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Older hard drives

Posted on 2006-06-23
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Last Modified: 2010-04-26
I have a rather large collection of older hard drives from systems past.  I would like to see if I can get them hooked up to a test system to see what data (or more importantly games) may be there.

There is a wide range of drives from 500MB to 2.1GB to 10 or 12GB.  Some I'm not even sure if I would know the size before hooking them up.

What hardware / software would I need to get these running in a barebones state?  I know some may be as old as a x386 or x486 system and I'm willing to purchase the older motherboards or peripherals.  I'm just not real clear on what I would need from a BIOS being recognized point of view or whether or not I could get video to come up.

Any information or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
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Question by:bullseye17
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by:Lee W, MVP
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If they are all ATA/IDE drives, then you should be able to use them in ANY computer sold today with an ATA/IDE connection.  Personally, I got a ComboDock from www.wiebetech.com so that I could just swap the drives in and out without hassle (like an enclosure or putting them physically in a system.  Best $175 I've spent.   Well, maybe not the best... but a good investment nonetheless.
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zephyr_hex earned 150 total points
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note :  you can connect them to any system as a slave.  you will not be able to boot them as master without issues (because the hardware won't match the original config).

you can get data off of a slave drive, but you're going to have some problems getting the games or programs.
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_ earned 100 total points
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Your best bet would be a Slot1 - SlotA, or Socket 370 - Socket 462 mobo, so you can see the 10 - 12 gigs with out running into a bios limit problem.

Also, you need to make sure any drive less than 1gig, is an IDE. Not a MFM or RLL drive. Those will need an ISA controller to hook to.

If you can read the model numbers on the drives, you can Google them to find out what they are.
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by:Lee W, MVP
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Never seen an MFM or RLL hard drive more than 40-80 MB.  I've got a bunch of old IDE 80 MB drives... that's when everyone pretty much switched over... so if these are 500 MB+, then there's really little if any chance of them being MFM or RLL.
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Doh! You are correct. I was thinking 50meg.   : /
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by:lovewithnoface
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<(or more importantly games)>

amen!!

i dont get why my brother spends so much money on games and systems.  they all suck in comparison to my old dos games.  and i don't play anything because i long for dos.  i refused to get a computer for the longest time when dos was gone because i was positive that people were going to stop buying computers and that microsoft would see the error of its ways and bring dos back.  and my parents tried to console me and show me that there was dos prompt still.  

i had a strange childhood...
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by:bullseye17
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Thanks for the info everyone.  Sorry for the lag in response but it was finals and I decided to actually be studious this time.  Now I'm totally comitted to wasting the rest of my summer getting these older drives working.  btw I'm with you <lovewithnoface>, there's nothing like the old DOS games that's why I'm looking to revive them.

So let me ask this to clear things up for myself:

All the drives are definitely IDE.  I hold on to my stuff for a long time but not long enough to have any RLL or MFM.  :-)  So hypothetically I should be able to hook them up to any MB I have lying around?  Will any BIOS recognize the older drive geometries?  Is it really that simple?

Next question I would have is the video.  Is it that simple that all I would need to do is get the drive hooked up and I can then tweak some of the other settings once the system is booted?  My concern is that I know the systems these drives were taken out of would have only had a video resolution 640 x 480 and the systems now obviously have much better video capabilities.
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>> Will any BIOS recognize the older drive geometries? <<

Usually. But you might have to set the CHS, manually. Make sure you use 40/40 IDE cables, and set the BIOS to use 40/40 on that channel, unless you KNOW a drive is ATA- 66. (I have seen 10gigs that are)

>> Next question I would have is the video. <<

Hard to say for sure. AGP "might" be a problem, but there was a question the other day, where the computer was using "MS Standard VGA drivers", on what turned out to be an 4x AGP card.
You might want to boot into Safe Mode the first time, just to see what OS is on the drive, and see if a driver update is do-able.
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4-way split. Everybody added something.
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by:bullseye17
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I'm upping the point total so that I may split among those I got the most useful information from.  I completely forgot about closing the ticket and will be taking care of that this morning.
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Thank you much.    : )
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by:lovewithnoface
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I would just like to say, I did not contribute anything useful.  
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by:bullseye17
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lovewithnoface said:

"I would just like to say, I did not contribute anything useful."

Although it may not have been useful it was accurate and entertaining.  Too bad points aren't awarded for that.  :-)
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