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Thread: Want to Add Hard Drive to XT

  1. #1

    Default Want to Add Hard Drive to XT

    I have an IBM 5160 640k model, and I want to add a hard drive. I have an IBM MFM controller card, will any MFM hard drive work with it? I see lots of hard drives eBay but without the controller cards, can I use any controller card with any hard drive? How do you set up the hard drive when there is no BIOS? Are hard cards a good choice? I read somewhere online that there are 8 bit IDE cards I can use to mount a IDE hard drive what kind do you guys reccomend?

  2. #2
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    I recommend grabbing an XT-IDE card from Glitchworks and using a modern IDE drive, or a Compact flash to IDE adapter and a CF card. Much easier to get and maintain than MFM stuff is these days.

    The way I see it, the only reason to go MFM would be if you wanted the machine to be period accurate, which some people do want to do, however IMO this makes the machine less useable and much more prone to failure.

    IBM 5160 - 360k, 1.44Mb Floppies, NEC V20, 8087-3, 45MB MFM Hard Drive, Vega 7 Graphics, IBM 5154 Monitor running MS-DOS 5.00
    IBM PCJr Model 48360 640kb RAM, NEC V20,, jrIDE Side Cart, 360kb Floppy drives running MS-DOS 5.00
    Evergreen Am5x86-133 64Mb Ram, 8gb HDD, SB16 in a modified ATX case running IBM PC-DOS 7.10

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    You can use any MFM hard drive with a legacy controller, within limits. It's not uncommon for older XT-type (8 bit) controller cards to have limits of anywhere from 32MB to 80MB. You can get around that with a modified BIOS, but if you're dreaming about an XT with a 1GB MFM drive, that's not going to be realistic.

  4. #4

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    MFM drives are noisy and prone to errors. You just can't buy any refurbished MFM drive free of bad sectors. You just need one application freezing to get a head crash and then the sector is gone.

    I have 2 MFM and they are slow, unreliable and NOISY AS HELL! Serious, they have mechanical moving parts outside the case! I can't use them past midnight, not that they turn into pumpkins but they will wake up everybody in the house...

    Get a XTIDE and a real IDE drive or a CF card. You can even use those Hitachi microdrives 3K4 they are real deal micro-hard drives. They work like a charm and don't run out of writing cycles.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Canada View Post
    You just need one application freezing to get a head crash and then the sector is gone.
    What? A head crash is when the hard drive's heads, which normally float on a cushion of air when in operation, come into physical contact with the drive platters. There is no way for any application to do this, either intentionally or due to an error. A head crash can only be caused by mechanical failure of the drive, or it being violently jarred while in operation.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by vwestlife View Post
    What? A head crash is when the hard drive's heads, which normally float on a cushion of air when in operation, come into physical contact with the drive platters. There is no way for any application to do this, either intentionally or due to an error. A head crash can only be caused by mechanical failure of the drive, or it being violently jarred while in operation.
    What, you never kicked a computer when a program crashed?

    As much as I love tangible mass storage, and despise SD cards being used for this purpose, I can't imagine acquiring "new" mechanical hard drives for old computers anymore. I have hard drives failing pretty regularly and so far no problems with SD cards in this service.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Canada View Post
    You just can't buy any refurbished MFM drive free of bad sectors.
    DUH!!!

    FWIW, you couldn't buy a new MFM drive that was free of bad sectors. What do you think the track map that was glued to the top of the drive was all about? It was a list of bad sectors as the drive came out of the factory. So how would you ever get a refurbished drive that was free of bad sectors?
    If you're looking for DS/DD or DS/HD 3" or 5" floppy disks, PM me. I've got some new, used, and factory over-labeled disks for sale.

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  8. #8
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    Plenty of XT-IDEs to go around! Bare boards, parts kits, and fully assembled+tested are available. I've still got a few industrial Flash modules as well. Aside from being one of the folks selling XT-IDE stuff, I do typically recommend that PC hobbyists keep away from real MFM drives if they don't already have one so that the MFM drives can be used in things that have no other convenient option. Like AT&T UNIX PCs.

    If you do go with a MFM drive, make sure you keep good backups. Even if it's just hobby stuff, the disk will eventually die and you'll be stuck repeating your setup work again.

    Do some research on your controller and see if you can find out which drives it is compatible with. Typically, to format a drive on an XT-class machine, you invoke the low-level format program via DEBUG. Some cards would come up with a prompt, but for most you run DEBUG and execute something like G=C800:5 (depends on the controller, but this was commonly the entry point for the onboard low-level format).

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stone View Post
    FWIW, you couldn't buy a new MFM drive that was free of bad sectors. What do you think the track map that was glued to the top of the drive was all about? It was a list of bad sectors as the drive came out of the factory. So how would you ever get a refurbished drive that was free of bad sectors?
    Even brand new hard drives today still come from the factory with bad sectors on them. They're just masked off so that the operating system, and in turn you, don't see them.

  10. #10
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    For someone that isn't fussed about how the data is loaded and/or just doesn't want to deal with all the cables/ROM config/finding gear etc etc, then XT-IDE is perfect, and I'd also remove a floppy drive and fit a GoTek USB emulator (because writing 360KB floppies to failing media is even less fun).

    But I did want to add that I don't think the world of MFM is a horror story, my IBM's and actually about 10-15 other systems are running 1980's MFM drives without data loss, without failure, and without making huge amounts of noise. You can and likely will find bad drives, but they're not all like that. So if the OP wants to stick 1980's, I wouldn't run from it.
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