GRUB error 18 after installing SUSE

Q This my third attempt at installing Linux and I am at my wits' end with this system. I bought the DVD/CD edition [of SUSE] because of the advertised back-up from Novell. The installation went according to a couple of reports I have read until the first boot from the hard disk. I have tried every suggested way to install this system and always end up with the same results, namely

Grub loading stage 1.5
Grub loading please wait
Error 18 with a flashing cursor

That is as far as it goes. What this has effectively done is rendered my computer unusable as I cannot now get into Windows and have had to bring an old computer back into use for this email.

A Because Grub has to fit in a small space on the disk, there is no room for helpful error messages, but 'Error 18' translates as 'Selected cylinder exceeds maximum supported by BIOS'. In other words, your BIOS - which initialises hardware - is unable to handle a hard drive this large. Windows is able to boot because the Windows partition is at the start of the distro's disk, within the area handled by the BIOS. This is not a limitation of Linux, which hasn't even started to load, but your hardware. You would see the same problem if you tried to install two versions of Windows, say 98 and XP. There are a few ways to deal with this.

You could work around the problem by making your Windows partition smaller (it is impossible to say how small without knowing details of your BIOS and hard disk) and telling the SUSE partitioner to create a separate /boot partition. This ensures that the files Grub needs are at the start of the Linux partitions, hopefully within the area handled by the BIOS. Once the bootloader has started, the BIOS limitations are irrelevant. A better option is to check your motherboard manufacturer's website for an update to the BIOS, which could make this problem disappear. A third solution, which isn't ideal but would give instant access to your operating systems, is to boot from the installation CD. The first option on the initial menu is to boot from hard disk, which will take you to the Grub bootloader screen, bypassing the need for the BIOS to boot the disk. To restore the Windows bootloader, booting from the Windows CD in rescue mode and run

fdisk /mbr

for Windows 9x, or

fixmbr

for Windows XP.

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