(U)EFI or Why does IPFire need support for 2TB disks?

by Michael Tremer, February 14, 2013

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Since a weeks, there is an unusual wish on the wishlist with the title Supporting harddisks bigger than 2TB.

As nobody has donated a penny, I would like to explain where we thought this was going: The answer is EFI. Exactly that thing, that has been running in the news for weeks and we barely heard anything good about.

From a distributor’s point of view, the hardware a distribution is running on is evolving very fast. There are new wireless adapters every day. New mainboards, RAID controllers… you name it. We have to keep up with this development, so that IPFire will run smoothly on it and does not cause any errors because the software does not know how to talk to the hardware. If that does not go well, I am sure you all still know the Windows Blue Screen. Linux does not have a blue screen, but a kernel panic which is basically the same, but without the nice colours.

EFI or UEFI, however, is the next big thing we will have to take care about. For now, the EFI BIOSes allow to run legacy operating systems on them, but we can be sure that this will stop at some point of time. In order to boot IPFire, there is need for amendments on the system.

We thought we would break it down a little bit, because we don’t always have the man-power to push big changes through within a time span of a couple of weeks and that’s why we put the wish linked to above on the wishlist.

The wish talks about changing the partition layout, so that GPT (sometime referred to as the Great Partition Table) is used instead of the old MSDOS partition table. That kills two birds with one stone: 1) It would be possible to install IPFire on harddisks bigger than 2TB and 2) EFI BIOSes can only read the GPT in the native mode.

These changes sound like they are done within minutes, but this is not the case. We have to change the installer and add tools that are able to handle the new partition table. Of course there is a lot of testing to do as well.

So with this information at hand, maybe some of you could check again, if you have a couple of bucks to donate on this wish to make IPFire ready for the future.

Wishlist: Supporting harddisks bigger than 2TB