Cylinder-head-sector - History

History

Earlier hard drives used in the PC, such as MFM and RLL drives, divided each cylinder into an equal number of sectors, so the CHS values matched the physical properties of the drive. A drive with a CHS tuple of 500 4 32 would have 500 tracks per side on each platter, two platters (4 heads), and 32 sectors per track, with a total of 32 768 000 bytes (31.25 MiB).

ATA/IDE drives were much more efficient at storing data and have replaced the now archaic MFM and RLL drives. They use zone bit recording (ZBR), where the number of sectors dividing each track varies with the location of groups of tracks on the surface of the platter. Tracks nearer to the edge of the platter contain more blocks of data than tracks close to the spindle, because there is more physical space within a given track near the edge of the platter. Thus, the CHS addressing scheme cannot correspond directly with the physical geometry of such drives, due to the varying number of sectors per track for different regions on a platter. Because of this, many drives still have a surplus of sectors (less than 1 cylinder in size) at the end of the drive, since the total number of sectors rarely, if ever, ends on a cylinder boundary.

An ATA/IDE drive can be set in the system BIOS with any configuration of cylinders, heads and sectors that do not exceed the capacity of the drive (or the BIOS), since the drive will convert any given CHS value into an actual address for its specific hardware configuration. This however can cause compatibility problems.

For operating systems such as Microsoft DOS or older version of Windows, each partition must start and end at a cylinder boundary. Only some of the most modern operating systems (Windows XP included) may disregard this rule, but doing so can still cause some compatibility issues, especially if the user wants to perform dual booting on the same drive. Microsoft does not follow this rule with internal disk partition tools since Windows Vista.

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