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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Hard Disk Drives | Hard Disk BIOS and Capacity Factors ]

Hard Disk Size Barriers

One of the most common problems people have with hard disks, especially when trying to add a new hard disk to an older system, is the frustration of finding that not all of the hard disk is actually accessible. This is almost always due to BIOS and operating system issues that are a result of short-sighted planning done by the people that invented hard disk structures, access routines and operating systems many years ago. In some cases they are due to actual hardware or software bugs that are not detected until hard disks grow in size beyond a certain point.

Fortunately, there are now solutions to most of these problems. This section takes a complete look at these issues so you can finally understand what these barriers are all about. Hopefully. :^) And then also hopefully, solve the problem through hardware and software changes.

Each of the barriers is described in its page title with a name that briefly summarizes the reason for the barrier, and also the capacity figures generally associated with that barrier. The capacity limits are given in both decimal (GB) and binary (GiB) formats since some people look for specific decimal or binary numbers when identifying a size barrier. For a full discussion of the differences between decimal and binary measurements, see this page.

Note: Most of the issues discussed here are due to BIOS issues, and hence of relevance primarily to IDE/ATA hard disks and not SCSI disks. Some though are also relevant for SCSI drives, especially ones that are due to operating system limits.

Note: The pages in this section are focused primarily on explaining the nature of the various hard disk barriers and how they come about. To avoid duplication, I do not discuss how to deal with size barriers here, because the techniques are common to many different barrier types. Look at this section for details on overcoming size barriers.

Next: Older Size Barriers

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