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Multi-step hard drive question

Posted on 1998-09-01
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Last Modified: 2010-04-26
I've recently acquired a hand-me-down 486 with a crashed hard drive.  I'll be replacing the hard drive very soon, but I've heard about the "504 MB barrier" that I'll run into.  I'll be purchasing a large drive, probably 3.2 GB.

    My questions are:
    1.  What do I need to know about my computer to buy an appropriate add-on BIOS, to replace the hard drive
    portion of the mainboard BIOS?  Basically, tell me what will be involved in this chore and what I'd need to know to
    make an informed purchase.

    2.  Is it possible to partition a large (say 3.2 GB) hard drive BEFORE it's recognized by the BIOS, thus allowing me
    to split the hard drive into pieces that will be accepted by my current BIOS?  If it's possible, tell me how it's done.

    I don't want to use Disk Manager, or any other software fix. I'm either going to buy an add-on BIOS card, or
    partition the new hard drive to slip under the 504 barrier.

    Here's some system information:
    The BIOS is an AMIBIOS from 1991.  It doesn't allow for LBA, ECHS, or a large mode.  Replacing the BIOS and
    motherboard is not an option I'll consider.
    I'll definitely be buying at least a 2.1 GB drive, and probably it'll be a 3.2.
    I'll be running Windows 95.  I have 20 MB of RAM, a sound card, a 33.6 modem, a CD-ROM, and one each of 3.5
    and 5.25 drives.  I have two open 16-bit ISA slots.

    Please give me as much information as you possibly can, and I'll be generous with my 200 points.
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Question by:whyme
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Author Comment

by:whyme
ID: 1124222
Edited text of question
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Expert Comment

by:theh95
ID: 1124223
You can get a super IDE or EIDE card, and install it into you PC, Removed or disable your current IDE controller card.  In the EIDE or super IDE card should have information to update you PC to accept any large (Over 528MB) Hard drive.

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Expert Comment

by:frache
ID: 1124224
Sometimes you can use large drive without new controller. Western digital,Quantum,Seagate give "utility" with their disk.

This little program bypass the bios.

Look at www.seagate.com for example...
But, with a new controler you can have better performances...

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Author Comment

by:whyme
ID: 1124225
I want a lot of information please, not just a general overview. And what about partitioning the hard drive before the BIOS accesses it?
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Accepted Solution

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mark2150 earned 360 total points
ID: 1124226
Certain BIOS's have a limit to the size of the drive that they can access. If the BIOS cannot access a drive larger than 500+MB and you're un-willing/-able to change it you'll need something like Disk Manager that provides BIOS extensions to get around it. A new controller isn't going to help as the *BIOS* can't take advantage of it.

Your post says that you don't want Disk Manager, nor do you want to to upgrade the BIOS. Well, you're SOL then 'cause that's where the limits are and your refusal to consider these options paints you into a no-can-do corner.

As for prepartioning the drive, that won't help as the BIOS has limits on how high it can count cylnders/tracks/heads so it's not a physical limit of the drive, but of the BIOS to *ASK* for higher numbered clusters.

Worst case is that you wind up with a *BUNCH* of 500Mb partitions so you've got drives C;, D:, E:... until you run out of disk/alphabet.

Even Disk Manager won't always allow you to access a 3.2Gb drive as a single letter. 16 bit FAT's run out of gas at 2.047Gb in a single partition (2^16, 32768 byte clusters).

You need to reconsider your requirements (no Disk Manager, no MB upgrade, no BIOS upgrade, etc.) if you want to get this puppy off the ground.

Your easiest option would be to toss the MB and get one that is a little more modern. If the BIOS is, what, 1991?, then you're not going to get decent performance from a '486 under win 95. Why bother going thru all these changes to end up with a *DOG* system?
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Author Comment

by:whyme
ID: 1124227
Thank you for the good answer, although not what I wanted to hear.

On the Internet I've seen this:

" an 8 bit PC interface card with a flash programmable option ROM.."
" full support for hard disks larger than 8.4 gigabytes.."

Basically it looks like a tiny 8-bit ISA card with a ROM chip on it.  This is what I meant by "new controller card," although that might not have been the right terminology.  Do you think this would work for me?  Check out- www.firmware.com/sales/atapro/ataproflash.htm


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Expert Comment

by:theh95
ID: 1124228
That 8bit PC card was the IDE controller card I mean at the first place.  Some people called it super IDE some people called it EIDE card.
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