Reinstalling SunOS 4.1.4 without CD drive

Eric Christopherson echristopherson at
Fri Oct 2 11:39:03 CDT 2015

On Fri, Oct 2, 2015 at 9:17 AM, David Brownlee <abs at> wrote:
> On 2 October 2015 at 15:01, Eric Christopherson
> <echristopherson at> wrote:
>> A very generous list member just gave me a SPARCStation 20 with SunOS
>> 4.1.4 on it. I thought the first thing I would do would be to image
>> its hard drive in my Linux PC, in case I ever wanted to start fresh.
>> I assume that if I make a bitwise copy of it, I can later write those
>> same bits out. But now I'm wondering what would happen if the disk
>> developed marked bad sectors; would that make an exact image
>> impossible to write onto it?
> The SCSI drives will transparently map out bad sectors, presenting a
> apparently defect free disk (except while a sector as actually failing
> :) so the image should be fine to any SCSI drive of that size or
> larger (or an sd2scsi type device)

Well, I guess what I'm wondering is: if the SCSI controller or the
disk's PCB exposes an interface to the disk that makes it appear
defect-free, what happens when an OS tries to write to sectors that
actually have defects? I guess this is a good question for any sort of
hard disk, not just vintage or Sun ones. My understanding was that
yes, this was mostly transparent, but that at minimum the number of
usable sectors reported to the OS would go down as sectors get marked

>> I have a disc image of that release, but unfortunately no SCSI CD-ROM.
>> It occurs to me that I could perhaps make a SunOS filesystem on Linux
>> and untar things from either the install CD or the image of the
>> original HD into it, but I don't know if that would produce something
>> actually bootable. I'm hoping there would be some way within Linux to
>> capture the actual format of the filesystem to use as a skeleton.
>> Does anyone know if this is possible (viz. creating a valid, bootable
>> filesystem and untarring files into it)? Or should I just invest in a
>> CD-ROM drive?
> You can netboot SunOS on a sparc, which certainly used to be possible
> under Linux, using files from the CD (IIRC)
> In extremis you could always netboot NetBSD on it and use that to
> setup the disk, but you *should* be able to do it all from a Linux
> server, modulus some possible annoyances getting a rarpd and
> bootparamd to build on recent Linux :)

Oh, I hadn't thought that far. Sounds feasible. (I guess I could get a
CD-ROM as the other respondent said, but I don't see that I'd have any
other use for it, so even if it's cheap I don't feel like I *need*

Also, you're the first person I've seen to use the *nominative* of
modulus as a preposition :)

        Eric Christopherson

More information about the cctalk mailing list