Hard drive not detected in 486

I'm using a 1993 80486 computer with Windows 3.1. I acquired it recently and the date was incorrect. I used DOS to reset the date and then entered the Date command again to see if it was correct. It was but I was asked to enter a new date but since it was correct, I turned the computer off. When starting it again I got a message that there was no operating system. I tried installing Windows 3.1 again and it said it couldn't create the Windows folder. The hard disk is listed in the bios. I was able to use the dir C:\ command and I could see the contents then after Windows couldn't install, I used the command again it wouldn't work. Any ideas of what I can do?

I need the old computer because a piece of equipment attached to it needs a ISA expansion slot.

Thanks
Reply to stevel55
21 answers Last reply
More about hard drive detected 486
  1. When attempting to reinstall Windows 3.1, did you format the hard drive again?

    Scratch that. When you started to reinstall DOS, did you reformat the hard drive?

    -Wolf sends
    Reply to Wolfshadw
  2. would help if you listed the motherboard maker or computer model and the Hard Drive model

    your " i have some system using some motherboard with some drive" and it is not working help me really does not
    provide much to go on

    systems from the 486 era had a bios for predefined drives and a manual drive settings entry

    also a drive could have 2 different settings listed in the bios one for the real drives settings IE- what the drive actually had in regards to heads/cylinders/sectors and a "LBA" mode

    small capacity drives 10-20meg can be/use either and larger will usually use the LBA mode

    you can format a drive with either method, But,........
    the thing most people don't realise is that real/LBA settings are not interchangeable once you have formatted a drive
    you must use the same bios settings

    last, are you installing windows 3.1 from disk or CD
    Reply to groves.damien
  3. Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I apologize for not giving more information.

    The computer is a Gateway 2000 4SX-33
    I don't know what brand the hard drive is. It's hard to get at and I have some deadlines and don't have time to figure out how to take it out right now. I was able to get some information on it when I was given the option to press F2 to get in to setup.

    Type 2 was listed as the hard drive type. I used help and took the following notes about the hard drive.
    Cyl 617, HD 4, Pre 300, LZ 615, Sec 17, Size 20

    My notes from the first page say:
    80486
    Bios Version 1.01

    During boot up it says:

    Phoenix Bios (TM) A486 Bersion 1.01
    LP486 i1 OPT i 495
    Reference ID 07

    Missing Operating System

    I can boot from my DOS 6 installation disk.
    I can get the contents of A: using the dir command and I can switch from A:> to C:> but when I enter "C:\>dir" I get:

    Invalid media type reading drive C.
    Abort, Retry, Fail?

    No, I didn't try to format the hard drive. I was hoping to keep the programs that are on the hard drive. Before I do that I want to remove the drive and try to copy the contents to another drive.

    I tried installing Windows 3.1 from 3 1/2 in. floppy disks but the computer couldn't read the disk so I tried installing DOS 6 from disks I also got with the computer. That worked until the last disk and several files towards the end couldn't be read.

    Today I got some Windows 3.1 disks that worked but I got an error message that It couldn't create C:\Windows

    I hope this helps. Thanks for your input.
    Reply to stevel55
  4. You recorded the info that your HDD is a Type 2. Was that info displayed when you FIRST turned it on and it booted into DOS? OR, was that displayed to you AFTER the system failed to recognize the drive?

    In machines of that era, you had to manually enter the HDD parameters, as you have listed them, in the first screen of BIOS Setup in order for the BIOS to know how to deal with the drive. The short-cut was that there were 46 (I think) pre-defined sets of parameters and you could just enter the Drive Type number. (To enter a custom set of parameters, you used the very last Drive Type.) The parameters you show above do work out to a 20 MB HDD, which matches the Size you have recorded.

    What may have happened is that the battery on the mobo that backs up the BIOS' configuration RAM has gone dead, so it resets itself to a default set of values. That MAY include NO info for the HDD or maybe a default setting that is wrong. So you need to enter that info on the first BIOS Setup screen so the BIOS can access the drive. IF you do that and then SAVE and EXIT from Setup, watch carefully whether it can read the HDD and boot. If it can, do NOT write anything to the drive at first. Try reading as much as you can of the drive's contents to satisfy yourself that the BIOS really IS reading the drive correctly. If you entered the wrong set of HDD parameters on that first screen, either it will not read the HDD at all (and hence fail to boot), or it might read a bit of it and then get mostly un-readable errors. If you get that indication of wrong drive parameters, do NOT write anything to the drive. Just back out and shut down.

    By far the SUREST way to get the correct HDD parameters is to pull the drive partly out of the case so you can read its label. Drives at that time had their parameters - like the ones you listed - printed on their labels so you could not lose them. Once you have that from the label, re-install the HDD and use them on the first page of Setup.

    Now, once you have the HDD parameters correct so that the machine can read it, what to do about the battery situation? That might be tricky. We are all used to a silver oxide battery about the size of a quarter in a holder on the mobo, and accept that they need to be replaced after several years. But before that design (about up to early 90's), the battery was a multi-cell stack of several little NiCd disks bound together in a plastic sleeve like a little barrel. It had two radial legs, one at each end, that were hard-soldered into holes in the mobo. For the most part these were not replaced. They were just constantly re-charged when the computer was in use. But such batteries do wear out, and so it was possible to replace them - you just need a new one and a little soldering skill. Unfortunately it may be hard to find a replacement of that type today, IF that is the type of battery you have in there. The other possibility is to hope that the old battery you have is still OK, just totally discharged. If that happens to be the case, turn it on even though it will tell you it cannot do anything because it can't boot, and leave it on for a day or so. That MAY charge up the battery. After that wait, reboot and enter BIOS Setup, set up your date and time and HDD parameters, and SAVE and EXIT. If the battery is not dead, it may retain that info and boot for you.

    If you get that far, remember how to do that. That old NiCd battery may not keep a good charge for long, so if the machine is shut off for extended time it may lose it memory again and need a repeat treatment.
    Reply to Paperdoc
  5. I would clone that drive to another before messing with it any more. Put it into a newer board that can autodetect IDE parameters and see if it can be read without the custom ones, then make the image.

    As that system is now 24 years old, it's important to know what can be substituted with newer tech to keep it running. If your ISA device doesn't require busmastering, there are plenty of P4 boards with ISA slots hanging off the ICH5 southbridge. All you need is the disk to show a DOS prompt, then you can upgrade install Win 9x from there and keep your programs (note that most 95 and 98 CDs were not bootable).
    Reply to BFG-9000
  6. I recorded the HD information after I had problems. At one time I remember resetting it to defaults. The only change I noticed is that it said that drive A was a 5 1/2 inch floppy disk so I changed that. To be sure I think it's best to remove the hard drive and do as you suggested.

    Your explanation about the battery explains why the date was wrong. It originally showed a date from the 1990's so I set the correct date and time in the setup menu a few days ago when I first got the computer. The date was still at the date I set then when I used the DATE and TIME commands to change them and my problems started.

    From your post I understand why I need to remove the hard drive for several reasons. The computer case is the low type and the hard drive is under the CD Rom drive in a box that holds both the CD Rom drive and the hard drive. It's going to take a while to figure it out so I'll have to do it in a week or so when I have more time. In the mean time I ordered a ISA to USB adapter from http://arstech.com/install/ecom-prodshow/usb2isar.html

    I still want to get this computer working. If for no other reason, I like to have a backup system.

    Thanks a lot for all of your help. I'll ll post what results I get from your suggestions after I try them.
    Reply to stevel55
  7. Just so you know, connecting the HDD via that adapter board might work or might not. The reason is in the idea that BFG-9000 mentioned. By the late 90's, most mobos could "read" the required parameters from the HDD and set themselves. This new method was developed as the sizes of HDD's and the huge variety of parameter sets expanded. BUT it required both the ability of the mobo to read that info AND the ability of the HDD to give that info on request. Drives from the early 90's and before did not have that ability, so the only option was manual entry by the user in BIOS Setup.
    Reply to Paperdoc
  8. Thanks for all of your input. My obsession with this led me to remove the hard drive whether I have time or not...

    It's a Western Digital Caviar 2200
    WDAC2200 Drive Parameters: 989 cyl 12 heads 35 spt 212.6 MB
    Model: WDAC2200-50F
    P/N 99-004112-000
    CCC:A4 3 May 93

    DCM: HCIFBT

    I tried hitting F2 every second or so on boot up but I just end up with the message that there is no operating system. I'd like to check the numbers in the bios to see if there are options that match what is on the hard drive. The way I've gotten into the bios was after given the choice to press F2 to enter setup. How do I enter setup without being given the choice?

    Using a USB adapter on a Windows XP computer and a Windows 10 laptop. I got the music notes indicating that the drive is recognized and it shows up in Device Manager but not in My Computer. The properties in Device Manager says the drive is functioning properly. Any ideas on what I should do next?

    Thanks
    Reply to stevel55
  9. The reason it only partly shows up in Win XP or 10 is that the hardware is running, but the data on it makes no sense to Windows, so it cannot read it correctly. (In Disk Management, if you look at the BOTTOM RIGHT portion of the window - and it SCROLLS so you can see all it has - you can see all the hardware that the BIOS recognizes, but Windows still does not understand.) VERY likely this is because the system does not have the correct parameters. As I said earlier, this unit may not have the ability to report its own parameters to the BIOS, so you will have to enter them manually. You may or may not be able to do that in your modern-machine BIOS Setup screens when using the adapter and HDD connected by USB. If not, you may have to do this with the unit re-mounted in your old machine.

    You have the parameters you got from the label. By the way, the third parameter, "35 spt" is the number of SECTORS per track - often abbreviated as just Sectors.

    I found these very handy instructions on a site by stason.org, on a page for your drive.

    What are the drive type and the drive parameters in the CMOS, for
    Western Digital drives?
    On top of the drive, the number of cylinders, heads and sectors
    per track are printed on the label. Precomp and L-zone should be
    set equal to the drive's cylinder count + 1. Select user type or
    custom type (typically type 41 or 42) for your drive. This will
    allow you to type in the parameters. Older systems that do not
    offer a user type can either upgrade the system BIOS or set the
    drive to drive type 1 (which should be a smaller drive size), and
    run Ontrack Disk Manager from A drive to get the full capacity of
    the drive. If you do not follow one of these procedures and your
    system is pre-1994, you will be limited to the largest size drive
    your BIOS will allow.

    So, in BIOS Setup you specify that the Drive Type number is 41 or 42, whichever allows you to enter a custom set of parameters. Then you enter those parameters, including Pre-Comp and Landing Zone if required. This should then display the correct drive size of 212 MB. SAVE and EXIT and see if the machine can read that drive to boot.

    BEFORE you do this, check the jumpers on the set of 6 pins (2 rows of 3) on the back edge of the HDD. Also look closely at the label on it - there should be a map of how to set them. The info I got was that, IF this is the ONLY HDD connected to that ribbon cable and IDE port of the mobo, then there should be NO jumper on those pins. So that should be the setting for use in the old machine, and for used with an adapter and a new machine. When using it in the old machine and connected to the mobo IDE port by a ribbon cable, if the cable has three connectors on it, the blue one on one end goes to the mobo port, and the black one on the other end goes to the HDD. Each end has ridges on one side to match slots in the socket, and a blocked hole that must match a missing pin in the mating socket, so they only plug in the correct way.For a single-drive setup, do not use the grey middle connector. Of course, ensure that the Molex power connector also is plugged into the HDD.

    Now, back to the problem of getting into BIOS Setup on the old machine. You are using the "F2" key, whereas I am used to using the "Del" key, whcih is very common. BUT the correct key could be almost any one. To start, here's a clue. Turn on and just WATCH the screen, particularly at bottom left. It should show you as message about what key to push to enter BIOS Setup, or maybe simply "Setup". Note that. If necessary, push the "Reset" button to force a re-start, then use that key.

    Next, I often find that simply pushing that key during POST does not work.O think the process sometimes is just not "looking" at the keyboard when I push it. So I am in the habit of holding down that key (In my case, "Del") right after switching on, until the opening screen of BIOS Setup appears.
    Reply to Paperdoc
  10. Last night I tried getting in to the bios by disconnecting the hard drive and booting up. Type 2 was indeed incorrect. The closest one I found was Type 34: Cyl 989, HD 12, PRE 0, LZ 989, Sec, 202 so I used that one.

    It still said there was no operating system so I tried installing DOS 6 again. It said the drive needed to be formatted so I did. The installation went fine and I was told that the installation was successful and to take the disk out of the drive and restart. Then I got "No Operating System."

    Grandmaster, I followed your instructions found that the only options that worked were "User Def1" and "User Def2" I am able to change those settings but want to make sure I understand correctly. If Pre and LZ are both supposed to be the number of cylinders +1 then the numbers should be:
    User Def1, Cyl 989, HD 12 Pre 990, LZ 990, Sec 35, Size 202 (It won't let me change to the actual size of 212.6) Thanks so much for your help!

    By the way, there is also an "auto detect" option.
    Reply to stevel55
  11. If you can boot from a floppy and browse C:\ now, then you probably only need to use FDISK to set the boot partition as "active."
    Reply to BFG-9000
  12. You may still have a problem with the mobo's BIOS backup battery. If it is weak or dead, the entries you make will only last as ling as the system is running. The moment you turn off and back on, the BIOS will lose all your custom settings and not be able to read the HDD again. Is that happening?

    By the way, the "size" number confusion is not an error. It is because different parties use the same term "MB" to mean different things. A HDD maker tells you the size is "212 MB" using decimal arithmetic. If you work out the size yourself from those drive parameters, and use the fact that one Sector holds 512 bytes, the capacity is 212,674,560 bytes. But Windows (and, apparently, your machine's BIOS) uses a habit from binary math and defines a KB as 1024 bytes, and a MB as 1024 x 1024 bytes = 1,048,576, and then divides that into the decimal number above and gets the answer of 202.822 MB. See, they both use the term "MB", but they understand different definitions of that term. The actual number of bytes is the SAME.
    Reply to Paperdoc
  13. Grandmaster, the date was correct so I'm suspecting that the battery is O.K. Before read your answer I did the following

    I decided to try the "Auto Detect" Option in the Setup menu.

    I just received new Widows 3.1 Disks. The instructions on the disk said to put it in drive A and type "setup" That didn't work so I booted up with my number 1 DOS 6 installation disk. The installation went fine. The last message I got was to put in the disk with Config.sis on it. I put in each disk and none of the 3.1 disks had that so I put in the no. 1 DOS disk and didn't get the message any more. I was told exit setup and to enter "Win" at the DOS prompt and Windows 3.1 worked fine.

    I restarted without a disk in drive A and got "Missing Operating System"

    I put in the no. 1 DOS 6 installation disk and booted up and typed "WIN" at the prompt and got "Bad command or file name"
    I got the same results from the C:\> prompt.

    From C:\> I entered "Autoexec.bat" and got:
    C:\>C:\DOS\Smartdrive.exe
    Smart drive cannot be loaded because the xms, himen.sys is not loaded. Check for a device=himen.sys command line.

    At the C:\ prompt I entered "Type Config.sys"

    I got this:
    Device=C:\DOS\setver.exe
    Device=C:\DOS\himen.sys
    DOS=High
    Files=30

    Any ideas on what to do now?

    Thanks a lot
    Reply to stevel55
  14. BFG-9000 said:
    If you can boot from a floppy and browse C:\ now, then you probably only need to use FDISK to set the boot partition as "active."


    Thanks for the reply. I had done that and I was informed that I already had a primary and active partition.
    Reply to stevel55
  15. Paperdoc said:
    You may still have a problem with the mobo's BIOS backup battery. If it is weak or dead, the entries you make will only last as ling as the system is running. The moment you turn off and back on, the BIOS will lose all your custom settings and not be able to read the HDD again. Is that happening?

    By the way, the "size" number confusion is not an error. It is because different parties use the same term "MB" to mean different things. A HDD maker tells you the size is "212 MB" using decimal arithmetic. If you work out the size yourself from those drive parameters, and use the fact that one Sector holds 512 bytes, the capacity is 212,674,560 bytes. But Windows (and, apparently, your machine's BIOS) uses a habit from binary math and defines a KB as 1024 bytes, and a MB as 1024 x 1024 bytes = 1,048,576, and then divides that into the decimal number above and gets the answer of 202.822 MB. See, they both use the term "MB", but they understand different definitions of that term. The actual number of bytes is the SAME.


    Thanks a lot for your help. I went in to the Bios and it didn't go back to the default settings but "Auto Detect" showed these results:
    Cyl 7822, HD, 42, Pre 0, LZ 7822, Sec 42, Size 477

    That is way off so I changed them to what you suggested. Cyl 989, HD 12, Pre 990, LZ 990, Sec 42, size 202

    I restarted and got "Fixed Disk Failure" on both C and A drives. I doubt changing those settings had anything to do with that. I plugged and unplugged the cables to make sure they were secure and tried again with the same results. I have to get some work done before leaving town for a few days so I'll deal with it when I get back. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your efforts.
    Reply to stevel55
  16. With modern machines we've become accustomed to manually entering a boot device priority list in BIOS Setup. A long time ago that was simply not possible. Originally on systems that had hard drives, the ONLY (fixed in BIOS, no chance to alter) sequence was to try booting first from the A: drive (diskette), and if that failed try the HDD connected as the Master device on the Primary IDE port. (Mobos often had two IDE ports, and a single floppy drive port; each port type had a ribbon cable capable of connecting two drives to a single port.) Sometime in the 90's with the advent of 3½" floppy drives and CD drives, BIOS designs included the ability to specify an order of boot devices, but usually you had at most 3 levels to choose. At each level you could choose Floppy, Hard Drive, or CD Drive, and in some cases for each of those you had some choice about which particular unit of that type. I always set mine to use the 3½" floppy first (it had to be A:), the CD next, and the HDD last. (The boot HDD HAD to be the Master of the Primary IDE port.)

    Check in your BIOS whether you can make such settings, and ensure they are set the way you want. In case you've forgotten how those work, if a specified boot device does not contain a bootable set of files OR does not have an indicator in its Root Directory that it contains such files, then the system merely skips down to the next choice. Only when it fails to find a bootable system on all devices does it give you that dreaded message.
    Reply to Paperdoc
  17. Here's another thought. Any chance you can get or make a bootable floppy disk? Maybe you could make one from the DOS 6 Install disks. Of course, you'd have to have the floppy drive working. And making sure a floppy drive is clean so it can read and write properly is necessary, especially on an old unit that had been stored for a while. I'm thinking if you can at least boot into a simple DOS from the A: drive, then you can try to read the directory and files on the C: drive. That will tell you whether it is working properly, separate from the question of whether the machine will boot from it.
    Reply to Paperdoc
  18. You installed Windows after booting from a Floppy disk, so setup probably altered the PATH in the autoexec.bat of the floppy, not the hard disk.

    Autoexec.bat on the hard disk should have an entry like:
    path c:\;c:\dos;c:\windows

    Without that you can hardly expect anything to happen if you type "WIN" from the root of C:\

    While you could probably fix this and SYS C: the system over from the floppy to get the HDD bootable, at this point it is probably better to start over and blow the partitions in FDISK, both because you used DOS setup to format an existing partition, and Windows setup has misconfigured everything for booting from the FDD. Next time use FDISK to create a partition and FORMAT before running DOS setup. Then run Windows install after booting to DOS from the HDD, by changing the prompt to A: before typing "setup." The reason it apparently worked when you booted from floppy was because doing so left it already on A:\

    BTW "Fixed Disk Failure" is exactly what appears when you enter the wrong drive parameters manually. Set it on "Auto detect" before trying to create a partition.
    Reply to BFG-9000
  19. Paperdoc said:
    Here's another thought. Any chance you can get or make a bootable floppy disk? Maybe you could make one from the DOS 6 Install disks. Of course, you'd have to have the floppy drive working. And making sure a floppy drive is clean so it can read and write properly is necessary, especially on an old unit that had been stored for a while. I'm thinking if you can at least boot into a simple DOS from the A: drive, then you can try to read the directory and files on the C: drive. That will tell you whether it is working properly, separate from the question of whether the machine will boot from it.


    Thanks for the suggestion. I was able to use my DOS 6 installation disk to get to A:\ by choosing not to install. When this all started I was able to see the directory of C:. When I kept getting "No operating system" I used fdisk and was able to reinstall DOS 6 and Windows 3.1 but when I restarted the computer I got "no operating system" I used fdisk again and now it hangs after the memory check and I can't access C: at all.
    Reply to stevel55
  20. BFG-9000 said:
    You installed Windows after booting from a Floppy disk, so setup probably altered the PATH in the autoexec.bat of the floppy, not the hard disk.

    Autoexec.bat on the hard disk should have an entry like:
    path c:\;c:\dos;c:\windows

    Without that you can hardly expect anything to happen if you type "WIN" from the root of C:\

    While you could probably fix this and SYS C: the system over from the floppy to get the HDD bootable, at this point it is probably better to start over and blow the partitions in FDISK, both because you used DOS setup to format an existing partition, and Windows setup has misconfigured everything for booting from the FDD. Next time use FDISK to create a partition and FORMAT before running DOS setup. Then run Windows install after booting to DOS from the HDD, by changing the prompt to A: before typing "setup." The reason it apparently worked when you booted from floppy was because doing so left it already on A:\

    BTW "Fixed Disk Failure" is exactly what appears when you enter the wrong drive parameters manually. Set it on "Auto detect" before trying to create a partition.


    Thanks for the response. I had used the auto detect option when I was able to reinstall DOS6 and Windows 3.1. I just tried that again and now I can't even boot with the DOS 6 installation disk. It hangs after the memory check. I was having the same problem before I changed it to auto detect so I don't think the change caused this.
    Reply to stevel55
  21. First, thank you all for your input. I'm amazed at all of the good responses.
    I finally used the DOS version WD Data Lifeguard tool and got this:
    Error/Status Code: 0108
    I looked the code up and found this:
    108 Seek Not Complete A Seek command did not complete in the time allotted. This may be an anomaly or a defect with the drive. Retest. Replace the drive if the error repeats. Re-Test Drive

    I also used Disk Manager and WDFMT and found errors.

    I found a replacement on ebay for 19.99.
    Reply to stevel55
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