View Full Version : Mac Powerbook 170

January 22nd, 2009, 03:45 PM
I have a 170 powerbook that I can power up but it will not locate the hard drive. I have booted with the disk tools and tried to reinstall system be cannot because the disks cannot find the HD. Could this be a battery problem?
I'd appreciate any and all help. Thanks

January 22nd, 2009, 04:01 PM
I think it's more of a hard drive problem. From what I remember, the Powerbook 170's don't power up at all if the PRAM battery is dead. You're trying to find the internal hard drive, correct, with nothing external connected ?

January 23rd, 2009, 08:59 AM
The machine does power up but I get the floppy disk icon with the ? flashing. Nothing is connected to the machine other than the power cable.

January 23rd, 2009, 01:41 PM
Since you can boot from floppy, but just can't see the hard disk, then it's pretty much a given that the hard disk is either bad, has a loose cable, or maybe it's not an Apple disk and the software won't recognize it. For the last item, check the disk for an Apple logo on the disk. If it doesn't have one, you might need to use something like FWB Tools or Silverlining (is that the right name?) or some other 3rd party Mac disk formatting software to configure and format the hard disk. Apple hard disks often came with special ROMs, and without the ROM, Mac OS will ignore the disk.

The disk icon with question marks just means the Mac isn't finding anything to boot from. That would happen even with a good disk that was blank. But, since you can't even see the disk when booting from disk tools, then it's a bad disk, or see above...

It is also possible the main board has a bad SCSI controller, but that is much less likely than a disk problem. If you have an external SCSI disk and the PB SCSI cable, you can test this theory. But, again, you may run up against the Apple ROM disk issue if you don't have special software for the external disk.

I could be wrong about some of this. I haven't messed with my Powerbook 100 series machines for years.


January 23rd, 2009, 08:29 PM
Might it be that the HD has been wiped and needs to be formatted?

January 23rd, 2009, 08:37 PM
jmdezign said...I have booted with the disk tools

Just to make sure I'm not confused, by disk tools you mean the one that comes on the Apple system disks, and that's the one that isn't recognizing the hard drive, right ?
Does disk tools tell you anything useful, or just that it doesn't see the drive ?
What version, by the way ? Is it the one that came with the machine ?

Lohmeyer said...It is also possible the main board has a bad SCSI controller
Doesn't the Powerbook's initialization routine catch this ? While I've got either a 150 or 170 kicking around somewhere, I haven't the foggiest as to which laptop bag it's in.


January 23rd, 2009, 08:54 PM
RE: Bad SCSI - I mean if for example it was an undetectable issue like a bad cable. But it's a long shot. Frankly, it's probably just the disk. Either it really is bad, or it was wiped, and it's a non-Apple disk which means the Apple Disk tools may not see it.

What I forget is will Disk Tools ignore it completely, or will it at least list the SCSI ID. So, patscc's questions are important. Exactly how is Disk Tools not seeing the disk? Nothing, nadda, zip, or does it at least see the disk's SCSI ID and/or can it read it's model number and other info. A dead disk is usually due to the media, but the electronics should still report itself on the SCSI bus. If Disk Tools doesn't see the disk at all, then it may be something else - like the SCSI controller, or maybe just a loose cable.

Have you opened up the machine? Did a previous owner open up the machine? Are you sure it even has a disk? Maybe the previous owner scavenged the disk, or the disk cable. Don't assume anything when it comes to an old computer.

February 19th, 2009, 07:33 PM

I recently acquired a Powerbook 170 from a family member. When I turn it on, it shows a small icon of a floppy disk on the screen. And it can't get past that part. Does anybody know what it's asking for? Is it the startup disk? And if so, does anybody have a copy or can make a copy for me? I'll pay for whatever it costs to mail it to me, and of course a little extra for the trouble. Any help I'd appreciate...Thanks.

Oh also...I don't have any other Macs...Just a PC. So I wouldn't be able to burn a floppy or anything like that in Mac format...That's why I'd need probably the actual disk, right? Thank you.

February 19th, 2009, 09:29 PM
Yes, it's looking for an OS. Either it didn't find one on the hard disk, or the hard disk isn't working. Either way, the next step is you need a set of Mac OS floppies to go forward.

Mac OS 7.6.1 is the latest that supports the Powerbook 170, but anything from 7.0.1 to 7.6.1 will work. Be aware that some sets are machine specific. For example, I have a set of floppies specific to the Powerbook 180/180c, but it doesn't support the PB170. Machine specific floppy sets are nice because you only need 5 or 6 disks total. If someone has a set they can copy for you, that would be easiest. A complete set of OS 7.6.1 (or 7.5.3 with updates to 7.6.1) is about 20 to 25 floppies for a machine generic set that can boot all Macs. This is what is available for download at the links below.

Apple has all the software you need here: http://www.info.apple.com/support/oldersoftwarelist.html But, as you said, you don't have another Mac to write the floppies. You might be able to use a program like Transmac. It can read/write/format Mac OS floppies and it's 15 day trial period will get you started. I'm not sure, however, if it will read the .bin files that Apple has up for download, though.

Other useful sites to look at:
MacWindows.com (http://www.macwindows.com) - They have lists of software and tips for transferring files to/from a Mac and a PC, including links to software like Transmac that can read/write/format Mac floppies.

System 7 Today (http://main.system7today.com) - which is a little easier to figure out exactly what software you need and download (they have "Ultimate packs" which contain everything you need without all the confusion of Apple's generic FTP site. Plus, they have links for older programs you'll want like Adobe Reader, web browsers, etc. Again, I know, not helpful if you can't write Mac Floppies. But, at least it'll show you what you need.

I saw someone on this forum or elsewhere who was making Mac OS floppy sets for a small fee. If you get desperate I can help you out eventually, just not right now because I'm not setup to make Mac OS floppies at the moment.


February 19th, 2009, 11:01 PM
Oh, here's the guy making copies of Mac OS for people for a small fee. But it's OS 1 and OS 6 on 400K/800K floppies. Not what you need. http://www.rescuemyclassicmac.com/


Micom 2000
February 20th, 2009, 01:31 PM
About a decade ago I bought a PB 145. A short time later the HDD started to fail and then did despite intrusive and destuctive efforts on my part to save it. After playing with the idea of buying a new drive ($ expensive) I let it rest for a while but then found out that the backup batteries could have been the problem. On my 145 they are located under the keyboard and the leads soldered in. It's possible that all the PB-100 models have the same assembly. I found a source for the batteries but never found the bit to unscrew the fastener for the assembly. They used a Tork(sp?) screwdriver bit which was a T-08 or smaller. A bit I bought at RS labelled T-08 wouldn't fit, but I suspect it was a RS mislableing screw-up. At that point I put it on my "to-do list" since I wasn't sure if it was a fault of the batteries or the HDD, and never did get back to it. I'd avoid doing anythng to the HDD until you know if the backup batteries are OK. It occurs to me now that a good indicator of that would be if the clock maintains the correct time when powered down and disconnected from any external power, including the main batteries.


February 20th, 2009, 02:19 PM
Wasn't there some trick where you could let the internal SCSI drive on the Powerbooks appear as a regular external drive on the SCSI bus, or something along those lines ?
I'm hoping this rings a bell with someone before I go and try to crank up the way-back machine.

Micom 2000
February 20th, 2009, 09:30 PM
Without digging out my PB 145, ISTR they had a proprietary SCSI socket, otherwise I might have tried the external Syquest zip-drive I've used for years on my Atari STs. But that would have required some sort of set-up and if the internal backup batteries are dead, I doubt it could be done, much less being able to do any such process such as this. There has to be some way of keeping the setup when the PB (or most portable computers) is powered down. Portable computing devices, Course-101.

Any wagers that his problem is not the backup batteries ? Huh ? Huh? I'll betcha !
From what I've learned SCSI HDDs are very durable as compared to IDE, so I'd take that handicap.
Or maybe I should leapfrog that ancient "to-do" front and center and prove it.
Naaah, there's too many more urgent "to-dos" to do.


February 20th, 2009, 10:16 PM
Don't know if SCSI drives have any inherent advantage as far as mechanical durability, but from what I've seen, the early Apple portables did try to avoid the dirt-cheap SCSI drives.
It might also be helpful if you can open up the laptop, and disconnect the hard drive entirely.
Early SCSI bus's were designed to carry current for termination, after all( and you'll see .5 & 1.0 amp fuses on older cards), so it's entirely possible that a stuck drive is drawing too much power so that the whole kit & kaboodle shuts down.

February 21st, 2009, 02:02 PM
The situation goatmetal is posting about can't be deduced as anything more than the Mac isn't finding a system to boot from. There's no need to disassemble the Mac or get crazy here looking for a bad disk. He simply needs software to try and boot from. Don't confuse goatmetal's post with the poster who started this thread, jmdezign. Jmdezign's has software, booted from it, but can't install to the HD because the install software can't find the HD. Goatmetal, on the other hand, is asking if anyone can help him get a set of floppies to boot from in the first place.