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Old 09-21-2008, 03:41 PM   #1
Registered: Jun 2008
Location: St.-Petersburg, Russia
Distribution: (B)LFS, Ubuntu, SliTaz
Posts: 403

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Minix & BIOS supporting only 47 types of HDDs

I have a disk with geometry 1231/4/18, but the only BIOS option closest to it is 615/4/17 (c/h/s), so i want to make minix support real disk geometry. Is there any way to force ide driver using of some geometry?
P.S. My machine is based on i286, so binary tools suitable for 386 will not do.
Old 09-21-2008, 08:42 PM   #2
Registered: Jul 2003
Location: Brighton, Michigan, USA
Distribution: Lots of distros in the past, now Linux Mint
Posts: 748

Rep: Reputation: 31
Welcome to legacy computing.

You've stumbled into the infamous 528MB barrier. As you've seen, older (pre-1994) system bios' such as your 286 can't see over 528MB. In the old days you had a number of options.

1) new bios w/LBA. Too expensive back then, and probably a little tough to find today.
2) disk manager to handle the problem in software. probably similarly difficult to find today, although it's possible your manufacturer still has it buried somewhere on their website (samsung still has theirs available for download, only works with their drives, though).

It's been way too long since I dealt with this problem (this was my small computer shop heyday! ), but it seems like we'd boot from the disk manager, install whatever it was into the boot sector, and it would play tricks on the bios to see the rest of the drive. Even then we were stuck because dos or earlier windows (pre-win95) versions still couldn't see the larger drive, so if a customer wanted the large drive we usually split it into 2 partitions. My memory's a little sketchy though. Not sure how minux might affect this, it might even include it's own translator, but I haven't messed with it, sorry.

If you can find a copy of your drive manufacturer's workaround (it's bound to be somewhere in this internet mess), that's the most likely option. Hopefully it has instructions, I'd hate to try and guess them 15 years later. Maybe somebody has a dusty, crusty copy if you post your drive. I think there were one or two commercial products that worked across multiple drives, but our drives always came with drivers, so I never used the third party products.

Otherwise, you could just set it up as a 528 partition and let the rest go, but that's not much fun, either. Hope this gives you some ideas, though.

Good luck!

Update: Found this site, might be of some help as well:

Last edited by scott_R; 09-21-2008 at 08:46 PM. Reason: added link
Old 09-22-2008, 12:41 PM   #3
Registered: Jun 2008
Location: St.-Petersburg, Russia
Distribution: (B)LFS, Ubuntu, SliTaz
Posts: 403

Original Poster
Rep: Reputation: 51
Thanks for your reply.
Since my previous post, as i searched for the solution, i tried to simply tell BIOS that there were no hard drives at all. Being started from floppy, Minix found my HDD and told me the geometry which is neither first, nor second given in my previous post . Though, i managed to find the model of my HDD and got some information on it:
As i saw, the geometry this time was right. BTW, the disk is less than 528M. Then, when i tried to use the translation provided by that site, minix started without any problem. So, the solution is to tell BIOS there are no hard drives, except for the startup drive... which should be configured not as the others might be... it might be good to try to make int13h hooker, which would reside in boot block and on startup, replace BIOS service by its own, though it has to be about 256-512 bytes long, so it may be hard to implement...


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