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AnyDrive – Use bigger drives than your BIOS permits!

I've mentioned this use of this before, but I just want to go over some of its intricacies. Although 90% of it is totally straight forward, there's a few gotchas that you need to be aware of.

  1. It only works when the MBR has been 'booted' first
    This means that, if you have AnyDrive installed and you want to boot a floppy which can see the drive in full, you need to attempt to boot the HDD first, holding shift, to then boot the floppy straight after.
  2. When installing, use the drive number, not letter
    I first installed it on drive C instead of drive 0, this caused all sorts of strange issues.

Installation

The best way to do this is to format your 3 DOS 6.22 installation disks and then copy the ANYDRIVE.EXE file over onto the first disk. Boot your machine into DOS and then hit F3 twice to exit out to the command prompt.

From here, run the ANYDRIVE command to get an idea as to your current scenario. You can use ANYDRIVE S to check an installation, if any exists. Note that if you booted straight off your floppy then ANYDRIVE will tell you that it's not correctly loaded. This is perfectly acceptable if you have booted from a floppy and not let the HDD initialise first.

To get an old 840mb HDD running on my 386, I did the following:

  1. Build 3 DOS 6.22 floppies
  2. Copy ANYDRIVE.EXE onto the first disk
  3. Install the HDD into the computer and then boot the first DOS disk
  4. Hit F3 twice to get out of DOS Setup
  5. Run ANYDRIVE [DRIVE_NO] [CYLS] [HEADS] [SECT]
    (ANYDRIVE 0 1647 16 63 for my Quantum Trailblazer 840AT as C:)
  6. Remove DOS Disk 1 and Reboot
  7. Hold down LEFT SHIFT to tell ANYDRIVE that you want to boot from a floppy
  8. Wait for ANYDRIVE floppy prompt and then insert DOS Disk 1 once again
  9. Install DOS as per usual (it should format to the new size of your disk)

Usage and Boot-time quirks

Once it's installed, and your OS is installed, it's all happy days. Everything is fine until you try to boot from a floppy. As per every old BIOS, boot will be handed to the floppy drive prior to the HDD and therefore the HDD won't be initialised until later. If this happens, then ANYDRIVE wont be initialised correctly and your actual BIOS settings will be used.

This is a problem. As any attempt to then access C:, which has been partitioned and formatted based on ANYDRIVE settings, could cause all sorts of damage as the geometry will be wrong!

To prevent this, make sure your boot disks are ejected and hold shift when your machine starts... you'll instead see the ANYDRIVE boot line and then a prompt to boot from A:. Booting your boot floppy at this point will ensure that any software afterwards sees your ANYDRIVE settings rather than BIOS settings.

I hope this helps anyone trying to get more storage on their older dinosaurs!

11Aug/160

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.