Ancient PC with Windows 98

time

Storage? I am Storage!
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#1
I was waiting at a workshop the other day and noticed an old monitor with "Please insert a disk into drive A:".

I explained to the owner what the message meant. He told me that he thought the PC was running Windows 98 - as originally supplied. Further investigation revealed an ancient motherboard with parallel IDE cables and two HDDs to match - no SATA obviously. Apparently, the main software only runs on Windows 98 ...

The owner had been faithfully backing up 20 years of data to what he thought was the second drive. I had my doubts - the BIOS couldn't find the second drive either. I turned it off for a minute, then back on, but still no HDDs, although it could see the CD drive.

I told him that he would have to hand the PC over to his regular computer guy, so they could see if the drive would power up one last time in a different PC and extract the data, but that more likely he was looking at losing everything.

I returned a few days later, and the PC was working. In a triumph of hope, the owner had turned it on, the main drive lurched to life and the PC booted into Windows. I was able to confirm that the main drive had three partitions and the second drive was dead, so he had been backing up to the same physical drive for years. There has never been a network connection.

I inserted a 32GB USB stick (FAT32) into the PC, but good ol' Windows 98SE wanted a driver. My memory stirred and the unpleasant realization dawned that Microsoft didn't really support USB before Windows 2000 (or Windows ME). I checked for a copy of Nero or similar, but no dice.

I found a generic storage driver that sometimes works with Windows 98SE - just need to burn it onto a CD. Small problem: the driver install restarts the PC, possibly twice. Does anyone here know what the odds are on the remaining HDD continuing to work after that?

Does anyone have any ideas on how to get data off this PC without a restart? I'm pretty sure I threw out my null modem cables some time ago, and 115200 baud can only transfer about 37MB / hour. No idea what software to use, that doesn't require a restart of f****** Windows.

Alternatively, is there a reasonable chance that the second drive is affecting detection of the first? Being IDE, the two are in a Master-Slave setup. I have no idea which physical drive is which because the ribbon cables are covering everything.

In any case, I thought people here might be at least a little impressed by a PC that's been working 5 days a week for 20 years. The owner thinks the hard drives were replaced some time back as a precaution (must have been 10+ years for IDE?). Apparently, the guy who changed them was stressed out about losing everything during the swap.
 

time

Storage? I am Storage!
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#3
That was my idea until it started working again. Now, if I do that and it never works again, my idea will look pretty stupid.
 

time

Storage? I am Storage!
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#4
I also just remembered that trying to use the network port is probably a bad idea because Windows 98 was horribly erratic with LAN file sharing. :(
 

Stereodude

Not really a
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#6
Windows 98SE definitely had USB support. Heck, Windows 95 OSR2.1 had USB support. File sharing worked okay with 98SE. I was using 10Mbit and then 100Mbit at the time.
 

LunarMist

I can't believe I'm a
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#7
It needs storage drivers. I used to have a whole folder of them back in the day. Sometimes one would work with one or more products or not. In any case they were a PITa.
 
Joined
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#8
I had to do something similar, ended up crossing my fingers and turning it off. Connected to an IDE-SATA adapter and imaged the drive to a file. Now runs as a virtual machine on newer hardware. In my case I felt it was worth it as they not only needed the data, but the software install (no disks and no vendor to contact), so I really needed to save the OS as well.
 

Santilli

Hairy Aussie
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Jan 27, 2002
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5,077
#9
Just because the ide standard says master and slave, it doesn't mean the chipset supports it.
My 2000 Dell had a chipset that only supported one drive per ide channel, and no one at Dell knew it, at least it took them 8 months to admit it.
So don't assume that the drive that doesn't work is dead, unless it's tested somewhere else.
 

jtr1962

Storage? I am Storage!
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Jan 25, 2002
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Flushing, New York
#10
Just because the ide standard says master and slave, it doesn't mean the chipset supports it.
My 2000 Dell had a chipset that only supported one drive per ide channel, and no one at Dell knew it, at least it took them 8 months to admit it.
So don't assume that the drive that doesn't work is dead, unless it's tested somewhere else.
Also, a lot of master/slave support was flaky at best. Some devices worked fine alone but didn't work once you added a slave. Others worked fine as masters, whether alone or with a slave, but didn't work at all as slaves. It's only safe to say the drive doesn't work at all if it's set as a master, and there isn't a slave.
 

sedrosken

Allergic to Sunlight
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The Sticks
#11
It's a bit ironic that of those here, I'm probably the best equipped to help, being that I regularly mess with equipment this geriatric.

Unfortunately while Windows 98 supports USB just fine as a whole, mass storage support needs a driver... and unfortunately 9x being as flaky in comparison to NT-based Windows as it is, it requires a reboot for driver installs.

What you might try instead is try a parallel cable with something like a mid-2000s Latitude running PCAnywhere or something, it'd at least be a stepping stone. If that's not an option, then your best bet has probably already been said -- a hail Mary and hooking the drive up to an external adapter.

Personally I've never had any issues with IDE devices on a Master/Slave setup until I started messing with this SD to IDE adapter I've got in Al-Jalima. Looking further into it, that's most likely because the chip on the adapter is only an SD to CF adapter, and CF is just compatible with IDE from the get-go -- with the big exception of Master/Slave configs, as generally it's wired as the master and only the master.
 

time

Storage? I am Storage!
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Jan 18, 2002
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Brisbane, Oz
#12
I finally got an update on this. As suspected, one of the two drives had failed and the master-slave arrangement intermittently interfered with the remaining drive.

The owner bought a second hand IDE drive and that's now his backup drive. All the historical backups were lost, of course, but that doesn't seem to be a problem for what he needs.

I suggested to him that virtualizing the Win98SE boot drive would be the best way forward - if it works. Anyone got any tips?

Just to illustrate the risks of out-of-date hardware, he bought a new 24" monitor because the old one was infested with vertical lines. Unfortunately, the integrated SiS motherboard graphics don't support anything other than 1024x768 or 1600x1200. The shiny new 1920x1080 monitor is stretching the 1024x768 image to fit - so it's nice and fuzzy with flattened text. :)
 

LunarMist

I can't believe I'm a
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Feb 1, 2003
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#13
The Eizo Flexscan S2133 (21" 1600x1200) is still around AFAIK. A more economical option would be to get a 24" 1920x1200 display and let the sides go black at 1600.
 
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