Using SeaTools' Set Capacity feature to overcome BIOS capacity limitation

Some motherboard BIOSes limit your internal drive's capacity. SeaTools for DOS can reset the capacity. This article explains how.

The ability to "Set Capacity" is a feature in SeaTools for DOS that will instruct the selected hard drive to report a size smaller than its true capacity during boot. The feature allows older systems with a BIOS limitation to boot with the drive in the system instead of locking up or freezing during the boot process.  Please be aware that the "Set Hard Drive Size" feature is no longer available in the current versions of MaxBlast and DiscWizard, so you will have to use SeaTools for DOS instead to set the hard drive's capacity.   

Following this procedure will allow you to access your hard drive; however you won't be able to use the full capacity.  Instead, it is highly recommended you either update your system's BIOS or purchase an ATA PCI controller card to bypass your system's BIOS. 

This procedure applies only to ATA drives connected directly to the motherboard.  If you are using an add-on ATA PCI adapter card, do not use this utility. The BIOS on the ATA PCI card should recognize the full capacity of the drive.  If you are using a SATA drive, you do not need to change what capacity is reported to the BIOS, as the specifications for SATA controllers were designed with larger-capacity drives in mind.  Because of this, the Set Capacity feature will not work on any SATA hard drive. 

If your hard drive is seen in the BIOS as 137GB and you are installing Windows 2000 with Service Pack 3 or greater, Windows XP with Service Pack 1 or greater, or Windows Vista, you shouldn't need to set the hard drive size, as the current versions of those operating systems should bypass any BIOS limitations on the drive

Do not try to resize a drive that has data on it. Changing a drive size to a smaller capacity is a data-destructive process.  If there is data on the drive, please format the drive or use SeaTools for DOS' Zero-Fill utility.

Follow the steps below to ensure that the Set Capacity operation is properly run:

  1. Disconnect the drive from the computer.

  2. Restart the system and enter the BIOS.

  3. Set the BIOS parameters (example: Primary Master, Primary Slave, Secondary Master, or Secondary Slave) to where the drive is connected from Auto-Detect to None or Not-Installed.

  4. Save the settings and exit.

  5. Power off the computer. This will tell the BIOS that there is no device or drive attached to the port.

  6. Reconnect the drive to the port that is configured as None or Not-Installed.

  7. Power on and boot directly to the SeaTools for DOS CD or floppy diskette. When the system boots to the SeaTools program, select the drive you want to change the size of, and press C to set the drive capacity.

  8. If you don't know the maximum capacity drive your system's BIOS can handle, press S to set the maximum to 32GB, which is a common limit on older systems. If you do know the maximum, you can press M to set the limit manually.

  9. Once you have changed the capacity for the drive and SeaTools for DOS accepts it, power off the system. This is critical in order for the changes to take effect to the drive.

  10. Restart the system and enter the BIOS.

  11. Change the BIOS parameters from "None" to "Auto-Detect".

  12. Save settings and exit.

  13. Boot to your operating system installation CD / DVD and begin the installation of your operating system.

You may need a BIOS upgrade or ATA PCI controller card if the system continues to freeze, hang, or lockup during startup. Check with your motherboard or system manufacturer.

To reset the drive to its full capacity, run SeaTools' Set Capacity feature and select R to reset the drive to its maximum capacity.

Always backup information on a drive that you are changing the size of, as it is a potentially data-destructive process, even if you are changing the setting from a smaller to a larger size. 
For more detailed information on using SeaTools for DOS to set drive capacity, please see Document ID: 203451.