that which had been included with the final release of Windows® 98SE.

Microsoft rectified this problem by releasing an updated version of FDISK on May 18, 2000. *If you feel that you may be facing this problem in either Windows® 95, 98 or Windows® 98 Second Edition, visit the Microsoft Knowledge Base and review the following article: Fdisk Does Not Recognize Full Size of Hard Disks Larger than 64 GB. In addition to helpful information, you will also find the most recent edition of FDISK available for download. If you need this latest version of FDISK immediately, click here and download 263044USA8.EXE from Microsoft. If it’s unavailable there, you’ll find it on our server, which you can download now by clicking here download 263044USA8.EXE from our server. *Windows 2000 and Windows XP do not experience this problem!

One of the single greatest dangers facing anyone upgrading to one of the recent jumbo hard drives, those that are 65GB and greater is a BIOS that appears to recognize the larger drive parameters, when in fact it does not. The disk appears to be working fine, however at some point in time (unpredictably) the data begins to “wrap around” at the BIOS limit and corrupts the boot sector of the drive. Most of the time this occurs because the BIOS Core has been changed by the motherboard manufacturer, and to correct the problem, they need to be contacted to develop a BIOS upgrade for that specific motherboard. A BIOS developers Core update will not fix this issue because the of the possible modifications of the motherboard manufacturer.

Here are some specific BIOS issues and limitations (subject to change of course)

Phoenix: Version 4 Revision 6, or greater, can support capacities greater than 8.4 GB. If the BIOS is revision 5.12, it does not support extended interrupt 13. All Phoenix BIOS’s are Version 4!. Revision numbers are important, as an example, 5.12 is an older release than 6. Phoenix recommends Micro Firmware (877-629-2467) for BIOS upgrades.

Award: BIOS’s dated after November 1997 will support drives greater than 8.4 GB. Award recommends Unicore (800-800-2467) for BIOS upgrades.

American Megatrends Inc., (AMI): BIOS versions with a date of January 1, 1998 or greater support drives greater than 8.4 GB.

BIOS Upgrades and Controller Cards

BIOS upgrades can be achieved either either through the use of a controller card, a EPROM chip or a card with just the BIOS on it. These cards, when set up correctly, are able to override the current BIOS of the computer and enable large capacity hard disk drives.

Micro Firmware: (877-629-2467) Micro Firmware creates 3 types of upgrades: an EPROM, flash BIOS software and a controller card. Products purchased from Micro Firmware starting January 1, 1998 and later will support extended Interrupt 13. Existing customers should contact Micro Firmware regarding flash BIOS upgrades.

Promise Technology: (408-452-0948) Promise Technology has an excellent line of controller cards that enable large hard drive support. They all come with their own independent BIOS software and support Extended Interrupt 13.

Abit: (510-623-0500) Abit Computer Corporation is a reputable manufacturer of motherboards and add-on controller cards. Most, if not all, of their motherboards and controller cards support large hard drives and Extended Interrupt 13. They are extremely vigilant in keeping their BIOS’s up to date.

Adaptec: (408-945-8600) Adaptec has been a leading manufacturer of controller cards for many years and they are a leader in the industry. All of their controller cards support large hard drives and Extended Interrupt 13. They too are extremely vigilant in keeping their BIOS’s up to date.

American Megatrends, Inc.: (770-246-8600) American Megatrends (AMI), aside from being a leader in BIOS development, is also leading controller card manufacturer. All of their controller cards support large hard drives and Extended Interrupt 13.

Operating Systems

NOTE: Even though an operating system may support drives greater than 8.4 GB, the computer may not! In this case you should decide whether a hardware solution is available or possibly use a software solution such as those mentioned above from Maxtor or Western Digital. Many times purchasing a controller card that provides Extended Interrupt 13 support will solve these problems rather inexpensively. Be aware that some, if not most, early operating systems have limits on partition sizes. You may need to create multiple partitions on the drive to utilize its full capacity, such as in MS-DOS®, Windows® 95A and Windows® NT 3.51 and 4.0 when on a FAT 16 partition. The following will provide you with known issues regarding operating systems currently in use.

DOS 6.22 or Less: DOS 6.22 or less does not support drives greater 8.4 GB. There are no solutions at this time.

Windows 95: Windows 95A (standard or the first version) does support Extended Interrupt 13 so it can support drives with capacities greater than 8.4 GB. However, because of the limitations of the FAT 16 file system, a minimum of five partitions will be needed on the hard drive. This is caused by the 2.048 GB partition limitation of a FAT 16 based operating system. The number of partitions will increase as the hard drive’s capacity increases (e.g., an 11 GB hard drive WILL require a minimum of six partitions).

Windows 95B / OSR2, Windows 95C and Windows 98: Windows 95B (OSR2), Windows 95C and Windows 98 all support Extended Interrupt 13, which allows the operating system to support drives larger than 8.4 GB. These operating systems also support FAT 32. The FAT32 file system lets the user create partitions larger than 2.048 GB, however it can only be used on hard drives whose capacity exceeds 512 megabytes. You should also keep in mind the FDISK limitations mentioned earlier.

Windows NT 3.51: Windows NT 3.51 does not support drives greater than 8.4 GB.

Windows NT 4.0: Windows NT 4.0 WILL support drive capacities greater than 8.4 GB provided:

OS/2 Warp 3 and 4: Some versions are limited to a boot partition size of 3.1 GB or 4.3 GB. This issue can be resolved by obtaining the latest Device Driver Pack from IBM.

Novell NetWare: Currently, Novell NetWare versions 4.11 and 5 will support drive capacities greater than 8.4 GB. This is accomplished with the following drivers:

  • IDEATA.HAM (Host Adapter Module) dated 8-25-98
  • IDEHD.CDM (Custom Device Module) dated 8-5-98
    NOTE: It is not known if Novell intends to develop driver updates for earlier versions of NetWare. Customers will need to contact either a Novell Authorized Reseller or Novell directly for further information on driver updates and support for older NetWare versions. Reference “Q&A – Novell NetWare” for further information. Users can also obtain more in-depth information on Novell NetWare at Novell’s Web Site

Red Hat Linux 5.2: Red Hat Linux will support hard drive capacities greater than 8.4 GB provided:

  • Linux Kernel version 2.0.35 is used
  • LILO resides in the first 1023 cylinders of the primary master hard drive.
  • The /root partition must reside in the first 8.4 GB of the primary master hard drive. The /root partition CANNOT exceed 8.4 GB.
    NOTE: Reference Q&A – Red Hat Linux and IDE/EIDE Hard Drives for further information. Users can also obtain more in-depth information on Linux at the RedHat Linux Web Site

For an in depth look at these drive barriers and limitations see our segment, Hard Drive Size Barriers and Limitations – In Depth. For a more in-depth review of possible solutions, please see our segment, Resolving BIOS and Drive Size Barriers.

Notice: Windows® 95, Windows® 98, Windows® NT, Windows® 2000, Windows® XP and Microsoft® Office are registered trademarks or trademarks of the Microsoft Corporation.

All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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