01 May

Grub's "out of disk" means the disk can't be figured out: here's how to fix it.

After installing a new Linux system on an old machine, I got grub's:

error: out of disk
grub rescue>

Here's what it means.

(This blog entry is not meant for casual reading, but for others who need to diagnose and fix this problem.)

Sigh. All I wanted to do today was do some work and some reading. Instead I spent the better part of the day getting an old linux server back on it's feet. Of course, I ended up in the typical rat hole whereby one problem leads to another until you are fixing a problem that is so deeply nested inside others that you can barely recall how it all started.

Well, when grub says "out of disk" there is a good chance it is related to a BIOS problem. Unfortunately, the error is not well documented in the official grub2 places. The simple story is that grub (or grub2) cannot properly understand the layout of the data on the disk.

Here are my suggestions:

1) Check your BIOS settings making note of any that alter a disk interface (i.e some BIOS version have an option for making a CD look like a hard disk, or altering the disk detection system).

2) make sure your disk partition is not too big, if the BIOS is an old one. In my case, I needed to keep my partition size below the critical magical 137G limit. In fact I created a 60G partition and my problem was fixed!

3) Check for a damaged disk structure. Either re-initialize the disk, or do a check (e.g. fscheck) on it.

4) If you are really desperate, consider updating your BIOS (this was one of the steps down the rat hole for me).

By Gregory Dudek at | Read (7) or Leave a comment |    
Re: What to do when grub says: out of disk. (grub2)

That's what i was lookin 4..grate!
thank u so much

[ You're welcome. Thanks for leaving the comment. -gd ]

Posted by: FranceItaly at April 04,2012 09:19
Re: What to do when grub says: out of disk. (grub2)

Thanks - this was exactly my problem with an old Dell laptop - I needed to keep /boot on a partition in the first 137GB of the drive.

Posted by: Roger at June 18,2012 05:49
Re: What to do when grub says: out of disk. (grub2)

Thank you for all the info this is great! This should be the top hit on google. I was dual-booting and wiped everything and reverted to a single boot to try and fix the problem. After a few days this started happening again.

Posted by: anonymous at December 19,2012 04:54
Re: What to do when grub says: out of disk. (grub2)

Thanks, the information about the 137GB limit is just what I needed to know to get this old clunker working. And, by the way, this blog is now the number one hit on Google for "GRUB out of disk".


P.S. You may want to correct the typo in suggestion number two. I think the limit is 137G, not 137M.

[Thanks for the encouraging feedback and correction. It's what keeps me going. --Greg]

Posted by: Ben in Seattle at March 25,2013 01:44
Re: What to do when grub says: out of disk. (grub2)

Woohoo! It worked! Thanks.

[ Glad to hear it. -gd ]

Posted by: anonymous at April 19,2013 15:49
Re: What to do when grub says: out of disk. (grub2)

Thank you. This was the solution. I want to describe what worked for me if others have a similar setup. I had an old HP slimline that was running XP. With XP coming up on end of life I decided to switch to Ubuntu, which runs better on the old CPU and will keep getting security updates. I clean installed Ubuntu from DVD but after restarting got "error: out of disk". I had put in a new 3Tb hard drive to use for backup and media serving. After finding this page, I put the install DVD back in. I selected install and erase the previous Ubuntu. The next screen had an option for partitioning and I used it to shrink the root partition to 100Gb. After shrinking the root partition I had to right click on the new partition and assign it as root partition again. The install went off with out a hitch and used GPartEd to parti on the rest of the space. One partition is 1.5Tb and this didn't cause any problems. Thanks for the great page, and solution to this confounding error.

[ thanks for the feedback --gd ]

Posted by: Andy at February 15,2014 01:59
Re: What to do when grub says: out of disk. (grub2)

I'm not up to this level. I've searched everywhere and not had this query answered.

What. Do. I. Press. Now. (please)

I'm not being rude, but when confronted with the grub rescue> prompt, please explain precisely how I get to check the BIOS when nothing I press actually does anything.

All the forums are covered with 'machine code' possible answers, while all I want to do is boot up a laptop.

[ The solution is complicated and fairly technical, and I simply can't offer the complete solution or help you need. On many computers hold the DEL button during power-up gets you to the BIOS screen, but there is a fairly long road after that and several pitfalls. -gd ]

Posted by: slantr at March 02,2018 09:42
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