Unholy adventures in multi-terabyte land

Unholy adventures in multi-terabyte land

Between lots of other activities this weekend, I fiddled around with my three new 1.5TB drives.  It’s been years since I’ve felt like I took some sort of Apocalypse Now trip up the technological congo – but adventures in installing these drives has made me feel close again.  What awful adventures getting some wild combination of things working in tech-land have you had?

How about:

  • Getting more than 640k recognized in DOS on an IBM XT via a memory expander card (I had a 512k ram drive!)
  • Getting an 8-bit IBM XT to boot from a very specific Seagate ST351A/X IDE drive (the only IDE drive ever that could run on an XT)
  • Getting over 4gb of memory recognized (not hard -unless your motherboard has a bios bug that freezes the system up with four 1gb DDR2 sticks install -a bug I found and reported to Intel’s support guys…)
  • Getting windows media player to stop f*** waking my system randomly in the night to update the program guide.

But anyway, TerabyteLand wasn’t quite as bad as those – but installing these drives helped me relive those days a bit.  Long story short – don’t expect to boot from a volume over 2TB.  Now, I have hardware RAID on my motherboard with ample SATA ports (six hot-swappable) and hardware support for RAID 0, 1, 5, and 0+1.   My hope was to put all three drives in a RAID 5 setup for redundancy and read performance.  I could successfully create the 3.0TB RAID 5 set, but it was reported as not bootable by an ICH9 and ICH10 RAID controller.  After trying 2 other motherboards and digging around on forums, turns out due to current bios limitations.

MBR BIOS limitation to 2TB
Current BIOS uses MBR (master boot record) for drive support – and MBR only supports drives or partitions up to 2TB.  However, the new EFI (extensable firmware interface) specification is a BIOS replacement that removes this limitation by allowing the new GPT (GUID Partitioning Table) format that supports up to 18 exobyte drives/partitions.  So, in order to boot from a drive larger than 2TB, you need to have a motherboard that runs EFI (currently: Apple, Itanium, and HP-UX boards), and drives formatted with GPT.  So at the moment, that means not much love for Windows world.  You can create GPT partitions in Vista SP1 – but just not boot from them.

So, that leaves only two options: run my OS from one of my existing 750GB drives and then have the remaining 3.0TB in a second set as RAID 5, or put two drives in RAID 1 for the OS (mirroring for fault tolerance and read speed) and leave the second drive alone for DVR storage.  I went option #2 – but I hate the fact I can’t just have one big bucket of bits.  I HATE secondary drives that exist simply because of these stupid limitation.  At least I’m not alone.

Still, even doing this was painful.  Vista had trouble recognizing the drives when I first plugged them in.  You had to format them with AHCI first, then switch the bios over to RAID and set up the volume – then vista could install to them.  Weird.

Any of you set up a large bootable volume like this in Linux?

One thought on “Unholy adventures in multi-terabyte land

  1. Nah, but last week for work I had to dig a 2Gb drive that was EZ-Biosed into a 386 out and ended up parallel port laplinking the data off. Those things might as well be 4096 bit encrypted for as tough as it can be to access it from a non-ezbios computer.

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