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Thread: "General failure reading drive A" persists until reboot

  1. #1

    Default "General failure reading drive A" persists until reboot

    The system is a 5160 (third revision BIOS, XTIDE Universal BIOS v2.0.0b3), with a half-height 5.25" floppy drive and the IBM Diskette Drive Adapter (w/Intel P8272A), running MS-DOS 6.22.

    Been reading quite a lot of data off some floppies. Every once in a while, a perfectly good disk would give me a "General failure reading drive A:". No matter what I choose at this prompt - from that point on every attempt to access drive A: will give the same error - the drive light doesn't even light up, it just barfs immediately every time until I warm-boot. *Then*, the same disk will often read just fine.

    That only happens with this particular error: I've gotten other critical stops with disks that are actually bad ("Sector not found", "Data error", "Invalid media", and so on so forth) but they behave as you'd expect.

    Any ideas? I don't see anything that could cause a DMA or IRQ conflict. It's just an annoyance, since a restart does fix things, but I'd be happier if it stops happening...
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  2. #2
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    Unfortunately, "General Failure" is a catchall for several problems. It could be a controller failure or simply a bad boot sector.

    Try using a better diagnostic.

  3. #3

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    Old joke:
    "Who is General Failure, and why is he trying to read my drive?"

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    In the disk dumping utility I wrote -- which uses only INT 13h commands -- I found sometimes that aborting at what I thought was a "clean" place to do so (after a command had finished and returned control) would bork the controller and I had to warm-boot as well to get it back on track. I chalked it up at the time to me doing something wrong, somehow.
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    Well, that's one reason that the 765 features a software reset line.

    But if you look at the MSDOS code, "General Failure" can come from a variety of places. For example, if the layout of the boot sector doesn't make sense, "General Failure". If the controller hangs, "General Failure"....you get the idea.

  6. #6

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    I know it's not related to the boot sector or anything else about the diskette itself, because it reads fine all the way after a warm boot.

    Sounds like the controller *is* hanging, like Trixter describes... although in my case it happens with DOS's own copy/xcopy. Wouldn't be surprised if it's yet another bug introduced with DOS versions past 3.x running on older hardware, like the MODE.COM CGA crash.
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  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by VileR View Post
    Wouldn't be surprised if it's yet another bug introduced with DOS versions past 3.x running on older hardware, like the MODE.COM CGA crash.
    So it never happens when you're running DOS 3.3? Only with DOS 6.22?
    PM me if you're looking for 3" or 5" floppy disks. EMail For everything else, Take Another Step

  8. #8

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    Can't test with 3.x for now, unfortunately; I only said it wouldn't surprise me (the partition I'm copying to is too large for 3.x).
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  9. #9

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    I run DOS 6.22 on my 5160, XUB, HH 360k 5.25" and 3.5" floppy drive and stock floppy controller, Can't say i've had that happen using good 360k or 720k floppy disks.

  10. #10
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    It does sounds like some kind of very intermittent hardware failure, but it could be a lot of different things. You would have to narrow the issue down quite a bit.

    Since it happens while copying files, you could set up a batch file to repeatedly copy all files to NUL. That way you would not need a hard drive on DOS 3.3 and might rule out XTIDE issues under DOS 6.22.

    I don't know if there are any good tools for stress-testing the FDC chip directly. But I would try testing with tools like ImageDisk that bypass the BIOS and talk directly the the FDC hardware.

    Of course, trying with a different FDC card would be a simple thing to do to rule out the card itself. But issues with the motherboard, ISA bus, or XT-IDE would remain.

    Does this only happen right after changing disks? That could actually point to a software problem. MS-DOS is a little goofy about switching between 160k, 180k, 320k, 360k, and oddball formats. It could be that the previous disk was some odd format and it didn't figure out that the disk was changed.

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