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Linux and Outboard IDE Controllers

by Drew Dunn

Got Linux? Good for you! Got a non-integrated IDE controller? You've got a little bit of work ahead of you. But don't's not as bad as you might think!

If you've got one of the new generation of motherboards that includes an onboard ATA66 or ATA100 IDE controller, or an IDE RAID controller, or you'd like to boot Linux from an outboard IDE controller that doesn't use a standard chipset, you've probably noticed that you can't just install Linux and go. That doesn't mean that you can't run just means that, until the major distributions release versions that support thos controllers out of the box, you'll have to do a little extra work.

The first step is to connect your hard drive to your motherboard's built in, standard controller. Don't use any of the fancy stuff that you bought the motherboard for and don't use any outboard controllers just yet. Once you've connected the drive, install Linux like normal. As soon as you've verified that you have a living, breathing installation, the next step is to download the latest kernel.

As of this writing, the latest version is 2.4.2. Any of the 2.4 kernels has support for just about any IDE controller that you can imagine. You can download the kernel from You'll have to install and configure the kernel to detect your controller. If you need help doing that, your best source of information is the KERNEL-HOWTO.

Once your kernel is configured and compiled, make sure that LILO knows about it. Edit the file /etc/lilo.conf to reflect your new kernel, run lilo to update the master boot record, then reboot your system to make sure that the new kernel works. If all is well, shut down your computer. If you get errors, you'll need to do a bit of digging to see where the problem lies.

With a functional kernel, you need to reconnect your hard drive to the controller that you want to use. Once you've done that, check to be sure that your computer's BIOS knows which drive you want to boot from. And once that task is done, reboot your system.

If all goes well, you should see a LILO prompt, then you should be able to boot into Linux. Your mission is accomplished!

Your next task is to keep your fingers crossed that the next distributions of Linux support installations to non-standard controllers. Good luck!


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