VOGONS


First post, by JohnSmith486

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Hey there. New to the forums. Hopefully we can share some insights.

So, I'm restoring an old system of mine which has everything installed and (hopefully) functional except that it's missing a hard drive. Looking around the market around where I live, it has become clear to me that low capacity IDE hard drives are not as easy to source as they were years ago (it's been a while!)

I've researched around a bit and I ran into the topic of BIOS HDD size limitations in older machines. Indeed, looking around the BIOS settings of the machine, the maximum values it allows me to manually input are:
Cylinders: 1024
Heads: 255
Sectors: 63
Which it says calculates to a size of: 8423MB

Based on my knowledge so far, I've come to the conclusion that my options for storage are:
1. An old hard drive. It would probably have to be IDE, which seem to be harder to find. This would not be optimal I think because first of all, the drives are really expensive for what they are and they're becoming really old so who knows when they will fail even if I get a working one. I do have an SATA->IDE Adapter which I'm planning to use in another machine, but I'm not sure if there even exist SATA HDDs which are smaller than 8GB.
2. Used <8GB SATA SSD. They seem to be quite hard to find, at least I could not find any in my home country at the moment, so I'd have to import. Well it just seems kind of a waste to combine such fast technology with such old hardware that will never be able to keep up, heh. But the main issue I've read is that old OSs and SSDs are not a good match cause they wear through the drive quickly..?
3. Compact Flash. Now the good thing with this is that the adapters and the cards are available where I live. It seems promising, but I read some info that the cards would have to be in "fixed disk" mode to be able to boot from, and changing the cards which are sold new from "removable media" to "fixed disk" is hard or impossible. Is this true? Or is it only for newer OS's? If the fixed disk thing is irrelevant, this might be my preferred option since I've read that CF & IDE have very similar tech behind them, and I'd prefer the adapter to be as simple as possible.
4. SD Card. Well, the adapters are not sold where I am but I could import, and I do have a couple of old 2GB micro-SD cards from old phones and the full size adapter... I've read though that the performance might not be as good and they're not as well suited to this task since the conversion is more complicated. I dunno.
5. Something else? Maybe it is possible to forcefully limit hard drive size so that the bios would recognize a larger disk? Or is this a gamble if it'll work or not...

The OS I'm most likely planning to install is Win98 SE. The computer has a CD drive but it has two IDE ports; from what I've seen SD card adapters don't seem to have a master/slave switch, so it wouldn't be a problem in this case.

Any thoughts and advice on this will be appreciated.

Reply 1 of 10, by Doornkaat

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Welcome to the forum.😃 Have you heard of the XTIDE project? They effectively designed an option ROM that helps bypass several BIOS HDD limitations. If you haven't you should check it out and see if it's for you. 👍

Reply 2 of 10, by Joseph_Joestar

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JohnSmith486 wrote on 2021-11-23, 12:49:

3. Compact Flash. Now the good thing with this is that the adapters and the cards are available where I live. It seems promising, but I read some info that the cards would have to be in "fixed disk" mode to be able to boot from, and changing the cards which are sold new from "removable media" to "fixed disk" is hard or impossible. Is this true? Or is it only for newer OS's? If the fixed disk thing is irrelevant, this might be my preferred option since I've read that CF & IDE have very similar tech behind them, and I'd prefer the adapter to be as simple as possible.

I use a CF to IDE adapter and two CF cards on my Pentium MMX 166 system (link in signature). Works like a charm.

Never had any problems with the "removable media" flag, but my CF cards are fairly old, in case that matters.

PC#1: Pentium MMX 166 / Soyo SY-5BT / S3 Trio64V+ / Voodoo1 / OPTi 82C930 / AWE64 Gold / SC-155
PC#2: AthlonXP 1700+ / Abit KT7A / Voodoo3 / SBLive / Vortex2
PC#3: Athlon64 3000+ / Asus K8V-MX / GeForce4 / Audigy1
PC#4: i5-3550P / MSI Z77A-G43 / GTX 650Ti / X-Fi

Reply 3 of 10, by JohnSmith486

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Doornkaat wrote on 2021-11-23, 16:06:

Welcome to the forum.😃 Have you heard of the XTIDE project? They effectively designed an option ROM that helps bypass several BIOS HDD limitations. If you haven't you should check it out and see if it's for you. 👍

I have not, thank you for the information. Looks like I'll have to study that a bit. I'm quite wary of flashing bioses unless as a last resort, but it could be an option.

Joseph_Joestar wrote on 2021-11-23, 16:16:

I use a CF to IDE adapter and two CF cards on my Pentium MMX 166 system (link in signature). Works like a charm.

Never had any problems with the "removable media" flag, but my CF cards are fairly old, in case that matters.

Hmm. Good to know. I'm not very sure about the whole removable media/fixed disk thing and how much it comes into play. I read somewhere that on older cards you were able to change it easily but on newer ones, at least consumer models from Sandisk and Transcend, you cannot do that or at least you're not supposed to be able to. Then again I read that it supposedly only applies to newer operating systems. We'll see.

In any case thank you too for the info. On a related note your P166 system looks somewhat similar in specs to mine. Used to have a Syncmaster CRT like that, rip. I also have a Voodoo 2 in it, and the AWE 64. I'm actually mostly interested in MIDI composing on this PC at the moment, just for the fun of it. I remember AWE64 having quite appealing MIDI capabilities. It's been years since I've last turned this system on, maybe even a decade. Surprised to see it still boots perfectly, even the CMOS battery works haha.

Reply 4 of 10, by maxtherabbit

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The removable media flag is 100% not relevant in DOS and windows 9x. Now, you can run into other problems using a CF card with certain BIOSes, like the BIOS forcing multi-sector transfers that the card does not support for example.

Reply 5 of 10, by JohnSmith486

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Nice, that is good to know! Thanks for the info. Regarding that bios multi-sector transfer thing, I looked around and found another thread here where they talked about it.

I can't find IDE HDD Block Mode or anything about multi-sector transfers in the BIOS. Does the lack of this setting mean that it's most likely not something I have to worry about? Here's a couple of photos:

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Reply 6 of 10, by chinny22

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You have a few more options
You can use a modern SATA drive with an adapter and either limit the capacity with something like seatools or use the full capacity using dive overlay software.
Phil did a video on the options
https://youtu.be/Edmg43t28jg

Personally for dos only rigs I find 8GB enough and like CF cards. SD also looks good but haven't tried it out yet .
I do have a 486 that maxed out at 500MB which wasn't enough. Drive overlay software worked well for me.

9x rigs I like spinning rust and used IDE to SATA adapter.

Reply 7 of 10, by JohnSmith486

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Thanks for the input. Limiting capacities sounds like a potential option. I have another older machine (Athlon 1000) which uses IDE but has the HDD capacity capping out at ~500 GB. I'm getting a hard drive for that PC anyway so maybe I'll test around the limiting software after looking more thoroughly into it.

I enjoy Phil's content a lot, I've probably seen that video at some point and then forgot about it heh. I'll give it a watch when I have the time.

Reply 8 of 10, by trozx

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FWIW - I used an Innodisk cfast 3me3 industrial SSD for my Socket7 DOS 6.22 only build. I chose these mainly because I had them laying around from a few years ago. There are a wide range of capacities 8, 16, 32 GB etc. If you do go this route you will need a few adapters - IDE to SATA, CFAST to Micro SATA, Micro SATA to SATA. However, you might be able to find a single adapter to do it all. These SSDs are very durable and the wear leveling is good, regardless of OS used.

Reply 9 of 10, by dormcat

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You can also try looking for disk on module (DOM): industrial grade flash drives that connect directly to IDE or SATA connectors. They are very durable and compatible, but file transfer can be a bit more troublesome than CF or SD cards.