Dell MediaDirect and GRUB (was: how not to initialize HD)

Darr darr at
Mon Aug 2 23:21:48 UTC 2010

Hi Paul,

First, just to be clear, MediaDirect is like its own OS.
When you use the MediaDirect button from the off state,
it sets a bit that's detected when the MBR is loaded (just
like Ctrl+F11 does to access the restore partition), then
makes the hidden partition active and boots MediaDirect.

On Monday, 02 August, 2010 @10:38 zulu, Paul Cartwright scribed:
> do I NEED media-direct installed?

Only if you want to access media (DVDs, image files, audio
files) without loading windows or fedora... the main reason
to want that is to make the battery last longer; if you only ever
use it to watch DVDs while plugged in, then it doesn't really
'require' MediaDirect.

However, if that is the hard disk that came in your Dell,
MediaDirect is ALREADY installed... you just can't see
it because from the factory it was installed in a hidden
partition at the end. In that cased all you should need to
do is fix LBA0 - the MBR - (but NOT with XP's 'fixmbr'
in repair mode, nor with fdisk /mbr), and/or the boot sector.

Here... check out this site
that's not only a good synopsis of how MD works, but
they make a tool to diagnose and fix the Dell MBR
and/or the Boot Sector if the driver CD is missing.

You could also boot off the Utilities and Drivers CD,
then at the DOS prompt run
x:\ > CD \MD2


That should restore the Dell MBR, making the MediaDirect
button work , but it will also disable GRUB's changes to 
the MBR which gives you the dual-boot menu.
Still, see next and also below your next question. :-)

If it's not the original hard drive, then you would need
to call Dell's technical support and ask them why the
MediaDirect install CD was not included with your
laptop (assuming you bought it new), and they should
send you one. I've heard some people have been charged
(like $20) for it, but they sent me one with MediaDirect
4 on it at no charge. Apparently, MD 3 and higher do
not require the undectectable hidden partition, as MD
1 and 2 did. I'm still experimenting, but I'm pretty-sure
that means GRUB should be able to chainloader into it.

> so, my errors might be because I have XP media center
> installed, but DON'T have that free space?

I *think* which OS you have installed is irrelevant for
using the MediaDirect button from the Off state; If the
laptop's already turned on with the OS loaded, Dell's
QuickSet utility is required to unload the OS and boot
into the MediaDirect.. and since there is no linux version
of that util, I'm not sure the MD button can be made
to work from inside fedora.
As I said, I'm still experimenting.
I'll BCC this to your email, so if you're interested in the
results, drop me an email, say, thursday or friday. Since
the original thread is already splintered enough, I've
changed the subject, but the linking should remain.
If the results are positive, I'll post them for sure.

As others have noted, you probably don't *need* windows
for ANYthing... well, except there is no native linux 3D
CAD program available (for ANY price)... if you need
3D CAD, then you will have to live with windows for
the foreseeable future, because autodesk committed to
windows by incorporating the microsoft foundation
class libraries into AutoCAD.

> would that be why linux all seem to show errors on my drive,
> or is that just because it is 4 years old and well travelled..
I think it's the latter rather than the former. Try
in a command window (Start->Run, CMD [Enter]), then
reboot twice... the first reboot it will run CHKDSK (like
many hard drive utils, it won't run on the active partition,
so CHKDSK needs to unmount it), the 2nd reboot is just
to be sure CHKDSK isn't waiting to run again.

CHKDSK only shows its results right at the end, so unless
you sit and watch it for 10 minutes (or more) you might
not see if any repairs are attempted, nor its summary. On
a 4-year old disk, it would not surprise me if real surface
errors are present.

Dell was using mainly WD Scorpio Blue drives 'stock'
during that time period (which are warranted for only
3-years, of course). If you ordered a larger/faster drive,
then you might have a Samsung or Seagate (et al) instead.

You can get a discount on a new drive from WD, even
if it's out of warranty... choose the Warranty and RMA
Services option under Support on, then End User,
then Warranty Check, enter your serial number (do not
include the WD- prefix) and click Continue. On the next
page, it will inform you the warranty is expired... 
click the Upgrade link.  ;-)

I have my doubts that WD's diagnostic can do anything
for it... I recommend the DR-DOS ISO (CD) if you try:

It takes a while to load, and when it's done be sure you
have selected the correct drive (if you use the Live USB
Creator, the USB might be the drive selected instead of
the hard drive). Now, this tool might not be able to fix
the problem[s]... if the reserved sectors are all used up,
there's not much that can be done for 'bad sectors.'

Sorry this is so long; I didn't have time to make it shorter.


More information about the users mailing list