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Asus Software Unlocks HDDs With Over 2.2 TB

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 38 comments

This software for Asus motherboards creates a virtual drive on a 3 TB HDD that can be used in Windows XP, Vista, and 7.

Friday Asus announced Disk Unlocker, a software solution that allows legacy systems to access hard drives larger than 2048GB. The drawback is that the software only works with Asus motherboards and doesn't create a bootable partition based on the 3 TB-ready GUID Partition Table (GPT). Instead, it creates a virtual drive that can be accessed within Windows XP 64-bit, Vista, and 7.

"This is the first software solution to overcome current operating system limitations that prevent a hard disk drive from utilizing more than 2048 GB (also known as 2.2TB)," the company said. "With just a few clicks, Disk Unlocker taps into hidden storage space beyond the nominal 2048 GB range, helping you use large hard drives to their maximum potential."

A hard drive storage capacity greater than 2.2 TB is already supported by the GPT which in turn is natively supported by Windows 7 and Vista. The only real obstacle for Windows 7 and Vista machines is the motherboard's BIOS which wasn't written to handle anything above the 2.2 TB limit. To boot from a GPT partitioned drive, the motherboard needs to be Extensive Firmware Interface (EFI)-capable which supports capacities over 2.2 TB.

Therefore without an additional Host Bus Adapter card (as used with WD's 3 TB HDD) or an EFI motherboard, users are required to install a 3 TB HDD as a secondary disk and allow the OS to create a GPT partition to use its full capacity. The Asus software seemingly steps in to correctly identify the drive for the OS.

According to the manual (pdf), drives with a capacity larger than 2.2 TB will appear in the software's drop-down list-- those smaller than 2.2 TB or already using the GPT format will not appear. The user then hits "Create" to generate a new virtual drive that will take control of the entire capacity. The new space will thus appear in the Virtual Drive field and require GPT partitioning for actual data usage.

For those still using XP, an additional chart shows that Windows XP 64-bit can partition the entire 3 TB drive while 32-bit users can only partition 2.2 TB of capacity. Windows XP users are required to download the Microsoft Native IDE driver before using Disk Unlocker.

The Asus-exclusive Disk Unlocker software is free to download and use, and covers thirty-five chipsets including twenty from Intel, twelve from AMD, and three from Nvidia.

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Top Comments
  • 21 Hide
    plznote , October 29, 2010 9:48 PM
    ^ fanboy :lol: 
  • 15 Hide
    abswindows7 , October 29, 2010 9:46 PM
    Another good reason to choose Asus : ASUS Inspiring Innovation • Persistent Perfection


    I
  • 11 Hide
    rwpritchett , October 29, 2010 11:07 PM
    Am I understanding this correctly?

    The 2.2TB barrier only applies to partitions with MBR.

    Windows Vista and 7 can use >2.2TB partitions as long as it is formatted GPT (storage drive, can't boot from it).

    So, how many people out there want to use a >2.2TB partition for the OS? Why not create a MBR partition for the OS that is a reasonable size and partition the rest as appropriate for storage? Having a single ginormous partition with OS, apps, data, etc. seems a bit fool hardy.

    BTW, I also would like manufacturers to make the switch to EFI.
Other Comments
    Display all 38 comments.
  • 15 Hide
    abswindows7 , October 29, 2010 9:46 PM
    Another good reason to choose Asus : ASUS Inspiring Innovation • Persistent Perfection


    I
  • 21 Hide
    plznote , October 29, 2010 9:48 PM
    ^ fanboy :lol: 
  • -6 Hide
    tpi2007 , October 29, 2010 9:52 PM
    I don't know about you guys, but I find either the descritption given here a bit confusing, or it's really the procedure that is a bit confusing.

    From what I understood from the PDF, it means that you can do the normal, which is buy and install a 3TB HDD, format it using the MBR to 2.2TB, and then use this program to create and additional Virtual Drive with the rest of the space.

    Now I wonder, why won't this work with other brands of Motherboards ? I guess it does, but Asus did something to prevent that LOL.

  • 9 Hide
    dgingeri , October 29, 2010 10:01 PM
    Why can't they just start using UEFI?? Are they really that lazy?
  • -6 Hide
    waffle911 , October 29, 2010 10:26 PM
    dgingeriWhy can't they just start using UEFI?? Are they really that lazy?

    Yes. Apple is the only company that cares about using it right now, so until 3 TB HDDs become a must-have for other system builders, mobo companies won't see much of a reason to make it commonplace for consumer boards (enthusiast-class boards included). Once 3TB HDDs becomes more of a consumer-desired feature, then we'll start seeing more enthusiast boards that address this issue.

    But hey, aside from that, BIOS has been pretty good to us so far, right?
    Why change a good thing?

    Right?
  • 6 Hide
    the_krasno , October 29, 2010 10:55 PM
    Fanboysm aside, Asus is one hell of a brand that really does innovate :) 
    Go Asus!
  • 11 Hide
    rwpritchett , October 29, 2010 11:07 PM
    Am I understanding this correctly?

    The 2.2TB barrier only applies to partitions with MBR.

    Windows Vista and 7 can use >2.2TB partitions as long as it is formatted GPT (storage drive, can't boot from it).

    So, how many people out there want to use a >2.2TB partition for the OS? Why not create a MBR partition for the OS that is a reasonable size and partition the rest as appropriate for storage? Having a single ginormous partition with OS, apps, data, etc. seems a bit fool hardy.

    BTW, I also would like manufacturers to make the switch to EFI.
  • 4 Hide
    bison88 , October 29, 2010 11:37 PM
    I've tried researching the whole EFI supported mobos for the past few months and it doesn't seem that important that motherboard manufacturers add it to the detail list. I have a feeling the move from 3TB and beyond is going to be a huge cluster **** if nobody is going to release this info.

    Luckily I'm with Asus so I could just download this tool in the future, but seriously a list needs to be compiled or something because I wont buy a new motherboard without knowing this when it's time to upgrade.
  • 4 Hide
    Darkv1 , October 29, 2010 11:59 PM
    It's nice to see that this utility is being distributed for free as opposed to being a paid piece of software...
  • -1 Hide
    spectrewind , October 30, 2010 12:14 AM
    Choosing to rely on ASUS exclusively for something like this is a terrible idea. In the event of a software problem, making this virtual disk inaccessible, how do you get your data back when Asus support proves unable to do it (or chooses not to)?
    Should the vendor make a business decision to move away from it (leaving no support for it anywhere), where does this leave the purchaser.

    This needs redundancy.
  • 0 Hide
    iLLz , October 30, 2010 12:37 AM
    Quote:
    The 2.2TB barrier only applies to partitions with MBR.

    Windows Vista and 7 can use >2.2TB partitions as long as it is formatted GPT (storage drive, can't boot from it).


    From what I read most of this is true but Windows Vista SP1 and Windows 7 can boot from them ONLY if you have a Motherboard that supports UEFI so that it can boot from GPT partitions. Its not a Windows limitation unless its not a version of Windows specified earlier.

    My guess is aside from Mobo support for UEFI, you would need storage controller drivers that support booting from GPT partitions as well. Im not 100% sure on this but I think I am 95% sure. Especially if you have RAID setup, as most RAID Controllers partition using MBR and the drivers are setup to read the drives that way.

    There is an article on Anandtech.com where they review two 3TB HDD from WD and they go into detail about it. Check it out...

    http://www.anandtech.com/show/3981/western-digital-caviar-green-3tb-and-my-book-essential-3tb-drives-reviewed
  • 7 Hide
    rpmrush , October 30, 2010 12:48 AM
    What? BIOS is the entire slowdown in boot up times! Good thing? No..30 year old code is never a good thing! I will not purchase another board until UEFI is the norm. It's coming very soon. Windows 8 will support it. I'm holding tight until both, cuz with an SSD, my BIOS really drags things out.
  • 3 Hide
    sonofliberty08 , October 30, 2010 1:02 AM
    rpmrushWhat? BIOS is the entire slowdown in boot up times! Good thing? No..30 year old code is never a good thing! I will not purchase another board until UEFI is the norm. It's coming very soon. Windows 8 will support it. I'm holding tight until both, cuz with an SSD, my BIOS really drags things out.

    the old school out of date x86 was 30 too......
  • 1 Hide
    Vladislaus , October 30, 2010 1:18 AM
    dgingeriWhy can't they just start using UEFI?? Are they really that lazy?

    Asus do have boards with EFI, usually it's only on the more expensive mobos.
  • -3 Hide
    K2N hater , October 30, 2010 2:06 AM
    Any coder around?

    Maybe it's possible to work around the problem through driver hacking instead?
  • 3 Hide
    kalem13 , October 30, 2010 2:34 AM
    The BIOS has served us well, but now it's time for him to go.
  • 0 Hide
    secolliyn , October 30, 2010 3:18 AM
    I just wondering why people want to have their main hard rive a 3 TB I mean until we get to windows 11 we wont need anything bigger than I would way a 500GB just the fact that the 3TB cant be used as a boot Drive is fine for my and I would say 99.8% of people with the dropping prices of SSD I would think that .2% will be going to those for their Primary drive anyway

    Just my 2 cents
  • -2 Hide
    lolsir , October 30, 2010 3:48 AM
    wow 3000GB dam inhuman stuff right there considering the fact my dell dimension 2400 have 40GB hd
  • 4 Hide
    deletemach_kernel , October 30, 2010 6:25 AM
    anyone heard of EFI bootloaders..t.ry that .... it helps a lot....

    besides macs are already running efi..since quite some time now...its high time that the bios got the boot...
  • 1 Hide
    SteelCity1981 , October 30, 2010 7:51 AM
    My Asus N series laptop has an EFI boot option in the Bios. So it's already out. Then again i'm not going to be waiting around for a 2.5 3TB hard drive to come out to test it either.
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