View Full Version : Hard disk upgrades and Backups

December 20th, 2006, 03:05 PM
I think I know what I need to do, but I'll run it by some of the more knowledgeable members of the group here first. Here is my current setup:

Windows 2000 machine - 30GB
Dead Windows 2000 machine - was 30GB. Needs a new drive
Linux firewall/fileserver - 18GB (SCSI)

I've been backing up to tape for years, but I'm giving up - the tapes (TR-4) are too slow and unreliable.

I plan on doing an image backup of the main Windows 2000 machine monthly, with daily incremental backups. (I'm doing file level backups now, but it is too slow and I'm not doing it as often as I should.) I need to put a new hard disk in the dead Windows 2000 machine, and I need some additional storage to start backing up the Linux box. I also would like more storage on the main Windows machine, as the 30GB drive on there is getting full.

So a good solution sounds like an external USB 2.0 attached hard disk, in the 160 to 250GB range. However, none of these machines are USB 2.0, so unless I put another card in the things they are going to be slow. But that solution appeals to me because I can move from machine to machine, boot a Linux CD, and do an image backup to a file on the external hard disk.

A second solution is to put an internal drive in one of the machines, and use that as a backup target. The logical machine to do that in is the Linux machine, but it is a fairly elderly Pentium 233 and I doubt that it knows how to spin down an IDE drive when not in use. It is also SCSI at the moment, so I expect the typical SCSI/IDE cat-fight if I install an IDE drive. I also don't know how the onboard controller and BIOS from 1998 feel about a 250GB hard disk.

An external SCSI drive would be great for that machine, as I could keep it powered off when not in use. But SCSI ain't cheap, especially in that size.

I've considered backing up to DVD, but going from hard disk to hard disk is far faster. And none of the machines currently read DVDs.

Is there anything else I should consider here? Maybe it's time to visit Dell? :-)

(All of these machines are homebuilt monsters. They do the job cheap and effectively, and I know and trust what are in them. I save the good machines for work.)

December 20th, 2006, 04:55 PM
The added internal drive sounds best to me. The ONLY major drawback to that is if you have a fire or flood, you lose the entire thing. A new Dell el-cheapo I just purchased came with Ghost 10. It does the backup job automatically in the background (I split the drives and one is the backup data partition). Ghost was one of those infamous time-limited trials so I forked out $50 to upgrade to normal Ghost 10.

nige the hippy
December 21st, 2006, 02:05 AM
what about getting another small and clunky machine with network capability up and running, set it up as a shared networked drive (fileserver?), and just plug in and power up when you need it. You can usually set the cmos to ignore mouse, keyboard, and screen errors on start-up, so you just need to plug these in when you're setting it up.

December 21st, 2006, 05:46 AM
That is actually the way my Linux machine runs now. It's the cable modem firewall and a part time fileserver. I don't have anything critical on it because I treat it more like a circular filing cabinet (read recycling bin) than a real file server. My usual interface to it is the power switch .. if I need to do something else, I telnet or SSH into it. (Telnet only available on the house network for obvious security reasons.)

I was leaning toward external storage, but before I do I'm going to try an experiment and put an IDE hard disk in the Linux box. If it can spin down for power saving (and not prematurely wear the drive out) and the SCSI drive can still be primary, I'll put a 250GB Seagate in and call it good. It's not a portable solution, but backing up over the network isn't so bad.

A nicer Linux box would be nice, but the P233 is doing well and this being a vintage computer forum, we know not to trash hardware unnecessarily. :-)

December 21st, 2006, 06:19 AM
Perhaps a 3rd party IDE controller (with RAID functionality?) is in order to install into the Linux file server if its internal IDE controller is not suitable. I suppose it already has a 3rd party SCSI controller, or is it some make that had integrated SCSI? I suppose looking for 300 MB/s S-ATA is overdoing it, considering the computer and network capacity to transfer data from the disk. Also, you would use it for backup purposes, not to be permanently connected from the other computers like a true file server?

If you feel like a hacker, maybe you can get a cheap CD burner installed into the Linux box, and daily/weekly schedule backups to optical media? It would probably require you to swap CD-R once in a while, but rather cool if it can be made to work.

December 21st, 2006, 07:18 AM
Funny, I know far more about my older machines than I know about the machines I use every day.

The IDE controller and BIOS on the Linux machine date back to 1998 - it's an Abit IT5H motherboard. The IDE controller is reported as an Intel Corp. 82371SB PIIX3 IDE [Natoma/Triton II]. The Award BIOS is the more important part. It supports 'LARGE' addressing and for Linux use I think it just has to be correct enough to boot - Linux will do the rest.

The motherboard supposedly will allow you to boot from SCSI even with an IDE hard disk present, so I guess I just have to try it.

The machine is usually on, so the spinning down of the hard disk is important - this isn't going to be a dedicated 'backup server' machine.

I'll find a reasonable IDE drive and experiment. Given the price of the new drive, even if it doesn't work as I want I'm not going to be out a large amount of money. I remember when 1GB drives cost hundreds of dollars .. it wasn't that long ago.

December 21st, 2006, 08:51 AM
Yep, get a HDD and try if it works according to your needs. If it doesn't, you already have two more computers which are in need of larger (or any at all) hard disks. I had a friend who squeezed in some very large (20 GB?) hard disks into his 486DX/33 boxes sometime around year 2003. It was feasible because as you write, as long as the parameters are correct enough to boot, Linux will take over the hard disk addressing so BIOS limitations are no longer important. I suppose this is true for newer Windows XP/Vista as well, but while a stripped down Linux distro is feasible on a 486, Win XP usually isn't.

nige the hippy
December 21st, 2006, 12:34 PM
Regarding spinning down the disk, Is there not an atapi command for doing that? -there must be - because how else would power-managed BIOSes do exactly that on laptops etc. Hopefully you could do it to just the one drive, with a little teeny program.... not from me though, I'm definitely hardware orientated!

acpi linux link...


May be useful..... anyone know better

December 22nd, 2006, 01:12 PM
Things look good:

- The old P233 IDE controller seems to work. It's not blinding speed, but it works.
- Linux saw the full drive capacity and was able to partition it.
- I can spin it down at will using hdparm.

The new drive is a 250GB Seagate, 16MB cache, 7200 RPM, with a five year warrantee. To put things in perspective, it is probably bigger than every other hard drive in my home combined, excluding my laptops for work. (And even then, it would be close.)

December 22nd, 2006, 01:33 PM
Glad to see Seagate is still chugging along. I would be bummed if Western Digital or Seagate had to fold up shop.