How To: Fix High-Capacity Hard Disk Formatting Problems

Thinking about a storage upgrade using one of the latest monster-sized hard disks? I have a tip to share that might save you a lot of trouble.
Thinking about a storage upgrade using one of the latest monster-sized hard disks? I have a tip to share that might save you a lot of trouble.Earlier this week, I bought a stack of 1.5 TB Samsung hard disks. The plan was to install one in a Windows XP system, save two more for a new Linux file server that I plan to build soon, and then use the rest for removable backup sets.

That's a lot of storage, but I find myself using a lot of storage these days. At these prices -- around $80 apiece in OEM packaging -- it's a good time to move everything off my current, somewhat motley collection of smaller hard disks.

I installed the disk into the XP system, initialized it, and then created a 900 GB partition with no problems. When I tried, however, to create a second partition using the remainder of the disk, both Windows Disk Management and Acronis Disk Director coughed up cryptic error messages.

Naturally, I suspected a problem with the disk until I tried all six -- and encountered the same problem each time.

If you're having the same problem formatting very large hard disks on a Windows PC, don't blame Windows. Don't blame your system's BIOS just yet, either. Instead, take a closer look at your system's motherboard drivers.

After doing some research online, I discovered that most of the people who experience this problem are able to fix it with a motherboard chipset driver update. In my case, this was a matter of going to the Nvidia Web site, downloading a driver package that included updated storage controller drivers for my system's Abit motherboard (which uses an Nvidia chipset), and installing the updates.

(If you're running a stock OEM system from a company like Dell, go to the OEM's Web site and hunt down the latest driver updates for your desktop PC model. Otherwise, you'll need to know the make and model of a system's motherboard to track down the latest driver updates.)

My advice is not to troubleshoot problems formatting large hard disks by starting with a BIOS update. While an older BIOS may turn out the be the source of the problem, flashing a BIOS is an inherently risky process that can cause serious downtime if something goes wrong.

Instead, start with the latest motherboard/storage driver updates for your PC model. Before you install these, set a restore point in Windows; if the update causes problems, you can simply roll back the changes. If you can't find any relevant updates or if the update doesn't fix the problem, then you (or a qualified IT expert) can consider a BIOS update to fix the problem.

If you're wondering whether a new terabyte-plus hard disk is a good idea, don't let any of this deter you, either. At prices like this, it's easy to give your small business all the storage it needs along with plenty of extra capacity for backups.

And what about that Linux system? I haven't seen any reports of similar problems involving Linux-based storage drivers. Once I get a couple of these drives installed in my new file server, I'll let you know if any problems crop up.