How do I transfer data using a parallel port?

November 16, 2010 at 08:59:18
Specs: PC
I have an old Compaq computer from the earlier 1990's which is connected to a very valuable piece of equipment in my lab. In fact the computer (and printer) came with the piece of equipment and due to proprietary software restrictions I am currently unable to just connect a new computer directly to the piece of equipment unless I buy new software. As this computer has a DOS system any analysis done has to either be handwritten in a notebook (as seen on the screen) or printed (but the printer just broke). After either option there is data entry into Excel etc in a newer computer with Windows XP. Neither option is horrible, but it would be nice to streamline it a bit.

I have been asked to figure out a way to still be able to use the old software, but retrieve the data so that it can more quickly (and reliably) be analyzed. At the back of the DOS computer the only available port is a parallel port - what Im wondering is (a) if its possible and (b) how I can transfer data using a parallel port from a DOS computer to another computer with Windows XP?

Other related questions:
(1) What equipment/ type of cord do I need to connect parallel ports?
(2) How do I get a DOS to send signal from the parallel port to the other computer? Do I just need to push "print screen"?
(3) I have a Labview program available for me to use to retrieve the data on the newer computer - any suggestions on how I need to read the data incoming into the newer computer?

Thanks very much in advance for any assistance in this. I do not have a huge amount of computer knowledge so I apologize if any of my terminology is not completely accurate.

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November 16, 2010 at 09:25:30
Just to start the thread what you want to achieve is feasible using a parallel port to parallel port cable as that used by LapLink or MS DOS 6 InterLink applications.

The above applications operate a file transfer using serial or parallel port and the cable is easily found in computer shops (I have many of them as unused hardware). InterLink is a MS program packaged with DOS 6 so at no cost, but it requires a DOS system on the XP machine running as guest inside a MS Virtual PC (free).

If you can run your legacy software inside a Virtual PC under Windows XP I suggest to explore directly this solution instead of setting up a parallel connection between two computers.

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November 16, 2010 at 09:52:13
"still be able to use the old software"

What is the name and version of the program ?

What version of Dos is on the computer ?

Does it have Windows 3.1 on it ? (As I recall, it requires Dos 5.0 or above.)

As I recall, only more recent versions of Dos ( 5.0 and above ? ) are able to transfer data to other computers using a parallel or serial cable by using programs built into the operating system .

If you have a more recent version of Dos, or that and Windows 3.1, you need what is called a parallel Interlink cable, or the equivalent.

If you have an available physical serial port, you can also use a serial Interlink cable, or the equivalent.

They are both cables wired up at their end connectors such that you can transfer data with them, by using a pair of programs built into Dos (it's easier to use them in Win 3.1).

(There were also third party programs that did the same thing, such as Laplink - the cables may need to be wired up at the end connectors differently for those. )

The equivalent to Dos's Interlink feature in Win 95 and above is Direct Cable Connection.

HOWEVER, I don't know if you can use Dos software on one end of the connection, and Win 95 or later software on the other end of the connection.

I'll see what I can dig up.

If you have Windows for Workgroups (Win 3.11) on the Dos computer, then you can probably transfer data to a Win 95 and up computer by using that.

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November 16, 2010 at 11:32:21
Can you transfer data between Dos and Win 95 and up using Direct Cable Connection ?? - NO, but ....

"You can however transfer between the 2 with the correct cable and LapLink or FastLynx"

There is a legacy (OLD, not supported) Laplink version for Dos and one for Win 3.1, you may be able to find that free on the web, but there appears to be no info about them anymore on the Laplink web site:

You would have to find info about how to use it with XP.

Data transfer between Dos and Win 95 (or 98, or 98SE) ??

"download the Laplink program from the internet,save iti in a floppy and install it,in both computers.After u run the program in both computers(pentium with win95 must run under dos..)the computers detect
each other and easy to transfer files between."

Win95, 98, or 98SE must be in MSDos mode, or the program may run at the Dos Prompt in them.
ME has poor Dos mode support.
XP has no MsDos mode - it often requires tweaking XP's minimal Dos support or a third party "Dos box" program to be able to run a Dos program in XP.

A current, supported program you could use:

Total Commander:
Windows® 95/98/ME/NT/2000/XP/Vista/7, and Windows® 3.1.

In your case, you MUST have Win 3.1 (or Win 3.11) on the Dos computer.

(If you don't have Win 3.1 or 3.11 on it, if your Dos is at least 5.0 ?, you can probably download at least Win 3.1 free from the web and install it. )

$38 US and up for a single user license

See the bottom of this page for the version for Win 3.1:

(16 bit programs will run in XP too)

Using Total Commander between Win 3.1 and Win 95 and up:

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November 16, 2010 at 12:51:47
Dos used to use interlnk/intersrv to share over parallel ports. The name got changed over the years and I think they call it something different again in windows 7 but it should still work.

I"d use maybe G4U to clone the drive to a file. Then I'd make a virtual machine out of it on a newer computer. The newer computer's VM would have both windows integration where files could be simply dragged and dropped across OS's but it would be able to use serial and IP or other networked tasks.

Why did it take me over a year to phone in a problem to ATT?

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November 19, 2010 at 05:12:30
In 1992 my lab purchased a Particle Size Analyzer that came with a Compaq computer (DOS 5.0, Win3.1) and a printer. I am trying to find out if we were given a floppy copy of the software for operating the PSA and calculating the particle size distribution, but from what I know right now it looks like the software was installed for us on the computer without a hard copy given.

The most possible solution at the moment involves a parallel interlink (as the only serial port on the Compaq is currently connected to the PSA, and the manufacturer wont provide any details on math for particle size determination due to a patent!).

Do you know if I used a laplink program on the DOS computer side of the parallel link, and read in data using a labview program (which I will create) on the Windows XP side on a newer computer...will this retrieve data?

The goal is not to just retrieve archived data on the DOS computer, but also to retrieve it as it is calculated on the DOS - do you have any suggestions for how I can approach this? If I am connecting on a parallel port (what was the printer port) do I just "print screen' to get it to send to the newer computer via the link?

Thanks everyone for your suggestions! I appreciate it.

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November 19, 2010 at 10:44:24
Who made the "Particle Size Analyzer" ?.

If they're still in business, you may be able to get many of the answers you need from their web site, if they have a web site, or by contacting them via email. They may even have software for the same "Particle Size Analyzer" model that runs in XP (or 2000 - most programs for 2000 run in XP fine).

If it was made by Cilas, click on the red dot nearest the location of where you are to yield the contact email address:

Home page:

"came with a Compaq computer (DOS 5.0, Win3.1)"

Then you can use Interlink-like programs to connect that computer in Win 3.1, or Dos, to another computer. It's usually much easier to use such programs in Win 3.1.

"Do you know if I used a laplink program..."

You would need to use either the (or an, if there is more than one) obsolete Laplink version for Dos, or the (or an) obsolete Laplink version for Win 3.1, and you would have to dig around on the web to find out how to use the program and how to connect to a computer with a newer operating system.
The Laplink web site does not support those versions anymore, and there seems to be no info about them when you search their knowledge base, despite the text saying there is info about older versions there.

You would probably have to use a "dos box" or "dos virtual machine" program or similar on the XP (2000 or higher) computer

I recommend you use something that is supported NOW , instead, so you at least can look for support on their site, or contact them.

E.g. Total Commander - see the last part of response 3 above.

"If I am connecting on a parallel port (what was the printer port) do I just "print screen' to get it to send to the newer computer via the link?"

I don't think that's possible. Print Screen only works on the computer it is executed on as far as I have gathered. It only prints what is visible on the screen in any case.

You could use a screen capture program of some sort, meant to be used in Dos or Win 3.1, to make a picture file (*.jpg, or *.bmp, etc., etc.) of the results, transfer that file to the other computer and print it no problem, if you can find one - that probably can only capture what is on the screen, or blocks of what is on the screen, too. E.g. I use PrintKey, but as far as I know it works only in Win 95 and up.
There MAY be old versions still available on the web - more likely for Win 3.1 than for Dos only.
Can you run this program in Win 3.1 ?

Or, if you can run the program in Win 3.1, as I recall, you can copy the screen contents to the Clipboard in Win 3.1 (you just press Print Screen ?) , then go to the Clipboard and save it as a*.bmp file or possibly other types of picture files.

You could establish a network between the computers and set up a virtual printer on one or the other computer - that would be easiest to do if you had Windows for Workgroups (Win 3.11) rather than Win 3.1. Support for Win 3.11 and it's added features was very well supported in Win 95 and up. It's probably possible to do that with Dos and Win 3.1 too, but much more complicated.

You can use a PCI parallel port card in the Dos computer, if it has a spare PCI slot, if Dos drivers are available for it (more likely if it's a used card) or an ISA enhanced parallel port card, or more likely an ISA multi-I/O card that has an enhanced parallel port built into it (usually you can disable everything except what you want to use) , if you need the printer connected to the Dos computer as well.
(Enhanced = supports EPP, ECP, or EPP/ECP mode - most printers must use one of those modes. Most ISA cards with parallel ports do NOT support Enhanced modes - only the ones made later do. All PCI parallel port cards I know of support enhanced modes. )

You MAY be able to simply choose to Print to a file, then copy or move that file via the parallel connection, then print that file on the other computer that has a printer connected to it. If you can do that, the file must be saved in a format that the printer can interpret properly.
If it's a dot matrix printer, 2000 and above have the drivers for many common brands and models built in, but the printer is NOT Plug and Play detectable, so you must manually select the model in Printers and Faxes - Add a printer.
If it's not a dot matrix printer, the same thing applies for most parallel connected printer models, but not all brands and models common when the computer was new are supported in XP.
E.g. If the printer is an old Canon BJ or BJC model, XP has the software ("drivers") for those built in. If it is an old Epson model, XP is likely to have the support built in. If it's an old Citizen model, it probably doesn't.

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