IV.  Practical howto

IV.2  Installation

Hardware connection

Before we present examples of a system setup we would like to discuss some basic, though general, hardware issues required to install software successfully.

All SCSI devices on the system must be connected so that they form a chain terminated on its both extreme ends. All devices that lay between the ends must have their termination disabled. Termination is done with a jumper or micro switch on internal devices, and by a terminating plug on external devices. Modern SCSI adapters terminate themselves automatically.

Each device attached to the SCSI host bus adapter, as well as the host adapter itself, must have a unique SCSI ID number (target number, usually 0 through 7 or 0 through 15). Those IDs are set manually with jumpers or micro switches, or automatically by the host adapter BIOS if SCAM (SCSI Configured AutoMatically) protocol is supported by all devices in the chain.

Almost every modern system board is equipped with two channel EIDE (Extended IDE) controller (older boards have only one channel controller). To every channel up to two devices may be connected, which makes four IDE devices possible.

In practice, IDE devices that share a channel, in contrast to SCSI devices on the same chain, always work with the speed of the slower device. E.g. a CD-ROM that supports only PIO mode 3 connected as a slave, slows down a modern master hard disk supporting PIO mode 4. To improve the performance connect hard disks to the primary channel and other devices like CD-ROMs, CD burners, DVD, ZIP drives to the secondary channel.

BIOS settings

Currently available hard disk drives on the market go far beyond 8 GB barrier. As for now there is no BIOS geometry translation that might overcome that limitation. Modern operating systems like: Solaris 8, Linux, NT 4.0 + SP4, W2K, or Windows 98 override BIOS disk routines and use Int 13h extensions. This allows to use such large hard disks. On the BIOS level, however, the problem still persists. BIOS cannot access cylinders past 1024-th one, and therefore is not able to boot partitions past 1024-th cylinder. 1024 cylinders correspond to 504 MB or 7.88 GB as LBA is disabled or enabled in BIOS. This is meaningless on systems where operating systems are installed on separate hard disk drives, and such a drive may be set to Normal, LBA or Auto. Large is not recommended. When multiple operating systems are installed on a single drive LBA should be enabled.

Note: Do not change BIOS geometry translation after an operating system has been installed, or that system will not boot any more.

Solaris keeps track on physical connection of devices. Sometimes, there are situation in which such a behavior might be considered a serious limitation, but actually, this makes Solaris stable and reliable. In case of DOS or successors, when a new hard disk drive is attached one always wonders how drive letters will be rearranged. NT is a bit smarter with its NT Disk Signature but suffers the same weakness.

During installation of a new operating system on a separate hard disk drive, it is safe to disconnect the unused one. Swapping hard disks is not recommended. This causes physical addresses to be different during installation and after it. When you usually boot off primary master and want that hard disk to be turned off during installation on a slave or secondary drive, change BIOS boot sequence setting instead of swapping drives.

Note: The general rule for temporary booting off other than usual drive is: do not swap cables, reconfigure your BIOS instead. Most modern BIOSes are capable of setting boot sequence (refer to your BIOS manual for more details).

Available values of the BIOS boot sequence entry, that is, boot devices and their order, vary from BIOS to BIOS. Letters C, D, E and F in this entry refer to IDE hard disk drives. To boot from SCSI drive, SCSI option should be selected in BIOS boot sequence. In some BIOSes there is no SCSI option available in this entry, but there is HDD sequence SCSI/IDE entry instead. It determines which controller SCSI or IDE should be searched first during boot up. The order of SCSI devices is setup in the SCSI controller BIOS. Older BIOSes may have no option to boot from SCSI at all.


Most operating systems are capable of creating and deleting partitions during their installation. This may save headaches with searching for an fdisk utility to cleanup disk or to create partition prior installation. While cleaning disk prior installation is a good habit, prepartitioning may lead into troubles when incompatible fdisk or format utility is used. Generally it is better however, to rely on the fdisk that comes with the operating system than a third party utility. On the other hand prepartitioning lets to plan disk layout better and assign necessary space for different volumes.

There are however exceptions to this rule. When Solaris will be installed along another operating system, it is better to create Solaris partition prior Solaris installation. This is due to specific CHS geometry translation used in Solaris, different than in other PC operating systems (see IV.4 Troubleshooting). A Solaris fdisk partition can be created easily with Ranish PM. The other method is to create any type of primary partition and change its partition ID to 0x82 in the fdisk table in MBR.

During installation of Solaris into an existing partition, you will be asked if it is a fresh installation or upgrade. This is because the contents of the Solaris partition is not verified.

For the sake of performance one should never let NT setup create an NTFS partition, because this will be created as FAT-16 partition and later converted to NTFS, with the worst cluster size of one sector, and the Master File Table (the file holding all the meta-data) created highly fragmented in all the free FAT-16 clusters found at the beginning of the partition.

Also boot partition of NT is limited to 4GB if NT setup program is used to create NT that partition.

It is recommended to format NTFS partitions with fdisk tool capable of doing so, eg. latest Partition Magic, or from a running NT installation by mounting the hard disk into another PC. The cluster size should be 8 sectors. With NT command line format utility this is done by typing:

format /A:4096 /FS:NTFS