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Thread: How do I low level format a hard drive?

  1. #1
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    How do I low level format a hard drive?

    Hi

    I set up Lucid on a brand new 500GB harddrive. All went well. I was showing Ubuntu to a neighbour, using his workstation and simply swapping over boxes. Just as Ubuntu was booting up I turned away and when I looked back the neighbour was wet wiping his keyboard to clean it. I have no idea what command he managed to give to the computer but the Ubuntu splash had hung.

    I decided to re-install after a couple of attempts to get it going.

    The install process gets to the point where it is formatting the partition to ext4 at indicated 5% of the installation process complete. The red led showing hard drive activity flickers away...and away...and away. It has been chuntering on for a couple of hours now.

    Is there any way to give the hard drive a low level format prior to partitioning?
    Itch: Think Hula hoop, positive on top, negative on bottom, roll it. Is it a wave or a particle? Is it a photon? Is a photon a dipole? Are we all made of light!

  2. #2
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    Re: How do I low level format a hard drive?

    You can get Gparted Live, which will allow you to run from a CD and format the drive from there. Don't know how easy it is and I don't know what interface it uses though. The other option is to remove the hard drive and put it in an external caddy, and use Gparted (from the Software Centre) on the other machine to format it (that is the route I used).

  3. #3
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    Re: How do I low level format a hard drive?

    Assuming you mean zeroing the hard drive as being the same as a low level format - from a live cd
    sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdx
    replacing the x with the drive letter of your drive (likely /dev/sda if you only have one hard drive) - be warned, on a 500gb hard drive, this could take some time. You could also use dcfldd which uses the same basic syntax as dd commands, but is about twice as quick. If you want to use dcfldd,
    sudo apt-get install dcfldd
    after you have enabled repositories. In which case the syntax would be
    sudo dcfldd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdx
    again replacing the x with the appropriate drive letter.
    You could also use darik's 'boot and nuke' live cd and it will essentially do the same thing.
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    anewguy is offline I Ubuntu, Therefore, I Am
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    Wink Re: How do I low level format a hard drive?

    A low-level format is when you completely rescan the physical drive - not just the data areas in the sectors, but the entire surface. It will normally flag bad tracks and add them to the drives bad track table. Sometimes that wipes out the factory bad track table and you have to redeclare the factory bad tracks. Special programs are needed for this (as far as I know they are normally *not* part of an OS delivery. These normally come from the drive manufacturer and most modern drives no longer need this due to their own error detection/flagging bad tracks on the fly.

    So.......I have to assume you don't REALLY mean a low-level format but are using that term to represent what you want to do.

    What I WOULD try: boot the livecd with the "try ubuntu without changing your computer" option. Fire up the partition manager (or run parted) and delete all of your existing partitions on the drive, THEN try reinstalling.

    Dave

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    Re: How do I low level format a hard drive?

    You might also try using a SMART checking utility. This will query the drive's self-diagnostics, which might turn up details on any hardware failures, if indeed such problems are causing the filesystem creation step to fail. There are various Linux utilities to do this, like gsmartcontrol; or you can check with the drive manufacturer to see if they've got a bootable diagnostic disc.

  6. #6
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    Re: How do I low level format a hard drive?

    I always use Gparted Live cd and boot from it to do my formatting. so far it has been able to do everything i needed it to do.

    Easy , you just download the iso then burn it to cd. Then use it.

    Hope that helps. I have not low level formated a hard drive since around 1982 or there abouts. New ones do not give us users the software to do that anymore.

  7. #7
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    Re: How do I low level format a hard drive?

    Quote Originally Posted by bumanie View Post
    Assuming you mean zeroing the hard drive as being the same as a low level format - from a live cd replacing the x with the drive letter of your drive (likely /dev/sda if you only have one hard drive) - be warned, on a 500gb hard drive, this could take some time. You could also use dcfldd which uses the same basic syntax as dd commands, but is about twice as quick. If you want to use dcfldd, after you have enabled repositories. In which case the syntax would be again replacing the x with the appropriate drive letter.
    You could also use darik's 'boot and nuke' live cd and it will essentially do the same thing.
    This is the way for sure (using dd), but be extremely careful because it won't ask you twice before it blows everything away.

    Also the disk itself might be defective. Low level formatting the disk likely won't resolve any problems. Cheers!

  8. #8
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    Re: How do I low level format a hard drive?

    bumanie said it, you confirmed it, so I did it. Hours afterwards (overnight) I had a completely neutered brand new 500GB hard drive.

    I fired up Lucid live cd and...hey presto, it installed as though nothing had happened.

    Worked for me and thank you all very much for the help. Hope flaming June is happening for you too. Here in Scotland I have to say, it's perfect.

    There's a thought, anybody interested in setting up a global drop in for fellow travelling Ubuntu guys? Guess it would work like people volunteer to meet with and put up a fellow Ubuntu crusader for a specified date(s). That info is held on a server (canonical?) and 'pilgrims' can plan a trip accordingly. Work in the detail but count me in.
    Itch: Think Hula hoop, positive on top, negative on bottom, roll it. Is it a wave or a particle? Is it a photon? Is a photon a dipole? Are we all made of light!

  9. #9
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    Re: How do I low level format a hard drive?

    Quote Originally Posted by bwallum View Post
    There's a thought, anybody interested in setting up a global drop in for fellow travelling Ubuntu guys? Guess it would work like people volunteer to meet with and put up a fellow Ubuntu crusader for a specified date(s). That info is held on a server (canonical?) and 'pilgrims' can plan a trip accordingly. Work in the detail but count me in.
    Well, that is the Ubuntu spirit! Good idea.
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  10. #10
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    Re: How do I low level format a hard drive?

    Quote Originally Posted by bwallum View Post
    There's a thought, anybody interested in setting up a global drop in for fellow travelling Ubuntu guys? Guess it would work like people volunteer to meet with and put up a fellow Ubuntu crusader for a specified date(s). That info is held on a server (canonical?) and 'pilgrims' can plan a trip accordingly. Work in the detail but count me in.
    Sounds awesome!

    Maybe you could start a new thread about it in the Community Cafe, see if we could scrounge up some support for it. Im sure if we could get enough support, it should be a breeze!
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