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Disk/Partition Alignment (Read 17299 times)
Pilgrim
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Disk/Partition Alignment
Jun 30th, 2010 at 4:56am
 
Hi,

I have only just discovered these forums and I registered to see if anyone can offer any positive suggestions about a subject that I have been looking into for the last couple of weeks.
I have run a search of these forums and found some past discussion that touches on alignment but my circumstances are different so I am starting a new thread.
If I do go over old ground then I apologise in advance.

My OS is XP-SP3. My PC has 3 hard drives, 2 internal, 1 external, all 3 are IDE, and all 3 are partitioned. I have a copy of Norton Ghost 10 which I have not had installed on my present computer as when I tried to move it from a previous computer I had repeated registration problems, by the time they finally got sorted out I had installed Acronis True Image, although to start with I ran NG 10 from the CD.

A couple of weeks ago I first heard about the subject of disk alignment when I discovered the Paragon Alignment Tool, after reading up on it I downloaded a copy and gave it a try.
I will not bore you with all the details but I have finished up with all my partitions aligned except for C:, the system partition.
In spite of trying numerous different ideas and prolonged correspondence with Paragon all attempts to align this partition and get the OS working have failed.
Using a combination of PAT and GParted I can align the partition but while the OS will start to load afterwards it crashes before it gets to the desktop.
If I restore an Acronis image it removes the alignment and goes back to the XP default.
If I try to restore Windows as files, some will restore but others are throwing up error messages about the originals having the wrong sector start point.

So my two main questions are:
1. Is there any way of getting NG 10 to do what Acronis will not, i.e. restore to an aligned drive without removing the alignment?
2. Can anyone suggest a way of getting beyond my present situation without doing a clean install which is not a practical option for the foreseeable future, if ever?

I read on another thread on this forum that XP-SP3 will install to an aligned partition and retain the alignment, unfortunately when this OS was installed it was SP2, although I have since made an SP3 CD.

Finally, those of you who have read this far are probably wondering why I don't just settle for what I've done so far?
The answer is, because of the results.

I have read much about what, if any, improvement alignment makes, on my PC the answer is phenomenal.
Before the alignments that I have managed to make if I was copying or moving a large file, 1GB+, I would set it up and go for a walk.
Since however I have copied an 8.8GB file from one aligned partition to another in 4 minutes 25 seconds.
To my mind it is definitely worth the effort.
 

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Brian
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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #1 - Jun 30th, 2010 at 4:16pm
 
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Interesting observations. I haven't noted any performance differences between cylinder aligned or 2048 sector aligned partitions on my SATA HDs. I know you can expect a performance improvement (at times) with Solid State Drives but you have IDE HDs. I'd be interested to hear more about your tests.

Just a few questions so that I understand what you are doing. Are you using 2048 sector aligned partitions? Except for the WinXP partition. Which tool do you use to determine alignment? Are you using RAID? Is DMA enabled on your HDs?

You will be able to produce a 2048 sector aligned WinXP partition with BING.

 
 
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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #2 - Jul 1st, 2010 at 4:22am
 
Hi Brian,

To start with I need to explain a couple of general things.
I am a practical person not a technician.
Until I bought my first PC five years ago I had rarely used a computer let alone owned one.
A year later, when the guarantee ran out, I was so sick of both retailers and manufacturers selling computers and then not wanting to know that I stripped it out and rebuilt it to its present spec less the second internal hard drive and a graphics card both of which I have added since.
As I have no technical training a lot of terms come up that I have no idea about, DMA is an example. When that happens I look it up. To answer your question about it being enabled, I have no idea.
The point being that what knowledge I have gained is based on specific experience not general computing so if some of my comments seem strange it is simply my limited technical vocabulary.

The story of what I have been doing is on another forum and to save writing it all out again I hope you will not mind if I give you the link:
http://www.raymond.cc/forum/software/20476-need-review-for-partition-alignment-s...
That should answer some of your questions.

With regard to cylinder alignment or sector alignment, you will see from the link that I had trouble with the first partition on my second internal drive as well as the first, when I used GParted if the 'align to cylinders' box was ticked the partition would not align. When I unticked it, it aligned.

Paragon Alignment Tool is what I use to determine alignment but when I went into System Information I found that after alignment all the partition sizes on the PC were divisible by 4096. That may no longer be true because I found that the alignment had left small amounts, 1-2mb, of free space between partitions and I used GParted to extend the partition in front of the space to fill it.

No, I am not using RAID.

To reply to your comment on SATA drives:
Both the drives for my Netbook are SATA and I have not noticed anything like the performance improvement that I have got on the PC. However I think there might be a couple of reasons for that:
1. The Netbook,s C: drive was already aligned. (If you look at my edit at the end of the third post on the link you will see why I was interested in the information I found on this forum about the difference between XP Service Packs.)
2. Far less resources. (1.6Ghz Atom and 2GB RAM against 3.73Ghz D945 and 4GB RAM.)

Could you expand on your last comment. The only BING that I know of is a search engine?

Just to make one point very clear, my biggest issue is trying to find a way of aligning my PC's C: drive without reinstalling.
 

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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #3 - Jul 1st, 2010 at 5:21am
 
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BING is BootIt NG.

http://www.terabyteunlimited.com/bootit-next-generation.htm

There is a one month trial usage. Download. Unzip the file and make a boot CD.

double click makedisk.exe, next
dot in I accept the agreement, next
dot in Mouse Support Enabled, next
dot in VESA Video, next
dot in Partition Work (Don't put a dot in Normal), next
don't choose any Default Device Options (if necessary, these can be chosen in BING), next
leave Registration strings blank, next
select your CD burner drive letter (you can use a CD-RW or a CD-R disc)
Finish

I'll talk you through converting your WinXP partition to 2048 sector aligned.

Let me say that I've used WinXP and Win7 on IDE and SATA HDs with both partition alignments and have not seen one iota of performance difference due to the alignments. I haven't seen any reports of a performance difference except on SSDs and RAID. But I'm interested in what you have done. Let me know when you have made the BING CD.

Could you post a partinfo so we can view your partitions?

http://www.terabyteunlimited.com/downloads-free-software.htm

Double click partinfg.exe  Then click File, Export to text file. Please attach that file to your post.
 
 
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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #4 - Jul 1st, 2010 at 7:36am
 
Hi Brian,

One of those days today.

Since I posted earlier I have received the latest 'experimental' version of the Alignment Tool from Paragon. It still cannot do the job.

Then I went to the TeraByte site and the first thing that caught my eye was BurnCDCC which I have been using for the past couple of years but I was not aware of their other programs.

I am attaching the PartInfg.txt file and I am just going to create the CD.
My internal CD/DVD drive has been having problems recently due to a very high room temperature so I might have to use an external one.

I have had a quick read of the BING manual but as you know the program I am quite happy to follow your instructions, the offer of which is much appreciated.

I would prefer not to affect the second partition on the system drive if it can be avoided.
If there is a question of alignment at the end of the C: partition I can if necessary create some free space there before we start and fill in any free space afterwards.

To reply to your comment about improved performance I have read figures from 0 to over 300% on all types of drives,
the main reason I noticed the difference on my PC was because the improvement was so big.


This is getting ridiculous.

While I have been writing this Paragon have sent me an ISO image of their latest effort to try it offline.

I will be back.
 

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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #5 - Jul 1st, 2010 at 9:30am
 
I have created the BING CD but I will not in any event be able to do anything before tomorrow.

The latest Paragon ISO did no better than the installation.
I did find out that if you do have an aligned XP partition their current version of imaging software is likely to remove the alignment. I was assured however that the next version should keep it.
What has interested me from the beginning is that not once has the word 'BETA' been mentioned, strange that.
 

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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #6 - Jul 1st, 2010 at 4:08pm
 
Pilgrim wrote on Jul 1st, 2010 at 7:36am:
I am attaching the PartInfg.txt file 

I can't see it yet.

Pilgrim wrote on Jul 1st, 2010 at 7:36am:
I would prefer not to affect the second partition on the system drive if it can be avoided.

We won't touch that partition.
 
 
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Dan Goodell
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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #7 - Jul 1st, 2010 at 9:55pm
 
Pilgrim,
    "As I have no technical training a lot of terms come up that I have no idea about, [...] what knowledge I have gained is based on specific experience not general computing so if some of my comments seem strange it is simply my limited technical vocabulary."
Acknowledged.  But understand you are involving yourself in technical topics here, so it helps if you try to be precise and unambiguous.  For instance:
    "Using a combination of PAT and GParted I can align the partition but [...] If I restore an Acronis image it removes the alignment [...] Is there any way of getting NG 10 to do what Acronis will not, i.e. restore to an aligned drive without removing the alignment?"
One of the things Brian was getting at in Reply #1 was what kind of alignment are you talking about?  The two most prevalent types are cylinder alignment (common on older systems) and 2048-sector alignment--aka, Megabyte-alignment, which is being used on most new systems.  It appears you're talking about MB-alignment, but you don't want to confound people or make them read between the lines to guess what you really meant to say.  To infer older systems are "not aligned" is akin to newbies who improperly assert their store-bought Windows machine is "not partitioned", and just as muddling to follow.

As for your immediate question, it might help some people to know more of the details of what you did:  Which version of True Image did you use?  Was it run from the hard disk, or from CD?  Was your image of the whole disk, or just the one partition?

I think Brian's plan is to have you restore with TI and then readjust the partition boundaries with BING.  But I think before this is over you'll want to know if this will happen again the next time you want to image/restore.  To understand that, I think the key is recognizing whether or not your tool can restore a partition image to an existing partition.

For example, Ghost 2003 can use the boundaries of an existing partition--it simply "pours" the contents of the image into a pre-existing partition, so even though Ghost 2003 is an old, DOS-based tool that knows nothing about MB-aligned partitions, it actually works.  It simply uses whatever you give it, and doesn't question how it is aligned.  Other alternatives that I suspect take a similar approach might include the Windows-based Casper-XP, DriveImage XML, or the linux-based "dd" tool.

OTOH, some utilities can only restore into unallocated space.  If there is an existing partition in that space--such as your carefully, PAT/GParted-prepared, first partition--the utility will delete it, create its own new partition, and then restore the contents.  BING is one such tool.  However, BING understands both cylinder-alignment and MB-alignment.  Other tools may not.  If the tool only understands cylinder-alignment, then when it deletes/recreates the partition prior to filling it, it will naturally create a cylinder-aligned partition.

Note Ghost 10 is an older version that won't create a MB-aligned partition.  That may also be the case with your version of TI.


Brian wrote:
    "Interesting observations. I haven't noted any performance differences between cylinder aligned or 2048 sector aligned partitions on my SATA HDs. I know you can expect a performance improvement (at times) with Solid State Drives but you have IDE HDs. I'd be interested to hear more about your tests."
I, too, would be interested in hearing more about how Pilgrim ran his tests.  Like others,  I've considered the advantages of MB-alignment to be more theoretical than observable.  Maybe we just haven't copied big enough files?


 
 
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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #8 - Jul 2nd, 2010 at 3:04am
 
Hi,

Thank you both for your replies.

Brian, I have no idea what happened with the file, when I posted yesterday it was showing as being attached?
I will try attaching it to this post and then start another to address the other issues raised, that way if there is a further problem I can try and sort it out.
 

PartInfg.txt (9 KB | 170 )

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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #9 - Jul 2nd, 2010 at 4:24am
 
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Pilgrim

Thanks for that. On HD0, MBR slot 1 is 2048 sector aligned at the start but not at the end. I assume you want to align the partition in MBR slot 0 to be 2048 sector aligned.

Disconnect your external HD.

Boot from the BING CD. Click Close on the Work with Partitions window and Click Settings. Remove the tick from..

Align on End
CHS Alternative

Put a tick in..

Align MBR End HS
Align 2048

Then click  OK and click Partition Work.

Select the WinXP partition on HD0 and click Resize (in the Actions column)
OK (it will then check for errors)
In the New Size field, reduce the value by 5 MB, OK
Continue
Close

Select the WinXP partition and click Slide (in the Actions column)
Make the Free Space Before 2 MB
OK
Continue (this could take a while depending on how much data has to be moved)
Close (when completed)

Select the WinXP partition and click Resize (in the Actions column)
OK
Leave everything alone and click OK
Continue
Close

Select the WinXP partition and click Properties
Divide the LBA Information Start by 2048. You should get an integer.
Divide the LBA Information (End +1) by 2048. You should get an integer.

Close Work with Partitions
Remove the CD and click Reboot

Did it work out?





 
 
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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #10 - Jul 2nd, 2010 at 4:42am
 
Dan,

If you will forgive me I need to make an observation about the appearance of your post.
I have set the forums appearance to 'default' to enable me to see it clearly, your quotes appear in yellow in my browser and are impossible to read against a white background.
I have had to copy the entire post into Wordpad and am reading it from there. Sorry.

In reply to your first quote, the reason I wrote that was so that if anything I said was not clear I could be asked for more details. My intention was not to be ambiguous but exactly the opposite.
To take up something you say further down, my intention has never been to confound people or make them guess at what I meant.
Both you and Brian obviously know a lot more about what we are discussing than I do, my lack of knowledge was what prompted me to post in the first place.
I will not apologise because I do not know as much as you appear to and it is sad to see you refer to 'newbies' with such apparent contempt.
If there is anything I said that was not understood or required more details all that was necessary was to ask, allowing for the fact that I may not know enough to answer in the 'precise' way you are looking for.
There was no need to start your post by implying that I am (deliberately?) being awkward.
Having got that out of the way I will address the main issues.

What kind of alignment?
The only way I can answer that is by taking you through what I did.
When I first used the Alignment Tool analysis on my PC it showed that none of the partitions were aligned, after I let it run it showed that all the partitions were aligned except for C and E, the first partitions on the 2 internal drives.
As I have already said, C remains unaligned. The following is how I aligned E.

I had read that it was possible to align a difficult drive by changing the starting offset slightly so that was what I looked into.
When I originally partitioned the drives I had used Acronis Disk Director Suite 10 but I knew that the smallest movement I could get on that was 7.84mb which was too much.
I had read an article about alignment which suggested using GParted, a program I had never used before. In the article it suggested using the command prompt from the GParted CD to actually align a partition but I could not get it to work.
In a number of places 2mb was suggested as a practical offset so I used GParted to create it, (I left the box 'align to cylinders' unchecked as had been advised) on finding that it was still unaligned I ran PAT which aligned it.
I then found that all the partitions which had been aligned had a small amount of free space in front of them so I used GParted to extend the partitions in front of the spaces to fill them.

The version of True Image that I have is 11.0 build 8101.
I only ever create images of individual partitions, mainly C.
If I am restoring a complete image I use the CD, if I am restoring separate files/folders I do it from the hard drive.

I should add that I use the same version of TI on my Netbook on which the C partition appears to have been aligned from new and has been restored using TI without losing the alignment.
There is however one major difference in the two OS installations.
The OEM installation on the Netbook was XP-SP3. The original installation on the PC was SP2 and then updated when SP3 came out.
From what I have read it is possible to clean install SP3 to an aligned partition and retain the alignment but not SP2. Adding SP3 at a later date would obviously not change that.

That answers your questions as far as I am able, if you need any more details please ask.
There is of course the information on the link I previously posted.

Before I end for now I have learned something more about improved performance with alignment, it is not precise but it is reasonably accurate.
I backup both my computers to an internal partition every day that I use them, once a month I backup a complete partition image to the respective external drives.
Yesterday I backed up the Netbook in that way for the first time since I aligned all the partitions.
The size of the images has not varied by more than a few 10's of mb's over many months so any decrease in creation time should not be great.
Yesterday it took close to 12 minutes as opposed to the usual 15, i.e. an improvement of around 20%.

While I have been writing this I see that there has been another reply, I will post this first and then check it.
 

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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #11 - Jul 2nd, 2010 at 6:34am
 
Pilgrim wrote on Jul 2nd, 2010 at 4:42am:
My intention was not to be ambiguous but exactly the opposite.
To take up something you say further down, my intention has never been to confound people or make them guess at what I meant.
Both you and Brian obviously know a lot more about what we are discussing than I do, my lack of knowledge was what prompted me to post in the first place.
I will not apologise because I do not know as much as you appear to and it is sad to see you refer to 'newbies' with such apparent contempt.
If there is anything I said that was not understood or required more details all that was necessary was to ask, allowing for the fact that I may not know enough to answer in the 'precise' way you are looking for.
There was no need to start your post by implying that I am (deliberately?) being awkward.

I don't see where I implied you were deliberately being ambiguous or awkward.  I said that when you (or anyone) are seeking to discuss technical topics, you (and everyone) need to be as precise as you can to avoid confusion.  Everyone needs to understand terms the same way, and I was making the point that your understanding of the term "alignment" seems to be somewhat skewed.  I'm sorry that offended you.

My "newbies" comment was drawing a comparison to common inquiries about partitioning problems (not necessarily here, but widespread enough in other forums to be familiar to everyone here) from users who don't understand the distinction between a disk partitioned with a single partition and a disk that is unpartitioned.  If the basic concepts are misunderstood, it's going to be hard to communicate in a technical discussion in any meaningful way.  I may either attempt to educate or take a pass and let someone else try--but either way, I can't help if the reader doesn't understand (or, in some cases, won't learn) the concepts central to the topic.  If you choose to extrapolate that to be contempt, that's your prerogative.  I can live with it.


 
 
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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #12 - Jul 2nd, 2010 at 7:32am
 
Brian,

Thank you for the instructions, I will try it as soon as I have sufficient time which might not be for a few days.

It seems that Bing works in a similar way to GParted although that does not have the 'align' option built in which is why I had to use PAT as well.
Having one program that will do both makes me more optimistic about the outcome especially as you have successfully used this method before.

One thing that I would like to ask is about the question of how long it will take.
In the instructions I have for GParted it suggests reducing the partition to used space plus 1GB before you start, so that there is not so much to move, and then expanding it after to fill the free space.
Would that make sense with Bing as well, and if so would it make a difference to any of your instructions, 'Align on End' for instance?

If this works and I am pretty confident that it will, and taking everything else into account, I am reasonably optimistic that I should be able to continue to use TI provided that I only use images that are made after the partition is aligned. If the BING trial lasts for 30 days I think it will be worth trying it while I still have the option to realign if I need to.

Incidently, what happens to the BING CD after 30 days, does it just stop working?

I started writing this immediately after my last post but before I could finish it we had a power cut and nearly an hour on we still have no power.
I am writing this on my Netbook but I will not be able to post it until the power comes on as I have no internet connection.

Power cuts are not frequent where I am but nor are they uncommon, we get around 3 or 4 most years.
This is the 21st Century isn't it?


Dan,

Peace.


I meant no more offence than you did.

If I might briefly pick up on two points in your last post:
Quote:
Everyone needs to understand terms the same way

When you have two very different levels of understanding that might only be achieved after the one with the greater understanding explains things.

Quote:
users who don't understand the distinction between a disk partitioned with a single partition and a disk that is unpartitioned.

On this I would have to plead guilty not because I do not understand the difference but because of the way I think about it.
To me a partitioned disk is one with more than one partition.

Precision in any form is not a requirement in my day to day life any more than it is in, I suspect, the majority of people's lives.
I explained my lack of knowledge so that anyone reading this thread who was knowledgeable would not expect me to be able to communicate on their level without at least a degree of explanation on their part.
There are a whole range of subjects that have their own terms and definitions, to expect someone who has admitted to having little knowledge to use them as well as someone who does ......?

I have accepted your apology and now I hope that you will accept mine.
I also hope that it will not deter you from contributing further to this thread if you have something to add.
 

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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #13 - Jul 2nd, 2010 at 4:18pm
 
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Pilgrim wrote on Jul 2nd, 2010 at 7:32am:
Would that make sense with Bing as well, and if so would it make a difference to any of your instructions, 'Align on End' for instance?

No, just follow the instructions without any embellishments. After succeeding, don't try to change the few MB of unallocated free space at either end of the WinXP partition.

Pilgrim wrote on Jul 2nd, 2010 at 7:32am:
One thing that I would like to ask is about the question of how long it will take.

This depends on your computer, not on BING. Allow roughly 1 minute for every 1 to 2 GB of data in the partition. It is the data amount, not the partition size that is important.

Pilgrim wrote on Jul 2nd, 2010 at 7:32am:
what happens to the BING CD after 30 days, does it just stop working?

I bought it before the 30 day limit and now have BING installed on the HD. It is one of my most useful apps.

Pilgrim wrote on Jul 2nd, 2010 at 7:32am:
I am writing this on my Netbook

Which Netbook do you have? I have an Asus 1000HE and love it. BING is installed on the HD of course.

Pilgrim, I've read a lot of Dan's posts and I can assure you he meant no malice. It was purely constructive criticism. I thought about making the same points after reading your first post but being a lazy typist I "left it till later".

I looked at your partitions on HD1 in that partinfo. The start of each is on a 2048 sector boundary but the partitions in slots 2 and 3 don't finish on a boundary. Slots 0 and 1 are fine.

I haven't tested recent Acronis True Image versions as to whether 2048 sector alignment is preserved after an image restore. Please let us know. All of the TeraByte Unlimited apps (BING, IFW, IFD, IFL) will preserve whichever alignment you choose when restoring to the same or another HD.


 
 
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Re: Disk/Partition Alignment
Reply #14 - Jul 2nd, 2010 at 6:02pm
 
    "On this I would have to plead guilty not because I do not understand the difference but because of the way I think about it.  To me a partitioned disk is one with more than one partition."
That's exactly the kind of position I have a problem with.  If one comes into a technical discussion and says, "My HDD is unpartitioned," I immediately conclude, "Oh, he doesn't have an MBR or partition table."  It just wastes everyone time until it's revealed, "No, what I really meant was..."  Relevant terms must be used correctly or we can't communicate.  It's especially inexcusable if one understands the difference yet willfully chooses to use terms incorrectly.  Call it contempt if you wish, but I opt out of those debates so I don't waste my time.

    "When you have two very different levels of understanding that might only be achieved after the one with the greater understanding explains things."
Exactly.  But it doesn't work if the pupil takes offense when explanations are provided.  As I explained, you need to understand the term "alignment" correctly.  I'm not just being pedantic here--your partinfg.txt report reveals you have some real issues.  Some partition boundaries are MB-aligned, some are CHS-aligned, and some are unaligned.  If that term means different things to each other, we aren't going to be able to communicate.

As it is, I'm already confused.  Supposedly there are three HDDs but the partinfg.txt report only shows two.  Yet the HDD brands, sizes or where they are connected hasn't been stated, so I don't know which comments to associate with which evidence.  Brian says, "MBR slot 1 is 2048 sector aligned at the start but not at the end."  I can't tell what he's referring to, but he's probably a better mind-reader than I am.  For me, I would need more precise details and less ambiguity.
 
 
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