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Need to access very old IDE drive (MS-DOS, 16-bit ISA controller)

I've have a small-time IT business and was recently stumped.

I need to copy data from a very old PC.

A client has a working AMD "386" system with an internal IDE hard drive that's connected to an old 16-bit ISA controller card. No floppy drive. No Ethernet. (Of course, this is pre-USB, pre-CDROM). The PC boots into DOS just fine.

I have a drive adapter kit (IDE and SATA) in my bag and use it frequently.

I removed the old IDE drive from the PC then...

(1) It can't attach to my adapter kit's IDE cable (female), which has the typical pin-20 key (blocked), because the drive has all its pins, including pin 20.

(2) The key-less IDE cables I bought online physically plugged into the drive didn't help: the modern computer never mounted it or otherwise showed it in the system; the modern system just ignored it. (Flipping the key-less cable didn't help.)

(I had a pin-conversion box with wire jumpers for each pin but dumped it in the 1990s.)

ANY IDEAS?

- adding another ISA card (ethernet or ?) for some other hardware probably would require loading MS-DOS drivers but there's no floppy.

- It seems like I just need the correct cable, but maybe the problem is the drive lacks an on-drive controller card (I forget to check that) or it has an on-drive circuit card that isn't recognized by modern systems because necessary elements reside on the ISA controller card.

- I corresponded with a tech from the maker of the drive adapter, but he didn't know what to do.

- maybe the floppy choice will work; I'll have to find another 3.5" floppy drive online and hope its connector is the same as the old system's.

Fortunately, the system still works.
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  1. Best answer
    That system is so old it's probably a software issue. The new PC just doesn't know what it's hooked up to. How many MB is the HDD?

    I'd try and find an old floppy drive. They are around. I just junked a "sick" amount of old ewaste that was stored; here and there... Probably had an original 5"1/4 drive for that 386 "bad boy".
  2. Thanks for the reply. I think you're right. I forget the capacity of the drive, maybe 40mb.

    I used to have an old floppy drive but chucked it. I'll see if a local computer store owner I know can dig up a 3.5" floppy drive.

    THANKS.

    wdmfiber said:
    That system is so old it's probably a software issue. The new PC just doesn't know what it's hooked up to. How many MB is the HDD?

    I'd try and find an old floppy drive. They are around. I just junked a "sick" amount of old ewaste that was stored; here and there... Probably had an original 5"1/4 drive for that 386 "bad boy".
  3. Well, you've solved the cable problem, probably. (I once had this issue and solved it by drilling a hole in the connector where the blocked spot was - did not establish a connection, but allowed the connector to plug in, and it worked.) Still, no joy, you say.

    Next may be to do things to OLD way. Look on the HDD for info on the HDD's parameters - at least Cylinders, Heads and Sectors, possibly Landing Zone and Precomp. Now, with the HDD installed, go into the first BIOS Setup screen where you set the connection parameters for this HDD. Do not set that to AUTO. Set it to Type 47, which will then allow you to specify a set of parameters according to what you got from the label. SAVE and EXIT, and go back into BIOS Setup, to the same screen. See if it appears to have detected the HDD the way you set it. Now proceed to boot fully, and see if My Computer can show you that HDD and its contents.

    In doing this, don't forget to establish whether this old HDD is a Master or Slave unit on that particular IDE port. For this, use the jumper(s) on the HDD back edge and the jumper diagram on the drive itself (not from some other drive). If it's the only unit on this port, it MUST be the Master, and then it should be plugged into the Black END connector of the data ribbon. If it is the second unit with another device already connected as Master, then this older HDD MUST be the Slave, and it should be plugged into the Grey MIDDLE connector of the cable.
  4. Thanks. Good ideas. I know what you mean about the master/slave setting; it's easy to forget that after years of SATA. I'll first try a floppy drive rescue, but if that fails, I'll consider trying your idea or a variation of it. Thanks!

    Here's a link to pics:
    http://imgur.com/a/lwTmj/


    Paperdoc said:
    Well, you've solved the cable problem, probably. (I once had this issue and solved it by drilling a hole in the connector where the blocked spot was - did not establish a connection, but allowed the connector to plug in, and it worked.) Still, no joy, you say.

    Next may be to do things to OLD way. Look on the HDD for info on the HDD's parameters - at least Cylinders, Heads and Sectors, possibly Landing Zone and Precomp. Now, with the HDD installed, go into the first BIOS Setup screen where you set the connection parameters for this HDD. Do not set that to AUTO. Set it to Type 47, which will then allow you to specify a set of parameters according to what you got from the label. SAVE and EXIT, and go back into BIOS Setup, to the same screen. See if it appears to have detected the HDD the way you set it. Now proceed to boot fully, and see if My Computer can show you that HDD and its contents.

    In doing this, don't forget to establish whether this old HDD is a Master or Slave unit on that particular IDE port. For this, use the jumper(s) on the HDD back edge and the jumper diagram on the drive itself (not from some other drive). If it's the only unit on this port, it MUST be the Master, and then it should be plugged into the Black END connector of the data ribbon. If it is the second unit with another device already connected as Master, then this older HDD MUST be the Slave, and it should be plugged into the Grey MIDDLE connector of the cable.
  5. Ah! The good old days! The first PC I got to use at work in 1989 was based on an 80386 chip plus an 80387 math coprocessor, running at 33 MHz on a AT-class mobo.

    Your last photo has some interesting handwritten notes on it: "40 MB", "Type 17", "1053", "2", and "40" That MAY mean it is a 40 MB HDD with 1053 Cylinders, 2 Heads and 40 Sectors per track. If you multiply those out at 512 bytes per Sector, it comes to 41.1 MB.

    IF you can get a floppy drive, there is a practical issue. The typical floppy capacity then was 1.4 MB, so you'll need close to 30 floppies to copy the drive's data, if it is full.

    By the way, in my experience the most troublesome part of floppy disks and drives is head dust. An accumulation can scratch the floppy surface and ruin it. So plan to clean the drive(s) if you get any - if you're technically inclined, I recommend opening them and swabbing them out gently with rubbing alcohol on a Q-tip, then airing to dry before closing up. Also get a floppy disk drive cleaner and use it, then let it dry before inserting a diskette.
  6. Thanks. Fortunately, the client's data are only numerous wordperfect docs, probably 1-4 floppies at the most.


    Paperdoc said:
    Ah! The good old days! The first PC I got to use at work in 1989 was based on an 80386 chip plus an 80387 math coprocessor, running at 33 MHz on a AT-class mobo.

    Your last photo has some interesting handwritten notes on it: "40 MB", "Type 17", "1053", "2", and "40" That MAY mean it is a 40 MB HDD with 1053 Cylinders, 2 Heads and 40 Sectors per track. If you multiply those out at 512 bytes per Sector, it comes to 41.1 MB.

    IF you can get a floppy drive, there is a practical issue. The typical floppy capacity then was 1.4 MB, so you'll need close to 30 floppies to copy the drive's data, if it is full.

    By the way, in my experience the most troublesome part of floppy disks and drives is head dust. An accumulation can scratch the floppy surface and ruin it. So plan to clean the drive(s) if you get any - if you're technically inclined, I recommend opening them and swabbing them out gently with rubbing alcohol on a Q-tip, then airing to dry before closing up. Also get a floppy disk drive cleaner and use it, then let it dry before inserting a diskette.
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