resurrecting a 386 IBM-PC compatible.... woes

The place to post if you need help or advice

Moderators: ChriThor, LXF moderators

resurrecting a 386 IBM-PC compatible.... woes

Postby kevingpo » Wed Aug 03, 2005 8:16 am

I have a 386 16MHz IBM-PC compatible (lol remember that jargon).

Due to the me not being able to upgrade my Windows 3.1 & DOS 6.2 to Windows XP I decided to install linux.

At first I did a format on the 40MB harddrive. However I went through the BIOS and selected this thing called "low-level format". After a very long time the PC seem to have hanged. So I did a forced/hard reboot. Now the harddrive doesn't work.

Does anyone know whether an interrupt during low-level format damaged the harddrive? Should I perform the low-level format again and leave it over night?

Otherwise, where can one get a 40MB or 80MB harddrive for a 386? I do want to install a larger hard drive but the BIOS/motherboard can't support harddrives greater than approx. 200MB or something.

Posts: 8
Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2005 10:25 pm

RE: resurrecting a 386 IBM-PC compatible.... woes

Postby Nigel » Wed Aug 03, 2005 9:07 am

How do you mean, "the harddrive doesn't work" ? Can you see it from the BIOS ?
I don't think that interrupting a low-level format will physically damage the disk, but it might leave it in an unusable state.So you probably should try running it again and leaving it until it has finished.
Although most manufacturers recommend that you never do this in the first place...

As to replacement drives - small capacity hard drives are getting increasingly rare - I had real problems finding one under 8Gb when I needed one recently :(
You might be able to find one on ebay.

If it's of any use, I have a 270Mb Fujitsu drive sat on my spares shelf that I'm not going to use again. It was last used about 18 months ago, and I think it still works. If you can't ressurect your current drive and you'd like it, send me a Private Message with your address and I'll send it on to you.
You may have to google for the settings to use in the BIOS - they're not printed on the drive itself and I don't know if I still have the spec sheet. It's a model M2681TAM.

You're going to have a lot of hassles trying to put any modern Linux distro onto a 40Mb drive anyway - even the 1997 Slackware/RedHat/Debian CD set I have recommends at least 100Mb. You will certainly be limited to command-line only stuff.
Hope this helps,

LXF regular
Posts: 1141
Joined: Fri Apr 08, 2005 8:03 pm
Location: Gloucestershire, UK

Postby dandnsmith » Thu Aug 04, 2005 7:39 am

There is a real chance that the drive is now not recoverable - in the BIOS for that era there was a 'low level format' option which a lot of manufacturers cautioned against using as it would mess things up (due to a change in the way the formatting and drive electronics were used).

I recently threw away a machine of higher spec than that which had been upgraded to 100MHz as being too non-upgradable, and too slow. For that I had bought a controller card to allow me to use Gigabyte HDDs - possibly you could pick one up.

Taking into account the desire to run linux, and the current state of your hardware, I would suggest you invest in somebody's throw-away PC if you want a cheap experimental PC - else you'll probably end up spending more just to get too-small a HDD, too little RAM, and too slow a PC for realistic use on even a minimal linux.
LXF regular
Posts: 322
Joined: Fri Apr 15, 2005 10:01 am
Location: Berks, UK

Postby AJB2K3 » Thu Aug 04, 2005 8:20 am

personelly i would be supprised to find anything above win 3.1 and dos 6.0 that will run,
the lost spec that worth fiddling with is 100mhz p1
low level format is used to clear bad sectors and is only for a last measure and it will take a long time if your in the uk i have a tosh laptop of around 10mhz +500mbhd+16>32mb ram email me if yor in the uk and want to by.
LXF regular
Posts: 175
Joined: Sat Jun 11, 2005 11:51 am

Postby crispibits » Thu Aug 04, 2005 8:41 pm

I think trying to install anything on a machine that old is to be applauded, but I'm sure I/we can help you out with something a bit better. If you're able to travel as far as Bath/Salisbury Plain I can give you something like a 500Mhz machine. Can't quite remember the specs, but my wife will be pleased to see one more bit of old kit go... Post here again if you're interested...
LXF regular
Posts: 201
Joined: Thu Jun 30, 2005 12:33 pm
Location: Bath

Postby kevingpo » Sun Aug 07, 2005 5:49 pm

I've taken pictures of my 386 insides (using mobile phone camera).

My 386 can't boot up. The message I get during bootup is "CMOS battery dead. Please replace or something".

I look inside and a label says "WARNING Replace battery chip with Dallas Semiconductor, model DS1287 only. Use of another battery may present a risk of fire or explosion. See owner's manual for safety instructions."

Damn, I don't have the manual.

The PC is a Zenith Data Systems, Z-386 SX.

If anyone has details on the motherboard spec. where I can get a new battery, or any upgrades for this 386 then I would be very grateful.

(PS: I think I need a new floppy as this one is busted :S Can I use any floppy disk drive?)
Posts: 8
Joined: Sun Jun 26, 2005 10:25 pm

Postby Erin » Mon Aug 08, 2005 5:17 pm

Just use a compatible battery. Ignore the warning. You'll probably need a suitably old floppy drive.

To be honest, admiration for trying but I'd give up. For the cost of a courier or a trp out west, there is a 500MHz PC on offer. You'll spend more getting the 3x86 going. Oh, try DSL or something similar. Think the expression involving flogging, dead and horse spring to mind.

Just beneath my skin I'm screaming. Faithless::Insomnia.
Dual PIII 550 with Ubuntu [semi-bleeding].
User avatar
LXF regular
Posts: 141
Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2005 7:35 pm
Location: The Olde Smoke south of the River

Postby crispibits » Mon Aug 08, 2005 8:13 pm

Hi Kevingpo,
I'm serious about the computer - free to a good home. If you *really* want to you could take the battery and floppy drive out of it and put them in the 386... :-)
I'm not a spammer - honest!
LXF regular
Posts: 201
Joined: Thu Jun 30, 2005 12:33 pm
Location: Bath

Return to Help!

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests