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I have a 3 year old PC with 4 internal SATA ports. My old SATA hard drives, all smaller than 2TB, work fine. If I buy a 3TB SATA hard drive, will it work in Linux? Will Linux with GRUB be able boot from such a hard drive without a BIOS upgrade? With a BIOS upgrade? It's fine for me to upgrade my Linux to the newest kernel.

FYI I'm already using a 3TB hard drive in an external enclosure, connected it via e-SATA to the computer with a SATA II controller. It works perfectly on Linux. Linux also recognizes the larger sector size (4 KB) automatically. I'm not booting from it though, and I haven't added any partitions: I've created one huge filesystem on it (directly on the device).

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The kernel isn't the problem. – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams May 14 '11 at 12:17
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I don't see how a BIOS upgrade is relevant, though a BIOS update from the the mainboard vendor could be of relevance if it were to address a problem with the SATA controller. Chances are it doesn't and the only thing that will matter at this point is, does your motherboard have a SATA-II controller? That will determine if a drive larger than 2GB will be accessible. If not you can always buy a new SATA controller as opposed to a new motherboard.

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Here are some hints that come to mind:

  • You need an OS and drivers for your hardware (controller) that know how to handle 64-bit sector numbers
  • Use the GUID Partition Table (GPT) (64-bit sector numbers).
  • The Linux boot loader grub2 can boot from GPTs (without UEFI bios)
  • I would put the boot and root partitions below the 2 TB mark.

Well, I'm not so sure if it is worth the trouble to try it with old hardware.

(Also, if the 3 TB hard drive uses the 4 kb sectors make sure to use the right partition alignment!)

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Thank you for this useful information. I'm still interested in if I have to do a BIOS upgrade (which I want to avoid). Is a BIOS upgrade necessary for loading GRUB2 from the first 2 TB? – pts May 15 '11 at 10:16

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