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Maxtor HD won't keep partition after reboot/ DOS 6.22

A few years back, I picked up this older Packard Bell 286. With the help of this forum, I was able to install DOS 6.22 and play some of my old games on it. I've enjoyed having it but the inevitable happened when the original HD failed and it was time for a replacement. I have a 170MB Maxtor HD from my IBM PS/1 that I had wiped and kept for this occasion. Since the BIOS allows for me to enter custom HD specs, I did that and away we went. I installed DOS 6.22 and then Windows 3.1. I fooled around with it for awhile, turned it off and didn't boot it up again until the next day. When I did, it gave me the missing OS error. I put the 6.22 boot disk in, restarted it and found that I was missing the entire partition on my HD that I had set up the day before and spent a solid 4-5 hours installing onto.

Miffed, I redid the partition and rebooted as DOS asked me to after setting a new partition and making it active. Lo and behold, the same thing. I've spent hours on this and nothing I have done will get this to work. The BIOS info is correct and if I change it, the boot screen tells me that I have a HD failure to initialize. But when I leave the correct info in, it boots to 6.22 and allows me to FDISK my way to a new partition, set it up and reboot. I can't format the HD because once the computer reboots, the partition is gone.

Help? Ideas? What am I doing wrong?

EDIT: I can't help but wonder if this should be in the OS section, maybe WIN95/98 as I can't seem to find a DOS forum.
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  1. Since I posted this earlier, I tried the same thing with Dos 3.3. Same thing. I also got creative and tried a different HD, a 2GB Seagate. I know it's a large drive relative to what I am using, but it was the same result. 6.22 allowed me to partition in (albeit into a smaller partition than 2GB), save, reboot and wind up with nothing yet again.
  2. No one? No ideas?
  3. "...BIOS allows for me to enter custom HD specs..." My first wild guess is that BIOS is not keeping, but rather rejecting upon reColdBoot, your custom HD numbers.
    However, I might be reading your very informative posts wrongly; are you having to reload those custom numbers after each incident?
  4. RolandJS has a very good idea there. If the BIOS is losing the custom HDD parameters you entered, that is because its backup battery is dead.

    Now comes the tricky part. These days the BIOS backup battery is a silver replaceable disk about the size of a quarter in a socket on the mobo. BUT back is the days of 286 CPU's and DOS 3.1, commonly the mobo had a rechargeable battery soldered to the mobo near the BIOS chip. Often it looks like a small cylinder with two legs for soldering. If it fails, you have to try to find a replacement, do the swap, and then plug your system is for several hours to charge it up. THEN you can make your BIOS changes and they can be retained.
  5. Paperdoc said:
    RolandJS has a very good idea there. If the BIOS is losing the custom HDD parameters you entered, that is because its backup battery is dead.

    Now comes the tricky part. These days the BIOS backup battery is a silver replaceable disk about the size of a quarter in a socket on the mobo. BUT back is the days of 286 CPU's and DOS 3.1, commonly the mobo had a rechargeable battery soldered to the mobo near the BIOS chip. Often it looks like a small cylinder with two legs for soldering. If it fails, you have to try to find a replacement, do the swap, and then plug your system is for several hours to charge it up. THEN you can make your BIOS changes and they can be retained.


    Oh I wish. No it's retaining the info in the bios. The first thing I did after replacing the HD was leave it plugged in overnight so that it would charge.
  6. So, when you shut down and reboot, the BIOS DOES have the HDD parameters you entered before, is that right?

    Next, when you spend the time to Install Windows on this drive, do you start by cleaning that drive off completely? Normally you could do that using FDISK to Delete any and all Partitions that already exist on the drive so that it is ALL just Unallocated Space. That needs to be done before starting to create any new Partition and Installing Windows. ALSO, when you Create the new Partition, it needs to be specified as a BOOTABLE Partition.

    Next question: If I understand correctly, when you do Install Windows the process appears to proceed normally, and the machine appears to boot and run under Windows from that HDD. Correct? It is only after you shut down, wait, and try again to boot "cold" that it fails?

    I believe with DOS 3.3 and DOS 6.22 that you could use the Windows Install disk(s) to prepare a basic DOS boot FLOPPY disk. IF you have a floppy drive and some disks, and IF that drive is cleaned and works, you could make such a diskette and boot from it. Then you could try to access the HDD to verify whether it really is empty even though you Installed Windows on it, or whether all the stuff IS there, after all. Then you would know whether the problem is with the HDD or something else.
  7. Paperdoc said:
    So, when you shut down and reboot, the BIOS DOES have the HDD parameters you entered before, is that right?

    Next, when you spend the time to Install Windows on this drive, do you start by cleaning that drive off completely? Normally you could do that using FDISK to Delete any and all Partitions that already exist on the drive so that it is ALL just Unallocated Space. That needs to be done before starting to create any new Partition and Installing Windows. ALSO, when you Create the new Partition, it needs to be specified as a BOOTABLE Partition.

    Next question: If I understand correctly, when you do Install Windows the process appears to proceed normally, and the machine appears to boot and run under Windows from that HDD. Correct? It is only after you shut down, wait, and try again to boot "cold" that it fails?

    I believe with DOS 3.3 and DOS 6.22 that you could use the Windows Install disk(s) to prepare a basic DOS boot FLOPPY disk. IF you have a floppy drive and some disks, and IF that drive is cleaned and works, you could make such a diskette and boot from it. Then you could try to access the HDD to verify whether it really is empty even though you Installed Windows on it, or whether all the stuff IS there, after all. Then you would know whether the problem is with the HDD or something else.


    Yes, the BIOS retains the info that I put in prior to the reboot. I'm actually trying to install DOS, not Windows. I had it installed prior but on this HD I'm not really worried about using it as this old box is just for gaming.

    However, to answer your question, I am not cleaning the disk off as there is no way to do it. Upon reboot, C drive is not an option and when I return to Fdisk, the partition that I set up and made active prior to reboot (Which Fdisk makes you do once you exit out of it) is gone. I cannot format nor can I do anything that is related to the drive. The computer recognizes there is a hard drive, but the partitions keep disappearing.

    I took this hard drive out and installed it in my 486, ran fdisk, installed a partition and proceeded to install 6.22. I rebooted the 486 at least 3 times and each and every time, it rebooted from the drive as it is supposed to do ("Starting MS-DOS"). I formatted the drive and reinstalled it in the 286. Now, it tells me there is a hard drive failure and will not initialize the HD despite the correct info being in the Bios and staying in the bios.

    I'm seriously confounded here. It does this with all the IDE drives I have. Is the MB just done?
  8. And yes, I have used 3.3 and 6.22 and have created new boot disks for both. The disks work perfectly and the computer boots from the disks just as it is supposed to. The issue is simply that the partitions I create after booting are disappearing after the reboot Fdisk forces upon me once I make the partition active.
  9. OK. Here are a couple more ideas to try from fuzzy old memory. (Mine, not RAM)

    1. That mobo is old enough that it may be one that can ONLY use as a boot drive the Master device on the FIRST IDE port. So, is this Maxtor unit set up that way? That means using the correct port (probably IDE0) and data cable (preferably 80-conductor), setting its jumpers correctly as Master, and plugging it into the END connector on the ribbon data cable. Important: there is no standard way to set jumpers, so use ONLY the diagram on that drive to set the jumpers.
    2. I'm fuzzy on this one. These days it is common to set up Partitons, etc; earlier, one did that with FDISK. What I don't remember is whether you must use FDISK first to create a Partition (usually consuming all of the HDD space in that one Primary Partition), or whether you need to have an empty HDD with NO Partition and let the Windows Install process do the creation and Formatting job for you. IF you must create the Partition first with FDISK, do you also have to Format it first? Of course, that version of FDISK can only create an MBR-style Partition system. What abut the Format options? I expect the only choice is a FAT32 File System, and I would certainly opt for a Full Format (rather than Quick) if you have a choice.
  10. If memory serves me, FDISK created the Primary Partition using all the space, then logical extended partitions can be made -- however, somebody correct me if I'm wrong.
  11. Paperdoc said:
    OK. Here are a couple more ideas to try from fuzzy old memory. (Mine, not RAM)

    1. That mobo is old enough that it may be one that can ONLY use as a boot drive the Master device on the FIRST IDE port. So, is this Maxtor unit set up that way? That means using the correct port (probably IDE0) and data cable (preferably 80-conductor), setting its jumpers correctly as Master, and plugging it into the END connector on the ribbon data cable. Important: there is no standard way to set jumpers, so use ONLY the diagram on that drive to set the jumpers.
    2. I'm fuzzy on this one. These days it is common to set up Partitons, etc; earlier, one did that with FDISK. What I don't remember is whether you must use FDISK first to create a Partition (usually consuming all of the HDD space in that one Primary Partition), or whether you need to have an empty HDD with NO Partition and let the Windows Install process do the creation and Formatting job for you. IF you must create the Partition first with FDISK, do you also have to Format it first? Of course, that version of FDISK can only create an MBR-style Partition system. What abut the Format options? I expect the only choice is a FAT32 File System, and I would certainly opt for a Full Format (rather than Quick) if you have a choice.


    The jumpers have been of little consequence. When I first set this thing up, it worked well until the reboot at which point I have been able to do nothing that keeps. The HD is the only one I have set up though my BIOS does allow for an additional one. The partition is a FAT16 set up, not 32, but since it won't keep, its a FATNOTHING. The formatting of the drive comes after the partition creation and activation of that partition. As I cannot get it to go past that point, I cannot format. I was able to yesterday on my 486, but once I moved the HD back to the 286, the same thing occurred.
  12. RolandJS said:
    If memory serves me, FDISK created the Primary Partition using all the space, then logical extended partitions can be made -- however, somebody correct me if I'm wrong.


    You can make a extended partition if you leave space from the initial primary. I've actually tried this both ways. I've allowed a full primary partition and it's a bust and I've set aside 10% of the drive for an extended partition in addition to the primary, also a bust.
  13. Maybe you've done this already, but here's an idea for a "test". Boot and run from a bootable DOS disk so that you can run FDISK from that, and not from the HDD. Now run FDISK and examine what is on the HDD. Does it really have NO Partition? Or, is it there and some other problem causing your machine to fail to read it?

    After reviewing the two FAT systems, I realize now that FAT32 is not accessible from earlier DOS and Windows systems, so it's a good thing your drive is set up for FAT16. That is perfectly able to handle a 170 MB HDD.

    Some of this looks like a faulty HDD, but that is not clear. A HDD diagnostic disk would be useful, especially one that is a stand-alone bootable disk, rather than an app that runs under Windows. The problem there is, Maxtor does not exist by itself any more - I believe they were bought by Seagate. The last time I checkd, the current Seagate diagnostic utility package, SeaTools, does not work with old Maxtor drives. Maybe ask Seagate Tech Support if they can recommend a utility, or search the 'net for one or two.
  14. Paperdoc said:
    Maybe you've done this already, but here's an idea for a "test". Boot and run from a bootable DOS disk so that you can run FDISK from that, and not from the HDD. Now run FDISK and examine what is on the HDD. Does it really have NO Partition? Or, is it there and some other problem causing your machine to fail to read it?

    After reviewing the two FAT systems, I realize now that FAT32 is not accessible from earlier DOS and Windows systems, so it's a good thing your drive is set up for FAT16. That is perfectly able to handle a 170 MB HDD.

    Some of this looks like a faulty HDD, but that is not clear. A HDD diagnostic disk would be useful, especially one that is a stand-alone bootable disk, rather than an app that runs under Windows. The problem there is, Maxtor does not exist by itself any more - I believe they were bought by Seagate. The last time I checkd, the current Seagate diagnostic utility package, SeaTools, does not work with old Maxtor drives. Maybe ask Seagate Tech Support if they can recommend a utility, or search the 'net for one or two.


    The DOS boot disk I am using has Fdisk on it. That's the only way I can do it unless I use the full version of 6.22 to boot from and it does the exact same thing ( you need to partition this drive so we can install DOS so here is Fdisk...oh wait, what did you want to do again?)

    When I reboot, there is NO partition. As in it wants to do the whole process over again as if it never happened before. And it does this with any HD I use. Also, the Maxtor was perfectly partitioned, activated and formatted on my 486 and held DOS until I formatted the disk to put back in the 286. I'd try a third HD but all I have are SATA and they obviously will not work. And I'm not keen on buying even a $30 small IDE drive just to test with. I will if I have to but I would prefer not to.
  15. Best answer
    OK, so I see two new things in that. First, you are using a bootable DOS disk that includes FDISK, and that tells you there is NO partition on the HDD. THEN you say this is not merely that one Maxtor unit, but THREE different IDE HD's have all done the same thing! Well, if all of them do not appear to have any data (not even a Partition) on them in the older 286-based machine, but DO have that information when viewed on the 486-based machine, I suggest the older machine has a bad IDE controller. It is VERY unlikely you could fix that. The only possibility I could see if you really want to run a 286 machine, would be to buy and install an old used Multi-I/O card that fits in the machine's expansion slots to give you new IDE ports. You would have to be sure the card suits the slot types your mobo has. Then you'd have to use BIOS Setup to disable the mobo ODE ports and somehow get it to use the added ones on the card. That MIGHT also force you to use other ports on that card, like those for the floppy drive, a parallel port, etc.
  16. Paperdoc said:
    OK, so I see two new things in that. First, you are using a bootable DOS disk that includes FDISK, and that tells you there is NO partition on the HDD. THEN you say this is not merely that one Maxtor unit, but THREE different IDE HD's have all done the same thing! Well, if all of them do not appear to have any data (not even a Partition) on them in the older 286-based machine, but DO have that information when viewed on the 486-based machine, I suggest the older machine has a bad IDE controller. It is VERY unlikely you could fix that. The only possibility I could see if you really want to run a 286 machine, would be to buy and install an old used Multi-I/O card that fits in the machine's expansion slots to give you new IDE ports. You would have to be sure the card suits the slot types your mobo has. Then you'd have to use BIOS Setup to disable the mobo ODE ports and somehow get it to use the added ones on the card. That MIGHT also force you to use other ports on that card, like those for the floppy drive, a parallel port, etc.


    This sounds more like what I was thinking might be wrong. I ordered a new battery to cover my bases, but I'm not sure I want to even go to the trouble now. I can always just find myself a comparable old MB from another 286. I use this to play the older games like Ultima or Wizardry that my 486 play but do so at a lightning pace from the speed up.
  17. Wow, those are old games! You may or may not remember this. At the time that 286 machines were being sold there was lots of competition for faster processors and performance. The problem was that games written then did not allow for that factor, and they became unplayable if you had a machine with CPU speeds of 12 to 20 MHz. So many mobos and cases were built with a "Turbo" button. Pushing it toggled the CPU speed between 8 MHz (original speed for 286's) and full speed of your machine. That way you could slow your machine down to make the games playable, then speed it back up for other work.
  18. Paperdoc said:
    Wow, those are old games! You may or may not remember this. At the time that 286 machines were being sold there was lots of competition for faster processors and performance. The problem was that games written then did not allow for that factor, and they became unplayable if you had a machine with CPU speeds of 12 to 20 MHz. So many mobos and cases were built with a "Turbo" button. Pushing it toggled the CPU speed between 8 MHz (original speed for 286's) and full speed of your machine. That way you could slow your machine down to make the games playable, then speed it back up for other work.


    I do remember that actually. This Packard Bell is a Pack-Mate III which is 16mhz with the turbo on and 8 with it off. I have to run it at 8 to play the games but at that speed, they are fine, just like they were when I was a kid playing them. Like the games, it takes me back to childhood and the nostalgia is harder to beat than Werdna.
  19. So I went ahead and replaced the CMOS battery this weekend. The good news is that the time has remained accurate through 3 days whereas before it would lose a minute a day or more. The bad news is the HD problem persists and it now will only give me a "hard drive failure" error. I'm going to grab a known, working IDE drive and work with it. If that fails, I have a contact that has the same motherboard so I'll probably just go that route.
  20. Thanks for letting us know progress so far.
  21. So I purchased 2 new-to-me drives, both Conner and both 80mb. As has been the case most recently with this computer, the BIOS saw a hard drive and would never initialize them. They showed up on my 486 and I was able to install 6.22 on them both. Once re-installed on the PB, nothing. Hard Drive failure.

    At this point, I think Paperdoc is correct and the IDE is failing or has failed on this motherboard. I have located one, an exact match, but I'm thinking I might be better off to get another 286 MB, one that might be a little more stout. Any suggestions? I can't complain as this MB has lasted 30 years easily. But short of just selling this old beast, I would like to hang on to it and continue to Ultima on it.
  22. Final update. I have decided to sell the old rig. The new MB would run me around a hundred bucks shipped from Canada. While I could make another one work that is not PB, it would be less than fun matching up a 30 year old MB to the case I currently own. It's been fun but I'll stumble across another 286 sometime in the future that will give me as much enjoyment as this has and I'll have an extra HD for it.
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