|Historical IDE Drives|
Historical IDE Drives
These historical IDE drives have capacities below the 2.5Gb threshold. These drives comply to the XT, AT, and up to ATA-3 standards.
This is probably one of the strangest IDE discs that I ever saw. And so might you! It is a non-standard laptop disc drive built by Conner Peripherals in 1989 (!) for COMPAQ LTE laptops (8086 CPU). I have just acquired two such laptops. One is equipped with the 8086 CPU and the other one with the 80286 CPU. Naturally, the older one has the Conner CP-4021 disc drive while the newer one has the older brother, CP-4041.
So we're talking of a 1989 manufactured disc drive that is 20Mb and an atypical form factor: 3.5" but both slimmer and shorter than a standard desktop disk drive. Without opening it (which I don't intend anyway), I can say it has only one platter; it is very slim. I have to admit: I had a lot of disc drives, more than 100 different models, but I never had such piece of machinery. Heck, I didn't knew they even existed in such form factor and size. Notice the slightly machined aluminum cover in the lower right corner. This is probably to allow for tight packing inside the small (by the day's standards) laptop. Also, if you're used with BIOS fixed disk types then you have to know this one is TYPE 2.
When I got the old COMPAQ LTE laptop, the drive was in good working condition. It makes a faint, interesting squeaking noise while seeking. This leads me to presume it's a voice coil. The spindle motor sounds OK, background buzzing. But the miracle didn't lasted for too long. Unfortunately as soon as I started looking through the stored data, I began encountering random read data integrity errors. Strangely enough, it booted correctly though. In total I think I have spent close to an hour playing around with the laptop then closed for the night sleep. Next day in the morning, while trying to boot, I got directly data integrity error while loading DOS 3.31. Now this was not a good sign. The disc probably developed a bad sector where the loader and/or COMMAND.COM itself is stored.
At this point I extracted the disc from the laptop to add it to the collection. PS: The laptop received a 32Mb compact flash card with matching CF-IDE adapter. I just had to deal with the strange IDE interface connector on the Conner drive. Read on for the solution.
I didn't knew Conner had the means to build logical integrated circuits. But maybe they used re-branded parts. I also like the big green LED. Just take a look at the big array of IRF transistors! This disc drive is some top of the range miniature technology for those days! It is powered at only 5V. There are a lot of parts on the logical PCB. Almost of them are SMD. I had a whole other (bad) impression regarding Conner Peripherals and their products. But this one amazes me!
Another interesting fact is that the EPROM containing the drive firmware is socketed in a PLCC socket. This is rather unusual for disc drives. It must've been very expensive back then and probably with different firmwares you could have the same unit with two different capacities. But this is something I cannot be sure about. And we'll never find out, unfortunately. Information regarding this drive on the Internet is close to none.
If you take a look at the IDE interface connector, and you are very familiar with IDE itself, then you will quickly figure out that this is just a scaled down standard IDE connector with four additional pins for power. Yes that's all. So if you're like me, go ahead and build your own adapters. I have built an adapter for the compact flash card and I'm going to build another adapter for this disc in order to connect it directly to the IDE bus of a desktop computer. It will be very nice to see it working as slave drive, even with bad sectors. This is a rare piece indeed. Worth keeping, that's for sure.
Later Edit: I just noticed that changing the batteries (yes, the standard D tubular cells) of the laptop, provided enough current for the drive to operate correctly! Incredible. Both discs are running perfectly. Unfortunately I sold both laptops while not keeping any disc for reference.
I got this little known disc drive from a friend back in 2014. It was a donation as he knew my passion for collecting old storage artifacts. I knew I had nothing to do with it but take a picture, test if it works, perform some stress testing in order to ensure zero bad sector, and donate it further. I am not a fan of Fujitsu discs and since my storage space is claimed by other stuff, this had to go.
But anyway, I tested it on an Intel 486DX4/100MHz based computer. Performed a full unrecoverable format and installed MS-DOS 6.22 and copied some old games that I knew would stress the disc a little. Remember Duke Nukem 3D? It was fun to replay some levels.
At 4500 rpm this is a strange beast. Most discs back in the era were 3600 rpm devices. While the 14ms average access is good, it is easily surpassed by the Western Digital siblings. It has only 3 heads which means one side of one platter is not covered with oxide. Or so I think. I had not opened it up as I didn't want to break a perfect working order disc. It might, however, have three useful heads and one used for servo tracks. I don't know this but the drive appears to be sturdy and reliable.
The squeaky seeking noises resemble those of the old Conner drives. But the Fujitsu seeks much faster so the squeaking is different. If you don't pay attention you don't hear it.
I donated this disc drive to someone else interested in building vintage PC and playing old MS-DOS games. I hope it will serve him good.
This is a very good drive. All my respects go to Maxtor and their 7120AT model disc drive. I wanted to obtain this disc from close friend, for my Kenitec 386 computer, back in 1996. I have traded a Quantum ProDrive LP-52s 50Mb disc and a Seagate ST-351A/X 40Mb disc for the 7120AT. It is a very fast disc considering the production year (1993) and the technology available back then. I used it with success on the Kenitec 386 computer, with Microsoft Windows 95. At games, especially in Doom and Doom 2, the disc was very fast and I had to wait half the time I was waiting with the Seagate ST-157A until the game loaded.
I managed to open the drive just because Maxtor used standard regular bolts, that I could unscrew with my regular screwdriver, and what I found, as you can clearly see in the picture, is that this drive has two platters and in consequence 4 read/write heads. Notice how beautiful is the drive assembly (HDA), but also observe that the discs spin backwards if we compare with the Seagate models presented above. Take a look at the Seagate ST-157A for example, the actuator is oriented to the right but in the 7120AT drives from Maxtor, the actuator is oriented left. Interesting and beautiful.
This was the drive used to be seen in most 386 based computers of 1993-1994 when 4Mb of RAM was enough to complete tasks required by Microsoft Windows 3.1 and the MS-DOS operating system. Remember the 512K video cards that were installed in the top line bulletproof 386/33MHz computers? Yes, that's the full picture.
Note: My Kenitec 386 computer is running at 25MHz (it's an 80386SX manufactured by AMD, of course) and has 4Mb RAM.
This disc drive is one of the best drives based on stepper motors. It was fast and large enough to store Windows 3.11 and MS-DOS 6.22. Of course, a few games and applications were also found on those 3 platters. I found this drive very useful as it may became master/slave with a simple jumper switch and it could support the weird BIOS program used to enter information in my aging 286 based computer EEPROMs. Well, initially, this computer was not equipped with an IDE disc drive but with a SCSI one and therefore there was a SCSI controller present in it. So I had to replace it with an IDE controller and then run a BIOS program of about 19K from a floppy disc to enter the parameters of the Seagate ST-157A. From the drives I had, this is the only one that ever worked on that computer.
These drives are very reliable and reasonably fast. I pulled one of them out from a 386 machine about four years ago and I could still access it after gently knocking it a few times with a screwdriver. As I guessed, when I removed the cover, I saw that the heads were stuck on the platters because there were some trails. Anyway I still have it and it is in working condition even though I take it from my disc drive box and start it from time to time to ensure the heads will not stick together with the platters again.
The disc drive may be recognized easily due to its almost-yellow color. Also it is quite big half-height 3.5" format. But that's not what matters. Also, a note engraved on the top cover says: "DO NOT APPLY PRESSURE TO TOP COVER".
I used one of these disc drives in the early 1993 with a 25MHz 386 based computer. I was surprised by the speed of the Seagate ST-351A/X and I really liked the noise that the stepper motor was making while reading and writing to the disc. It is unforgettable.
I further learned that the 40Mb ST-351A/X was the last of the 40Mb class drives ever made and it included some stunning technologies like high-density disc, only one platter, SMD parts, and so on. But the presence of the stepper motor was quite an oddity for the technology available in that disc drive.
For me, it is the leader of all the 40Mb disc drives using stepper motors that were ever made. It worked fine with my self-designed operating system (OS/MC) until a few weeks ago when I made a wrong combination of the master/slave jumpers. I still think I was not paying attention and blew it up. It is spinning but after a short seek command, the drive stops responding and the LED keeps blinking. I searched the Internet and the blink codes represent "ERROR UPLOADING RAM". Whatever this means... As a general advice, if you are dealing with this kind of disc drives, please bear in mind that mistaking the jumpers configuration (i.e.: enable master and slave at the same time) blows up the disc drive electronics. So, please consult the jumper configuration table on the official Seagate documentation which you can find by issuing a search on the official www.seagate.com Internet site.
Anyway, this disc drive is unique because with a simple switch of jumpers, you may force the drive to work in XT systems (8-bit) or in AT systems (16-bit). Check out the front flexible wires that connect the heads to the logic board. Left of them is the green transparent LED.
The disc drive is well constructed, enclosed in a beautiful black cover with quite a great shape as you can see in the picture. It is not as light as Quantum's models of the era, but I was always attracted by heavy disc drives. My favorite big and heavy disc is the Seagate ST-4766NV.
I ended up purchasing a similar working disc from a friend, back in 2004. The one in the picture above is the defect one. Notice in the picture the way the actuator is linked to the stepper motor; weird but it has proved its reliability. In the picture below, the one in the right is the defect drive. I have kept it after all these years. I don't know why, but I cannot dispose of it. Yet.
Later Edit: The year 2016 finds myself owning 5 of these nice disc drives. Whenever I found them on the local flea market, I bought them. I don't know what to do with them for the moment, but it seems like fun collecting them. Oh how I wished I had these in 1994. Anyway, if you want to read a short story about this disc, please go to Article #67 on my Personal Weblog.
This is a typical Seagate disc drive from the early 1990s, reasonably fast -- 32K cache present -- and roomy compared to the stepper or early voice coil siblings of the era. It has an unusual spindle motor speed and only three heads which leads me into thinking that one side of one of the platters is either not used or used as servo tracks.
Other than the fact this is a transitional drive, I don't have much to tell about it. What do I mean? Simple. Back then, the transition between stepper motor and voice coil drives was just happening. Old generation disc drives based on stepper motors, deemed as complicated and slow, were left behind, making space for the newer generation voice coil devices.
This appears to be a sturdy drive built around 1992. As you can see from the characteristics sheet below, the rotation speed is weird. Just like that of its smaller brother, the ST-3120A. In those days, a 3.600 rpm rotation speed was more common than this. This disc is equipped with 32K cache memory.
I played a little with this drive and it appears to be rock solid. I don't particularly like the noise the spindle motor makes while in operation. But the actuator seeking noise is quite pleasant. If it were for 1992-1993 again, I would be more than happy to have such disc in my computer. But in those years, I had a 40Mb drive. So this must have been a premium for home users. These days, I cannot find use for such disc and as I have other favorites filling up my storage space, this little one had to leave.
I know almost nothing about this drive. I could start it only two times since I bought it from a bazaar and found it was not badly damaged, in fact Scandisk found no errors on it's platters. I mention that the disc drive started the first time I brought it home and the next start was after, let's say, about 10 times of powering on and off the 486 machine on which I tested the thing. Now, the disc drive is in the same condition: it spins up, rests like this for about 2 seconds (while I can hear it's actuator moving) and then powers back off.
I heard that this drive was used in mass in 1994-1995 as well as new or second hand. After my opinion, it must have been reliable and fast, as shows the chart below.
As you can see in the picture, it is a 3.5" disc drive with weird hexagonal bolts - that's why I couldn't been able to remove it's top cover to make a picture of the interior. At the moment I didn't had a torx screwdriver. I don't like the way Seagate constructed this drive. To me it looks ugly, although some of my friends told me that it's a beautiful piece of technology and it looks quite well. But I found it incomparable with it's elder brother, the Seagate ST-351A/X.
Here we are in 2014 and I received this drive from a friend, one night. I immediately recognized this Medalist series drive. I had to deal with them in the past. They had proved their reliability so I accepted to take it with me. If I won't be able to find somewhere to install it, I'll just take a picture of it for posterity. As with all old drives that I receive, I'm curious what is stored on it. Unfortunately I don't have the required time available to check. However, I will surely update this page when I'll have the chance.
This drive is also a Compaq spare part which leads me into thinking it was designed to be factory fitted in some particular Compaq computer.
Now what should I do with it? For obvious reasons, I cannot sell it because nobody would want it. The late 1990s are over! I can't donate it either, because it can't be used anymore due to its low capacity by today's standards. I don't particularly like it to justify keeping it along. Time will decide it's fate. I'd like to trade it for other oldies but we'll see.
I have extracted this drive from a Compaq Pentium 133MHz based computer. At the time I used this disc for the HI-NET Server with Microsoft Windows 2000 and related free domain server software. It was good but a little too small to hold the entire operating system with the page file and the software. What I noticed was the infernal noise this disc drive made when moving the actuator.
This drive found its place in the system from where I have extracted the Western Digital Caviar 1270.
This Seagate disc remembers me about the old Conner Peripherals drives. As you know, Conner was founded by an ex-Seagate engineer that founded its own disc drive factory. That's why it's called Conner. I like the way this disc drive is constructed and I also like that Seagate attached the jumper configuration. This way it's easier to know how to set the drive to work for your needs. Western Digital adopted a very fine way to set the jumpers of their Caviar disc drives. Today, all CD-ROM makers adopted the same strategy.
This disc drive is from the Medalist series, that include fast models but produced relatively high noise levels, especially while seeking.
Finally, HI-NET Server got another disc drive, the Seagate ST-32122A.
This is the second disc that I have fitted to the HI-NET Server. It belonged to a Compaq computer based on a 233MHz Pentium processor, the same processor that is installed in the machine that runs the HI-NET Server. The picture below shows this disc with some Compaq affixed stickers (OEM equipment) that include warranty notice and the the so-called Compaq spare part number.
This is another disc drive that resembles to its Conner cousins but it seems a little more refined. It is from the same Medalist series of solid disc drives with relatively good performance. This particular drive makes half the infernal noise its elder brother, the Seagate ST-31276A produces while seeking.
Now we are in September 2004 and HI-NET Server still runs on this disc drive. I have nothing to worry about as it'll still run like this for a long time as Seagate drives have proven their reliability over the time. Later Edit: In 2008 the HI-NET Server moved to dedicated server equipment and this drive was retired for good. The server eventually became AGNET Server.
In the picture, you can see the jumper configuration table. Good job. I like drives that don't force you to read the manual in order to learn how to set them right.
|Quantum ProDrive ELS 170AT|
Quantum ProDrive ELS 170AT
This 170Mb Quantum disc drive is reasonably fast and well built. I am currently using it for developing the OS/MC operating system. I have extracted it from a Compaq computer based on a 486/33MHz processor. Besides the ProDrive ELS inscription, there is no model number engraved on the disc drive so I did a little Internet research and found it's complete model name.
The disc drive is finished quite well in a nice aluminum case as Quantum did with most of the disc drives from 1990 to 1994. This is a typical Quantum disc drive of the era.
There is not much to say about this disc drive. It is fast and reliable and I would recommend it to any 386 user. It can cope with Microsoft Windows 95 although you will quickly run out of space. Better use it with Microsoft Windows 3.11 and MS-DOS.
Later Edit: Back in 2015, I have received another one of these. I cannot remember how, but I found it in a parts box donated by a friend. I cleaned it and further donated it. Apparently these used to be common back in the days. My critical eye cannot but spot the electrolytic capacitors next to the power connector. Hmm. While other drives back then used solid tantalum capacitors, this Quantum was stuck with standard electrolytic counterparts. I can already smell problems.
|Western Digital Caviar 1210|
Western Digital Caviar 1210
In winter 2000 I have bought an old but weird Compaq 386SX-20MHz laptop computer from an antiquity shop. It was in good working order and it was unbelievably fast for an i80386SX/20MHz processor based computer. Back in late 2001, the big laptop was dead. The internal switching power supply died. I opened it up to salvage the programming work from the hard disc drive. Guess what was inside? The 3.5" half height Western Digital Caviar 1210 disc drive. I was surprised because I knew that laptops were fitted with laptop hard disc drives and not with normal desktop class units.
This particular Western Digital drive is relatively fast and is surely one of the best 210Mb disc drives ever made. This is the smaller brother of the Western Digital Caviar 2420. Both units have 128K of cache memory that made them surprisingly fast for the period.
Nowadays, I'm using this disc to boot from it when I need to access another disc drive in a computer without booting from it. It helped me a lot when I set up a school network, for instance. The problem with it is that at some point in my experiments in 2005 or so, I overwritten the boot sector with something custom which somehow destroyed it's ability to boot correctly even after issuing the SYS C: command in MS-DOS.
Like all Western Digital drives, this one has a colored stripe above the model number. This time it is blue. You can see in the picture a small orange LED. It is not original, I have mounted it to monitor the activity of this disc drive. Not that it was really needed because you can clearly notice when the disc is working due to it's soft sound that the actuator makes while seeking. In fact, Western Digital mounted a small LED connector on every Caviar model of the era. You just need to plug a 2V7-3V1 LED and it will light when the drive is in use.
|Western Digital Caviar 1270|
Western Digital Caviar 1270
This is a wonderful little known disc drive. For me at least. I never saw them before. This particular model I pulled out of a working machine in March 2004. Someone came to me and said: Please try to do something with this machine! It has a 270Mb disc and I don't have enough space even for Windows 95 and my Office suite. So I fitted that Pentium 75MHz with a nice 1.28Gb Seagate ST-31276A disc drive and that person went home happy.
I didn't knew Western Digital produced such odd sized disc drives. And the aluminum machined enclosure is not familiar for Western Digital drives of that era. Take a look at the Western Digital Caviar 1210 above and see how the case is constructed. That layout was spread throughout the entire Caviar series, starting with the beautiful Western Digital Caviar 140 40Mb drive. Western Digital used a yellow stripe on this disc drive. As a matter of fact, all Caviars had a color stripe above the model number. Also, if you look below the Western Digital inscription, you can clearly see that the disc drive was manufactured for IBM. OEM equipment, that is. In the past other disc drive manufacturers produced drives for IBM. In these days, IBM itself produces them. Later edit (2014): Now IBM is long gone out of the drive manufacturing business.
As always, the LED you see in the picture is not original. I fitted the drive with a shiny red LED from a broken MiniScribe 8425 MFM disc drive. Although it makes the Western Digital characteristic sound when it moves the actuator to read or write to the platters, I wanted to see when the disc is operating.
This drive has 64K cache which largely improved performance. It ran fine with Windows 95 OSR 2 and an Intel 486/100MHz fitted with 24Mb RAM for my cousin. One day, in August 2004, I have configured a school network and I replaced a faulty disc with this one. I gave my cousin the match for the Caviar 1210. I'm talking about a beautiful 420Mb Western Digital Caviar 2420. This is a typical WD disc: fast and reliable.
|Western Digital Caviar 2340|
Western Digital Caviar 2340
When I had this brand new 341Mb disc back in late 1995 or early 1996, I was very happy. A whooping storage improvement over what I had before. I have traded the Maxtor 7120AT disc and some extra money for the Caviar 2340. Those were hard times, money was difficult to get and we, the first generation interested into modern computing, used to exchange parts between us.
While this disc had 32K cache, it seemed to perform well. In time, I got another one so I boosted the storage of the 25MHz 386SX machine to about 700Mb. Those were also good times. I had not have any problem with them during the few years I daily abused them.
I don't remember exactly how I parted with them but I did so around the year 2000. Then, back in 2015, I found a pair of Caviar 2340 drives on the local flea market. What a coincidence... a pair! I got them for about 2 E, close to nothing I paid for them when they were in their youth. At home I photographed them for eternity and performed an unrecoverable format and installed MS-DOS 6.22. After playing a little with them, I donated both to some other collector. I had to admit, when I saw the pair, it brought back memories. Could it be that... no, it couldn't.
|Western Digital Caviar 2420|
Western Digital Caviar 2420
I have extracted this wonderful disc from an AT&T computer in August 2004. This is the larger brother of the Western Digital Caviar 1210. This model also has 128K of cache memory which makes it really fast. In practice it seemed they were always faster than their same-size competitors. This model does its job well on an i486/100MHz processor based computer running Microsoft Windows 98 and Microsoft Office 97. It is indeed a perfect match for a 486 computer.
This drive continues the Western Digital tradition and has a purple stripe above the model number. I have added a small green LED to this model. I like to give each of my disc drives their own personality so I am installing a different color LED into each Caviar model that passed through my hands. This is just one of m marks.
While moving the actuator, this disc drive makes the same sound like is smaller 212Mb brother. In fact, this is the exact same drive but with 2 platters instead of only 1. In consequence it has double the size. Naturally, this disc drive has 4 read/write heads.
Unfortunately, I don't have a picture with this disc. If I would ever get my hands on one of these, I will take a picture of it. This is a promise.
|Western Digital Caviar 2540|
Western Digital Caviar 2540
This is a 540Mb disc drive, typical Caviar disc drive, fast and reliable. One of the good ones. Now I am using it in a bulletproof system for Office use. The system is equipped with an AMD k6-II/500MHz processor and 128Mb of PC133 SDRAM. The system is completed by an ATI Rage IIc video card with 8Mb of SGRAM, a very good option when doing a lot of work in 2D mode. I decided that a large disc just would not be necessary if the system runs just Microsoft Windows 98 and Microsoft Office 97. Further more, the computer is part of a home network. So all the sensitive data is stored on a network server that has redundant storage array.
Note: Originally, this computer had a 40Gb Maxtor disc drive which I have since moved on my Athlon XP 1800+. The next step was adding a SCSI interface and a huge 5.25" full height Seagate ST-4766NV 630Mb SCSI drive. It made a lot of heat and noise and I gave up using this solution in favor of the Caviar 2540 drive.
Interestingly enough, this disc drive has only 64K cache while some of its elder siblings had 128K. That's strange!
Take a look at the picture now. The first thing you see is the bare aluminum enclosure color. From the past, we have learned that all Caviars were painted anodized black at the exterior. Only at the interior they had different number of platters and heads thus different capacities. This drive is built in a similar enclosure as the other caviars but the cover resembles more to the Western Digital Caviar 1270. From now on, all Caviar drives will share variations of this enclosure. Western Digital kept the tradition of striping their drives. This one has an orange patch.
I would probably think this drive is the older brother of the Caviar 1270 but they just don't look the same. Or do they? The Caviar 1270 has one 270Mb platter and the Caviar 2540 has two 270Mb platters. This was a common industry practice. And still is.