Old MFM Hard Drive, how to access?

Discussion about old PC hardware.

Old MFM Hard Drive, how to access?

Postby PTherapist » 2018-2-01 @ 18:39

I have an old Seagate ST-225 Hard Drive, with an 8-bit ISA "LCS-6210D Rev. A3" controller card. These 2 were paired up in an original 8088-based motherboard that hasn't worked in years.

Numerous times I've tried the drive & card in more modern PCs and mostly recently I tried it on an IBM 5160 XT motherboard, but nothing seems able to access it. On 1 system I tried it in, I ran several system info tools and 1 of them (either Astra or HWInfo) showed an entry for "MFM Hard Drive" but that's about it, still no way of accessing the drive.

The controller card itself has 1 jumper, which seems to set the options - Base address C8000h or Base address E8000h. Neither makes any difference.

At a guess this card perhaps lacks a BIOS/boot ROM and it may have been controlled from the original motherboard.

Any suggestions? I don't even know if the hard drive still works as it hasn't been used in a working system in over 20 years.
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Re: Old MFM Hard Drive, how to access?

Postby chartreuse » 2018-2-01 @ 18:56

Does the drive spin up and seek the heads when the computer starts up? That would indicate that boot ROM is doing something. That jumper should be for setting the address of the boot ROM. What you could do to see if the rom is present is to try and open the low-level format utility from the ROM (if it has one). https://kb.iu.edu/d/aaoa you can try a few of the addresses listed there to see if you can get into some kind of utility. Ideally if the ROM is working it should hook itself into the BIOS to provide for a hard drive, and should show up in fdisk.
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Re: Old MFM Hard Drive, how to access?

Postby Predator99 » 2018-2-01 @ 19:37

Boot from Floppy and run SSTOR. Best MFM tools I have seen so far. Performs a controller check, low level Format, interleave setting etc. No need for a BIOS to be installed.

mfm.zip
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Re: Old MFM Hard Drive, how to access?

Postby derSammler » 2018-2-01 @ 19:45

Does that "LCS-6210D Rev. A3" controller card actually has a BIOS chip on it? Otherwise, you won't ever be able to access the hard disk from an 5160.
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Re: Old MFM Hard Drive, how to access?

Postby Predator99 » 2018-2-01 @ 20:13

As said, you dont need a ROM to test.

First verify that controller+drive works with SSTOR.

If yes and you dont have a ROM for booting you can download it here
http://minuszerodegrees.net/rom/rom.htm
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Re: Old MFM Hard Drive, how to access?

Postby PTherapist » 2018-2-01 @ 22:28

When switched on the drive spins up and makes the normal sounds it always did.

Just had a play around with SSTOR. Wouldn't run on my XT, I just got "program too big to fit in memory", so tried on my 286 but it only detected the IDE controller & IDE drive, no MFM.
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Re: Old MFM Hard Drive, how to access?

Postby Jo22 » 2018-2-02 @ 02:48

PTherapist wrote:Just had a play around with SSTOR. Wouldn't run on my XT, I just got "program too big to fit in memory",
so tried on my 286 but it only detected the IDE controller & IDE drive, no MFM.

Sometimes, these 8-Bit controllers don't work properly in PC/AT style systems (that's not what they were made for).
IRQs are different (PC:IRQ5 for HDD, AT:IRQ5 for LPT2/SoundBlaster), BIOS gets in the way (->IDE support),
different port adresses are in use, etc.

Speaking of IDE support, that's the same piece of code that that controls MFM/RLL drives
(16-Bit MFM controllers often do NOT contain an Option- ROM because of this)..

And if the Option-ROM works,it may or may not take over the boot sequence.
Which means, it will try to boot from the MFM/RLL drive.
You maybe can't access your IDE drive then.

As for the memory error, just try different versions of DOS.
I do not know anything about that program, but DOS 2.11, 3.3 and 5.0/6.x
are generally good choices. :)

Edit: I forgot. I once took a video abot a Pentium PC that booted off a ST506 drive with an 8-Bit controller card.
According to my own description, it worked only if the primary IDE channel was disabled.
It can be seen here: http://youtu.be/irtDxYman88
Last edited by Jo22 on 2018-2-08 @ 18:13, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Old MFM Hard Drive, how to access?

Postby Predator99 » 2018-2-02 @ 08:28

PTherapist wrote:When switched on the drive spins up and makes the normal sounds it always did.

Just had a play around with SSTOR. Wouldn't run on my XT, I just got "program too big to fit in memory", so tried on my 286 but it only detected the IDE controller & IDE drive, no MFM.


In the XT: Tried to start without TSRs (press F8 at boot)? The program is only 200k as far as I remeber? I think I never tested it in a XT. But in my 286 it runs with DOS 6.22.

In the 286: Remove the IDE controller or disable in BIOS if integrated. Connect the Floppy to the MFM controller. With this you already have a first test if the Floppy interface is working.

Its possible to have both, MFM + IDE running in a 286, at least with XT-IDE.
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Re: Old MFM Hard Drive, how to access?

Postby tayyare » 2018-2-02 @ 13:44

I don't know about an XT (it should probably require an MFM/RLL controller with a boot BIOS) but I used MFM/RLL drives in both 286 and 386 machines with controllers without their own BIOS. It's not any different than installing an IDE HDD and controller into an 386 or 286 anyway. Just choose the drive type from the PC BIOS (or enter parameters using "user type" option - though I'm sure a drive like ST-225 would have its own entry in drive type list of any 386 BIOS) and choose boot from C:.

If the hardware is still in working condition, it should work. I also suggest older versions of Ontrack DıskManager software for trouble shooting purposes.
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Re: Old MFM Hard Drive, how to access?

Postby derSammler » 2018-2-02 @ 14:05

tayyare wrote:I don't know about an XT (it should probably require an MFM/RLL controller with a boot BIOS) but I used MFM/RLL drives in both 286 and 386 machines with controllers without their own BIOS. It's not any different than installing an IDE HDD and controller into an 386 or 286 anyway. Just choose the drive type from the PC BIOS (or enter parameters using "user type" option - though I'm sure a drive like ST-225 would have its own entry in drive type list of any 386 BIOS) and choose boot from C:.

If the hardware is still in working condition, it should work. I also suggest older versions of Ontrack DıskManager software for trouble shooting purposes.

Actually, the BIOS in an AT expects the hard disk controller on different resources than what an 8-bit MFM/RLL controller uses. When IDE was developed, it was made backwards compatible to ST-506/412 by emulating a WD1006 (16-bit, this became ATA). An 8-bit controller however uses the same resources as what was later known as XTA (emulating a WD1002).

I'd like to see a picture of the controller card. It must have a BIOS, unless it's from some custom system and not meant for usage in any PC compatible.
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Re: Old MFM Hard Drive, how to access?

Postby Predator99 » 2018-2-02 @ 14:57

derSammler wrote:
tayyare wrote:I don't know about an XT (it should probably require an MFM/RLL controller with a boot BIOS) but I used MFM/RLL drives in both 286 and 386 machines with controllers without their own BIOS. It's not any different than installing an IDE HDD and controller into an 386 or 286 anyway. Just choose the drive type from the PC BIOS (or enter parameters using "user type" option - though I'm sure a drive like ST-225 would have its own entry in drive type list of any 386 BIOS) and choose boot from C:.

If the hardware is still in working condition, it should work. I also suggest older versions of Ontrack DıskManager software for trouble shooting purposes.

Actually, the BIOS in an AT expects the hard disk controller on different resources than what an 8-bit MFM/RLL controller uses. When IDE was developed, it was made backwards compatible to ST-506/412 by emulating a WD1006 (16-bit, this became ATA). An 8-bit controller however uses the same resources as what was later known as XTA (emulating a WD1002).

I'd like to see a picture of the controller card. It must have a BIOS, unless it's from some custom system and not meant for usage in any PC compatible.


I dont know about 8-bit controllers but I can confirm a 16-bit MFM/RLL controller works in a 286 without Controller-BIOS. The 286 detects both, IDE and MFM hard disks and boots from them. But not at the same time, this only works with XT-IDE.
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Re: Old MFM Hard Drive, how to access?

Postby PTherapist » 2018-2-02 @ 20:27

This is the card:
https://imgur.com/ekaW8EJ

And found this info: http://stason.org/TULARC/pc/hard-disk-f ... v-201.html

The card comes from an old Jaton JXM-JET 88-V2 motherboard, which was PC compatible.

I tried again in my 286 with the IDE controller removed. I just get a "Hard Disk Controller failure" message at boot, with F1 to resume boot from floppy. The AMI BIOS on this 286 has no options for custom heads/cyl etc, so I selected a HDD Type which is closest in specs, makes no difference however. SpeedStor can't detect anything.

Interestingly, when I remove the jumper from the controller card (which sets BIOS base address C8000h), the 286 won't boot at all if the CPU is running at 12MHz, I have to use Turbo to run at 6MHz or it gets stuck trying to load the AMI BIOS at POST. When jumpered (BIOS base address E8000h) it boots at either speed. Not sure if that is relevant, but certainly interesting, either way the controller isn't being detected.
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Re: Old MFM Hard Drive, how to access?

Postby Jo22 » 2018-2-02 @ 21:11

PTherapist wrote:The card comes from an old Jaton JXM-JET 88-V2 motherboard, which was PC compatible.

Looks good, cute card. My XT clone has got a similar card. :)
PTherapist wrote:I tried again in my 286 with the IDE controller removed. I just get a "Hard Disk Controller failure" message at boot, with F1 to resume boot from floppy. The AMI BIOS on this 286 has no options for custom heads/cyl etc, so I selected a HDD Type which is closest in specs, makes no difference however. SpeedStor can't detect anything.

Does that mean you also tried it with HDD type=None ?
Since the card has its own BIOS, there's no need to configure anyhting in the main BIOS. :)
The drive geometry was stored on the MFM/RLL drives itself, by the prevoius owner who once ran
the low-level format program that can be invoked via DEBUG (often g=c800:5.)
ftp://ftp.seagate.com/techsuppt/misc/format.txt
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Re: Old MFM Hard Drive, how to access?

Postby Jo22 » 2018-2-08 @ 17:59

Predator99 wrote:I dont know about 8-bit controllers but I can confirm a 16-bit MFM/RLL controller works in a 286 without Controller-BIOS.
The 286 detects both, IDE and MFM hard disks and boots from them. But not at the same time, this only works with XT-IDE.

Yes, that's true. It can handle both flavors (both use WD100x controller "language"). Mixing them is tricky, thought (say C:MFM/ST506, D:IDE).
XT-IDE Universal BIOS has the ability to pass the boot process to an existing int 13h handler, I believe.
So you can let the system BIOS or the controller BIOS handle the older MFM/RLL disk and let IDE up to the XT-IDE BIOS.
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Re: Old MFM Hard Drive, how to access?

Postby PTherapist » 2018-3-13 @ 22:35

Finally got around to having another look at this today and I've achieved some success at last.

You won't believe what was wrong, I can barely believe it myself. I decided to try replacing the BIOS chip and that's when I spotted it - the damn chip was in the wrong way round! :exclamation: - I'm an idiot (at least my younger self was).

Reinserted the chip the correct way round and what do you know - the hard drive is working and booting into MS-DOS 6.20 on my XT! :lol:

Lots of "data error reading drive c" messages, indicating this drive has some issues, but it's fun to be able to access most of my old stuff again.
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Re: Old MFM Hard Drive, how to access?

Postby luckybob » 2018-3-14 @ 01:48

PTherapist wrote:Finally got around to having another look at this today and I've achieved some success at last.

You won't believe what was wrong, I can barely believe it myself. I decided to try replacing the BIOS chip and that's when I spotted it - the damn chip was in the wrong way round! :exclamation: - I'm an idiot (at least my younger self was).

Reinserted the chip the correct way round and what do you know - the hard drive is working and booting into MS-DOS 6.20 on my XT! :lol:

Lots of "data error reading drive c" messages, indicating this drive has some issues, but it's fun to be able to access most of my old stuff again.


You lucky fuck!

As far as the data errors. Get the data you want off. Then you should low level format the drive, high level format, then reinstall dos.

if you don't know how to LLF a MFM drive on an XT: http://www.vcfed.org/forum/showthread.p ... Hard-Drive
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Re: Old MFM Hard Drive, how to access?

Postby PTherapist » 2018-3-19 @ 22:45

luckybob wrote:You lucky fuck!

As far as the data errors. Get the data you want off. Then you should low level format the drive, high level format, then reinstall dos.

if you don't know how to LLF a MFM drive on an XT: http://www.vcfed.org/forum/showthread.p ... Hard-Drive


Thanks for the info, I finally got around to trying this at last.

I had some trouble initially, where running "g=c800:5" would freeze the system or just return garbage. I thought I'd post the solution in case anybody else encounters this LCS-6210D card and the same problem - basically you have to remove the jumper which changes the Base Address to E8000h and then the above command in DEBUG will work fine. Personally, I've left it at E8000h and it's working fine in my XT.

After regular format it came back 113KB in bad sectors, but it seems to be working ok. I did receive a data error when copying a file earlier, but it retried and carried on and I haven't noticed any further errors yet. I'll have to keep an eye on it, there's probably some physical damage from it being knocked about over the years in storage and you can certainly guarantee it was never parked before storage either.
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Re: Old MFM Hard Drive, how to access?

Postby luckybob » 2018-3-19 @ 23:28

It is "normal" to have bad sectors on old MFM drives. They should even be written on the drive itself. That said, if the bad sectors change in ANY way, the drive is about to go.
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