New disk Controller for a 286

February 10, 2011 at 16:48:18
Specs: DOS 6.22, 286-10/S - 640K
I have a Northgate 286 system with a massive disk controller card. But the card has no IDE interface, only MFM. I really don't want to scavenge an MFM drive.

How can I find a drive controller that will work with this motherboard:

The drive controller needs some ability in LBA, at least enough to recognize a 40MB drive.

I don't think there is a CMOS chip on this board, but not sure how to tell without being able to boot it up and look.

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February 10, 2011 at 20:40:02
It looks like that mboard has only 8 bit and 16 bit ISA slots.

What do you intend to do with a mboard that can have only a max 1mb of ram on the mboard ?

Most, if not all, ISA IDE controller cards have no "bios" on the card - the max hard drive size supported is determined by the mboard's bios. Most are 16 bit ISA.

An ISA SCSI card may have a "bios", if you got a SCSI hard drive and SCSI data cable to go along with it. E.g.the Adaptec site may still have info about ancient cards.

I don't recall any ISA card that supports LBA, but for some SCSI ones at least you can probably set custom parameters as well as standard ones.

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February 10, 2011 at 23:03:36
I'm not sure a 40 meg drive is capable of LBA.

I'm sure it has a cmos but you may need disks to access it. The most common 40 meg drive type was type 17 and it's likely the bios will have it. You'll need to verify your IDE drive has a translation that supports type 17.

Promise had a 16-bit ISA card with on-board bios if you have a drive that's not natively supported by the computer's bios. I remember one model could accomodate a 4 gig drive.

How about those Packers Steelers Packers!

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February 11, 2011 at 07:13:11
Good point.
You MAY be able to find a used Promise ISA IDE controller card on the web.

However, as I recall, they did NOT support ATAPI - if a drive controller doesn't support ATAPI it can't be used for optical drives - they are not recognized.
The older Promise PCI IDE drive controller chipsets do not support ATAPI either.

My Dad had a Sanyo 286 12mz - a lot newer than yours (1988) - proprietary mboard but it used standard ISA cards and standard SIMM ram modules. You had to use a specific floppy to access it's bios Setup, which supported IDE hard drives.It came with an ISA RLL drive controller card and a 30mb RLL drive, but later on we used an ISA IDE drive controller card (no "bios" on it) and various IDE hard drives with it. The bios had no setting where you could specify custom hard drive parameters - you had to choose a static type / size in the list.
There were generic bios setup floppies for 286 computers available on the web when I looked years ago.

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Related Solutions

February 11, 2011 at 09:49:34
I should have come out with it from the start. I want to skip the whole ancient hard drive ordeal and use a 32MB Compact Flash card with an adapter that plugs right into an IDE header.

I was looking at these two controllers before I posted:

Or this:

I'm not worried about connecting optical drives to the board, I can load the files i need directly onto the CF card from another comp.

Oh yea, my motivation. I just want to learn more about how computers have progressed, hands on style. I've also got some ancient games I'd like to enjoy (and preserve) in their native environment.

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February 11, 2011 at 11:18:40
That should work fine.

Apparently the Compact Flash, or whatever memory card, to IDE adapters need no drivers.

Embedded Single Slot and Dual Slot IDE-CF Adapter

IDE Compact Flash Adapter with Opt. Mounting Plate

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February 11, 2011 at 12:34:49
Ok, do you think the one off amazon looks... promising? It's at a good price point, and claims to have its own BIOS.

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February 11, 2011 at 13:13:38
It should work fine.
Promise may still have detailed info about it on their web site if want to check that out.
It's LBA feature may not support recognizing drives larger than 137gb (=128gb in the operating system) but that's of no concern if you use only memory cards.

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February 12, 2011 at 18:27:03
Bought the Promise off Amazon, will post again when I get to play with it.

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February 12, 2011 at 18:56:18
Let us know how things turn out.

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March 1, 2011 at 16:33:19
The disk controller looks better than I expected; brand new, onboard BIOS, ATAPI support for cdroms. Too bad I can't do anything without a working graphics output :(

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