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.