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Linux Tutorial - Installing and Upgrading - Adding Hardware - EIDE Drives
  Other SCSI Devices ---- CD-ROMs  

EIDE Drives

One limitation of the of the IDE drive is that it was limited to about 520MB because the BIOS can only access cylinders less than 1,024 because it uses a 10-bit value. Because DOS accesses the hard disk through the BIOS, it, too, is limited to locations on the hard disk under this 1,024 cylinder limit.

The older IDE controllers accessed the hard disk through the combination of cylinders, heads, and sectors per track. The problem for the BIOS is when the hard disk has more than 1,023 cylinders. So, to make the BIOS happy, EIDE drives "lie" to the BIOS by saying that there are fewer than 1024 cylinders and more heads. (Often, the cylinders are halved and the heads are doubled so that the number of blocks works out to be the same.)

If you have a hard disk that is used just for Linux, you can turn off this translation completely before you install and its no longer an issue. However, if you have DOS on the disk, this is a problem. Linux still gets the geometry from the BIOS as it is booting. If the translation is on, it gets incorrect values for the physical layout on the hard disk.

However, until the kernel is loaded, LILO still uses the BIOS, therefore the Linux image must lie under this limit. The only way to ensure that this happens is to make the root partition lie under the 1,024 cylinder boundary.

Another alternative is to leave the translation on but pass the correct geometry to Linux at the boot/LILO prompt. You can even include them in lilo.conf so that you don't have to type them in every time.

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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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