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It is time to expand the capacity of my Ubuntu home file server so I would like to purchase some 3TB hard disks. However, I am concerned with potential compatibility issues. I've tried searching around but I haven't found information which clearly addresses my particular situation.

My server is running Ubuntu 10.04 on an Intel P35 chipset based system. The motherboard does not support UEFI (and, by extension, GPT?). However, Ubuntu does support >2TB disks. Will I be able to properly utilize these new disks, or does the motherboard limitation trump all else? The boot disk is <2TB and will not be updated nor am I dual-booting; these disks will be used strictly as slaves in a pure Ubuntu environment.

I'd hate to pull the trigger on these new disks just to be unpleasantly surprised, so any feedback is appreciated. Thanks!

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You should have no problems -- at least in theory. Motherboard compatibility isn't really an issue; once the computer is booted, the Linux kernel is in charge of things, so the issues involved (hard disk size and partitioning method) must be resolved by the Linux kernel, not by the computer's firmware. The Linux kernel has long supported both large hard disks and GPT. If you dual boot with Windows, though, there are potential hazards, since some Windows drivers use 32-bit pointers, which will end up trashing data on over-2TiB disks.

In fact, the old BIOS firmware doesn't explicitly support any partitioning system, not even the Master Boot Record (MBR) system used on most BIOS computers. Thus, lack of GUID Partition Table (GPT) support in BIOS isn't an issue, even if you wanted to boot from the disk. (There are some caveats and limitations, but I won't get into those since they'd just be a digression, given that you don't plan to boot from the disk.)

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I've run into a case where my BIOS examined fields in a boot sector on a USB flash disk (and did so poorly, as it turned out), so I guess there are no guarantees about what an individual BIOS will do. It may be that it wouldn't have done that for a standard hard drive. – John S Gruber Nov 11 '12 at 21:46

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