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 was running Ubuntu 8 without issues before this process started.

I have since discovered that partitioning the disk with a small boot area of say 200MB allows Ubuntu to boot. However, Grub 2 is still displaying the error during the boot process.


3 Answers 3


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.


In many older machines the motherboard/BIOS supports a limited quantity of hard drive space. For example my mx6030 only supports 113 GB or so, but Ubuntu shows the full 320 GB of the hard drive. You can try limiting the partitions you make to the size your motherboard/BIOS supports.

Another thing you can try is installing boot files to your root partition (/) during installation, when Ubuntu asks you to choose a location.

  • 1
    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, 2011 at 11:53

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

  • I will test this and find out if it fixes the problem. However, for the moment see the comment above.
    – Frank
    Sep 22, 2010 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, 2010 at 19:52

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