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Using Maxtor 160-GB drives with Linux
Posted on Sunday, June 02 @ 12:28:24 EDT by staff

Technicalia Tech tip

by Daniel Feenberg

Except for the most recent kernels, Linux will only see 137 GB out of the 156 GB on the the Maxtor "160 Gigabyte" Diamondmax 540T drives. I found nothing on the Maxtor or RedHat web sites about this, but a search of the Linux Kernel mailing list produced a number of references to a patch which was purported to work by some people. Some additional directions are available here but for those unwilling or unable to patch their kernel, it is possible to simply upgrade to the latest release if you are using the Redhat distribution.

Redhat 7.2 will see only 137 GB, but RH 7.3 will see the entire drive. Which comes to 156 GB of usable space. I don't know about the other distributions, but I guess that any based on Kernel 2.4.18-3 or better will be much the same. Somewhere between 2.4.7-10 and 2.4.18-3 the patch may have been accepted into the standard kernel, or perhaps RH just added it to its distribution. It may be in other distributions, also. I'd like to hear from someone who actually knows.

There is some discussion on the Linux Kernel mailing list about which IDE controllers will support the larger drives and some posters alleged BIOS compatibility problems on older motherboards. The most knowledgable participants in the debate say that all controllers will work and there are no BIOS issues.

In my experiments the first two channels on a relatively new Gigafast GA-7/DXR motherboard did support the large partition, but two additional motherboard connectors intended for RAID arrays (Promise Technology MBFasTtrak133) did not. A call to the vendor informed me that the 3rd and 4th connectors required a special Linux driver to operate at all, but that PCI based IDE controllers would be supported by any kernel.

I prefer buying new hardware to modifying the kernel. So I bought a Maxtor Ultra100 controller, which did not work (the boot failed at the "Partition check" stage), and later a Maxtor Ultra133 (also called Ultra133TX2 and sometimes bundled with the drive in retail packages) controller, which did work. This leaves me agreeing with the other clueless users who think that a controller claiming compatibility with the Maxtor 133 megabit/second standard is required and contradicts the wisdom of the cluefull. These controllers include some BIOS code, which might also be helpfull. I did find a press release from Promise Technology claiming that there was a new standard for 48-bit addressing of IDE drives, called "Big Drive". Maxtor doesn't mention that on the box, or in the docs supplied with the controller or drive, though.

The RH default partitions generated by the Redhat 7.3 partitioning tool (as invoked by the initial installation program) are unsuitable for drives so large, so you probably want to do the partitioning yourself. Interestingly enough Disk Druid saw 156,327MB (19,929 cylinders) on 4 of the drives and 156,334 MB (19,930 cylinders) on the other two. And no, it didn't seem to matter which controller or which partition program was used.

We are using this as JBOD, so we did not consider it necessary to restrict ourselves to one drive per IDE cable.

The drives consume about 16 watts each at startup and about 6 watts each in steady state. (We have a meter). Even with no special cooling they do not get hot. The entire box with 6 160 Gigabyte drives consumes 225 watts at start up and 125 watts steady state. I wound up with 885 (true) gigabytes of user file storage for about $2,500.

Introductory Linux documentation doesn't cover adding a hard drive to an existing system, but it is quite easy to do with the sfdisk command. The e2label command is optional, but is used with the new scheme of mounting partitions by Label rather than device name.

#sfdisk /dev/hdc
#e2label /dev/hdc /mountpoint

and accept every default to get the entire disk assigned to partition 1. Then add one of the following two lines to /etc/fstab:

/dev/hdc1 /mountpoint ext3 defaults 1 1


LABEL=/mountpoint /mountpoint ext3 defaults 1 1

and run

#mkfs.ext2 /dev/hdc1
#mkdir /mountpoint

Of course you only get the full disk if you start with RH 7.3. The ext2 filesystem will automatically be converted to ext3 when mounted for the first time. These would take a long time to fsck if you actually used an ext2 filesystem.

[With thanks to Alex Aminoff]

An updated copy of this memo is kept at

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"Login" | Login/Create an Account | 4 comments
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3Ware Escalades always make things easy ... (Score: 1)
by thebs ([email protected]) on Sunday, June 02 @ 18:13:59 EDT
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3Ware Escalade products make Ultra133 integration easy. They updated both their 6000 and 7000 series products to support 48-bit ATA addressing months ago. Since they use the raw block addressing of the 32-bit PC, there are no issues until about 2TB -- which is the same as just about any PC-based storage controller (ATA, SCSI or otherwise).
Better yet, you can get far better performance thanx to the on-board ASIC (64-bit and 64-bit PCI in the 7000 series), 1-2MB of 0 wait static RAM (SRAM), and one-device per 2-8 ATA channels. I highly recommend the 3Ware series products for Linux since their driver has been in the stock kernel since 2.2.15. Various sites have shown the 3Ware ASIC-SRAM approach absolutely dominates RAID-0, 1, 0+1 and applications that have a lot of sequential RAID-5 writes.
The 3Ware Escalade 6410 (32-bit PCI/ASIC, 1MB SRAM, 4-channel) card starts at only $99 from HyperMicro Systems.

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7000 series Firmware 7.4 *DOES* add Ultra133/UDMA (Score: 1)
by thebs ([email protected]) on Tuesday, June 04 @ 00:12:37 EDT
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Okay, correction here I just noticed in the firmware 7.4 release notes. Not only does firmware 7.4 for the 7000 series add 48-bit addressing like firmware 6.9 the 6000 series -- so it can support Ultra133 drives bigger than 137GB -- but the 7000 series does support Ultra133/UDMA6 signaling with firmware 7.4. As I mentioned in my other post, 3Ware uses field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) for its ASIC and ATA controllers. So the 7.4 firmware must reprogram the ATA controllers as well to support the new signaling speed.
Just another reason to go 3Ware IMHO.

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