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Partitioning disks without losing data.

I have instaled Debian Pototo on an old Pentium 133MHz PCI machine to use primarily as a firewall/gateway for our internet.  It has two 2GB drives.  hda has a 32MB swap partition and the rest of the disk is the root partition.  I use all of hdb as the /home mount.  Both hard drives are configured in the bios for LBA mode (other choices available are AUTO, LARGE and NORMAL). It *was* booting OK but now it doesn't.  LILO comes up and the kernel starts to boot.  It then gets a kernel panic saying "attempt to access beyond end of device".  I know that hdb has been having some problems with timeouts.  I'm not sure if it is the harddrive or the harddisk controller.  If I boot from floppy and type "rescue root=/dev/hda2" then the machine boots OK.  This leads me to believe that the kernel and/or modules need to be in a small boot partition at the start of the disk.  Is this a correct assumption or is something else likely to be the problem ?  I think I have upgraded the kernel (was 2.2.15 from the floppies) to 2.2.17.

If I do need to create a boot partition, then I need to move and resive some/all of the partitions on hda.  Can I do this without losing all the information on the root partition.  It takes soooo long to install all this over the internet.  Maybe I should burn a CD image ?  Will something like fips do what I want ?  Are there any other tools ??

Please CC any replies to me as well as the list,
Brendan Simon.

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