13 Replies Latest reply on Dec 12, 2009 1:20 PM by Jeff Bellune

    24-bit vs. 48-bit LBA

    Jeff Bellune Level 6

      I have a 5-year old Sager notebook computer whose 2 hard drives are showing the first signs of failure. (Yes, I'm fully and completely backed-up!) The current drives are 2x100 GB, 7200 rpm PATA Hitachi Travelstars.  OEM drives were 2x60 GB Travelstars.


      The mobo has an integrated Promise Ultra 100 controller.  I'm running Windows XP SP3.


      My problems:

      1. I need more internal space.  The soon-to-be failing drives are a good excuse.  I'm willing to trade drive speed for drive space.
      2. My new WD Scorpio PATA 250 GB drives are only seen as 128 GB each by the controller. (137 GB barrier with 24-bit LBA)
      3. Promise's most recent BIOS for their PCI Ultra 100 controller won't flash my integrated controller.  I've tried.
      4. My vendor's tech support is trying to see if Sager has an updated BIOS for the integrated controller. (Extensive 'net searching indicates that this is unlikely)
      5. WD says a DDO won't work because the controller is the problem, not the mobo BIOS.  I haven't tried a DDO.
      6. PATA notebook hard drives (of any size) and associated hardware are getting harder and harder to find.


      My mobo/controller combo was built *after* 48-bit LBA became available, so my vendor thinks something besides the controller BIOS may be preventing the system from seeing all 250 GB on each drive.  He suggested a new cable.  Is this reasonable?  I have no idea how to tell if a "new" PATA laptop cable would be any different/better then my existing PATA laptop cable.  What would I look for?


      Are there any other things I should try that I've overlooked?  I know this is really old technology, and that if I just bought a new computer this problem would go away.  But the cost to upgrade all of my current portable capability is prohibitive just now.  Plus, my Sager Boat Anchor has been a good friend for a long time, and I'm not willing to give it up just because of a couple of almost-dead drives.



        • 1. Re: 24-bit vs. 48-bit LBA
          Harm Millaard Level 7



          If you disable the Promise raid function in the BIOS, are the disks recognized as 250 G disks? If so, then use the disks as pass-thru disks, so no raid enabled on the Promise. Then in XP, you can use software raid if needed, but I would not suggest it.


          If the BIOS cannot recognize disks larger than 137 GB and there is no way to bypass the controller, then you are out of luck. You have to solve this in the BIOS.


          An alternative is to use 120 G disks and keep the 250's for the future.

          1 person found this helpful
          • 2. Re: 24-bit vs. 48-bit LBA
            Jeff Bellune Level 6

            Thanks, Harm.


            Unfortunately, there is no way to bypass the controller; in fact, I

            can't even access the controller BIOS.


            RAID was never an issue; I use one drive as a system/application drive

            and the other as a media drive.  That's a configuration that I will

            insist upon when I finally do upgrade my notebook - 2 physical hard drives.


            So the suggestion to try another cable is a red herring?  My vendor

            wasn't very confident that it would work, but he suggested it anyway. 

            He also said that running the 250GB drives as 128GB drives would not be

            "reliable".  Do you agree?



            • 3. Re: 24-bit vs. 48-bit LBA
              John T Smith Adobe Community Professional & MVP

              The little I know about IDE ribbon cables is for a desktop... where "large" conductor cables are ata66 speed and "small" conductor cables are ata100 speed... with the difference being very evident to the eye


              I am not aware that the two different ribbon cables have anything at all to do with any drive SIZE limitation, only the speed of transfer


              I do know that in my dual boot system, Win2000 will only recognize a limit of 137gig, while WinXp in the same computer is happy using a 320gig drive


              It seems to me that you are stuck with the limit of your bios

              • 4. Re: 24-bit vs. 48-bit LBA
                Harm Millaard Level 7



                If your disks are recognized as 128 GB disks there is nothing wrong with the cables, so yes, I would call that a 'red herring'. The problem is in your BIOS. XP has no trouble recognizing disks or arrays up to 2 TB and beyond that if either LBA-64 is enabled on suitable controllers or conversion to GPT is done.


                Whether running the disks at 128 GB size is less reliable than running at full size I do not know for sure, but logically it makes no sense. When you have a disk that the BIOS and OS only recognize for half of it's dimension it is like have the disk partitioned in two equal partions. Partitioning does not impact reliability, only performance and mechanical wear and tear. If anything, it will better use the on-board cache and limit the mechanical wear and tear, because the heads will only move to about halfway and it will only use the fastest parts of the disk.


                I would really take the time to go through all that advanced BIOS options and see if you can find a way to enable LBA-48. I never had a Sager, nor do I know what BIOS is in there, but it looks like there is not an easy solution.


                One word of comfort, 5 years ago XP was the current OS and it seems unlikely that the limitations of LBA-24 were not ironed out for this version. It may require a lot of further investigation, but it seems the only way.

                1 person found this helpful
                • 5. Re: 24-bit vs. 48-bit LBA
                  Chuck A. McIntyre Level 3

                  A few times, we have had Maxtor external hard drives "appear" to fail when the fault was with the external drive circuit board mounted in the drive case. In those cases, I was able to remove the actual drive from the external drive case and plug it into one of our computers. The drives worked in all cases. One time though, I remember a large capacity drive only being recognized as having about half of its capacity. Could it be a drive firmware issue?


                  One of my systems at home is a reliable but slow Asus P4C800 Deluxe motherboard with an Intel Northwood 3.2 processor. This board has a Promise controller. I made a drive image of my XP install and tried to install Vista. Everything was fine except the Promise drivers were incompatible. Later I upgraded to Windows 7 Release candidate. The XP drivers for the promise controller worked with Windows 7.


                  You may have an issue where your controller is incompatible with your drives firmware. One possibility (if you have enough horsepower) would be to try installing Windows 7 on your Sager. Check to see if WD has a firmware update for your new drives.

                  • 6. Re: 24-bit vs. 48-bit LBA
                    Harm Millaard Level 7



                    Jeff's problem is in the BIOS, not in the OS. If the BIOS/Promise controller can not be made to recognize disks larger than 128 GB the OS will make no difference.

                    • 7. Re: 24-bit vs. 48-bit LBA
                      Chuck A. McIntyre Level 3

                      Harm Wrote:


                      "Jeff's problem is in the BIOS, not in the OS. If the BIOS/Promise controller can not be made to recognize disks larger than 128 GB the OS will make no difference."



                      That one got by me. After re-reading Jeff's post, I found a PDF on the PCI version of the Promise Ultra100 (most likely very close to his on-board controller) and saw the hard drive size limit of 128GB.

                      There is mention in the PDF of using an 80-wire, 40-pin IDE cable on the hard drive, but that only changes the mode from ULTRA33 to ULTRA ATA/100 timing, perhaps. I would check it anyway and change it if it's a 40-Conductor Cable. If it is, on the PCI version anyway, the BIOS supposedly gives a warning.


                      It's often hard to know which limits can be worked around and which are set in stone. On a coworker's laptop for instance, there was a stated RAM limitation in the manual of 4GB. We installed 8GB and the new RAM is recognized (64 bit OS) and has been working out great.


                      In the years I've been troubleshooting computer issues, there always seem to be surprises where something appearing unrelated creates problems. Just today I stumbled into a solution on one of our new computers. Last Friday, two of the front USB ports on one of our new computers was giving a "device not recognized" error. I tried other USB devices and got the same error. I opened the case and plugged and re-plugged the USB cable into the motherboard and checked to make sure I didn't accidentally plug the cable into a wrong socket. It turned out that there was nothing wrong with the ports. It was a device conflict issue I had never seen before. For whatever reason, all of our flash drives come up with a device unrecognized error when one particular external hard drive is plugged into one of the other front USB ports.


                      I remember years ago when I lived in California, my car stalled on the 405. Fortunately, I was headed down hill coming into the San Fernando Valley. I managed to coast to safety. The engine would crank but refuse to start. One person stopped and tried to be helpful. He suggested as a solution that I check the coolant level in the radiator. Hopefully, my last post wasn't that far off.

                      • 8. Re: 24-bit vs. 48-bit LBA
                        Jeff Bellune Level 6

                        Thanks everyone for your input.  Sager and my vendor both contacted me

                        today.  No 48-bit LBA BIOS exists for my controller.  I asked them to

                        create one, or to see if another vendor that branded the same generic

                        core notebook had a BIOS available.  I don't hold out much hope that

                        either will come to pass.


                        I guess I'm stuck with 2x128 GB.



                        • 9. Re: 24-bit vs. 48-bit LBA
                          Bill Gehrke Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                          The only possible solution for more storage at high speed that I can think of that might help would be to add a third but external--possibly a 2.5-inch SATA drive via a plugin card (I suspect that your 5 year Sager might be a CardBus interface--my ~5-year old notebook does have it)  The disk controllers in this device handles the address translation.  You might check with these people to see if this card would fit and integrate software-wise into your Sager, it does advertise  "Add 1,500Mbps High Speed of Serial ATA 2 Ports on your Notebook Computer to Access Storage Devices and Support HDD larger than 137GB at Very High Performance!"  I have not used this vendor I actually have an Addonics ADCB2SA-E that works beautifully on my 5-year old HP notebook.


                          If you stay with a 2.5-inch drive it can be powered by the notebook requiring two USB power connections.  An external eSATA enclosure like the one I use (NexStar3) comes with the required cables. It also has an external eSATA bracket/cable if your desktop does not have one already.


                          Good luck on your "recycling" effort.

                          • 10. Re: 24-bit vs. 48-bit LBA
                            Jeff Bellune Level 6

                            Thanks, Bill.  I'll consider that pc113 satacard.


                            Do you use a drive bigger than 160 GB with your eSATA enclosure?  The

                            web page says 160 is the upper size limit.


                            Currently, the good folks at Sager are contacting Clevo (the base mfr.

                            for Sager, Alienware, Voodoo, etc. for this model notebook) to see if

                            they have an updated BIOS.  I remain optimistic since neither my vendor

                            nor Sager said, "No way!"





                            • 11. Re: 24-bit vs. 48-bit LBA
                              Bill Gehrke Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                              I do not have a large SATA disk in 2.5-inch form factor.  But to show the feasibility I took a virgin 1 TB 3.5-inch drive and put it in an eSATA enclosure.  I put it on the notebook with my Addonics CardBus dual eSATA adapter. I initialized the disk partitioned it full size and formatted it.  Further, I then ran HDtach. Below are the results.  Not quite as good performance as a current generation motherboard controller (average read rate 106 MB/s), but very acceptable performanceeSATA.jpg



                              • 12. Re: 24-bit vs. 48-bit LBA
                                Jeff Bellune Level 6

                                Cool gadget of the day award!



                                • 13. Re: 24-bit vs. 48-bit LBA
                                  Jeff Bellune Level 6

                                  The official response: No new BIOS.  No way.


                                  So if I stay internal, 2x128 GB is all I can get.  I'll need to go external for more storage.  There's an added benefit to external: transfer from my production desktop system to the external via (interface?) will no doubt proceed faster than transferring from the desktop to my internal notebook drives via the network.


                                  So far, the 250 GB drives that are being used as 128 GB drives seem to be working well.  The only anomaly is that my hard drive activity light is now on constantly, from the moment the notebook is powered on to the very last moment before it goes dark.  Are they really in use?  Or is this some strange fallout from the BIOS issue?