Reviving a Compaq P3 Deskpro that's crashed and died

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Reviving a Compaq P3 Deskpro that's crashed and died

Postby Andrew T. » 2019-6-01 @ 22:42

I own a Pentium III-based Compaq Deskpro EN system from 2000. This is no retro build: I've had this computer for more than 15 years, and when it came into my hands in 2003 it was merely an off-lease used machine...that so happened to come with legacy ports, ISA slots, and Windows 95 drivers! My eye was on the past even then.

I had upgraded and adapted the configuration over the years. At one point I added a second 40GB Seagate hard drive (partitioned as two, to get around Win95's 32GB limit). I installed Windows 2000 on this second drive, giving myself a dual-boot configuration with Windows 95 OSR2 remaining on the original Maxtor 10GB disk.

Today, however, the old Maxtor finally gave up the ghost. After booting Windows 95 this morning and working on it for several hours without incident, the hard drive abruptly started to emit a series of repetitive clicks and all action on-screen froze in its tracks. The instant I saw and heard this cataphony, I knew exactly what happened: The hard drive failed on my well-worn 2002 Dell laptop several years ago, and it froze and clicked at the instant of failure in the exact same way.

I turned off the computer. Upon power-up, the primary HD clicked as before and failed to spin. Neither primary nor secondary drive was detected by CMOS, and the words "1782-Disk Controller Failure" appeared in their place.

I'm not surprised that this happened. The Maxtor drive is 19 years old, it's been booted literally thousands of times, and it's exceeded its expected lifespan many times over. And though I'm bummed out, this isn't an irrecoverable tragedy. I have backups of my data (though not backups of the disk images themselves), and I had a habit of saving important files to the newer, secondary hard drive anyway.

But, I need to decide what to do next...

* Would it be possible to revive the Maxtor long enough to make one final backup? My hopes aren't high, but I have nothing to lose.
* In the short term, I'd be happy getting Windows 2000 booting on the existing secondary drive.
* In the long term, I'd like to restore Windows 95...and find a larger compatible replacement drive that would last for years to come.
* It's also been 3-4 years since I last tinkered with hardware and OS installation, so any tips or refreshers would be great.
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Close-up of the drive cage
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Computer with case off, booting from the Windows 2000 CD in the midst of postmortem testing.
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Re: Reviving a Compaq P3 Deskpro that's crashed and died

Postby Caluser2000 » 2019-6-02 @ 00:26

If it does kick into life for some reason you might have some luck with a linux distro booting off cd like Clonezilla. Opening it up and trying to get it to spin might be worth a shot.
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Re: Reviving a Compaq P3 Deskpro that's crashed and died

Postby Andrew T. » 2019-6-02 @ 18:51

No luck on reviving the old drive (my hopes aren't high that anything would work)...but I rejigged the jumpers, reinstalled Windows 2000 onto the hitherto-secondary drive, and can boot up the computer again!

I don't think I want to leave it in this configuration forever, though. Windows 2000 has a few advantages, but it's an OS caught in a bind of compromise: Not old enough to be as simple and as compatible with DOS/16-bit apps as Windows 95, and no longer new enough to be practical as an everyday, Internet-connected OS. During the period when I had a 95/2000 dual-boot configuration, I booted to Windows 95 80% of the time and used 2000 for syncing my digital camera and not much else.

I'd like to get Windows 95 running again...but doing so might be easier said than done. Long-gone are the days when HP kept Win95 Compaq driver downloads on their website, and I'd prefer to avoid having to install from a floppy disk if at all possible.
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Re: Reviving a Compaq P3 Deskpro that's crashed and died

Postby Caluser2000 » 2019-6-02 @ 23:59

HPs ftp site will have the drivers for your system.
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Re: Reviving a Compaq P3 Deskpro that's crashed and died

Postby Andrew T. » 2019-6-03 @ 03:28

Caluser2000 wrote:HPs ftp site will have the drivers for your system.

Let me confess: I didn't believe you. After all HP says they've removed support content from their website for products more than ten years old, and their FTP site is an impenetrable fog. But after finding this thread and combing around a while, I think I found the audio and video drivers I was looking for...still online after all these years! This is great!

But I do wonder if it's necessary. I might have an easier time extracting drivers from my backup of the original Win95 installation.
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Re: Reviving a Compaq P3 Deskpro that's crashed and died

Postby Caluser2000 » 2019-6-03 @ 05:46

HP still has setup programs and drivers for much older Compaq models there.
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Re: Reviving a Compaq P3 Deskpro that's crashed and died

Postby detritus olentus » 2019-6-03 @ 14:29

This program can be used to identify built-in and PCI devices if that's of any use to you. I've had good luck using it on 95 and 98. Then you can use your favorite driver database to search for them (I use driverguide though I know some aren't a fans).

http://majorgeeks.com/files/details/unknown_devices.html
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Re: Reviving a Compaq P3 Deskpro that's crashed and died

Postby Andrew T. » 2019-6-04 @ 03:21

Update...

Tonight, I decided to install Windows 95 on the system. Using my Windows 7 laptop, I tried burning an image of a Windows 95 boot floppy to a CD-R. It worked! And within minutes, my old system was booting Windows 95 again!

Unfortunately, I hit a snag trying to get my 3Com 3C905 network card working again. After spending all evening fumbling around with the driver CD, diagnostic utility, and Windows network settings only to be rewarded with a BSOD for my effort, I checked the support documentation...and it turns out that I need to remove the card from the computer, run a preinstallation program, then physically reseat the card before I can even worry about installing the driver! It's been so long since I last installed Windows 95 that I had forgotten how finicky and idiosyncratic some pieces of compatible hardware can be.
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Re: Reviving a Compaq P3 Deskpro that's crashed and died

Postby Caluser2000 » 2019-6-04 @ 05:17

Cool,
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Re: Reviving a Compaq P3 Deskpro that's crashed and died

Postby Andrew T. » 2019-6-04 @ 16:27

*Sigh*

I think I can officially say that the "snag" has turned into a "tear." I followed the instructions in my 3Com 3C905 documentation to a T: Run the preinstallation program, install the card, then let Windows detect the hardware and configure the driver. It threw a BSOD in my face relating to one of the associated driver files, El90xbc4.sys. Again.

If I boot to safe mode, remove the device from Device Manager, and reboot, Windows automatically detects the card, finds the driver (again), and throws the El90xbc4.sys BSOD in my face. Again.

I thought that Windows may have been picking up incompatible drivers from the remnants of the previous day's Win2000 installation...so I wiped that folder, cleaned out all traces of the driver, and tried again. No dice.

I had an Iomega Buz controller card installed in the system that I hadn't used in years, so I removed it on the chance that it was causing resource conflicts. No dice.

Next step of troubleshooting will be to reinstall Windows with the card out of the system.

I've been using Windows 95 for over 20 years and this network card for more than 15, but I've never gone though what I'm going through now.

If I can't get this working, I'll reinstall Windows 2000. Again.
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Re: Reviving a Compaq P3 Deskpro that's crashed and died

Postby Andrew T. » 2019-6-05 @ 00:02

And yet another update...

I spent several hours today trying to figure out why I couldn't use my network card, and trying to eliminate sources of conflict and incompatibility. All evidence initially pointed to the card itself being the source of my problems: If I disabled it in Device Manager, Windows booted properly. If I enabled it, Windows BSOD'd immediately. This was even though it had worked perfectly up to the moment I installed Windows 95!

Digging deeper, I made additional observations. If I removed TCP/IP from the Network Configuration tab in Control Panel, the computer booted correctly. If I added it back, it hanged on the shutdown screen and BSOD'd on the next boot. Booting into Safe Mode with Network Support, however, always worked. Enabling TCP/IP for the 3Com network card whilst removing it for my (non-existent) Dial-Up Adapter also worked...once. I tried that, and found that I could start pinging domains and releasing and renewing IPs! Yet the next time I booted, it was BSOD as usual.

Finally, out of desperation, I happened upon an unofficial Windows 95 OSR2 'service pack' in my archived downloads. This was just a bundle of updates including Winsock 2, DCOM, WMP 6.4, and a few other odds and ends I'd eventually end up installing eventually anyway.

Much to my surprise, this solved my problem. I'm now online in Windows 95. Better yet, I can use file sharing again to quickly move drivers and installers between computers! With a little luck, it'll be smooth sailing from here on out.

I found the compatible video drivers on HP's FTP in the form of SP12917. For audio, I scrounged up drivers for the integrated ESS1869 from another source.
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