Disk Capacity
November 22, 2004 10:27 PM   Subscribe

I've got a 160GB hard disk capacity issue, plus a little bit of a chicken-and-the-egg dillema [come on in!]

I'm building a new PC, and have a 160GB hard disk to install in it. I've put the drive into my existing PC (on win2K) and formatted it. Voila! 127GB. Wait... Huh?

Okay, so I read up a little bit on why this occurs. But now I'd like to fix it. My problem is the following:

1) I can use a more advanced utility to format the disk at full capacity, as long as it's in my existing PC.

2) But when I install it in the brand new PC and try to boot up, won't the BIOS choke on the large volume?

3) I can't format it at full capacity in the new PC - in the course of installing the OS - because the win2K install disc I'm using doesn't support that.

What can I do?
posted by scarabic to Computers & Internet (35 answers total)
What about formatting the disk as two logical drives?

(That means you split the actual space into two separate storage areas that the operating system sees as two distinct hard drives. Doing that might let you keep the size of each one below the problem threshold.)
posted by NortonDC at 10:43 PM on November 22, 2004

God damn, scarabic, you've posted 80 questions to ask metafilter. Is there no end?
posted by orange clock at 10:43 PM on November 22, 2004

Response by poster: Geez. Some newbie likes your userpage and suddenly you get to tell everyone what to do.
posted by scarabic at 10:47 PM on November 22, 2004

Response by poster: That's a good idea. I may have to go through the whole routine twice, but I'll give it a shot.

I have asked a number of questions recently related to this Media PC box I'm building. First time I've made my own computer. Go figure. I was kinda mulling over the idea of a movie night meetup at my place to celebrate and say thanks. Guess who's not invited. Yeesh.
posted by scarabic at 10:53 PM on November 22, 2004

Guess who's not invited.


I realize you're probably already halfway to finishing your project, but have you considered going the XBOX/media player route? It's hella easier. Just about the only advantage of a standalone PC is the TV-in possibilities.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:06 PM on November 22, 2004

Just a shot in the dark, but a few years ago I remember having to install a drive overlay to achieve full capacity. Perhaps you could check the manufacturer's site for some install disks. Floppies still work, right?
posted by Asef Jil at 11:24 PM on November 22, 2004

Oh, and if I remember correctly, the install disks should have a routine to format your drive in the file system of your choice, then you just boot to your OS's install cd, and you're set. No worries about having to format in W2K.
posted by Asef Jil at 11:30 PM on November 22, 2004

Response by poster: have you considered going the XBOX/media player route? It's hella easier.

I did, actually. I got some great advice from shepd (over email) about how to go about it. The ability to run DVD Shrink on the media PC was a big factor in the end, though I certainly would have liked to have the gaming platform.

Combing Samsung's site now...
posted by scarabic at 11:36 PM on November 22, 2004

I think this might do the trick:

posted by Asef Jil at 12:05 AM on November 23, 2004

I had this problem and it was a limitation of the BIOS of the machine - yours may vary of course. Ended up doing exactly as you said, two volumes...new machine dealt with it perfectly.
posted by mattr at 12:24 AM on November 23, 2004

Response by poster: I just ran that Samsung utility. It seemed to go well, though now the machine is complaining that "NRLDR cannot be found."

I think I'm just off in pedestrian WinHell from here. Thanks for the tips, all.
posted by scarabic at 12:34 AM on November 23, 2004

Ok, well since you're going the PC-route, let me be of assistance. First, most important question. What is the brand and model of motherboard that you are using?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:13 AM on November 23, 2004

There shouldn't be any need to install a drive overlay. Your BIOS is likely the reason why you can't format over 128GB (I had this exact problem with -- guess what! -- a 160GB hard drive).

My recommendation would be to ditch the onboard IDE controller (I assume this is IDE), and get a separate one instead. They can be easily found for under $20, and will let you use your drive's full capacity with no problems.

The issue with using the overlay is that the data on the drive won't be readable by anything other than Windows without reformatting...
posted by neckro23 at 1:41 AM on November 23, 2004

Response by poster: It's a Shuttle AN35N.

After successfully formatting the disk at 160GB with the Samsung utility, all I get is weird hangs and crashes during the Windows install. Does that sound like a BIOS thing? How do I go about updating the BIOS when the computer doesn't even have an OS on it.

A new ISE bus might be a good call in any case. I'd like to have my two optical drives each on a different bus - Nero likes that for "on-the-fly" disc to disc copying and I'm having trouble configuring the 2 drives + hard disk right now.

I'll futz around some more though and see what I can do with this install. Either my BIOS or my win2K install disc doesn't like this 160GB disk.

/back to Google :)
posted by scarabic at 1:57 AM on November 23, 2004

Response by poster: Damn. Up too late again. That's "new IDE bus" and the last sentence in the 1st paragraph was supposed to be a question.

posted by scarabic at 1:58 AM on November 23, 2004

Always partition as two logical drives as a matter of course.

Format a small (*well* below 128GB) partition to install a bootable OS+software into (with the new hardware), then use the Windows Disk Management console to partition the rest for documents and other user files. (Use TweakUI to change the 'My Documents' location.)

Then when it all goes wrong and you need to reinstall/re-image, you've not lost all your docs. (If only OEMs would deliver their boxes this way it would save everyone so much trouble...)
posted by BobInce at 3:29 AM on November 23, 2004

it does sound like a bios problem. i built a pc from scratch a while back and had all kinds of weird shit happening until i asked someone smarter than me to do it, and the first thing they did, which fixed everything, was to upgrade the bios...
posted by andrew cooke at 4:36 AM on November 23, 2004

Ok, scarabic, here's what you do:

1. Download the BIOS update on this page. I believe this is your board. If you don't have the AN35/N Ultra or 400, you're going to have to look around on their site a little more. The direct link to the .BIN file is here.

2. Find a bootable floppy. If none exists, you can make your own. Yes, I realize you need a (running) computer to do this. Utilize the computer of friends/family/school/neighbors if you have to.

3. Copy the .BIN file to the boot floppy. Depending on whether you have an AMI or AWARD/Phoenix BIOS, you'll need to also copy the BIOS-flash utility. When you boot up your computer, it will usually flash something quickly at the beginning that mentions the brand of BIOS. The AWARD/Phoenix flash utility is located here, and the AMI flash utility is here.

4. Boot from the floppy, then run the flash utility. Don't touch the computer while the BIOS is being re-flashed, or Very Bad Things (tm) could happen. Once you're done, you'll probably be prompted to reboot again.

5. Go into the BIOS setup when it restarts. In one of the sub-menus, there will be an option for "Load optimized defaults" or something like that. Select it. Save and exit.

5. Try booting from your Win2k install-CD again, and see what happens.

If all else fails, you can just divide the HD into two parts and throw everything on one partition. Then use a program like Partition Magic to ditch the 2nd partition and resize your primary partition to the max available size (Partition Magic can do this without destroying the data).

Hope this helps.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:53 AM on November 23, 2004

Sorry about the two Step 5's.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:54 AM on November 23, 2004

Oh, one last thing: that Shuttle webpage I linked to above has all kinds of updates for your system. Download and install them all when you get a chance.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:55 AM on November 23, 2004

I am going to have to weigh in on the side of creating two logical drives, as NortonDC first mentioned. I put a 200GB drive in my machine a little while ago, and finally got it to work as one continuous drive. However, after a couple of days (mostly of transferring stuff to the drive), it completely failed. I couldn't save anything from it. I finally gave up and repartitioned it into two 100GB drives and it's worked perfectly ever since. Now obviously something was wrong with the first setup, but I had no idea until it just stopped working and I lost a lot of data. The "two drives" method is easier and safer. Good luck with whichever route you choose.
posted by Who_Am_I at 5:31 AM on November 23, 2004

well, according to microsoft the theoretical limit for an NTFS drive is like 256 terabytes. so i'd say bios issue.

we have an external 250gig drive formatted as NTFS and it gives us no problems. however this is an external, not the drive the OS is installed on.

if you have a smaller HD lying around, try this of BIOS upgrade didn't fix the issue:

-partition large drive and install OS on smaller partition (same size or smaller as the small HD you have lying around)

-install small HD as second physical drive and copy OS partition onto it using drive copy utility (most new HDs come with this, or you can find them online for free)

-remove small HD and save as backup

-use drive partition utility to resize large HD into one big partition and see if it works

if not, you can repartition into the same small/large setup you had before. if data got shanked, recopy from small backup drive. nothing lost except time and sanity. :)
posted by caution live frogs at 6:11 AM on November 23, 2004

It's all about the Logical Block Addressing. Here's a Microsoft support page on the problem with windows 2000. Looks like you'll need an install slipstreamed with a service pack
posted by borkencode at 6:15 AM on November 23, 2004

Response by poster: Wow. The AskMe Elves work through the night!

It's going to take me some time to go through the BIOS updating and slipstreaming process, but I thank you all in advance! Will update later on.
posted by scarabic at 9:48 AM on November 23, 2004

Response by poster: Uncle.

The Award/Phoenix flashing utlity is larger than 1.4MB so there's no way to fit it on a floppy with the BIOS update file and the boot files.


I've tried several times to create a bootable CD, using Nero's easy-to-follow setup. No luck. The computer either doesn't recognize the coaster, or it doesn't allow me to see the extra files I've loaded on it.


I'm tempted to remove a few files from the flashing utility folder and give it a shot, but that's not a good idea considering the risks of flashing the BIOS.

Sweet Jesus.

I've been scouring the web and finding loads of boot images, ISO editing applications, etc, but still cannot make this work. I think at this point I'm going to try to go back to 127GB, unless anyone has any suggestions.

posted by scarabic at 11:33 AM on November 23, 2004

Response by poster: (part of the agony here is that I have only one floppy drive and I have to shut down both machines and swap it each time I try again)

:E <---gritting teeth emoticon
posted by scarabic at 11:35 AM on November 23, 2004

Dude, scarabic. Floppies are 1.44mb. Unless you're using one from 1988. Use the floppy, flash your BIOS, and be happy. Also: borkencode is wrong, this is not a filesystem problem, and you do not need to worry about LBA or slipstreaming. Unless you plan on installing win95 and using fat16 or something.
posted by kavasa at 12:36 PM on November 23, 2004

Response by poster: Dude, kavasa, go gently. I was attempting to load the wrong utility onto the floppy. It was the windows package, not the DOS package. After poking around Shuttle's site and reading their poor instructions dozens of times, I found the DOS utility, which is considerably smaller. The other stuff wasn't going to fit.

Long story shot: I think I've flashed my BIOS now.

[closes overcoat, tips hat at motherboard]

Now I'll try to mount the drive again, and if it doesn't work, try that slipstreaming business, which looks considerably harder :\
posted by scarabic at 12:57 PM on November 23, 2004

Apologies for any harshness of tone, it wasn't intended. You should still be able to fit a 1.4mb utility onto a floppy, if you can't you might in fact have been using an antique floppy.
posted by kavasa at 1:57 PM on November 23, 2004

Did it work? Did it work!?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:15 PM on November 23, 2004

Both the the BIOS and windows will need to support the 48bit addressing for it to work properly. So you'll probably have to do the slipstreaming anyway.
posted by borkencode at 2:33 PM on November 23, 2004

borken, seriously.

As caution live frogs said right before you first posted, NTFS supports 256 terabytes. Win2k uses NTFS. WinXP uses NTFS. The MSKB article you found is from when Win2k had first come out and people were still using FAT32 sometimes, because NTFS was scary and new. I've got a friend running 3 200gb drives on Win2k (not in raid or anything).
posted by kavasa at 3:58 PM on November 23, 2004

Response by poster: I'm not sure what to believe about the 48-bit addressing. For one thing, both the Win2K and WinXP install discs I have default to less-than-160GB when they get to the disc format stage. Perhaps it has to do with the IDE bus, or the BIOS, or the Service Pack, or whatever. Kinda hard for me to tell.

But clearly it's not just a matter of NTFS theoretically supporting up to 256 terrabytes. Just Google for 160GB and you'll find tons of people on all varieties of Windows, including XP, who have this problem. If it was just a matter of updating to NTFS, no one after NT4 should have experienced it, right?

Anyway, I did get the machine up, finally. I'm typing this on it. YAY! But I had to go with XP Home. My BIOS update suceeded once I found the smaller version of the utility (really kavasa, are you not understanding that the utility is 1.4 MB, but that leaves no room for boot files and BIOS update .bin file? keep up, here!)

For whatever reason, my win2K disc wouldn't install successfully. It could have been any one of a number of incompatibilities. So I did XP, which worked first-shot. But even XP wouldn't let me format all 160GB, so my original problem remains unsolved. I think I'll work on it some more after a while. For now, I need to make sure I am not going to return any of the dozen components I bought to make this happen. Looks like a green light!

Thanks for all the assistance, everybody! I did a lot of reading and learning in between trips here, but the course corrections I got along the way made a huge difference in keeping me on the right track. Luvyas! Movie night TBA.
posted by scarabic at 7:08 PM on November 23, 2004

What number is it formatting to? There's sort of a discrepancy between marketing numbers and what shows up in Windows, what with a gigabyte being 1,024 megabytes instead of just 1,000.
posted by kavasa at 8:26 PM on November 23, 2004

Response by poster: Yeah, it was a way bigger difference than that. That effect turns a 160GB disk into 155-ish usable GB. But this was more like 135. XP Pro made easy work of it, in the end.
posted by scarabic at 2:06 AM on December 6, 2004

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