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Every time update-grub is run all hard drives are scanned. Each drives that is in standby state will spin up to go idle. This is a waste of energy. We use update-grub version 1.98:

# update-grub -v
grub-mkconfig (GRUB) 1.98+20100804-14+squeeze1


  1. There is a GRUB_DISABLE_OS_PROBER=true option in the /etc/default/grub file. But that seems to only work from version 2 and up. At least it doesn't stop scanning all drives in our version 1.98.

  2. There is a /etc/grub.d/20_linux_xen script that might be run as a part of update-grub. After removing execute rights for all users with chmod a-x /etc/grub.d/20_linux_xen all drives do still spin up.

How to stop update-grub from scanning each and every hard drive?

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It's just a shell script... Modify it? It should only run after kernel updates, which doesn't occur very often. – jordanm Nov 17 '12 at 23:04
One of the script lines executes /usr/sbin/grub-probe --target=device /. That command also causes all drives to spin up. The /usr/sbin/grub-probe is not a shell script. – Pro Backup Nov 17 '12 at 23:17
How often are you running update-grub? This should only happen when you install a new kernel, so who cares? – psusi Nov 18 '12 at 3:00
I know, that entire picojoule it uses is such a waste - if you ran update-grub 24/7 for a month on 1000 computers with 3 HDDs each, it might add a cent or two to your electric bill. – tkbx Dec 29 '12 at 21:01

(Is this really worth the time and effort to fix?)

As you mentioned, the probing is probably happening when grub-mkconfig calls grub-probe. You could modify grub-mkconfig by simply hardcoding the result of the grub-probe calls. It is used to fill GRUB_DEVICE, GRUB_DEVICE_UUID, GRUB_DEVICE_BOOT, GRUB_DEVICE_BOOT_UUID, and GRUB_FS.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

In file /etc/grub.d/30_os-prober the line

OSPROBED="`os-prober | tr ' ' '^' | paste -s -d ' '`"

makes all drives spin (standby -> idle). Os-prober is a utility to find Linux installations at drives other then your boot drive. It is the os-prober that needs to be disabled.

  1. One way is to remove the package: apt-get --purge remove os-prober.
  2. Another way is to remove executable rights for os-prober. First find the location of os-prober using $ which os-prober. Output might look like: /usr/bin/os-prober. The remove the executable rights for all users for that file: # chmod a-x /usr/bin/os-prober
  3. Another way is to remove executable rights for 30_os-prober. Find the location of 30_os-prober using $ locate /30_os-prober. Output might look like: /etc/grub.d/30_os-prober. The remove the executable rights for all users for that file: # chmod a-x /etc/grub.d/30_os-prober
  4. Yet another way is to skip the execution of /etc/grub.d/30_os-prober. For example by making the GRUB_DISABLE_OS_PROBER=true option work in our grub version 1.98. This can be done by inserting in file /etc/grub.d/30_os-prober the code below the line set -e:


if [ "x${GRUB_DISABLE_OS_PROBER}" = "xtrue" ]; then
  exit 0
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For those wondering if it's really worth the effort, yes it is. Perhaps not for energy saving but today I encountered a problem with update-grub as it wanted to probe for both /dev/sda (my harddisk) and /dev/sdc (a USB-stick). Without the latter inserted into my laptop, update-grub would hang, even though there is actually no OS on my USB-stick installed nor did I ever boot from this stick. As the USB-stick recently broke, I needed a way for update-grub to continue (alive) without it. Fortuately, GRUB_DISABLE_OS_PROBER=true just did the trick. :)

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