I'm thinking of purchasing a 2TB hard drive (probably a Seagate F4), but I've read reports of Linux not being compatible with 4k sectors on these drives.

Do I have to do anything specific when I install this hardware?

It will be installed as a secondary (non-boot) drive in an Ubuntu Server 10.04.


grub-legacy, or grub (not grub2), is not compatible with 4K sectors, but grub2 certainly is; as far as the rest of the system, I had no issues building a Gentoo server for a client: had a 160 GB IDE HDD as OS, and 2 x 3 TB drives in RAID 1 (dmraid) with 4K sectors. Gentoo had no issue with it; I even had a LVM2 setup on it.

You should not experience any issues with using a 2 TB 4K sector HDD as a secondary, non-boot drive.

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  • The drives using 4kb physical sectors still emulate 512 byte logical sectors to make sure there is no software compatibility problems with older OSes, so even grub-legacy shouldn't know or care. – psusi Jul 11 '11 at 4:03
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    Only certain drives emulate 512 byte logical sectors; also, I ran into an issue where having one large partition was not possible with MBR partition table; I had to use GPT, and that is not compatible with grub/grub-legacy. So it was either use grub2, which had the necessary support for both GPT and the sector size, or use a cheap IDE 160 GB that was new but we had to spare. Guess which one my boss decided on? – laebshade Jul 11 '11 at 22:47
  • which drive was this? Western Digital's drives all seem to emulate 512 bytes. – psusi Jul 12 '11 at 14:05

Apart from the grub issues above (which I have not experienced), you should be aware of this very nasty problem with some drives (ie: EARS models from WS): drive is lying about sector size

Using one of those drives, you have to make sure your installation is aligned to 4K sectors manually: since the drive is lying, fdisk has no way of knowing it needs to align on 4k sectors and the performance will be dreadful (roughly 10 times worse) when writing to the disk since each 512 bytes write will incur a 4k read followed by a 4k write! (Your filesystem probably has 4k sectors already) Some recent distros might be better at it now, but when I bought it they did not..

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