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Old School Challenge Has Me Stumped

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November 7, 2010 7:53:14 PM

I need to remove the formatting from a 3-1/2" floppy.

The instructions for flashing my BIOS specifically say to use an unformatted floppy and all attempts otherwise have been crash & burn.

The floppies I have came formatted.

I've Googled myself crazier on how to accomplish this and I am just as clueless now as hours ago.

I remember back in 1985 having a PC with only two 5-1/4" drives and having to format disks with/without system. That PC had no hard drive! However, I don't recall if once formatted there is any way to return to a totally wiped clean state without the sector headings and other formatting overhead.

I'll dance a jig in honor of whoever can solve this challenge.

Buying unformatted disks is certainly an obvious approach ... but it seems there should be a simple solution.

Thanks in advance for all suggestions.
November 7, 2010 8:23:09 PM

Odd request, but interesting.

I don't run with a FDD anymore so I can test, but try to run diskpart. If you can select the FDD, 'select disk X' you could run the 'clean' command.

That kills all formatting... at least it does on HDD's.
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November 8, 2010 5:12:49 AM

ZoinksS2k --

Thank you for the diskpart tip. My experience with PC's stagnated when I left college. I went from a floppy drive PC at home to company provided equipment and I missed out on hard drive implementation basics ... PC configurations were all done for me and I was simply using word processing and spreadsheet apps for the most part. In the home setting ... its amazing how many years can go by without need to install an operating system after purchasing a PC with the OS already installed.

Of late I've done the full OS install and have begun using HDD imaging software for backup.

Due to my lack of experience with formatting hard drives ... I was unaware of the diskpart utility. Its very powerful and I feel I am just one mistake away from getting to test my HDD imaged backups.

Although I feel I know how to use search engines ... its amazing how elusive certain topics can be. Forums are indeed a blessing!!

I was unable to focus diskpart to my floppy drive ... but gaining the knowledge of that utility is certainly valuable and I am indeed appreciative of your help.

I also tried to boot from a floppy after having formatted it with the option of "Create an MS-DOS startup disk". Booting to DOS for servicing BIOS and other hardware issues has been something I have not needed; however, now that I am trying to expand my skills ... I find it amazing such a simple task is so elusive. I've checked my BIOS and the floppy is in the boot sequence. Upon trying to boot from floppy ... the process hangs with message: "Remove non-system disk and press any key to continue".

Another big nudge I suppose to push me to begin learning Linux. Funny that the maintenance I am attempting is to prepare for Win 7 that I have already purchased and should arrive any day. Most likely I am doing something wrong; however, if it turns out that Microsoft's XP OS cant create a bootable dos floppy ... that speaks volumes. Seems such a basic need would be easily found online?

Thanks again for the help and further guidance will be equally appreciated.
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a b G Storage
November 8, 2010 5:33:51 AM

Where's the information about the motherboard whose BIOS you're trying to flash?
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a b G Storage
November 8, 2010 8:19:50 AM

Most motherboard manufacturer have other options for flashing your BIOS not just from the floppy. Usually there are two files like AFUDOS.EXE an executable to load another file like AD2P1010.AMI (firmware) - You need to do this under the DOS environment, In windows XP click on RUN then type cmd and ok.
You run AFUDOS /help then you will get the parameters.

But if you got windows 7 then you can consider a CD bootable option:
http://www.nu2.nu/bootcd/
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November 8, 2010 9:41:45 AM

ko888 said:
Where's the information about the motherboard whose BIOS you're trying to flash?


I've made one VERY stupid mistake and just now caught it when retrieving the motherboard details. :( 

I mis-read the instructions. I am suppose to use an IBM pre-formatted floppy and NOT allow the Windows OS to format the disk. I was either too sleep deprived or had read conflicting information somewhere else ... but either way the mistake is glaring and not one of my better moments. Now I must purchase some pre-formatted diskettes later today and try again. Sadly, I have in my troubleshooting efforts formatted over the last 3 diskettes I had on hand.

My trouble shooting efforts included seeking out dos or dos clone boot disks. Allowing XP to format the diskettes might explain why I have been unable to use a couple of boot disks I found at:

http://www.bootdisk.com/

I did a virus scan first. I am always a bit apprehensive with a new source of executable files; however, the combination of desperation and confusion won out and as of now I have no indication good or bad from the offerings of bootdisk.com ... my PC simply hung and refused to boot.

When I check the diskette properties ... XP shows them to be of type "FAT". Maybe they are FAT 32 and should be FAT 16? I don't know but I am trying for an understanding.

I'll update this posting hopefully within 24 hours whether I am successful or not.

My apologies for crying wolf and a sincere thank you for those that extended a helping hand.

---------------------------------------------------------

My old BIOS: MV85010A.15A.0075.P13
The upgrade: MV85010A.15A.0086.P15

Below is detailed information I have found online:

Manufacturer: Intel
Type of Motherboard: Standard ATX
Socket: 478
Expansion Slots: 5 PCI, 1 CNR, 1 AGP, 4 RIMM
Chipset: Intel i850
Front Side Bus Speed: 533Mhz FSB
Supported CPUs: P4 1.0Ghz-3.5GHz, 256/512K Cache Chips with 400/533MHz
FSB Socket 478 Celeron 1.7GHz-2.4GHz Socket 478
Connectors: PS/2 Mouse, PS/2 Keyboard/ Printer Port, (4) USB Ports, 1 COMM Ports, 10/100 LAN
Supported Memory: PC600/800/1300 184PIN RAMBUS Memory
Operating Systems: Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP and NT

These boards are Intel made boards for Gateway, so you will see a Gateway logo come up when booted.

Drivers found here:

http://support.gateway.com/support/drivers/search.asp?s...
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November 8, 2010 10:07:54 AM

dEAne --

Thanks for advice. I will soon be running Win 7 and I want to figure out basic dos booting for both XP and Win 7. The BIOS upgrade came in a zipped executable that put all of the following in a cab file:

AUTOEXEC.BAT
BEEP.COM
BIOS.REC
COMMAND.COM
IFLASH.EXE
IO.SYS
P15-0086.BBO
P15-0086.BI1
P15-0086.BI2
P15-0086.BI3
P15-0086.BI4
P15-0086.BI5
P15-0086.BIO
P15-0086.SBB
P15-0086.SIG
P15-0086.LNG
P15-0086.SLN
readme.txt
SSP.REP

Instructions said to copy all the above to the diskette and boot from the diskette. Plus some details on what to select once inside the Update Flash Utility.

The AUTOEXEC.BAT simply has two lines:

beep
iflash

Don't really need the silly beep ... but someone enjoyed it enough to include.

I have zero Linux experience and in desperation started looking for alternatives. A tiny Linux called "LOAF" (Linux On A Floppy) caught my attention ... but not enough to download it yet. Is it possible to boot into Linux, swap floppies to one containing the above files, and then run >> IFLASH.EXE? I never seem to run out of stupid questions ... but I simple am clueless if Linux is compatible with dos executable files. I plan to dig into Linux in the not too distant future ... but if a guru enlightened me ahead of time I'd be all ears and grateful.

Thanks again.
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November 8, 2010 11:32:06 AM

No offence but from your posts here you seem zero capable to be flashing your motherboard BIOS, hopefully you are at least aware that if this goes bad in the flashing process and you don't know what to do at that point if you turn off the computer with a bad flash your motherboard will be toast!

You'll end up sending it back to the factory for them to flash it.

Since you don't seem to understand even the Floppy formatting process, what are you going to do when the real trouble is at hand?

I would suggest STOP right now!

Thoroughly learn what to do first!, Then do it.
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a b G Storage
November 8, 2010 5:08:14 PM

You can forget about using a Linux boot floppy because the Intel iflash utility won't run in Linux. Iflash is a DOS utility.
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November 8, 2010 7:36:12 PM

4ryan6 --

Thank you for the honesty. I agree with you too. I am trying to get over some weaknesses in my skill set and its certainly risky. I've managed to update some drivers recently with no problems. Years ago I flashed a BIOS. This time around I'm struggling big time. I'm at least going to buy the diskettes and see if following the instructions will allow me to boot to the floppy. I'll proceed once I am less a zombie from lack of sleep too. Again ... your observation from the massive confusion I've demonstrated is spot on.

----------------------------------


ko888 --

Thank you for the Linux info! That crazy thought process is now full stop.

Now I'm starting to contemplate booting with CD or flash drive into a DOS shell. I've got some studying to do before I can even ask decent questions about the DOS booting options.

----------------------------------

I'm really not a total idiot. Honest! I can more than hold my own in C/C++ custom written numerical analysis programming. I've done some heavy duty non-Gausian statistical work. Its sort of bizarre how narrow one's skill set can be in computers. I love the math stuff and the rest has been a necessary burden until late. Now I am trying to round out my skills in hardware and security topics. This forum appears to be one of the really special gems for learning in so many areas that I need to improve. I'm thrilled to have stumbled into here and plan to lurk aplenty.

BTW -- I wont secure the new diskettes until late tomorrow at earliest. Its about a 20 mile trip and I have to go that direction tomorrow for other business. Those diskettes are not easy to find!
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November 8, 2010 8:03:03 PM

tholly911 said:
4ryan6 --

Thank you for the honesty. I agree with you too. I am trying to get over some weaknesses in my skill set and its certainly risky. I've managed to update some drivers recently with no problems. Years ago I flashed a BIOS. This time around I'm struggling big time. I'm at least going to buy the diskettes and see if following the instructions will allow me to boot to the floppy. I'll proceed once I am less a zombie from lack of sleep too. Again ... your observation from the massive confusion I've demonstrated is spot on.

----------------------------------


ko888 --

Thank you for the Linux info! That crazy thought process is now full stop.

Now I'm starting to contemplate booting with CD or flash drive into a DOS shell. I've got some studying to do before I can even ask decent questions about the DOS booting options.

----------------------------------

I'm really not a total idiot. Honest! I can more than hold my own in C/C++ custom written numerical analysis programming. I've done some heavy duty non-Gausian statistical work. Its sort of bizarre how narrow one's skill set can be in computers. I love the math stuff and the rest has been a necessary burden until late. Now I am trying to round out my skills in hardware and security topics. This forum appears to be one of the really special gems for learning in so many areas that I need to improve. I'm thrilled to have stumbled into here and plan to lurk aplenty.

BTW -- I wont secure the new diskettes until late tomorrow at earliest. Its about a 20 mile trip and I have to go that direction tomorrow for other business. Those diskettes are not easy to find!


No one thinks you're any kind of an idiot, we all had to learn!

Feel free to PM me if you need to, and I'll do the best I can to make sure you understand exactly how to do this.
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a c 348 G Storage
November 9, 2010 8:07:10 PM

As far as I recall, all floppy diskettes are formatted to the FAT12 system - not 16 or 32. Does not matter - any Format command executed on a floppy will only do it the right way.

There are three parts of "formatting a floppy disk". If you do start from a completely empty disk, the first stage will actually be to establish the tracks and sectors so there are defined areas to write data. The second stage is then to install the File System (FAT12) which means writing to the disk in particular spots the Root Directory and the FAT (File Allocation Table); these two are used to assign and track use of sectors for files. A Pre-formatted disk simply has both of these two steps done for you already. If you do a new Format operation on a disk that has these already, basically it will just ensure that the Root Directory and FAT are re-written to contain no info so the disk appears unused - it's like a "Quick Format" of a HDD. In older DOS and Windows versions, you could choose the /s option on the Format command (or do a separate sys X: option): that would add a third operation - installing two critical files (command.com and IO.SYS)on the formatted disk in particular locations - and mark the disk Root Directory flag as bootable. Then a BIOS could read this disk, recognize it as bootable, and load the two files into RAM and execute them. Command.com gives you the command prompt and a way to execute commands. But as of Win XP you can't do that - those two files are so huge in that OS that they won't fit on one floppy! So, how can one make a bootable floppy disk and place executable files on it?

The DIY way is to use an earlier OS, like Win 98 or a DOS, to Format with the /s option, then to copy the required files to this diskette. That is what your instructions were trying to get across. However, may people don't have the knowledge or means to do this. SO, what many mobo makers do for their customers who need to update a BIOS from a floppy is make available for download from their website an executable program that you run under Win XP (or whatever). This particular program actually does the entire operation of Formatting a diskette, installing the key mini-DOS (a small and limited DOS suitable for this task and little else) and IO.SYS files necessary to make it bootable, and loading all the required files onto the diskette. Look for such a utility from your mobo maker.

I did this with my system a while back. As I recall I ended up making two bootable diskettes. I used the first with the appropriate options when it ran to copy the existing BIOS code from my BIOS chip to that floppy as a backup that could be restored if necessary. Then I ensured that the new BIOS file was copied onto the second floppy and ran it, using the options to write that new code to the BIOS. I still have both those floppies.
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November 10, 2010 12:11:26 AM

Paperdoc --

Thank you for solving part of the mystery for me!

Just hours ago I asked the Fry's computer assembly folks what was the difference in formatting between what came on a pre-formatted diskette and what resulted from an XP floppy formatting. Four of those guys talked it over and no one had a rational explanation. No one mentioned FAT12. I mentioned FAT16 and FAT32 after they suggested the diskette was formatted in NTFS. Totally wrong on the NTFS guess. Looking at properties after formatting simply says "FAT".

I remember from 5-1/4" floppy days (double density - 640k) using the following command:

A:> format a: /s

This was back in the 2 floppy drives days with no hard drive. After that simple formatting the disk was fully functional as a dos booter and the remaining space was typically WordStar files. I bet most have all but forgotten that application's name. On my bookshelf are three books with WordStar in the title. Other files were typically Lotus 123 and a few games in Basic such as chess and solitaire. Also, turbo pascal was a joy. BTW ... in 1985 an AT&T 6300 computer cost $1985. Easy for me to remember because they made a big deal of that "special" promotional price!

Today I purchased the smallest amount of 3-1/2" floppies from Fry's. A whopping 50 pack! Only cost about $13 ... so I have many lifetimes supply now that any new setup wont even have that type of drive installed. I eagerly got home and followed the copy instructions and got the exact same behavior with the following error message >>

Invalid Start Up Disk ... Remove and hit any key to continue.

I'm going to try to contact Intel (the motherboard mfg) for assistance in getting the minimal dos files you mentioned. I'll also dig around online some more trying to locate them.

The problem is very likely that Disk Root Directory flag value you mentioned. I vaguely recall having to use the /s formatting and not simply copying those 2 files ... setting that flag was probably the reason.

I'll search on setting that flag somehow too.

Thanks again for the info. It really gives me encouragement and what to focus on for now. That being simply securing a simple dos system boot disk. That "should" be an easy find but its not!
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November 10, 2010 4:13:52 AM

Thank you everyone for nudging me along in the right direction and I am happy to report my system is now running on the updated BIOS. The short and simple of it is the tiny dos version included in the Intel/Gateway BIOS upgrade package does not work. Once I was able to boot into a legitimate and full version of DOS ... the flash went without a hitch. I never did find how to save the original BIOS ... so committing that last "go for it command" was accompanied with a little apprehension. Everything so far looks great.

The Win 7 I had on order arrived today. Next endeavor is new hard drive, new video card, and the OS install.

Wish me luck. If I crash hard ... my reserve computer that still boots is a 450 MHz Pentium II. You'll recognize me by the smoke signals.

Thanks again and I'll pay it forward to the best of my abilities.
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November 10, 2010 9:26:57 AM

Congratulations!

You just jumped your first computer hurdle!
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a c 348 G Storage
November 10, 2010 7:50:08 PM

Your memory of 1985 was more use than the Fry's guys! They would not "remember" anything about formatting under DOS. And I'm not surprised that a diskette formatted in XP says it has a "FAT" File system. That is the default for diskette formatting, although XP's Format command does have a command-line option to set one up with an NTFS File System. I really don't know why one would want that on a floppy! (By the way, back in those days nobody talked about the distinction between a FAT12 system on a floppy and a FAT16 system on a HDD. Those were just the defaults. Only later when FAT32 was developed did people start talking about the differences.)

In XP, as I said, there is no /s option in the Format command because it cannot work. So trying to boot from a floppy formatted under XP will always generate the missing system disk message, because that diskette does NOT have any files on it necessary to boot from. It's the same as if, in 1985, you formatted a 5¼" diskette with a plain format a: command, then tried to boot from it.

Very glad to hear you found a way for make a bootable floppy diskette and passed that on to forum readers here. And congrats on a successful BIOS update.
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