Compaq portable II, OS installation :-D

February 14, 2012 at 13:30:46
Specs: N/A, intel 12 Mhz - 256K - 640K
Hi there,
Was checking out a load of free old computer stuff today (which included an as/400, how ****in cool is that?) and I came across an odd little handled box.

Much to my suprise, it turned out to be an all in one system. A compaq portable II.

Even better, it turned on when I plugged it in :-D

I'm quite clueless when it comes to these old things, so I need help getting an OS on this bad boy.

At the moment, it turns on, double beeps (12mhz baby) gives me a "163 - Time and date not set", and then says this:

"Non-system disk or disk error
Replace and strike any key when ready"

Thoughts on taking the first step to getting this in order?


See More: Compaq portable II, OS installation :-D

Report •

February 14, 2012 at 13:52:19
Get hold of some DOS install disks on 5 1/2" disks. Insert in floppy drive and boot. That should then install DOS on the hard disk. One caveat - IIIRC Compaq DOS was different to normal MSDOS (I seem to recall that it had a different keyboard driver), so you really need Compaq DOS disks.

Report •

February 14, 2012 at 17:20:46
The 163 error likely means you need a new cmos battery. While you're inside the case changing the battery check the hard drive model number. There may be separate stickers with a drive type number or C/H/S specs. Make note of that too.

I think you'll need setup/diagnostic disks to configure cmos. Those might be hard to find. You can probably download them. They used to be on compaq's FTP site and may still be. If your machine only has 5.25 drives then you'll need another working PC with 5.25 drives in order to create the disks.

But once you find them, boot from the setup disk. There'll be a list of drive types and you need to choose the one that matches the drive type, model or C/H/S of the drive in yours.

Then save and exit setup, remove the setup disk and reboot. It's possible the hard drive still has an OS and will go ahead and boot up.

Fun, huh?

Report •

February 14, 2012 at 19:39:17
According to the following one needs 5.25 360K floppies:

Googling is quicker than waiting for an answer....

Report •

Related Solutions

February 15, 2012 at 03:32:16
Compaq DOS was just a spinoff of MS-DOS; it isn't mandatory. I ran a Portable II just fine with MS-DOS 6.22 for a long while until the power supply died. Realize that the latest version of Windows you could run with that machine (as is) would be Windows 3.0, and using it on such a small monochrome screen tires the eyes. A copy of Geoworks would be a better GUI---it runs well on a 286 and has multiple built-in video drivers.

Also, don't be surprised if both the floppy drive and hard-drive are dead. I re-fitted the one I had with a 3 1/2" 1.44MB drive and a 40MB IDE hard drive (after changing out the internal controller card). Have a set of torx screwdrivers and a lot of patience ready if you need to dig into the machine; it can be quite frustrating.

"Channeling the spirit of jboy..."

Report •

February 15, 2012 at 16:48:01
Wow, lots of good info there :-D
Fun indeed. Apparently the cmos batteries in these ol' things is soldered directly on to the mobo, and replacements are very difficult to get a hold of.

My plan so far, assuming the hdd and floppy drive still work, is to install dos-6.22 on the hdd, and use the setup/diagnostics disk to set cmos paramaters every time I boot. Unless of course, I can fix the issue.
Does that sound like a feesable way to go about things?

It has been quite well kept, and was definately working as of January 2000. (Small maintainance sticker indicates that it passed all y2k tests except date transition.)
I can't imagine it saw much wear and tear in the mean time, and was kept in a cool dry area of the building.

Headding in to meet the head of computer history in a uni tomorrow, see if he can set me up with the facilities to create some 5.25 disks.

I had planned to install dos 3.2 just for authenticities sake, but now that you mention it, I probably would enjoy it a bit more running 6.22.

Plan to dig in I do. I will make it my lifes work to get this thing running if I must.

Being in my early 20's I never experienced the "wow" moment people experienced back in the day. Finding such an unusual, old, and functional machine has given me a little taste of what it felt like. Quite a lot of fun. (Though how people justified the cost with potential return on money invested is beyond me, unless of course it was purely out of interest.)

Can't wait to get it back in full swing and see what I can make it do.

Report •

February 15, 2012 at 17:51:46
"...and use the setup/diagnostics disk to set cmos paramaters every time I boot. Unless of course, I can fix the issue."

If you use the machine much, that will get quite tiresome. As DAVE mentions, it would be best to replace the battery (assuming one can be found). If not, you could always desolder it (assuming you're familiar with good-soldering techniques) and improvise a battery pack (forgot what voltage the internal battery is for the Port II---thinking it's 4.5V but don't quote me) with a series of good-quality alkaline "AA" batteries and a battery holder such as:

You could even route it to the outside where you could change them out, should they need it again.

If you decide to "dig-in" to it, you may want to familiarize yourself with these photos (especially the "inside" ones) before-hand (available space inside that machine is at a premium):

Also remember, with the CRT inside this machine, it can be quite dangerous or even deadly working around it (or large capacitors) if you're not familiar with doing so. Leave that part of the "cage" over it covered since it appears you don't need to do anything there.

"Channeling the spirit of jboy..."

Report •

February 15, 2012 at 20:54:28
Do you have any means of creating the setup diskettes ?

Do you unnderstand that 5.25 floppies came in different sizes etal ?

Yes MS-DOS 6.22 is the best choice, what I had installed when I had a PortableII with a 40MB Hard Disk Drive, even put it on Broadband with a Text Web Browser. SLOW!

Googling is quicker than waiting for an answer....

Report •

Ask Question