Vintage Computers — 7

Using the vboxmanage command I converted the new virtual disk to a raw disk image. I wanted to copy that image to the original Conner 540 MB hard disk that came with the 486.

The current office system has no support for PATA/IDE. One of the idle computers lying around has a 2.6 GHz AMD 5050e Dual Core CPU with 8 GB of RAM. Important to this project is support for PATA/IDE devices. The case has a removable disk tray installed. When the system was retired from being the office system I rigged the system for this kind of testing. The caveat is there is no permanent hard disk installed or operating system. I need to use a Live ISO image on a USB stick.

On the current office system I formatted a blank SATA II hard disk and copied the converted virtual disk image as a file. On the test system, using a Live ISO image and connecting both the SATA II and Conner hard disks, I powered on the system to copy the virtual disk image file to the Conner hard disk.

Try as I might the system refused to boot with the Conner hard disk connected.

Fiddling with the BIOS got the system to boot with the Conner disk connected. I had forgotten that the BIOS is quirky. Whenever a new disk is added and when the new disk is PATA/IDE the system won’t boot until manually configuring the disk boot order.

I discovered the PATA/IDE ribbon cable connector to the optical disk drive had broken, leaving the cable hanging. In the past I had experienced the drive not functioning but never bothered investigating. A replacement cable from the junk spares resolved the problem.

After booting with a Live ISO I again could not get the system to see the Conner disk.

I powered on the K6-III+ computer. The system only supports PATA/IDE disks and has a removable disk tray and 3.5 inch floppy drive. The system is slower than the AMD computer but is like an old pair of jeans — comfortable and reliable.

The K6-III+ system is configured to connect to the house network with access to shared directories. I copied the virtual disk image file to a network share and although slower with a 10/100 Mbps connection, soon had the Conner hard disk imaged.

I installed the Conner disk into the 486 system.

Finally. Success!

On the first boot of the day my original MS-DOS configuration runs the Norton Speedisk utility. Being spoiled by modern hardware I realized how comparatively slow the original 4500 RPM disk is. Hard to believe that once upon a time the disk was considered fast.

From the hard disk junk box I pulled the Maxtor 83201A6 3.2 GB disk that originally had been in the K6-III+ system with NT4. I repeated the imaging steps.

The disk was nominally faster but still slow by modern standards.

I had a functional hard disk with only the MS-DOS and Windows for Workgroups (WFWG) operating system. Being basically a clone of the previous hard disk, the system also was part of the house network. There is no SSH or remote access other than shared files, but the system can access network shares across the network.

After defragmenting the hard disk, I realized subsequent passes were faster. That would have been true with the original Conner 540 MB disk too, but I was not going to repeat the steps.

I considered repeating the steps with the 20 GB disk. That disk spins at 5400 RPM. During the years the disk was installed I remember the Norton Speedisk running faster. Seems like a lot of wasted disk space though with the BIOS and FAT16 limitations. For now the system remained as is.

More to come.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: General

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