[clug] Dumb user question: 2+TB disks, MBR & BIOS

rodneyp at pcug.org.au rodneyp at pcug.org.au
Wed Jan 2 14:42:47 MST 2013

On Wed, 2 Jan 2013 12:00:03 Brendan Jurd <direvus at gmail.com> wrote:
> Message: 1
> Date: Wed, 2 Jan 2013 18:24:32 +1100
> From: Brendan Jurd <direvus at gmail.com>
> To: steve jenkin <sjenkin at canb.auug.org.au>
> Cc: Canberra Linux User Group <linux at lists.samba.org>
> Subject: Re: [clug] Dumb user question: 2+TB disks, MBR & BIOS...
> Message-ID:
>         <CADxJZo2s40n=bC8h+sD=1teHPymDhnj9iCaUTdQHnHo9zqaZdQ at mail.gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
> On 2 January 2013 16:48, steve jenkin <sjenkin at canb.auug.org.au> wrote:
> > I read a piece by Seagate that MBR (Master Boot Record) partitioned
> > disks only have 32-bits for sector size, so for 512by sectors, maxx out
> > at "2.1TB" (2TiB or 2^41by).
> As others have already confirmed, that is true.  MBR has outlived its
> usefulness.
early this Century

I've been running my 2003 vintage Dell laptop with GPT on its 160 GB HDD for a 
couple of years now.  No problem at all, as long as you don't need Wind.

> >  - If you want to partition the disk you need to use GPT
> >    (GUID Partition Table)
> True, and this isn't a problem unless you like to use fdisk.  fdisk
> doesn't know GPT.  gdisk or gparted will get you there.
> My understanding is you also need to use grub-2, if you are a grub
> user.  Grub 1 doesn't know GPT.
Most Grub 0/97 have been patched to work with & boot from GPT.  A "BIOS boot 
partition" is required and several sites describe HOWTO.  eg 


> > Questions:
> >  - anyone built any desktop systems with a 3/4TB drive?
> >  - booted from a large drive? Tips & Tricks?

> Not a desktop system, but I recently upgraded my little file server to
> 2x 3TB Western Digital "Green" drives.  It does boot off one of those.
> > I guess I'm wondering if modern Desktops and white-box servers support
> > UEFI, rather than BIOS.
Desktop system yes - I'm sending this from Linux running on a system using  
J&W e350 GT mainboard, that is booting via UEFI and a GPT partitioned 1.5 TB.  

+1 for Roderick Smith 


If you do get a UEFI mainboard then his rEFInd boot manager is a good way to 
go.  Far simpler and more reliable than GRUB.  

ISTR that the originator of this thread is an openSUSE user.  openSUSE will 
setup an empty, GPT-partitioned HDD on a UEFI system with GPT ESP and what it 
calls Grub-EFI, which is essentially using the UEFI bootloader to chain to a 
Grub bootloader.  A bit messy but a fairly reliable way of getting started and 
from which rEFInd can be installed.

If you have GPT & recent Linux then, AFAIK,  the only additonal magic required 
for >2.1 TiB HDD is a SATA controller that handles the larger number of 
sectors.  Most contemporary ones apparently do.

Pass on white-box servers.  The little HP Proliant microservers have BIOS to 
all appearances.  HP claim a max HDD size of 2TB for them and that may be the 
case because they use a slightly older SATA controller.  Nevertheless mine 
boots without difficulty from 2 TB GPT formatted HDD via GRUB 0.97

Rod Smith also provides his rEFInd utility as a CD iso.  This is a great 
little utility.  If it boots, then the mainboard supports EFI booting.  If 
not, then you are stuck with some other bootloader. 

> My experience suggests yes.  The motherboard in my server is about 2
> years old and it had no issues with booting the drive.
> Cheers,
> BJ


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