Gigabyte tool helps 32-bit OSes with 3TB drives

— 6:00 AM on March 30, 2011

It could happen to the best of us. We might just snag the latest 3TB hard drive from Hitachi, Seagate, or Western Digital, only to find out that the 32-bit edition of Windows we installed all those months or years ago doesn't jive with capacities over 2.19TB.

Reading our reviews more carefully might help avoid such a mistake, but folks with certain Gigabyte motherboards have another option at their disposal: Gigabyte's 3TB+ Unlock Utility, which popped up on the company's website earlier this week. The utility, Gigabyte says, lets you "create a virtual drive with space that exceeds 2048GB, the maximum amount of storage recognized by 32bit versions of operating systems such as Windows XP." The screenshot below should clarify the utility's purpose better than the clumsily written announcement:

As far as I can tell, the utility makes a 3TB drive's first 2199GB (or 2048GB, if you count gigabytes in powers of two) usable as a discrete partition, and it lets the user create a second partition out of the remaining space. That's not as neat or tidy as the single 3TB partitions available with Windows 7 or Vista x64, but it's probably as good as you're going to get with a 32-bit version of Windows.

Be warned, though: the utility only works on some Gigabyte boards based on Intel X58, P67, H67, and H61 or AMD 890FX, 890GX, and 880G chipsets. A full list of supported motherboards can be viewed here.

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