Can Win7 read an MS-DOS drive?


The motherboard on my dad's old Win95 PC just died, and the PC won't boot. I took the harddrive out of it and put it in an external enclosure. When I plug the drive into my Windows 7 computer, it doesn't get assigned a drive letter. Drive Manager finds it, but displays an "unknown format" message. Is there any way I can use my Windows 7 PC to read the files from the old drive? It was formatted with MS-DOS, and then Windows 95 was installed on it, a long time ago.

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  1. Nope I am pretty sure the file format used natively by Windows 95 was Fat. Fat support I am confident was dropped.
  2. Which version of fat? I'm sure win7 can read fat. (I don't think it offers the ability to format as fat however.) If its fat or fat16 it might not. Try a copy of linux to see if it can handle it. It might be an issue with the external box as well. It might not handle fat.
  3. You can try to change the file system to NTFS.
  4. Any chance of suuplying make and model of the hard drive, and a spec for the machine you are connecting it to?
  5. It's a Western Digital Caviar 31200. It was formatted with MS-Dos 7.0.
  6. Do NOT change anything until you have mirrored the drive in it's current state and then I would only work with the mirror if any of that data is irreplaceable.
  7. Windows 7 can read and write FAT12, 16 and 32. the way the hard drive was partitioned may however be incompatible with Windows 7.
  8. pjmelect is right about the ability of Windows 7 to read any file system that DOS could have possibly written to that disk.

    It's pretty obvious to me that the disk, or at least the file system has been damaged. Luckily, it is still seen as a drive by the OS, so you've got a pretty good chance.

    The quick and free way to check the disk is to force assign it a drive letter with the command line utility DISKPART, and then use chkdsk to check the volume and attempt recovery. If that doesn't work you should look in to a commercial solution such as Gibson Research's SpinRite, or the more thorough and comprehensive (though higher level and more expensive) R-Studio.
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