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Thread: LS-120 drive LED stuck on, won't eject

  1. #1

    Question LS-120 drive LED stuck on, won't eject

    Hi all,

    Since I could never afford an LS-120 drive back in the day (too young) I have recently obtained a few to marvel at.

    However I am having a bit of trouble getting them to work. The BIOS detects the drive fine - I have it set up as master on the first IDE channel - however as soon as I insert a (1.44MB) disk, the problems start.

    The drive spins up, the LED comes on, and then briefly blinks off about once a second. When it momentarily blinks off, the drive makes a seeking noise, very similar to when a conventional floppy moves to the next track. This behaviour actually made me think at first that the drive was reading the whole disk into a buffer to improve performance, but unfortunately this is not the case.

    The eject button has no effect at this point, and in fact holding down the eject button seems to freeze the whole PC until I let go. The drive stops making noises and the LED stops flicking off once a second (staying lit), but the PC also stops responding until I let go of the drive's eject button.

    When there is a disk in the drive and it is behaving in this manner, the BIOS no longer detects the drive, and it also fails to detect the Zip drive I have as slave on the same IDE channel.

    If I reboot the PC, the drive resets and acts as it does when the disk is first inserted, but immediately returns to this behaviour.

    I have two LS-120 drives, and they both behave in this fashion. It seems odd they would both be broken in the same way, so I'm wondering whether anyone has seen this kind of behaviour before?

    Here is what I have tried so far:

    • Confirmed the drive was set to Master - yes
    • Removed the slave device so the LS-120 was the only device on the IDE channel - no change
    • Tried different 1.44MB disks - same behaviour, the disks tested do boot in a 1.44MB drive so they aren't corrupt - no LS-120 disks to try yet
    • Removed the IDE cable from the drive - same behaviour, only the drive no longer resets when the PC reboots

    Given that the drive behaves like this when it is powered without being connected to any IDE bus, it seems like it must be something wrong with the drive.

    Any suggestions on what to try now?

  2. #2
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    Could you describe the rest of the system and operating system? If the IDE is pre-ATAPI or if you have certain forms of SCSI adapters in place, there can be problems. I haven't seen your specific problem before though.

  3. #3

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    I'm trying it in a fairly modern system at the moment - Core2 Duo with a single onboard IDE channel - since the BIOS has support for LS-120 drives. There's no OS installed yet, my goals so far are to boot DOS from a 1.44MB floppy.

    There's no SCSI or anything, but there is SATA and the usual plethora of onboard devices in a machine of this type - audio, USB, Firewire, Ethernet, etc.

    However given that the drives behave in this strange way even when they are connected to a PSU on a bench with no motherboard involved, surely it couldn't be a conflict of some sort? You'd think a drive with power and nothing else connected would at least be able to eject a disk without having to use the emergency paperclip method!

  4. #4
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    The LS-120 has an electronic eject mechanism. I have not had such a problem happen in my limited use of a LS-120 but I have seen similar problems with CDROMs when the ejection gears break. How bold do you feel? You may need to open it up and check nothing is broken. I can only find disassembly examples of the USB Superdrive variant but that is basically an IDE drive with a small IDE to USB adapter card, all placed in a plastic shell.

    https://www.ifixit.com/Device/Imatio...disk_USB_Drive

    http://goughlui.com/2013/05/02/tech-...-120-showdown/

    Mind, I am guessing here. It is completely possible I am focusing on the wrong symptoms.

  5. #5

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    I have opened up one of the drives already just out of curiosity so that doesn't worry me. I will definitely investigate this. I think it probably is not the problem however, because if the ejection mechanism was broken you would expect the drive to stop reading the disk when the eject button was pressed, and then struggle trying to perform the eject. The fact that the drive keeps reading after you press eject suggests it is ignoring the eject request. The button is also working, otherwise it wouldn't lock up the PC while it is being held down, so it can't be a faulty button either.

    I might have to find some more LS-120 drives if I don't have any luck disassembling it, to see whether it really is a drive failure or what. Thanks for your help!

  6. #6
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    You aren't alone in your LS-120 woes, in my own experience, they don't play nice with modern IDE controllers from 2006 onwards. As SATA became more popular, OEMs looked at ways to dumbing down IDE controllers as much as possible and removed just a bit too much functionality to make LS-120s not work reliably. Just look how dumb IDE controllers are in external hard disks, many of them don't support slave drives, SMART or even ATAPI devices.

    I've not tried on-board IDE controllers (as none of my machines have them anymore) but I have tried several PCI IDE controllers from Silicon Image and Promise and they exhibited similar issues. The activity light would turn on at random times, the eject button never worked, reading or writing data from the drive would cause the system to freeze for at least a minute before the drive would do anything and Windows treated the LS-120 as a generic removable media so things like writing a floppy disk image or formatting a floppy would always fail.

    I did have a bit of luck recently though. I just upgraded my machine about a week ago and since my new board only has PCIe slots in it now, I had to get a new IDE controller. I found one from Startech that uses a JMicron IDE controller and the LS-120 works PERFECTLY on it. The eject button works and Windows treats it like a real floppy drive now. I can even read/write LS-120 media now. So apparently JMicron mades a decent IDE controller that has all of the logic required to drive one of these things.

  7. #7

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    I tried to install a LS-120 drive into my Z77 chipset Core i5 machine using several methods (SATA to IDE adapter, PCI-e IDE adapter) with no luck. At the end i wanted to try a cheap USB to IDE controller with no hope, but interestingly worked like a charm in Windows 7 and then upgraded Windows 10. Usually USB to XXX converters are the most incompatible compared with native adapters, but in my case it was the best and the cheapest solution
    Turbo XT (V20/10, ST251, IBM 5151) - IBM 5155 (V20, 50MB SCSI) - IBM PS/2 Model-60 (8560-041) - IBM PS/2 Model 80 (8580-X21, XGA2) - IBM PS/2 Model-30 (8530-021, IBM 8513) - IBM PS/2 Model-30/286 (8530-H31) - IBM PS/1 (2133-642) - IBM PS/1 (2155-593) - IBM PC 330 450DX2 (6571-KV1) - Wearnes Boldline (80286/16) - Hyundai SUPER386ST (386SX/25) - AST AdvantagePro! (486DX/33) - Olivetti PCS46/C (486DX2/50), P200MMX System - Pentium PRO-200 System

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by GiGaBiTe View Post
    You aren't alone in your LS-120 woes, in my own experience, they don't play nice with modern IDE controllers from 2006 onwards. As SATA became more popular, OEMs looked at ways to dumbing down IDE controllers as much as possible and removed just a bit too much functionality to make LS-120s not work reliably. Just look how dumb IDE controllers are in external hard disks, many of them don't support slave drives, SMART or even ATAPI devices.

    I've not tried on-board IDE controllers (as none of my machines have them anymore) but I have tried several PCI IDE controllers from Silicon Image and Promise and they exhibited similar issues. The activity light would turn on at random times, the eject button never worked, reading or writing data from the drive would cause the system to freeze for at least a minute before the drive would do anything and Windows treated the LS-120 as a generic removable media so things like writing a floppy disk image or formatting a floppy would always fail.

    I did have a bit of luck recently though. I just upgraded my machine about a week ago and since my new board only has PCIe slots in it now, I had to get a new IDE controller. I found one from Startech that uses a JMicron IDE controller and the LS-120 works PERFECTLY on it. The eject button works and Windows treats it like a real floppy drive now. I can even read/write LS-120 media now. So apparently JMicron mades a decent IDE controller that has all of the logic required to drive one of these things.
    +1. Even though my 771 motherboard has an ide connection, it does not work with my ls-120. I had to buy an old ata66 pci card and it worked perfectly on that.
    It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.

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