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[ The PC Guide | Systems and Components Reference Guide | Hard Disk Drives | Hard Disk BIOS and Capacity Factors | Overcoming BIOS Disk Size Barriers ]

Enhanced BIOS Expansion Cards

One possible solution to a system with a size barrier that cannot have its BIOS natively upgraded, is the use of an enhanced BIOS expansion card. In essence, this is a "BIOS upgrade on a card". It goes into a system expansion slot and contains nothing more than new BIOS code for controlling your motherboard's IDE/ATA controllers. The new BIOS code takes over for the hard disk controller code of your system's BIOS, and in doing so, gets around hard disk size barriers. You continue to use the IDE/ATA connectors on your existing motherboard or controller card.

These expansion cards are very inexpensive--often under $20. They usually use an ISA expansion slot, and most older systems have an extra ISA slot available, so this is a fairly easy upgrade. (Many newer systems have only one ISA slot or even no ISA slots at all, but they usually don't run into size barriers the same way.)

An add-in ISA BIOS expansion card.
(The Promise DriveMAX.)

Image Promise Technology, Inc.
Image used with permission.

Despite their low cost, these cards have never seemed to be quite as popular amongst PC enthusiasts as add-in controller cards that include actual IDE/ATA interface ports. This may be because the add-in cards continue to let you use the existing motherboard controllers for other devices, or it may be the ISA slot requirement. BIOS expansion cards were more popular in the 1990s when the earliest hard disk size barriers began to appear, but add-in cards are now more commonly prescribed for BIOS size barrier problems, even though they generally cost more.

Next: Upgraded Controller Cards

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