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Old 19th June 2012
caravel caravel is offline
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Default GPT partition unbootable...

I attempted an install FreeBSD 9.0 last weekend. My hardware is pretty basic: Pentium 4 3.4GHz, 1.5GB of RAM, 40GB PATA HDD. I managed to get completely installed, though during partitioning some errors appeared and I removed the partition table and went for the "automatic" option - stupidly I created a GUID partition table which my BIOS does not recognise. It all installed, rebooted - the result is a disk which seems to freeze the system when connected whether as a single drive, master or slave. Thus I can't even boot up to zero out the boot sector, etc.

My question is, is this normal (for a GPT disk to cause a complete freeze during post on an older system without EFI)?

I'm wondering because I'm not ruling out a failed HDD either, but can't test the disk in another system to see if it's faulty or not.

Thanks in advance.

Last edited by caravel; 9th September 2013 at 10:30 AM. Reason: trying to mark as solved... nope, doesn't work...
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Old 19th June 2012
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Your symptoms indicate a likely problem of communication with drive electronics. It matters not what you may have scribbled onto sectors. No MBR, no boot, as far as your BIOS is concerned. But you were expecting to boot from other media, and don't get that far -- the BIOS hang is most likely when it tries to communicate with the drive during hardware probing, which doesn't read from media.

Drive electronics communication failures have three likely causes -- for IDE (aka PATA) in probability order:
  1. Bad IDE connection or cable
  2. Bad drive electronics
  3. Bad IDE bus electronics on the motherboard.
Start there. Look for a bent pin, swap cables, etc.

Last edited by jggimi; 19th June 2012 at 04:29 PM. Reason: clarity
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Old 20th June 2012
caravel caravel is offline
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Yes I was thinking a bad HDD also, but by coincidence the drive was working before I installed FreeBSD on it.

I tried 3 different cables, my other HDD boots up fine from the same cable, tried the master and slave connectors, checked all jumper settings so I would guess that goes towards ruling it out.

I agree it's probably bad drive electronics - I'm sure the BIOS would spit some error at least if it were an issue with the partition table. I will scrap the drive and install on another one.

Many thanks for your help jggimi
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Old 20th June 2012
J65nko J65nko is online now
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Having had quite some issues in installing 9.0, you could try to install FreeBSD 8.3 and check whether that will boot from the disk.
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Old 20th June 2012
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As I understand it, when that drive is plugged in, the BIOS does not complete POST. No OS or standalone program will boot.
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Old 20th June 2012
caravel caravel is offline
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Yes POST just freezes when the drive is connected. I will try 8.3 if I can't get any results with 9.0.

Many thanks to you both.
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Old 20th June 2012
caravel caravel is offline
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Ok the plot thickens. I installed on a new 40GB PATA drive today - just to make sure I booted before hand, the POST completed and "boot failure" - so far so good.

I then installed as before; two partitions only 2GB of swap, but using a DOS MBR instead of GPT. The result - exactly the same result.

I now intend to check and see if either of these drives will boot in another system I have. If they do I'll wipe them and try FreeBSD 8.3 next.

//edit: Ok both drives boot up ok from another PC (which has windows xp) I managed to delete the partitions from the last drive I set up (with an MBR) but windows does not recognise the GPT drive and cannot delete/create partitions on it.

I will try FreeBSD 8.3

Last edited by caravel; 20th June 2012 at 07:56 PM.
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Old 21st June 2012
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Quote:
I then installed as before; two partitions only 2GB of swap, but using a DOS MBR instead of GPT. The result - exactly the same result.
OK, then the only logical explanation is that the BIOS is actually getting through POST, then failing to boot.

I had interpreted your problem description and test results to mean that during problem isolation testing that you had configured your BIOS to boot from alternate media (another hard drive, optical media, NIC, diskette) and the machine would not boot from that alternate media if the hard drive was attached. That is what led me to a hardware problem. If you did not test this, please do so, to confirm that BIOS completed POST with the drive attached, and that the symptom's root cause was just a hang of the OS on boot.

On a GPT drive, LBA #0 would contain a "Protective MBR" -- an MBR configured with the entire disk in use, and not bootable. Would the MBR program in the first 400 bytes do more than hang? I don't know. Unfortunately, the sum of my entire knowledge of GPT comes from Wikipedia.

I'm very confused by your test results with an MBR-bootable configuration. In that case, the MBR program should have chain loaded the PBR (first stage boot loader) and that should have chain loaded the second stage boot loader, and that should have loaded the kernel.

Last edited by jggimi; 21st June 2012 at 03:23 PM. Reason: typos
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Old 21st June 2012
caravel caravel is offline
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The BIOS responds to nothing but CTRL+ALT+DEL during the POST with the drive attached - it hangs the instant the PATA drives are detected. I've configured the system to boot from the CDROM which makes no difference - the system does not get any further than the aforementioned device detection. With the drive connected I cannot get into BIOS setup or bring up the BIOS boot menu - so any BIOS configuration I do has to be with it disconnected. With the drive formatted off it all returns to normal.

I agree that it must get through POST and freeze instantly while the POST screen is still visible and the BIOS handing over to the bootloader. This may also explain why the BIOS hotkeys stop working.

I will do some more fiddling around this evening if possible as well as installing 8.3 to see if there's any difference.

I don't mind resetting the BIOS to factory defaults either or messing about with individual settings.

Thanks again for your help.
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Old 21st June 2012
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You may want to see if your motherboard vendor has a BIOS update available.

Years ago, I had an AMD Socket 7 motherboard with two big LEDs that produced codes throughout POST and to the point where the BIOS transferred control to boot code read from media. Granted, I couldn't see the status code unless the case was open but it was a really nice feature.
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Old 21st June 2012
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Did you try just resetting the label to msdos? Use gparted.
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Old 22nd June 2012
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Quote:
I then installed as before; two partitions only 2GB of swap, but using a DOS MBR instead of GPT. The result - exactly the same result.
Are they Western Digital Hard drives? These come pre-formated with a gpt in the first 2 sectors and also back up the gpt on the last 2 sectors of the disk. I did not have any desire to boot multiple OS so I zero out the first 2 sectors and the last 2 sectors on the drive with the dd command.
At that point the classic mbr boot sector worked If you do not do the last 2 sectors the gpt table will be restored.

More info here

Last edited by shep; 22nd June 2012 at 01:58 AM. Reason: added link
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Old 22nd June 2012
caravel caravel is offline
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They're western digital drives, but I'm sure they're far too old to come formatted with a GPT? Both disks are the wd400jb

I will certainly try that however before reinstalling.

Thanks
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Old 23rd June 2012
caravel caravel is offline
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I installed 9.0 again last night on 40GB seagate drive with the same result.

I also installed FreeBSD 8.3 on one of the WD drives with no problems. I'm posting from Firefox 10 with openbox on FreeBSD 8.3. I will have another go at 9.0 this weekend - I notice that 9.0 uses a newer installer called bsdinstall, whereas 8.3 uses sysinstall.

//edit: reinstalled 9.0 again, taking great care - same result, tried resetting factory defaults to BIOS - same. Anyway I am happy with 8.3, so going to stick with that for now.

Thanks for helping this noob everyone.

Last edited by caravel; 23rd June 2012 at 07:11 PM.
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Old 17th August 2013
caravel caravel is offline
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Tried to install 9.1 today on exactly the same (old) hardware but with a 160GB Seagate SATA drive. Decided to use an MBR instead of a GPT - exactly the same result as last year (see above). I'm running Slackware at the moment, but will probably give FreeBSD 8.x another try.

In case anyone else has similar problems here is some info on my particular hardware:
Code:
# lspci
00:00.0 Host bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. CN700/VN800/P4M800CE/Pro Host Bridge
00:00.1 Host bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. CN700/VN800/P4M800CE/Pro Host Bridge
00:00.2 Host bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. CN700/VN800/P4M800CE/Pro Host Bridge
00:00.3 Host bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. PT890 Host Bridge
00:00.4 Host bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. CN700/VN800/P4M800CE/Pro Host Bridge
00:00.7 Host bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. CN700/VN800/P4M800CE/Pro Host Bridge
00:01.0 PCI bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. VT8237/VX700 PCI Bridge
00:05.0 Network controller: Broadcom Corporation BCM4318 [AirForce One 54g] 802.11g Wireless LAN Controller (rev 02)
00:06.0 Multimedia audio controller: Creative Labs SB0400 Audigy2 Value
00:0f.0 IDE interface: VIA Technologies, Inc. VIA VT6420 SATA RAID Controller (rev 80)
00:0f.1 IDE interface: VIA Technologies, Inc. VT82C586A/B/VT82C686/A/B/VT823x/A/C PIPC Bus Master IDE (rev 06)
00:10.0 USB controller: VIA Technologies, Inc. VT82xxxxx UHCI USB 1.1 Controller (rev 81)
00:10.1 USB controller: VIA Technologies, Inc. VT82xxxxx UHCI USB 1.1 Controller (rev 81)
00:10.2 USB controller: VIA Technologies, Inc. VT82xxxxx UHCI USB 1.1 Controller (rev 81)
00:10.3 USB controller: VIA Technologies, Inc. VT82xxxxx UHCI USB 1.1 Controller (rev 81)
00:10.4 USB controller: VIA Technologies, Inc. USB 2.0 (rev 86)
00:11.0 ISA bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. VT8237 ISA bridge [KT600/K8T800/K8T890 South]
01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: nVidia Corporation G73 [GeForce 7300 GT] (rev a2)
Motherboard is a Foxconn P4M800P7MB-RS2H - BIOS is already latest version.

The system boots fine when the disk is installed into another machine. I'm almost entirely convinced it's a BIOS bug/problem - and one which will never be resolved.

(p.s. this is not a request for help - just adding info which may be useful)
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Old 18th August 2013
shep shep is offline
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Since I the last posts, I have found an extremely through, well written site on gpt disks. I may have posted this elsewhere in the forum. The author maintains the gdisk/gfdisk utility which is now included in gparted. I think it is a candidate to be a sticky.
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Old 19th August 2013
caravel caravel is offline
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Well the disk in question was not a GPT disk - it was a disk which was pulled from an old machine which was running windows xp where the motherboard died. I tried to install with an MBR, not GPT, and still had exactly the same problem as last year. (I'm not going to pretend to understand how FreeBSD partitions disks however.)

FreeBSD 8.4 installs and boots fine on exactly the same hardware (including the disk)

Also the disk on which I installed FreeBSD 9.1 boots without any problems from another machine.

As with last year's attempt, the disk would render the system in question completely unbootable when connected - irrespective of whether it was set as the boot device or not. The disk detection, during POST, is the point where it freezes. In order to get the disk usable again in that machine, I had to plug it into another machine and remove all partitions.

The only difference between now and last year is that this is a different disk - a seagate SATA disk, as opposed to the WD PATA disk used in the previous attempt.

Thanks

//edit: Found some related threads at the FreeBSD forums:

http://forums.freebsd.org/showthread.php?t=35922

http://forums.freebsd.org/showthread.php?t=38133
The advice to use mbr doesn't help as I've tried that.

//edit2: http://forums.freebsd.org/showthread.php?t=29596
(last post may be worth a try?)

Last edited by caravel; 19th August 2013 at 04:17 PM. Reason: added links
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Old 19th August 2013
shep shep is offline
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Quote:
Well the disk in question was not a GPT disk - it was a disk which was pulled from an old machine which was running windows xp where the motherboard died. I tried to install with an MBR, not GPT, and still had exactly the same problem as last year. (I'm not going to pretend to understand how FreeBSD partitions disks however.)
I believe the "auto" option in Guided Partitioning FreeBSD 9.x, writes a GPT to the disk. Even though it was not a GPT disk, if your attempts to install 9.x used Guide Partitioning -> auto there is a good chance it has a GPT table. The link I provided has an easy way to interogate the tables
Quote:
# gdisk /dev/sdc
GPT fdisk (gdisk) version 0.7.2

Partition table scan:
MBR: MBR only
BSD: not present
APM: not present
GPT: present

Found valid MBR and GPT. Which do you want to use?
1 - MBR
2 - GPT
3 - Create blank GPT

Your answer:
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Old 19th August 2013
caravel caravel is offline
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Thanks, but I used manual partitioning.
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Old 20th August 2013
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I just glanced through the thread and I wasn't following it closely, but FreeBSD RC2 is out and one of the things fixed is GPT booting problem (might not be related to your problem though):
Quote:
Changes between -RC1 and -RC2 include:
  • Fix a boot issue caused by some GPT partitioning tools.
...
http://lists.freebsd.org/pipermail/f...st/074756.html

So, you might wanna try the RC2 and see if it makes any difference.

All the best
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