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Linux Tutorial - Installing and Upgrading - Adding Hardware - Hard Disks
  SCSI Devices ---- Other SCSI Devices  

Hard Disks

If you have trouble figuring out what kind of hard disk you have, either refer to the documentation that came with the drive, call the vendor, or re-read the chapter on hardware.

The key thing to keep in mind is to make sure how the disk is configured. Every drive should come with some kind of documentation, either a detailed, multi-page manual, as is the case with many SCSI drives, or a single sheet, as is common with IDE drives. This documentation usually contains information about the default settings of the drive. Don't trust those default settings. Check them out yourself to ensure they are correct before you stick the drive in the machine. It is easier to check beforehand than it is after you've tried to install it and failed.

If it's an IDE drive, then one key issue is whether it is the master or slave. If you are adding a second drive to a system that only has one drive, you are adding the slave. If you already have two drives on the first IDE controller and this is the first one on the second controller, then it is the master.

Another key issue is making sure the cabling is right. In the section on hard disks earlier, I mentioned that the position on the cable is irrelevant for IDE drives; the jumpers determine which drive is which.

A problem often crops up when you connect the cable to the drive itself. Usually there is a small "key" on the connector on the cable that fits into a notch on the drive-side connector. If the key is missing or the drive-side connector is wide enough, it may be possible to fit the connectors together backward. Fortunately, you don't have to resort to "trial and error" to figure out which is which. On one side of the cable is a colored stripe (usually red, which is line 1 of the 40-line IDE cable. In fact, on almost all ribbon cables (such as SCSI), line 1 is marked in red.

On the drive side, things are a little more complicated. The IDE cable has 40 parallel lines, but the connectors (both on the cable and on the drive) are in two parallel rows. Usually the connector on the drive is either male (pins) or there is a small "card" sticking out that is similar to an expansion card. These alternate with the odd numbered lines on one side and the even numbered lines on the other.

On the drive near the connector, often on the circuit board itself, will be some small numbers that tell you which pin is which. Sometimes there will be a 1 and 2 on one end with 39 and 40 on the other. Other times there will be just a 1 and 39. (I have seen cases in which there is just a 2 and 40.)

When you boot your system the first time after adding the hard disk, you will probably need to go into the BIOS setup to configure the type of drive. If possible, you should always set the system to automatically detect the hard drive (i.e. autodetection). In some cases, it is simple called "Auto". The figure below shows you what this might look.

If you have an older drive or BIOS, it may be possible that the the drive cannot be recognized. In which case, you will need to define the drive yourself. However, this is unlikely as your system will have to be pretty old not to be recongized. With auto configuration, the CMOS will query drive which will be able to tell it the configuration (i.e size).

SCSI drives may have jumpers to configure them, but they may also be configured in other ways such as with dials, DIP switches, or piano switches. Like IDE drives, SCSI usually has one set of jumpers, which will be for the SCSI ID of the drive. In some cases, there will be up to eight pairs of pins to indicate the SCSI ID. Others have three pins that operate in binary. (For more details on SCSI configuration, see the section on SCSI in the hardware chapter.)

Standard SCSI cable looks very similar to the IDE, except that the cable has 50 lines instead of just 40. However, the same issues with the key and slot and the number applies. On the other hand, I cant remember seeing a SCSI device in which the key and slot didn't match up correctly.

If you are not sure how the drive is configured, check the documentation that came with your drive. If you can't find that, most hard disk manufacturers have fax services and will fax you installation information on any of their drives.

Once you have added the support for the hard disk, you have to create a file system on the disk partition (assuming that you are not creating a swap partition). When you install, you tell the system what kind of file system you want and it will call the appropriate program. For example, ext2 file systems are created using mke2fs.

I want to point out a couple of things. One thing that you can change when running mke2fs is the number of inodes on the files system. Normally, mke2fs will calculate a number based on the size of your partition. If you know that you will have a lot of small files (like for a mail or news server), you may run out of inodes because the average size of the file is less than what mke2fs expects.

You can also use mke2fs to create a file system on a floppy. You could use this for crash recovery by copying a lot of necessary tools onto the floppy. Keep in mind that you must first format the floppy before you can create a file system on it.

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Copyright 2002-2009 by James Mohr. Licensed under modified GNU Free Documentation License (Portions of this material originally published by Prentice Hall, Pearson Education, Inc). See here for details. All rights reserved.

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