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Corraling Linux Hard Disk Names

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Hardware

The Linux kernel is a restless beast, and must continally evolve and change. Especially in ways that mystify us poor end lusers. A recent wrinkle, as of kernel version 2.6.20, is changing the /dev names for ATA devices, so that all ATA and SCSI devices are named /dev/sd*. This is a result of using the shiny new libata subsystem. In the olden days PATA (also called IDE) hard drives and ATAPI devices (CD/DVD, tape drives) were /dev/hd*, and SCSI and SATA devices were /dev/sd*.

However, not all Linux distributions default to using libata. *buntu Feisty and Gutsy are all over the map; some versions of them use the new naming convention, some don't, and I haven't figured out which ones, or why. You can see how your own system handles these names with a couple of simple commands. This example from Kubuntu Gutsy shows the old style:

$ ls /dev|grep '[s|h]d[a-z]'
hda
hda1
hda2
hdc
hdd
sda
sda1
sda2

$ mount|grep ^'/dev'
/dev/hda1 on / type ext3 (rw,errors=remount-ro)
/dev/sda1 on /home type ext3 (rw)
/dev/sda2 on /media/sda2 type ext3 (rw)
/dev/hda2 on /var type ext3 (rw)

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Microsoft vs GNU/Linux