diskette/floppy issue in an IBM Model 30 XT

March 9, 2015 at 17:57:42
Specs: Windows 3.0, very little
Hi - not sure what the problem here is. I have an IBM Model 30 XT I am fixing. This is an old, ISA system. I fixed slowly everything on it so far except 2 issues. One is a hard drive problem (which I am working on in another forum so I won't mention it here). The other is the floppy drive.

I turn the computer on, I get two short beeps.

I get the time/date error (I have recently replaced the CMOS battery and haven't set the time/date yet). The other a 1701 hard drive error. No doubt I get the second one cause there is no hard drive plugged in right now.

Anyway, I push F1 to continue.

Then it gives me a picture of a computer asking for a disk. So I insert my trusty (original) IBM Model 30 starter disk and push F1 again.

The drive spins for a few seconds, then it dumps me into the ROM Basic screen - you know the screen - where F1 through F9 have different functions. No matter what I push it doesn't seem to matter I get no where until I turn the computer off and on again and around we go again.

It doesn't seem to want to run/read the disk even though the diskette spins and the light comes on the disk drive.

I have tested the diskette in another system, it reads it fine.

I have tried running it both with tape on (covering the proper hole), and with tape off. Doesn't matter. Diskette spins initially but doesn't read/run.

Could the fact NO hard drive is connected be the problem? I know the IBM Model 30 is a very fussy computer - could this be a factor?

I am stumped. I know there's no hard drive installed, but I figured I should at least be able to set the time/date - but then maybe it needs a hard drive to write something to? I dunno. I used to know these systems backward and forward but sadly it's been so many years I seem to have forgotten the bulk of what I knew.

Any help would be appreciated. What else could the problem be?

See More: diskette/floppy issue in an IBM Model 30 XT

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March 9, 2015 at 18:21:04
I can't help (I've forgotten Win 3 myself). Just wondered though, although this is a hardware fault you might do better with this one on the Win 3.1 forum. Presumably the folk on there will know the hardware of that era too.

Let's see how you get on but if at some stage you want it shifted then let us know and we'll see what we can do.

Always pop back and let us know the outcome - thanks

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March 9, 2015 at 18:32:15
It's not a problem with windows - any version. It's a hardware failure before anything even boots. So it's a hardware issue - not windows. I didn't post in that group because it wasn't really applicable - but if no one answers here maybe I will cross post there too. I didn't want to break the rules and post in the wrong group my first time on here tho :0

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March 9, 2015 at 20:42:32
The XT was most advanced of the original PC series--8088 cpu and 640 K of ram. The model 30 came in two versions, an 8086 (I think) and a 286. I assume you have the model 30 with 8086 cpu.

I don't remember much about them either but am certain they don't hold the setup information on the hard drive so not having one shouldn't affect anything.

You have a bad 720K floppy drive. They never seemed to last very long anyway. And since IBM used their proprietary drives in those, it may be hard to find a new one.

OR, you're using a 1.44 disk in the 720K drive. You mention 'covering the proper hole' which means the disk was originally formatted as 1.44 or it wouldn't have the sensor hole.

I think there are still some IBM support sites where you can download setup disk image files for those older models.

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March 9, 2015 at 21:16:07
Some food for thought! I had actually considered both those things - I had played with the idea of formatting a diskette as a 720k - but from what I read xp can't do this... not successfully... but maybe I will give it a go anyway...

if that doesn't cut it, guess I will start my quest for a replacement floppy drive.

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March 9, 2015 at 22:11:29
I also think it is most likely a bad floppy drive. But I can't remember
much about the BIOS at that time. I know I went to a LOT of effort
setting up the correct parameters for the hard drive, but don't recall
anything about the floppy. I'm wondering if you can get into the BIOS,
and if so, what you find there.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

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March 10, 2015 at 00:01:25
In order of likelihood - bad disk, bad disk drive, bad floppy cable, bad floppy controller. The presence or not of a hard disk is nothing to do with it. At least it's not one of the MCA models!

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March 10, 2015 at 00:13:57
I've never tried it but according to this:


You can format a disk as 720K from XP command prompt using the necessary FORMAT switches.

Also the 8086/8088 architecture wasn't capable of supporting 1.2 or 1.44 drives unless you added a floppy card with its own bios. So replacing the 720K drive with a 1.44 won't work.

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March 10, 2015 at 02:34:58
Unless the computer has been modified the disk does need to be a 720K one (that's what the drive is). Note that you cannot (in my experience) reliably format a 720K disk in a 1.44M drive. The problem is that the track width is less so you end up with a track that is partly the new one and partly whatever was there before the format. You might strike lucky but more than likely the "formatted" disk won't work.

You really need a proper 720K disk that was formatted in a 720K drive.

message edited by ijack

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March 10, 2015 at 08:10:31
I've only ever had 1.44M drives and still have some 720k disks that I formatted using the command given in #7. Never had any issues with them at all, but what might happen if I'd tried them in a 720k drive is quite another matter.

Wish I could think of a use for boxes of old floppies - some have never even been used. The only floppy drive in the house is on my old XP.

Always pop back and let us know the outcome - thanks

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March 10, 2015 at 08:50:09
They work fine in a 1.44M drive. It's the larger head reading smaller tracks that can cause problems. Like you, I am reluctant to throw away old media. I've got floppies of all sizes (even a box of 8" ones) including the 35 that my first Linux distro came on, numerous tapes - compact cassette, qic, DAT, DLT - not to mention a few oddities such as ZIP drives. I know that I'll never use them, but I just can't bear to throw them away. And I can't even think of how many CDs I've got that will never be used again - OS/2 server, anyone?

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March 10, 2015 at 10:28:21
A lot of slightly older kit still around. I have '95 vintage kit onwards; some it even has a floppy drive.

You could run any actual dos based/capable system on floppies alone in those far off days of the XT... Did mean at times some serious floppy disk swapping etc. but at least one could run with an actual hard drive physically present.

Apart from Compaq I don't think anyone put anything to do with initial boot up on the hard drive. I seem to recall that they had this irritating habit when they "used" to split stuff between the ROM MoBo bios chip and a wee small (hidden) partition at the head of the hard drive. Which meant that if that drive died, or was replaced (and that wee small partition wasn't around...) one was somewhat "screwed" as it were re' booting up?

If the floppies are OK in another computer, then it sort of points to the current XT PC's floppy drive being slight screwed up? I have known of them failing; but not very often.

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March 10, 2015 at 11:18:37
Thank for the drive info ijack - makes sense.

Yes, like you I've known floppy drives to fail but not very often.
Contrary to what has often been said on these boards over the years, I have not found floppies themselves to be too unreliable - have had less luck with CD-RW.

Always pop back and let us know the outcome - thanks

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March 11, 2015 at 11:28:48
Hi everyone, yea, I fear it may be the floppy drive. It's old and considering the hard drive in this ancient system went belly up - I wouldn't be surprised if the floppy did too (capacitors/resistors leaking was the hard drive's problem - destroyed the board). So... I do have a possible fix. Since I am going to use a newly developed XT IDE board - http://www.lo-tech.co.uk/product/xt... to replace the hard drive with a newish compact flash hard drive, I am going to see if there's a way to wire on a molex connector so I can hook in a floppy drive. Already emailed the developer, if not I will explore similar options. I don't want to replace ancient hardware with more ancient hardware that will fail soon. Will keep you guys posted.

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March 11, 2015 at 12:47:43
If only this elderly XT IBM box had a usb port... 'Twould be so easy then to connect a usb floppy drive...

I would think one might find a suitable (albeit "elderly") floppy drive out there in www-land (eBay might be a possible) or a clearance house/computer fair?

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March 11, 2015 at 13:30:14
Another hard drive option would be a 'hard card'. It's a hard drive setup as an add-on card:


But it would probably be hard to find one of those.

Although the molex connectors are 4-wire I think floppy drives only require either the +5 or+12 voltage (I can't remember which) but not both and then the ground connection. You could buy one of the adapters:


snip off the large connector and then splice it to the appropriate wires in the IBM. You may need a voltmeter to find them.

IBM used proprietary floppy data cables in those too. I'm not sure how a generic floppy drive would connect up.

If you're going to pursue setting up an 8088 PC I think it would be a lot easier to find a turbo XT board and put it in a AT-style case. That way you don't have to mess with all that proprietary IBM nonsense.

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March 11, 2015 at 14:37:25
The problem I have with using another ancient floppy drive - trvlr - is, no hardware lasts forever. All or most of the hardware from that era is failing. Which is why the group of people who developed the xt ide card, did so. They also developed a few similar other isa type cards (if you look at the link I included above). There's also as far as I know (and I spent DAYS - for hours each day) scouring the internet - and found only two other groups of people who collaborated and developed similar technology. I think all the groups did ultimately come together with idea sharing - but there were so many people involved on the tech forums it was hard for me to keep track of who was from where and doing what lol. The end result is there are only two places to buy these types of newly developed technology from.

I am a big detractor of ebay, I will only buy from there as a last resort - reason being - it's not what it used to be and they have screwed me over once too often for me to trust the on iotta. It's where the scammers are. Certainly in the tech category. Ebay simply does NOT stand behind the buyers. At least that was my experience.

But anyway - that's not really a factor either. The real reason is just the technology from that era is all failing. Ya, with some work I could probably get my hands on another old working floppy - but it will only work for so much longer before it fails too. Since this computer is for a client, and I have been working on it for about a year, I want to be done with it finally. I want the client to be happy with it. and I do not want in 3 weeks or so for the freakin' thing to start failing and me have to open it up again. Once I am done with this, I want to be done with this :0 lol

But I really do appreciate the feedback - and I am still up for lively discussion and theorizing. I haven't yet bought the part (pcb), it will take a while to get here from the UK, and will take a while for me to build/find the parts to build. So the door is by no means closed on this -- I am still up for other options/thoughts cause this is how we learn...

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March 11, 2015 at 17:54:22
I don't think we've verified yet that the drive is bad. Only that you may be using a 1.44 formatted disk in a 720 drive.

I thought you were rebuilding it as a project the way someone might restore an old car. Is the person you're restoring it for just a fan of that model or do they have some particular need for it? (Just curious why so much time and trouble is being spent on it.)

message edited by DAVEINCAPS

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March 11, 2015 at 18:06:33
Is not the initial info that the floppy drive won't read/write disks? Also that disks it won't read, can be read in another floppy drive?

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March 11, 2015 at 18:15:59
I think the only disk he can use is the IBM setup disk. I'm not even sure if it'll successfully boot from a dos bootdisk until everything is configured by the setup disk.

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March 11, 2015 at 18:19:14
Yes, the disks can be read in another computer with floppy drive.

I think it may be the drive.

I did try to format a 1.44 as a 720 - it seemed to be successful. I made it a system disk. The IBM Model 30 still won't boot from it. It does the same thing - starts to spin the disk, but then stops. Takes me to Rom Basic.

So either it really does need a 720mb only disk - not a 1.44 formatted as such - in which case I am screwed cause all the stuff I have is on 1.44 disks.. OR it's the floppy. I am going with it's the floppy. Just about everything in this computer was dead or broken so it wouldn't surprise me.

What am I doing with this system? Making it run the only way I know how. If someone else knows shortcuts I don't, speak up. lol

This is a computer for a client who wants to play all the games he never finished from his childhood. He was very specific. He wanted an IBM Model 30 - original. He does not want to play games in emulation. He wants to play them on the original system. Which is why I am doing what I am... lol I didn't think it was going to take me this long to get here, but wow this was a much bigger project than I dreamed...

I am almost done with it. Once I get passed the hard drive / floppy issue - then, I can load windows 3.0 and DOS 5.0 (have the original disks for that too), install the joystick, and then finally get to testing all the games he wants to play that I have already copied to disk (downloaded from an abandonware type website)... Phew!

So that's my story and now you know :0

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March 11, 2015 at 18:57:38
Oh I get it--someone reliving their childhood.

It might come down to either no computer at all or one that's slightly differnt but will still run the games.

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March 11, 2015 at 20:07:18
ya, he doesn't care much as long as it runs and he can play the games...

so I know he doesn't care about how I repair the hard drive / floppy issue - again, as long as it doesn't affect the game play. and the compact flash hard drive replacement shouldn't affect anything :) we'll see.. it's a few weeks out... as i am wanting to order the board asap and it has to come from UK.

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