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I have over the last week installed four differing versions of Ubuntu, 8.04, 8.10, 9.10 and 10.04, all fail with similar error messages from Grub on booting or rebooting. The message is “Error: out of disk” or similar on the older versions.

This is NOT the standard failure that is solved by deleting a couple of lines from the Grub Config file, as discussed on the Ubuntu Forums and it is not possible to reboot into the installation from the live cd. However the machine does boot the live cd.

My suspicions are that there is an incompatibility between the specific BIOS on my machine and GRUB. The machine is an old AMD based system with a small amount of memory.

The machine is capable of running Ubuntu 8 because it was running a very heavily updated copy before this process started.

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I have since discovered that partioning the disk with a small boot area of say 200MB allows the machine to boot into Ubuntu. However, Grub 2 is displaying the error during the boot process. –  Frank Sep 22 '10 at 16:41
    
Do you still have the problem. Have you found how to solved the problem or considered accepting an answer that solves your problem (if any)? –  Luis Alvarado Dec 5 '11 at 18:56
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4 Answers 4

At last a solution.

The solution suggested Jacques Botha did not work -- the Live CD ignores the added instruction to align the disk.

However, buried in the base of the launchpad bug trail is a suggestion to use partitioning software to generate the partition and align it manually before doing the installation. So my solution was to boot the Live CD and use gparted to make the partition and set it to be ext3.

This done, I booted from the CD and used text based installation but did not allow it to repartition the disk. Thus it has now installed Ubuntu 10.04 into an ext3 (not ext4) disk system. Thus I am not certain if the problem was ext4 or the disk partitioning but the system is up and running.

A point for the Ubuntu dev team: I think the Live CD has now gotten so heavy that a “lightweight graphical system” or a “textual live boot” is required for older machines and some servers. Even eliminating the eye candy would make such a difference as machines like mine only just run the full eye watering system.

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Since you've solved your problem and written this answer documenting the solution, you should accept this answer. (Writing and accepting your own answer is perfectly good practice, especially when there are no other suitable answers.) After you accept this answer, I recommend flagging this comment as obsolete. –  Eliah Kagan May 21 '12 at 16:32
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https://wiki.ubuntu.com/LucidLynx/ReleaseNotes#Partition%20alignment%20changes%20may%20break%20some%20systems

Partition alignment changes may break some systems By default, Ubuntu 10.04 LTS aligns partitions on disk to 1 MiB (1048576 bytes) boundaries. This ensures maximum performance on many modern disks, particularly solid state drives but also new "Advanced Format" disks with physical sectors larger than the traditional 512 bytes. Very few systems nowadays need the old alignment, used in the days of MS-DOS when it was useful for partitions to start at the beginning of a cylinder.

In some rare cases, optimal alignment may cause problems. Some BIOS implementations (those on Asus P5P800-MX and Asus P5GZ-MX motherboards) have been reported to hang after installation. It may be difficult to install Microsoft Windows XP and older after installing Ubuntu, although more recent versions of Windows should be compatible with optimal alignment and indeed may produce it themselves. If you find that you need to use the old cylinder alignment instead, then add the partman/alignment=cylinder boot parameter when starting the installer

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I will test this and find out if it fixes the problem. However, for the moment see the comment above. –  Frank Sep 22 '10 at 16:38
    
The problem clearly has something to do with Ext4. When I have a successful installation that uses Ext4 it fails once the kernel is updated. If I use Ext3 the system survives however Grub2 continues to throw the ERROR: out of disk. That said it runs….. –  Frank Oct 9 '10 at 19:52
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in alot of older machines the motherboard/bios only supports a certain amount of hard drive. for example my mx6030 only supports 113gigs or so. but ubuntu shows the full 320gigs of the hard drive. u can try limiting the partitions you make to what you motherboard/bios support. the other thing you can try is when you make your partitions ubuntu gives you an option of were to install the boot files, try installing them to your root partition ( / )

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Thank you for the answer sadly it does not fix my problem but it might help someone else. In my case the problem appears to be something to do with the way newer systems use larger blocks aligned at a differing boundary and Ubuntu on install does not notice the inability to support the new alignment. The same problem still exists in 10.04. –  Frank May 13 '11 at 11:53
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http://sourceforge.net/apps/mediawiki/bootinfoscript/index.php?title=Boot_Problems:write

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I'm sorry, I’m no novice, but I cannot accept this as a suitable answer. If you are a novice dumped at the Grub emergency command line what do you do? Since I swapped to ext3 on the reinstall everything has worked fine, so I am no longer in a position to test potential solutions and I did try this one without success, possibly because of a mistake. I have a spare hard disk so if someone posts a full enough answer to help a complete novice I will test it. Thanks for the help. –  Frank Nov 14 '10 at 9:01
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