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What Hard Drive would be compatible with Windows 95 OS and the following system specs?

Posted on 2009-03-31
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Last Modified: 2013-12-29
I have a computer of an ophthalmologist with an attached laser aperture device.

He brought it in because when the computer tries to boot, it says:

DRIVE NOT READY:
Insert BOOT Diskette into Drive A:

I hunted down a copy of Windows 95 on floppy and when I try to boot from that disc it says:

Not a system diskette: replace and press any key

I've determined through the BIOS that the Hard Drive is bad but am not sure where to find one or if it will be compatible.

Here are the system specs:

Processor: 80486DX4
AMIBIOS Date: 12/15/93
Base Memory: 640KB
Ext. Memory: 15360 KB

Can anyone provide any ideas or suggestions based off of this information? The case has a big laser attached to the top so it's a huge pain to take apart and reassemble. Any help in doing this with as little trial and error as possible would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!
~Quixys
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by:simpswr
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With something that unusual, you will have to get to the old drive to see whay it is.
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by:rindi
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You'll need a "small" drive. Also check what type of interface you are using. 486 systems often didn't include an on board HD controller. If it is an IDE controller, get an IDE HD that is as small as possible (best is below 10GB, you probably wont need anything larger anyway). If it is an rll type Controller, you can probably forget it, you probably won't be able to get anything that would still work.
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by:quixys
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When I opened the case, I could see it was indeed an IDE connection.

The BIOS settings for the Hard Drive have several options for Cyl, Sec, & Hd counts with the highest being around 1000 cylinders so I'm assuming I'll need to go REALLY low.

I've bought a lot of 540 MB drives off of Ebay to go ahead and at least try to make some headway with this thing. I know a few of the drives in the lot came out of '95 systems so fingers crossed.
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by:rindi
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With those ancient drives that are so small you''ll at least have the cylinders and sectors written somewhere on the case. So you should be able to compare those settings with what your bios has to offer. All that should work if the drives really still work.
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by:simpswr
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Most new IDE drive have a jumper setting that limits it to 32 MB
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garycase earned 400 total points
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For starters, Windows 95 floppies aren't bootable.   You need a Windows 95 Setup boot disk to re-install '95.

But if the hard drive is bad, it won't help to boot from a floppy anyway.

How did you conclude the hard drive is bad??  ["... I've determined through the BIOS that the Hard Drive is bad ..." is not a conclusive statement => is the BIOS not detecting the drive?   ... is it detecting it and indicating it's not accessible?  ... etc.]

Assuming the drive is indeed "bad", remove it from the system and post the make/model of the drive -- that will be a LOT more useful in helping here.   The next step, of course, will be to find a drive that's small enough to work in that system -- assuming it indeed uses an IDE drive [From the vintage of the system, it PROBABLY does, but it IS possible this uses an older MFM or RLL drive ... in which case, as noted already, you're almost certainly out of luck in finding a replacement].

As long as it's an IDE drive, the most likely restriction is the physical geometry of the drive.   Until drives exceeded 8GB, they were addressed by cylinder/head/sector.   An older system likely does not support logical block addressing, which is how the 8GB limit was resolved.   It's also possible you have to worry about the 2GB FAT-16 limit ... but that's less likely ('95 OSR2 introduced FAT-32, which easily overcame that limit); and even if it's an issue, you can use larger drives by creating smaller-than-2GB partitions.

If you need an old 2GB or so drive, I have one you can have for a few $$ to pack & ship it.   Contact me via my e-mail address if you need one (e-mail in profile).

In any event, I'd be very systematic in confirming what's wrong here => this could be something as simple as a dead CMOS battery that's no longer retaining the cylinder/head/sector parameters of the disk drive (and thus not detecting and booting from it).
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by:quixys
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Reasons I suspect a bad hard drive:

When I finally found the correct cylinder/head/sector settings for the BIOS, it was unable to detect the drive in the BIOS' disk check utility.

When attempting to boot, I now get:

C: DRIVE FAILED
RUN SETUP UTILITY
(that's not verbatim)

I can physically hear the drive start to spin up and make a click-click-click sound up until I get the above mentioned error.

As far as the Windows 95 BOOT Disc, I think I need some clarification. I have a legitimate copy of the OS on 13 floppies, is there supposed to be another separate boot disc or should Disc 1 of 13 work to boot from A:?
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by:quixys
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garycase,


I would also definitely be interested in getting the drive you have. If you want to give me your paypal info I can get you over a few bucks to ship it out.

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by:garycase
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I don't recall whether the Win95 Setup disk was separate from the set of 13 or not -- but I believe it was.   I MAY be able to find my Win95 diskettes ... I'll look through a box of old disks tomorrow and post a note if I can confirm this either way.

As for my old 2.1GB disk ... send me a note via private e-mail (address in my profile).
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by:PeterMac
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Win95 was still basically a DOS based OS. First (Boot) disk was actually DOS install. If you can locate a copy of DOS 6.0 or higher you should be able to use this instead.
NB 2GB Partition limit does definately apply to first Boot DOS Partition FAT16. If you have OSR2, then any other Partitions can be Fat32, and larger. Bios in System that old is unlikely to handle drives over 100MB - will not be able to detect them properly, unless you set parameters manually Cylinder / Head / Sector.
The Cylinder / Head / Sector parameters only allow upto around 480 MB, so you will not be able to access full size of 540MB HD. I used to run similar system with 540MB HD, works OK, as long as you restrict Cylinders to 1023, or 999 on some systems - don't think it will let you go above limit anyway.
Most Drive manufacturers supplied software to allow the use of higher capacity drives on these Systems though. You will need to check manufacturers site(s) for drives you have to see if any of them still supply this software, and instructions for using it.

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by:rindi
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The click click sound you get points to a defective HD, so you should get gary's HD.
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by:quixys
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Thanks to everyone who's tried to lend a helping hand thus far!

I'm currently waiting to get a replacement drive. Proceeding any further without it would be a wasted effort.

I will post again when I get it and either detail any troubles on install, or close the question.
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by:sublifer
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Tell the ophthalmologist that he'd likely have better luck buying himself a new machine unless he has all the software to make that laser run. I can almost promise the vendor is either not around anymore or won't provide support for a machine that old anyway.

Sounds like this doctor got a hold of someones old machine and used it till it broke (if it ever worked for him) and he was just trying to save himself the 10' or 100's of thousands of buying a new machine.

Doctors can be the quirkiest bunch you can find... try to be as cheap as possible on some things and throw money at the wind at others... I know this because I work for 35 doctors myself.
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by:quixys
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He has all the software for it. I believe he bought the machine new and has used it since then. I know it worked for quite some time before this incident.


Unfortunately for him, even a used one is $12,000.




But you are definitely correct about docs. I have one who's computer I update/upgrade about every 3months. I tell him every time that he's already bought a new machine with the money he keeps dumping into the old one, but it's just no use. Unless it's cheaper to buy a new machine RIGHT NOW, he's just not interested.
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by:sublifer
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Okay, well watch for the drives cylinders and sectors as those will be needed to install a hdd into a machine that old.  If I recall correctly you won't be able to use anything more than 2GB due to controller limitations.  
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by:quixys
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UPDATE:

Installed a new Maxtor 540MB drive. I configured the Cyl/Sec/Hd in BIOS and now when booting I get:

HDD Controller Error
Press F1 to Resume.

Then it takes me back to the same screen as before:

DRIVE NOT READY:
Insert BOOT Diskette into Drive A:

Any suggestions?
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by:garycase
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I suspect your "new" Maxtor 540MB drive isn't really "new" :-)     I'd connect it to another "known-good" system just to be sure the drive itself is good.

Also, did you replace the CMOS battery (as I suggested in my first post)?

The message you're getting basically says "... I didn't find a hard drive; so I tried to boot from the floppy ... but there's no floppy ready so I can't boot -- please insert a floppy and then I'll try again."

So either the disk controller itself has failed (possible, but unlikely); the drive is bad (easy to test by connecting it to a known-good controller on another PC); or you have the parameters set incorrectly.

What is the make/model of the hard disk that was in this system?
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by:quixys
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Gary,

I'm attempting to change the CMOS battery right now but can't seem to get it out. The positive connection is holding the battery in place and I can't find a way to lift or rotate it to allow the battery to come out.
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by:quixys
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Nevermind!

Pliers = Success!
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by:quixys
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Going to get a new battery and update will follow.
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by:quixys
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Replaced CMOS battery. No change.

Old HDD was a Western Digital Caviar 2635. It's a 640MB drive 1240/16/63.

I have another Maxtor drive just like the one currently in it I will try and swap.

I also have two higher capacity Western Digital Caviar drives, 1GB & 2GB capacities. I was trying to keep the drives small to avoid problems but maybe they would work better considering they are the same brand as the old drive?

As far as setting the parameters, I set them to 1046/16/63 which are the parameters on the drive itself. Could this still be wrong somehow?
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by:quixys
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On a side note, I downloaded an image for Win95 BOOT DISC  and am attempting to put it on a blank floppy.

However, when I try to access the floppy, it returns an error:

"No ID address mark was found on the floppy disc."

Any ideas what I can do here?
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by:garycase
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I woudn't spend much time trying hard disks on this system until you first confirm that the disks are good.   This is easy to do:  just connect them to another known-good system and see if you can format them on that system.   An easy way to get a spare, dedicated IDE channel to do this on is to simply unplug the optical drive and use that IDE channel.   Also, be sure the drive is jumpered correctly (typically you'll want it set as Master ... especially for the old system).   Note that WD drives have different settings for "Single" (this means "Master w/o slave"), and "Master" (which means "Master with a slave device on the same channel").

The parameters you're setting should be fine.

As for the floppy you're trying to create -- try a different blank floppy.   Note also that with an older system like that you may need to use a single-sided 720KB floppy.

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by:quixys
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I'm actually trying to create the floppy on my own XP machine.

I've tried 3 different blanks and even tried just running a Win95 floppy but I get the same error each time.

Bad floppy drive? Wouldn't be surprised, I haven't used it in ages.
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by:garycase
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Could very well be a bad drive ... although it sounds more like bad media.
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by:sublifer
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It does sound more like a bad floppy but I don't ever recall seeing an error that says "No ID address mark was found on the floppy disc."

Like Gary said before, have you tested the drive(s) in a good system? If the motherboard has croaked on that system then you're wasting a good bit of effort.

Could you upgrade the system with a "new" mb, cpu and ram? Of course anything new won't have support for Win95 so you'll have to do some digging to find something old enough that would have drivers for Win95.  How does the laser connect to the system? Do you know if the laser software runs on newer versions of windows, perhaps in compatibility mode? If it can at least be run on Win2000 it might not be so hard to find hardware to work with it.

I can see now why MS doesn't like to support older operating systems ;)
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by:quixys
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I had somewhat of a breakthrough!!!

I got it to recognize the replacement disc by using a different Molex power connection.

Here's where the trouble begins again. I am now getting three different versions of the same error when trying to boot with the new disc.

With no floppy in the drive I get:

Invalid system disk
Replace the disk, and then press any key

With Disc 1 of the Win95 OS I bought I get:

Not a system diskette: replace and press any key

With Blank media or the DOS or Win95 BOOT discs I created I get:

Non-System disk or disk error
Replace and strike any key when ready



Anyone have any suggestions at this point?
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by:quixys
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Sublifer:

The laser is apparently not compatible with any other version of Windows and the company that made it no longer supports it. It is custom wired to the Power Supply, the MB, and an expansion card that is attached to the MB.

I would have absolutely no idea where to start or where to find out about compatibility with the expansion card for other MBs  so that's probably not a realistic option at this point.
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by:garycase
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First, with regard to the 3 symptoms you get on attempting to boot ...

(1)  With no floppy in the drive I get:  Invalid system disk; Replace the disk, and then press any key

==> This is simply saying it tried to boot from the hard drive; and although it had an active partition; it isn't a correct bootable system.   If you wiped the hard drive (on another system) so it didn't have any active partitions, it would most likely give you the same error as #3 (although it depends on the BIOS exactly what it would say).

(2)  With Disc 1 of the Win95 OS I bought I get:  Not a system diskette: replace and press any key

==>  Self explanatory; and not surprising.

(3)  With Blank media or the DOS or Win95 BOOT discs I created I get:  Non-System disk or disk error
Replace and strike any key when ready

==>  Again, not surprising ... this time it's trying to boot from the floppy rather than the hard disk.  (I presume the BIOS is set to boot from the floppy first)


There's a couple things I'd try at this point => primarily to be sure you know just what hardware you're dealing with.   First, I'd try to boot from a KNOWN-bootable floppy.   An old MSDOS floppy would work; or you could simply download something like MemTest+ [http://www.memtest.org/download/2.11/memtest86+-2.11.floppy.zip ] and boot from that floppy.   Boot on another system first to test the floppy;  then try it on this system.   You MAY have a problem with the drive being single-sided (it IS a very old system).   If that's the case, you'll need a floppy that's formatted single-sided => you can create that on a newer system and make it DOS-bootable.

After you've confirmed that the floppy is/isn't working, I can suggest how you might proceed ... but first, a few other questions:

=>  Does the system have a CD drive?
=>  Do you have the installation media for the program that drives this laser system?   If not, it's not much use to get Windows 95 installed on it -- without the software that makes this unique system work, it's unlikely to be of much use.
=>  Is the special add-in card an ISA card?  (I suspect so)
=>  Can you tell exactly how many connections go directly to the motherboard and to what connectors?   I suspect these are simply to a serial or parallel port header ... but it would be nice to confirm this.   If that's all they are; and if you have the installation media for the software; then what you really need to repair this may simply be a motherboard with ISA slots [Which are relatively easy to find on ebay].
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by:quixys
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Ok, now that I realized I created my DOS floppy incorrectly, I am having a bit of luck.

However, I desperately need a Windows95 boot disc or image.

Can anyone help me out please?
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by:quixys
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Question solved. I have now gotten to the point where I am able to begin Win95 Setup.


Nothing but my lack of recently using DOS prevented me from doing so.



Most of the points will go to Gary for this one, but I appreciate everyone who tried to help.

Thanks again!
~Quixys


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by:quixys
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Can't thank you all enough for getting me through this!

What a nightmare!

LAST WIN95 SYSTEM I WILL EVER WORK ON!!!!
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by:garycase
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Saw your "desperately need a Windows 95 boot disk" note and finally dug out my (large) box of floppies => but by then you'd posted the "Question solved" note and clearly are well on the way to getting '95 installed.

Glad it's resolved => I'm sure all will be well once '95 is installed and you install the software for the laser (in reading through the thread I was reminded you already answered my question r.e. whether or not you had the software).

One thing I'd suggest:   After you get this installed and the laser software installed and working ... take the drive out; connect it to a spare IDE channel on another system; boot to a good imaging utility (I like Boot-It NG);  and make an Image of the fully configured hard drive.    Then burn a DVD with that image on it (and either keep it; or give it to the doc as a catastrophic backup.   Then if the drive should ever fail again, you need only attach a drive to a new system (with a DVD drive);  restore the image from the DVD to the "new" drive; plug the drive into the old system -- and you're done :-)
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by:quixys
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Gary,

That is a great idea. I actually have several spare drives since I bought a "lot" of old drives off of Ebay so I may actually go ahead and copy the image onto another drive and give it to him as a backup. That way he should be able to take it anywhere and have them install the drive. Although, after I've gone through all this trouble, it better be me he's taking his systems to!

Thanks again for all your help, couldn't have done it without you. Lol, actually, I was barely able to do it WITH you!
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by:sublifer
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Hope you charge this doctor an arm and a leg for getting this fixed for him.

One day maybe he'll learn that the cheaper option isn't that cheap after support is added in.
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