Victor Chew wrote:
Doesn't all 4K HDD does 512-byte sectors emulation at the firmware level?
Not exactly. Seagate claims they are not going to need any additional tool to align their drives, because they are dealing with this at firmware level. But WD, Samsung and Hitachi are launching special tools. I don't know about Toshiba.
The firmware is going to deal with the translation anyway. The translation between 512B and 4KB sectors is not the problem. The partition boundaries are the ones in need of an additional tool.
(Note that the additional tool for "newer OS's" is not really needed, not even for performance issues, if the partition boundaries are 4K aligned.)
In that case, why should older tools like fdisk have problems with the newer drives?
My understanding was that using older tools or OS (eg. WinXP) could result in the creation of misaligned partitions which will lead to reduced drive I/O. But you shouldn't end up with a broken machine that needs fixing.
There is also the Windows version of WD Align: http://support.wdc.com/product/downloadsw.asp?sid=123
that a user could use to realign the partition without messing around with ISO images or boot CDs.
You are partially correct. Windows Vista and Seven don't have problems with any
alignment. Mixing partitioning tools is the problem.
One problem is checking the partitions with "old" tools that assume "cylinder boundaries". Those assumptions lead to "warnings", which users, unknowingly, could follow through to "correct" the alignment. This "correction" could actually "make" the problem.
If I remember correctly, PowerQuest's Partition Magic first "warns", and then asks if the user wants to accept the suggested "corrections".
Other tools are even worse, and could "correct" the alignment, just because this "feature" is part of the checks/test they run on partitions.
Another problem is dual booting. If you happen to make a partition with one "old" tool (meaning, with classic cylinder boundary alignment), and the other with 4K or 2048K (known as optimal) alignment, you may
find yourself with one partition limit "inside" the other one (overlapping partitions). I don't remember right now the exact order and steps how this situation happens. You might find examples at boot-land forums. Vista and Seven don't care about alignment, but XP is not 4K-alignment-aware.
Obviously, in future time, when 4K-based sector disks turn to be more popular, the performance issue will be also part of the "problems"; meaning, users will complain not only about partition boundaries mixed up, but also if the HDD performance is not the best it can be
I guess for now you could leave alignment tools out of UBCD, but it would be wise to somehow classify/tag partitioning/repair tools if they could work with 4K alignment.
For example, Ranish Partition Manager default is cylinder boundaries, and it could warn you if you create partitions otherwise. But, it will let you save those partitions anyway.
The DOS FDisk will force you to partitions with cylinder alignment. For best performance, you should calculate size values which lead you to 4KB (or 2048KB) simultaneously with cylinder boundaries.
As usual, if you know what you are doing, then you are ok. If not, you are not.
In Windows, PowerQuest's (Symantec) PartInfo for NT will "warn" about partitions not starting or ending at the "correct" sector or head numbers (meaning, cylinder boundary). This is an information tool, but the "wanings" are the same as in their partitioning tools.
Additionaly, a third problem could be the "distance" between the extended partition, EMBR's and logical partitions when using 2048KB alignment, but that's out of the issue of this topic.
IMHO, partitioning applying simultaneusly both, new and old "rules" / "common practices", whenever possible, would be the best compromised solution, while sticking always to the same partitioning tool (avoid mixing them).
I hope I was clear.