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Old 09-25-2008, 11:05 AM   #1
Registered: Sep 2005
Location: Olsztyn, Poland
Distribution: Slackware 14.1
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cfdisk fatal error: cannot open disk drive (on serial ata)

I successfully installed Damn Small Linux 4.2.5 on a Dell Dimension 4500 (pretty old) from the live CD. This computer has a parallel ata interface (the standard ultra ata one, predecessor of the serial ata).
The commands I used to partition the drive were:
sudo -s
cfdisk /dev/hda
and they worked fine.

I tried the very same CD to install it on my HP Pavilion a1330n, which has a serial ATA type hard disk drive, and:
sudo -s
works fine, but the
cfdisk /dev/sda
gives a blank screen with this message:
"FATAL ERROR: Cannot open disk drive
Press any key to exit cfdisk"

Does Damn Small Linux support serial ata, and how do I install it on such a disk?

Old 09-25-2008, 02:06 PM   #2
Senior Member
Registered: Dec 2004
Location: Olympia, WA, USA
Distribution: Fedora, (K)Ubuntu
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Did you note the "BUGS" comment at the bottom of the man page that cfdisk cannot handle multiple disks? Try unplugging all drives except the one you want to partition.

Alternatively, either parted or fdisk should work from a command line. (Not being a DSL user, I don't know what you'd need to do to get those installed, but fdisk is part of the util-linux-ng GNU package that contains cfdisk, so it's likely that you already have fdisk available.)
Old 09-26-2008, 11:00 PM   #3
Registered: Jun 2008
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Whenever I've had that problem I reboot from the LiveCD and type install at the boot prompt, which boots into a menu instead of booting into X. Selecting cfdisk from that menu usually allows me access to my drives.
Old 09-27-2008, 01:18 PM   #4
Registered: Sep 2005
Location: Olsztyn, Poland
Distribution: Slackware 14.1
Posts: 168

Original Poster
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I think my HDD is damaged - the serial ATA one . I need to use a weird combination of steps to turn it on. Most of the time it looks like this:
1. I power on my PC, and I can only see the power and the HDD leds burning, but it won't boot.
2. I press and hold the power button for a few seconds until the optical drives leds blink, at which moment I release the power button, and the PC reboots, and starts normally (if I hold it a bit longer, it shuts down).
3. Sometimes, I need to power it off before step 2 works.

This started to happen since I accidentally struck my PC when it was turned on as I was taking a sit at my desk.

How should I diagnose my HDD?
It's a Pavilion a1330n.

I can install for example Ubuntu without any problems, but the strange way of powering on the PC persists...
Old 09-27-2008, 07:05 PM   #5
Senior Member
Registered: Dec 2004
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I recently added a second serial ata drive to my laptop and noticed that GRUB was unable to access the drive for boot. (Since it was a second drive, I didn't need it to be bootable.) I have Ubuntu (Hardy), and Vista (which was pre-installed) on the first drive, and Fedora 9 on the second. When I boot Fedora 9 (using GRUB, the kernel, and the initial RAM disk image, from the first drive), I get about a page of error messages about the second drive being "frozen" until the kernel gives up and resets the disk transfer rate from 3Gb/sec to 1.5Gb/sec. After that, everything works fine.

The point in all that is that perhaps your problem is just that your drive is slower than what it's telling your BIOS it can handle.
Old 11-22-2008, 12:08 AM   #6
Cool Javelin
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Registered: Nov 2008
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OK, I was having this problem on a simple IDE drive. Turns out it was a permissions issue.

Try booting in using the DSL live CD, and then go to a terminal (A little icon on the application bar, not in the menu,) and type...

sudo cfdisk

Worked for me, Good luck.


I had troubles when I had 2 drives and a logical volume manager (LVM) spanning across the 2 drives.

One failed, (not the boot one (hda)) then DOS fdisk couldn't remove the partitions. Also, I couldn't get DSL cfdisk to do it either (I forgot to do the sudo part then.)

I had to start an install using xubuntu and make it repartition the drive, then I could boot DOS and FDISK could then delete that and recreate another. Turns out CFDISK still couldn't do the work then I remembered the sudo thing. (several hours wasted on a simple thing.)

cfdisk should suggest the permissions issue to remind us poor forgetful humans.



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