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Ongoing Issues and How They Get Solved

Started by Donald Darden, December 03, 2007, 09:08:09 PM

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Donald Darden

I finally succeeded in getting the 120 GB Disk 0 replaced with a 160 GB drive, and the 160 GB Disk 1 replaced with a 210 GB drive.  Main problem was that I could not get the 160 GB hard drive to adapt to cable select properly, and it kept conflicting with the settings on the 320 GB drive.  Of course you suspect the new 320 GB hard drive first, so it took awhile to work out where the problem was,  I ended up using a different 160 GB hard drive for Disk 0.

Another problem was wanting to selectively add new partitions and resize the existing ones, on top of which the 320 GB hard drive needed to be initialized.  I'm not really sure what that entails, but Windows refers to it as writing a signature to the drive.  Without that signature, the drive is virtually invisible - in fact, it will not show up at all if you boot into Linux.

This is often the problem with Linux.  You get a book, or several books, and they assume your PC is pretty much set up already, and that you have a systems administrator to take care of the gritty stuff.  You are sure there has to be a way, but the books never seem to focus on things like adding a new blank hard drive to your system and setting it up.

Well, it's pretty easy to initialize a hard drive using Windows, so I stuck the 120 GB Disk 0 back in and rebooted into Windows, then used Start/Settings.Control Panel/Administrative Tools/Computer Management/Disk Management, and positioned down to the Disk 1 entry on the right side, then told Windows to write a signature to the drive.  It would be nice to know how to do this from Linux as well.

I went ahead and created the partitions I wanted on the 320 GB hard drive by still using the Disk Manager, but this has a down side, which is that Windows assumes that all these partitions are going to be used with Windows, so it wants to assign a drive letter and even offers to format them as FAT32 or NTFS for you.  You can have a drive letter assigned to a non-windows partition, which will make them show up in your lists of assigned drives, but there isn't much point to it if Windows is unable to read and write to those partitions, which will be the case for any designated to become Linux volumes.

Unfortunately, in its eagerness to serve, if any drive letters are needed ans assigned, Windows wants to reboot to access them.  And if you did not assign a specific letter per drive, Windows might come up with some odd letter arrangements after the reboot.  But more on this later.

The next thing I did was replace the 320 GB Disk 1 with the 160 GB drive that I was going to have as the new Disk 0.  I essentially cloned the contents of Disk 0 (my original 120 GB drive) onto the 160 GB Drive, but adjusted the partition sizes to take advantage of the greater storage capability.  These steps took many hours to complete.

Now I have never had a problem with transferring Windows partitions from one drive to another, and as long as the contents can squeeze into the available partition space on the other drive, a tool like True Image does a great job.
The only catch with Windows is that the new partitions must get the same drive letter as the original partition for the installed software and embedded path statements to all relate properly.

But every effort to transfer the Linux partitions from the old image to the new drive partitions using True Image failed.  It seemed to do the job, but the results could not be verified - none would boot up.  I suspect that either there were some dependencies on the drive geometrics that were upset by the adjustment from 30 GB partitions to 45 GB, or the doubling of the hard drive capacity played a part.  In any case, It looks like I will have to reinstall each Linux distribution separately.  I have used True Image successfully before to save and restore the Linux partitions when the drive size and partition size and placements were always the same.

I was able to use Partition Magic to change the volume types to ext3, which is the standard extended Linux volume format.  That had the added benefit of causing Windows to quit trying to assign drive letters to the same volumes or offering to format them each time I booted windows up..

When you use the Disk Manager, you see the physical order of all partitions on all hard drives.  If Windows gets the drive letter order wrong, you can use the Disk Manager to fix it, but the process is a bit messy,  First, the Disk Manager is smart enough not to let you assign the same letter to more than one drive, but that works against you when the letters are in the wrong order.  The only safe thing to do is remove assigned letters, then assign all partitions to new letters that are still available, then reboot.  After the reboot, you remove the assigned letters again and now reassign them in the correct order, and reboot again.

But the trick is, that you don't want to mess with the root volume, which is normally the C: drive.  You mess with that drive letter, and your system won't boot again.  You really need to be cautious when switching drive letters about.
I would not even venture here unless I knew I had a recent, good backup image that I can restore from scratch if I messed up somehow.

So right now I would say that Windows is reasonable robust when it comes to disk replacement and partition resizing, but I am not sure the same can be said for Linux.  And I would really like to know how to initialize a blank hard drive from within Linux, something that seems to be a bit of a problem since Linux sees devices as files, and in essence, a blank disk is something like a null file.