How to install another hard disk

My desktop machine has been cramped for space for at least a year. I've had to shuffle games, data, applications and digital images on and off the system as I needed them. There just wasn't enough available space on the two existing drives, and it was past time to do something about it. That's what I'm writing about this week: adding a new hard drive to your existing Linux system.

I decided on a Western Digital Corp. Caviar IDE drive. Model WD1200JB is rated at 120-gigabyte capacity, spins at 7200 RPMs and sports an 8-megabyte cache. I found a good price for it online as a bare drive (meaning without any cables or hardware to facilitate installation), and I ordered it. Total cost was US$131.99, including shipping and handling. Bless froogle.google.com.

I remember scraping my knuckles a couple of times when I did a similar upgrade a few years ago. I was hopeful that this time it would go a little easier. It did, by a considerable margin. Maybe I've gotten better at reading the HowTo's; this time, I followed the LinuxPlanet tutorial on adding a new (empty) hard drive.

To begin with, of course, I had to decide where I would attach the new drive. My desktop machine can handle four IDE-drives in its current configuration. Three of them were already occupied, handling the two existing hard drives and the Hewlett-Packard Co. 9100 CD-RW drive.

The hardware map looked like this

The primary IDE-controller had my boot drive connected as master and the HP CD-ROM as slave. Linux recognizes those devices as /dev/hda and /dev/hdb. I think of them as hard drive a and hard drive b. The secondary IDE controller (each controller can support only two drives) had my second hard drive as master. At one time, I had a DVD drive as secondary, but it's been gone for a while.

Idiot laws like the DMCA make a DVD-drive on a Linux box a much less attractive option, so I simply don't use my DVD-drive any longer. Linux sees my second hard drive as /dev/hdc. See the pattern emerging? I think of it as hard drive c. Extra credit if you can predict what Linux called my new hard drive when I connect it as slave on the secondary controller. That's right, my dweeb! It is now known as /dev/hdd.

As I looked at my existing hardware, something inside told me I had better be sure whether I should connect the new drive to the middle connector on the cable or if it should be at the end. I went on one of the help channels on irc.freenode.net to find out. It turns out that it doesn't matter, so long as you have correctly strapped the drive as either master or slave. If you strap it for Cable Select, it matters.

Back in the day, I think it mattered when I was adding new 20-megabyte Seagate MFM drives to my 80286 machine. Not so with the IDE drives of today. My new drive came jumpered as CS, for Cable Select. I removed the jumper cap from the CS pins and slipped it over the pins marked as SL, for slave.

With that irritating question out of the way, I shut down my desktop machine and physically installed the drive. The middle connector was available on the cable (the end connector was connecting to my existing second hard drive), so I used it. The ribbon edge of the cable, which marks the pin-1 side, almost always is closest to the power connection on the back of the drive. That rule held true this time as well, so there was no fumbling around required for me to connect the cable. Then I connected a power lead from the box to the drive. With the drive secured inside the box, the hardware side of the installation was done. It only took about five minutes.

After rebooting, I followed the HowTo and started the software side of the installation. The first step of that process was to partition the drive. I used fdisk for the task. As root, I entered the following command to start fdisk and point it at the correct drive:

# /sbin/fdisk /dev/hdd

If you're not familiar with fdisk usage, it's pretty simple. Enter an m, and it will list all the commands available to you. The first command I entered was p, to print the current partition table. Because the drive was brand-new, nothing was displayed. Then I entered n to create a new partition, p to make it a primary partition, and 1 for the partition number. Easy as pie, and we're almost halfway through.

Next, I told fdisk how large I wanted the partition to be. There are several ways to do this, but the default is to give it a starting and ending cylinder number. It prompts you for each, suggesting the first cylinder as the starting place and the last cylinder for the ending spot. I just hit Enter to accept both suggestions. Then it was only a matter of telling fdisk to write the new partition table.

If doing geeky stuff from the command line makes you nervous, it may help calm your nerves to know that nothing you do in fdisk is applied until you tell it to write a new partition-table. This allows you to check and double-check every step to make sure you have it right. I printed the partition table again to make sure that partition 1 was there, and then entered w to save the new table. Nothing to it.

Then it was time to format the drive. I used the example mkfs command to create an ext3 filesystem given in the HowTo by typing the following as root:

mkfs -t ext2 -j /dev/hdd1

Note that in addition to telling mkfs what drive we are talking about, we need to tell it which partition. There is only one partition on the new drive: partition 1. That's why I entered /dev/hdd1 instead of simply /dev/hdd in the command above.

Now just two more quick tasks, and my new drive will be installed and ready to use. I decided to call it bigdog, because it dwarfs the older drives in the box. The first step was to create a directory I could use as a mount-point. I did this by entering the following commands as root. The first command creates the directory while the second gives me all rights to it:

mkdir /bigdog chown warthawg.warthawg /bigdog

Now I was ready for the very last part of the installation: adding bigdog to /etc/fstab so the system would know about it at boot time. That way, I won't have to manually mount it each time I restart the system. That was as easy as adding the following line to the end of the file:

/dev/hdd1 /bigdog ext3 defaults 1 2

Then I rebooted the system and watched as the drives spun up. I was able to use the new drive immediately; everything just worked exactly as it was supposed to. The entire process only took about 15 or 20 minutes. It sure didn't seem that easy the first time I did it — I know I've learned a lot more about Linux than I knew then, but I think most of the credit has to go to the HowTo I followed to do the job.

OK, now it's your turn.

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Joe Barr

LinuxWorld
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