How large an internal disk will a Dell Inspiron 8500 work with?

Discussion in 'Dell' started by Mark F, Dec 15, 2006.

  1. Mark F

    Mark F Guest

    I have a Dell Inspiron 8500 with A08 BIOS firmware.

    The system was purchased in 2003 June and
    came with a 60GB disk.

    I checked with Dell and they said it that the largest disk
    that it would work with was 80GB. That wouldn't have done
    me much good.

    Since the machine was not of much use to me with the
    60GB disk and I needed to buy a 160GB 2.5" disk anyhow,
    I bought a Seagate ST9160821A Momentus 5400.3 160 GB
    disk.

    I used my usual backup software to "clone" the old disk to the
    new disk, making the make the partitions bigger at the same
    time. I didn't have disk encryption enabled originally,
    so I didn't try to enable it on the new disk.

    I then booted the system, which seemed to work. I defragmented
    everything and wrote random data in the unused space (at 33MB/second
    to 20MB/second, depending on the location on the disk.) I then
    compared the contents of the new disk with the original disk.
    Everything compared exactly except for those files that change
    when the system is booted, etc.

    I didn't bother to time booting with the original disk. I did
    determine that it took about 105 seconds to boot the original
    fragmented system and about 100 seconds to boot the defragmented
    system, so I guess the fragmentation on the system partition
    wasn't too bad.

    Has anyone had problems with increasing the disk size to more than
    80GB on the Dell Inspiron 8500?

    At this point I have to try all of the software to see if anything
    decided that it should no longer work because it is on a new
    system. Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2 on the system
    is a BIOS registered version, so I don't expect any trouble with
    it, but Microsoft Office and Norton Anti Virus might be problems.
    (None of the other software is tied to a computer, just to me,
    so I don't expect anything else to have decided it was pirated.)

    (Of course now that I have gotten a bigger disk I no longer have
    an excuse to buy a dual processor laptop, so I'm hoping that someone
    can tell me about a problem that I haven't found.)
     
    Mark F, Dec 15, 2006
    #1
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  2. Normally, a computer that will work with a 60GB disk will work with any
    disk up to and including 120GB.

    There is a "barrier" at 137GB that some systems cannot get past because
    they cannot do 48-bit LBA. After 120GB, which is below that barrier,
    the next disk drive made is 160GB, which is above it. There is HUGE
    risk in using a drive larger than 137GB in a system that doesn't support
    it, because one single write operation can cause loss of the entire
    drive. The problems relate only to accessing the parts of the drive
    that lie beyond the 137GB barrier. Even in a system that doesn't
    support 48bit LBA, you can access the first 137GB just fine. Also, I
    don't think that SATA drives are subject to this limitation, but I'm not
    100.0% sure of that.

    For reference, the size of the hard drive at which this becomes an issue is:

    137,438,953,472 bytes (2**28th) (268,435,456 sectors)

    Some systems will represent this as "128 [binary] gigabytes". As a
    practical matter, I don't believe that any drives are made between 120
    gigabytes (120,000,000,000 bytes) and 160 gigabytes (160,000,000,000
    bytes), perhaps in part to avoid confusion over this issue. But in a
    situation like this, where there is doubt, a 120GB drive would have been
    a lot safer choice than a 160GB drive.

    Also note that even if the hardware does support 48 bit LBA addressing,
    you need Windows XP SP2 OR {XP SP1 WITH A REGISTRY HACK} as well.
     
    Barry Watzman, Dec 15, 2006
    #2
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  3. Mark F

    paulmd Guest

    You seem to be reasonably competent. You can safely run a couple of
    experiments.

    Try just making 1 big 160GB partition. See what happens. (You do have a
    backup).

    You can also just make a second 80GB partition.
     
    paulmd, Dec 16, 2006
    #3
  4. Mark F

    RnR Guest

    Essentially (I didn't read every word) what Barry said is correct.
    I'd suggest you start at Dell with your Service Tag for help or use
    their forums for help.

    One solution to get around any 137 gb limitation in laptops is to just
    partition smaller and make multiple partitions. Google for more info.
     
    RnR, Dec 16, 2006
    #4
  5. Re: "One solution to get around any 137 gb limitation in laptops is to
    just partition smaller and make multiple partitions."

    Nope, that doesn't work. The limitation is on the DRIVE, not on
    individual partitions.

    The 137GB limit is not well understood. It's a limitation of an IDE
    channel on the motherboard (or PCI controller card if one is used) to
    the drive. It doesn't apply to non-IDE interfaces (except I'm not
    totally sure about SATA). For example, in a system that has this
    limitation, you can connect an IDE drive larger than 137GB to an IDE to
    USB converter and use it fine. Also, you can connect such a drive to a
    PCI Card IDE port, and issue is "transferred" from the motherboard to
    the PCI IDE card (e.g. the question is no longer if the motherboard
    supports drives larger than 137GB, but now it's whether the PCI card
    supports drives larger than 137GB).

    Even if you have hardware support, you also need OS support; but, again,
    the issue is specific to the port to which the drive is connected, so an
    OS (for example original WinXP) that does not support IDE drives larger
    than 137GB will support those drives if they are seen by the OS as
    non-IDE drives (e.g. PCI IDE port card (seen by the OS as SCSI ... BUT
    seen by the card's drivers as IDE), or USB (via an IDE to USB case,
    cable or adapter).

    The really dangerous part here is what happens if you don't have proper
    support and you try to use such a drive anyway. Without 48-bit LBA
    support, the IDE interface can only access 268,435,456 sectors. If you
    try to access the 268,435,457th sector, the access "wraps" ... you start
    over with sector zero. This can be catastrophic, because sector zero is
    the master boot record. You get no error message, but writes will be
    destroying totally unrelated sectors on the drive. It's really, really bad.
     
    Barry Watzman, Dec 16, 2006
    #5
  6. Mark F

    RnR Guest

    Correct and I apologize to the OP since I don't know why I said that
    now.

    Here is a part of a FAQ from http://www.48bitlba.com on this
    topic....


    1. If the problem with 48-bit LBA means hard drives can only be used
    up to a maximum capacity of 137 GB, why can't I just partition my
    48-bit LBA hard drive into multiple partitions each less than 137 GB
    to get around the problem?

    That will not work. If you try it and your system does not meet the
    requirements necessary for 48-bit LBA, data can become corrupted on
    partitions which extend beyond the 137 GB limit. The problem with
    48-bit LBA involves the absolute sector addressing on the hard drive
    not simply the address relative to the beginning of each partition on
    the hard drive. For example, let's say you have a 160 GB hard drive
    where you have created two partitions. The first is 137 GB and the
    second 23 GB. In order to properly read and write data to the second
    23 GB partition, 48-bits of address are needed to access the correct
    sectors on the hard drive. Without 48-bit LBA support, drivers with
    only 32-bits of addressing will only be capable of addressing up to
    137 GB on the hard drive.
     
    RnR, Dec 16, 2006
    #6
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