From Tom Watson on 09 Sep 1998
In several questions, I see people asking about booting large disks with older machines. A while ago I built up a machine like this, and had a reasonable solution.
While I can understand that the problem is often interference with the "other" operating systems, in the case I used, I had an older '486 motherboard which given the requirements for windoze was a bit out of date, but quite reasonable for Linux. In attempting a "normal" installation on the larger disk, the first (root) partition was quite a bit over the 540 MB BIOS limitation. It took me a few attempts at running LILO and understanding its error messages (I even tried the "linear" option) to understand the problem (I hadn't used a disk that large before). When I remembered the "540MB" problem, the solution that I explained above seemed the "easiest" to implement, and with the least amount of "hassle". It only took a few symbolic links/copies and I was done. The "basic" root partition was still intact, and nobody really worried about the difference. I feel that if I wanted to, I could have made a "small" partition and installed the "root" files there, but most installations want a larger partition to get "the whole works" installed.
Sure this gets around the "1024 cylinder" problem, but usually that is all that is needed. Linux, once it has started the kernel, supplies the drivers for further operation. The small partition is only used to accomidate the BIOS, whose ONLY function is to load the kernel anyway.
I suppose an altrenative is to use "loadlin" under dos, but you still need to boot DOS, and the 1024 cylinder problem comes up again.
I'm trying to get a solution that involves "minimum impact".
-- Tom Watson I'm at work now (Generic short signature)
All true enough. My point is that my answers are not simply intended to show what works for me or what is minimum impact for one situation (usually a situation about which I'm given very little information). My answers try to cover a large number of likely situations and to suggest things that no one seems to have tried before (like the auto-rescue configuration I was babbling about).
I've frequently suggested small partitions, LOADLIN, alternate root partitions, even floppy drive kernels.
Another problem --- the source of this whole thread has to do with support for these Ultra-DMA drives that are over 8Gb. I guess that the most recent kernels (2.0.35 and later?) have support for a different IDE driver that can handle these. I thought I'd seen reports of problems with them. I commented on this in the hopes that someone would give me the scoop on those.