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Windows XP and 32k sectors?


panco

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I'm brand new to this forum and just purchased an x64 drive (probably I'm going to install it this weekend).

I saw that the recurring suggestion from RAM GUY is to use 32K sector while quick-formatting (NTFS).

I would like to ask if this has been verified on a drive that would become the boot drive of an XP installation.

The reason for my asking is that already in the past i tried (more than once... first with sp2 and lately with sp3) to install on a drive (normal HDD) with 32K sector.... never succeded... even after days of attempts on all sort of settings, bios, mbr replacement, repair, etc....

Looking around the net I found several reports (not many in fact... must be a choice of few people with Xp to have their drive at 32K) that XP will not boot on a drive with 32K sectors (this seems also to apply to other win OS).

 

For the time being i think i will just try to clone my C partition to the new drive (to substitute the WD74) without erasing, formating or anything.... leaving for later the various experiments.

..but i'm trying to gather all possible info for how to set up in the best way the x64 drive, and how to maximize (and maintain) its performance.

 

oh... BTW... I'm writing from across the Atlantic (Italy) so I beg your pardon for the odd mistake or misunderstanding due to not being of english mothertongue.

 

I hope this might help also some other users with their problem as i suspect that some of them are hitting this type of problem but maybe are looking for the cure in the wrong direction.

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From the lack of replies I guess that i must be the only one that attempted to have 32k sectors while running XP "straight" (meaning without dual boot software or tools that might substitute the ntldr and therefore might work differently).

 

Just to fill in some more details I guess that the problem is related to some old limit that is also aknowledge in the microsoft knowledge base, that specifies that NT (old old old....) did not support a boot partition with more than 4k cluster.

I assume that the ntldr hasn't change in win98 and winXP... and that they didn't change it until later on (maybe) on Vista or Win7 (if those systems don't have the problem).

 

As originally planned i did the install during the weekend and now everything looks ok (and very nice performance improvement!!!)

The only messy part of the installation was to convince XP to assign the C letter to the new (cloned) partition while having the old disk on the system.

After a couple of attempts (cloning partition) I ended up restoring with True Image (with disk signature) AND hiding the old partition on the first boot. After that (from within windows) I used Acronis Disk Director to unhide and assign a new letter to the old disk/partition.

 

One odd thing I noticed was that:

1) booting from Acronis recovery boot media (I set up a usb key for that)

2) using Disk director

3) ssd properties (regardless if formatted or not.. tried both cases)

4) click on the various info types...... and when clicked on Statistics......

 

BANG!!!

 

immediate black screen and reboot!

 

 

I guess the instruction used by Acronis Disk Director to enquire those info triggered some protection (either in the ssd controller or in the motherboard sata controller)

 

For your ref I am running in IDE mode (not AHCI) and all disks are attached to the ICH9R sata controller (not the additional Gigabyte controller.. which i disabled as I don't need it).

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Windows will not install on a drive where all partitions are completely formatted with 32K clusters. There needs to be at least one partition formatted with 4k clusters where the bootloader will reside otherwise the installation will fail. This includes every single version of Windows including Windows 7.

 

Anoyingly there is no mention of this anywhere on this forum or in any posts recommending people use 32K clusters.

 

Having 32K clusters is about as much use as a chocolate tea-pot. There is virtually zero increase in speed and the wasted space you get by having larger clusters is not worth the trade off, especially with drives < 128GB.

 

Anyway, if you're cloning a drive to the SSD (not a good idea if the drive is a mechanical disk) then Acronis etc will destroy all formatting and partition info on the drive and you will end up with clusters of the same size as the drive you cloned from.

 

I say cloning is not a good idea because when cloning XP drives over or even when doing a standard fresh install you will end up with an incorrectly aligned drive. To check this run AS SSD disk benchmark. On the left in the main window it will show the current alignment and most likely will state "Bad". You really need to do a fresh install and first, manually create the OS partition using diskpart, setting the correct alignment.

 

For XP systems I use the standard 1024K alignment set by Vista/7. To do this first use HDDErase to secure erase the drive. Now boot from the XP CD and load the recovery console. Type "diskpart" > "list disk" > "select disk x" (x = the number diskpart assigned to the SSD) > "create partition primary align-1024" > "active". Now restart and run XP setup. Be sure to use the newly created partition and not to delete it when installing XP. Select Quick Format NTFS when prompted and let everything run.

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Thank you for answering and for the confirmation to my thoughts about 32k beeing incompatible for a boot partition.

Thank you also for the info and advise about alignment.

 

I downloaded and run AS SSD and confirm that all my disks and partitions are misaligned :-(

About the partitioning alignment i have seen in a lot of places references to this aspect and i'm planning on doing it. As I'm actually looking for a method that doesn't require the entire reinstallation... maybe I have found it:

 

Currently I'm using acronis, but there is a known problem (recognised by the producer that is promising a solution in the next version) if you follow a "normal" restore procedure that destrys the alignment of a partition.

But there are various references around to a guides that gives an alternative method of doing it with acronis without destroying the alignment.

(i believe the reference to other forums is not allowed here... so if anybody is interested... I'm afraid they need to google it...).

...but maybe I can suggest also to see a video that this person (nick XPRESS from UK.... btw... THANKS!) has made and loaded in youtube and downlaodable from mediafire....

 

Basically the method is to restore in 2 stages, first the partition on top of an existing one that is correctly aligned, but WITHOUT restoring the MBR, and next to run a second restore that restores just the MBR.

 

So i have to become more familiar with diskpar to ensure proper alignment and then find the time to play with it...

...or to wait for the next version of acronis that does it properly...

...or to wait for when I want to upgrade to windows 7 (as in that case I would certainly do a fresh install).

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In the end I did it...

I managed to align the partition without having to reinstall everything.

If it can help somebody I am trying to summarize the steps I did:

The method suggested with acronis ALMOST worked... in the sense that it didn't work by doing it from within Windows but it did if the restore was done from the bootable cd (in my case actually a USB pen).

Doing it from within windows worked apparently but the copied partition wasn't bootable.

 

I was with my SSD as C drive and had the former system HDD as D drive.

So initially I tried if the method woud work aligning and moving from SSD to HDD (with the intention of booting from the HDD and do the reverse process).

As I said above, at the end it worked by doing the 2 restore steps while booted from the emergency Acronis disk.

 

Then I tried to do the reverse process to align the partition on the SSD (that was the real goal)...

Everything went smoothly (apparently) until I tried to boot from the SSD (having put the HDD offline): it wouldn't boot.

The fault was likely the effect of windows trying to fix things.

In trying to keep track of the disks and partitions windows changes disk and partition numbers (sometimes depending on where they are connected, sometimes based on the disk signature).

It didn't work when I tried to boot having the HDD offline so in the end I reconnected the HDD and booted from it... the SSD was connected and recognized by the system and the following boot attempt the system switched the disk number and it all started to work.

I think my explanation is likely to be not very clear... but I have done so many reboot, recover, restore MBR, restore with and without signature... etc... that I would most likely not be able to give a foolproof method anyway...

 

Lessons learned:

1) When Acronis (2010) restores to an existing partition (aligned) with different size it recreates the partition but keeps it where it was (so if it was aligned it stays aligned). Note that the files on the copied partition are in the same order on disk (checked with PerfectDisk10) but all consecutive, therefore in my case without the gaps that the source partition had. This seems to be a behaviour similar to the very old Ghost that copied the files instead of the sector image.

 

2) Switching disks that were at some point "seen" from windows is a messy thing as the combination of sata ports where they are attached + the letter they had + the disk number assiggned by the OS + the disk signature... can lead to a number of different combinations that in a lot of cases give you a boot.ini that points to the wrong disk/partition (or your partition has changed numbers and the boot ini has stayed the same).

 

I can't be 100% sure... but just before the last reboot (the one that was successful) I tried to change the boot.ini on the ssd (that was marked as disk 1). After the boot the disk was marked as disk 0 and the boot ini changed back to reflect it. I have the strong suspicion tha windows changed the boot.ini when it decided that the disk was gooing to be disk 0 instead of disk 1.

 

 

Does all this have a return in terms of performance?

 

... not that much...

The Crystal benchmark says that after the alignment the ssd is faster by about 3 to 5%

Maybe it will have the effect of keeping it in shape longer... but I can't tell...

 

Would I do it as a regular way of tuning?

Not likely... Probablly is easier to save the ssd, fiddle with the partition using a bootable media that lets you use tools like diskpar or Gparted or similar.. and then restore having booted from the Acronis bootable media.

Please note that Acronis bootable media is very weak in terms of tools and I could not find a method to run an application that was not an Acronis one. And even the edit of the boot.ini from within Disk Director doesn't work.

Plus there is a known bug in Acronis Disk Director that doesn't let you edit the MBR... If you try to click on edit it reboots the system! The same as when you try to look at the disk statistics in "properties".

 

 

What would I do if i meet the guy that changed windows from the old partition behaviour (letter assigned depending on order of connection) to the new behaviour of keeping track of disks and partitions and trying to assign a fix letter to them?

... better not tell....:evil:

...it was soooooo easy back then: clone,make it the boot choice in bios and it was given the letter C and booted always at the first attempt!

 

After all... somebody once said that the worst things in the world have been done wih the best intentions.

 

but it was nice to learn something new ;-)

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