An important issue when upgrading your computer is whether your current
BIOS will support a larger capacity drive. Often manufacturers have programmed
the BIOS with a limitation. If this is the case, your system may not recognize
the full capacity of your drive. For example, this means if you try to
install a 20gb hard drive, your system will only recognize the drive as
If your current hard drive is an 8gb or smaller, you may have BIOS
limitations. If your system has a drive larger than 8.4gb, then
your BIOS should be able to recognize drives up to 60gb. You may
verify your BIOS limitations at the Manufacturers web site.
There is usually a solution to overcome the BIOS limitations. You
can obtain an upgraded BIOS from the notebook manufacturer and "Flash"
your BIOS or you can try visiting the manufacturers web site to
download and install the latest BIOS upgrade available for your
If there aren't any BIOS upgrades available, you can use "Drive Overlay
Software" to override the BIOS limitations.
Below are some detailed BIOS limitations:
If your drive is greater than 33.8 Gbytes, your system BIOS may
freeze or lockup at Power On Self Test (POST). If the BIOS does
not freeze, it may show the wrong capacity for the drive. Similar
to the 8.4 Gbyte limit below, there are three methods to overcome
- A third party device driver such as Disk Manager.
- An intelligent ATA Host Adapter (e.g., Promise Technology)
- A system BIOS upgrade (contact the system BIOS manufacturer)
If the system BIOS can display the full capacity of your drive,
a FAT32 file allocation system (i.e., Windows 95 OSR2, Windows 98,
Win Me) or an NTFS file allocation system (e.g., WinNT) is required
to show partition sizes over 2.1 Gbytes.
If your drive is larger than 8.4 Gbytes, the capacity may exceed
the limits of your system BIOS and operating system. Most system
BIOSs cannot support ATA drives this large. DOS and Windows operating
systems limit the drive capacity to 8.4 Gbytes per physical drive
and 2 Gbytes per partition. Because of these limitations, a 32-bit
file allocation table (FAT32) is required to acheive full capacity
of your drive, beyond 8.4 Gbytes. To acheive full capacity of your
drive, you will need BIOS support for drives greater than 8.4 Gbytes
and a Windows operating system that supports FAT32.
This support is available by way of the following methods:
- A third party device driver, such as Disk Manager
- An intelligent ATA Host Adapter
- A system BIOS upgrade
3.27-Gbyte (6322 Cylinder) Limitation
Some computers have a BIOS that does not properly handle a cylinder
value over 6322. If you are in the CMOS attempting to set the cylinder
value higher than 6322 (for a 3.27 Gbyte+ drive) and your computer
hangs, your computer may have a BIOS with this limitation. To by
pass the limitation, you have two options:
- Set the cylinder value to 1024 or less and use Disk Manager
to provide support for the whole drive.
- Contact your computer manufacturer for a BIOS upgrade.
Invalid BIOS Information
Some computers have a BIOS that may display invalid information
in the CMOS. This issue may show up in one of two ways:
- The CMOS will display invalid drive parameters. However, the
BIOS is translating the drive correctly.
- The CMOS will display the drive parameters and capacity correctly.
However, the BIOS is not translating the drive correctly.
To ensure your drive is translated to its full capacity, you will
need to check the actual drive size. This can be done when creating
partitions on the drive.
2.1-Gbyte (4096 Cylinder) Limitation
Some computers have a BIOS that does not properly deal with the
"13th bit". The 13th bit is needed to provide support for a drive
having 4096 or more cylinders. The chart below displays the corresponding
cylinder values in decimal, hex, and binary values.
Decimal Hex Binary Size
If you have added a new drive and your system locks right after
turning the power on or when you are in the CMOS, there may be several
causes. Verify that the data cable is properly attached to your
drive, pin 1 is correct, and the cable is not off-shifted a row
of pins. If your new drive is larger than 2.1 Gbytes and the CMOS
is set to "AUTO", you may have a BIOS with a 4096 or greater cylinder
limitation. In this case, power off your system, remove your new
drive, and follow the instructions that Disc Manager provides. When
configuring CMOS, Do NOT use AUTO; choose one of the following:
1) USER DEFINABLE set to 1024 cyls 16 hds 63 sects, or
2) Drive type.
Another option is to contact your computer manufacturer to get
a BIOS upgrade that will support more than 4096 cylinders.
Using the traditional ATA (IDE) interface limits the system to a
maximum drive capacity of 528 Mbytes. The cause of this limitation
is Int 13h (BIOS) and ATA (IDE) field sizes for the CHS (Cylinder,
Head, and Sector) entries.
Because the system must perform a translation between the CHS parameters
recognized by the drive and those established in the Int 13h code,
parameters are limited to the smaller of the field sizes allowed
for each parameter by the BIOS and the ATA (IDE) register set. The
chart below displays the BIOS, ATA (IDE), and limiting field size.
Specification Int 13h BIOS ATA (IDE) Limitation
63 255 63
Number of heads 255 16 16
Number of Cylinders 1,024 65,536 1,024
Maximum Capacity 8.4 Gbytes 136.9 Gbytes 528 Mbytes
The maximum system drive capacity in a combined BIOS/ATA (IDE)
setup is determined by the limiting field size 528 Mbytes. Currently,
computers are being shipped with a BIOS that implements Extended
Int 13h or "Logical Block Addressing" (LBA), both of which are solutions
to the 528-Mbyte limitation.