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Toshiba T2000SX

It's a hard fact that one can fail when restoring old hardware. This ancient laptop was purchased from an auction house and has lived in my old university school bag, in the back of the parents shed, for a few decades. It booted, back in the day, and I vaguely remember installing Windows 3.x on it. After that... you couldn't really do much other than play Railroad Tycoon Deluxe.

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Seriously heavy, this thing is built to withstand nuclear fallouts; although it turns out it couldn't handle being in the shed. Turning it on again after so many years presented a hard drive exhibiting that charming click-of-death tune. The screen worked fine, the keyboard accepted commands and the floppy even seemed to function. After counting its on-board RAM, extended RAM and then extra ram (if you had the PCMCIA-like card installed (which this came with.)), the BIOS would ask you to insert a floppy disk.

As that the hard disk was dead, I'd decided to replace it with a compact-flash card. Other people online had successfully done this and so I thought I'd give it a go. The installed Toshiba BIOS wont recognise anything other than a Conner 'IDE' 20/40mb drive that usually comes with such a laptop and so I had to improvise. One user online pointed out that Anydrive would fix this. It's a tiny application which slaps an assembler JMP in the MBR to lie to the BIOS when it goes looking for the specifics. From here you can mimic the drive/partition information that the BIOS wants to see... you can't override the 'device ID' though.

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Installing the CF card was easy enough... The CF-IDE adapter just plugs everything together and has the appropriate pin missing to guide the correct connection. At this point I actually used VirtualBox (with a hack to allow direct disk access) to install Anydrive onto the disk. I used the parameters from the Conner: Quick Reference Guide For Disk Drive Products (Cylinders 980, Heads 5, Sectors 17) with anydrive, inside VirtualBox, and it installed. This way I didn't need the floppy disk. I then tried to format the drive, but nothing worked... it kept failing. I therefore went ahead and installed it into the laptop so I could use the floppy drive there.

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The machine booted up and the Anydrive message actually appeared! The bios actually read from the harddisk and then failed... the harddisk wasn't partitioned, so I had to use a DOS bootable floppy to continue. I downloaded an appropriate DOS 5 boodisk from allbootdisks and threw it in. Nothing... it just repeatedly asked for the disk. You could hear it sort-of read the disk... but it didn't get anywhere.

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First step... try the disk cleaner... didn't work. Second step... rip it open. Not an easy task. The main chassis is a single block of metal. The top circuit board must be lifted. To do so, you need to disconnect all the flimsy ribbon wires.

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Wait... what's that... oh great... the remnants of the drive belt. And it's not a happy elastic-band. It's a very proprietary, very flat, very thin ribbon belt. Screw it... let's try a rubber band anyway!

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Did it work? No... it took out the read head. Game over. Drive finished! A quick google proved no quick answers to finding a replacement drive.

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Do I care about a crappy 386 laptop at this point? No. I put the majority of the system back together to check if I could still use the HDD. No go there either... the HDD (well, CF card) was no longer being found and the Anydrive boot message was not displaying! No more disk input... stuff it. Here's the aftermath... it then all got shoved as-is back into the school bag.

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It's currently sitting next to the bin and I'm finding it hard to take the final step and listen to it bounce down the garbage chute. I've failed you, you poor old thing.

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About stevenh

Trains… trains… trains… + Electronics + Japan.

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