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Thread: Issues with NEC Versa 4000D Laptop

  1. #1

    Question Issues with NEC Versa 4000D Laptop

    I just got this laptop from my dad, as I was looking for an early Pentium or a 386/486 machine for various reasons. This is actually a very nice laptop, especially at the time it was released. It contains a 120MHz Pentium, 16MB of RAM (expandable to 40, which I will probably do at some point), Soundblaster-compatible sound card (which actually sounds pretty good) that even has a line in! The touchpad and keyboard are fairly nice as well.

    It has two PCMCIA card slots, one of which was occupied with a Xircom combination 28.8 modem/10Mbps Ethernet card. Unfortunately, it did not come with the cables that attach to the card to make it work. I have a hunch that these cables were somewhat standard between manufacturers of the time, but I'm not totally sure. The ones for 3COM modems look identical, though I suppose the pin-out could be different. The other thing about this series of laptops is the "VersaBay" in the front, which can hold either a floppy drive, CDROM, hard drive, or (from some sources I've read) another battery. The issue I am having at the moment is the included floppy drive will not read any floppy discs I try. I have cleaned the heads, but I am worried that the motor which moves the heads isn't working. Either that or the heads are misaligned, but I have no idea how to align them. I've had the drive apart to take a quick look in case it was something obvious, but because of the design it's pretty much impossible to have it plugged in to the laptop while opened up. I could potentially use my HP power supply when I get back home to power it up. The motor which spins the disc is definitely working. So at the moment I have no easy way to transfer files on/off of it, making it not very useful to me.

    If anyone here has any ideas, I'd appreciate it. I was thinking of picking up a CompactFlash PCMCIA card, but if the installed Windows 95 doesn't have the drivers then I'm out of luck. The other option is to try and find cables for the Xircom card, as it is already installed with drivers, and appears to work. My other option would be trying to find a CDROM for the VersaBay (no luck searching online), a replacement floppy drive (there are 2 on eBay but they are listed at insane prices) which is an NEC FD1238H, or perhaps getting an external serial modem or something. I'm wracking my brains trying to think of a way to get files on/off without breaking the bank.

    So glad I rediscovered these forums, it will be a treasure trove of info as I get back into my hunt for vintage machines!
    I attached a few pictures of the machine, the Xircom card, and the hackjob that someone did on the CMOS battery! I did a much better job replacing it.
    Cheers
    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
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    There are other ways of transferring files, but unfortunately, most require some way to get software on the machine.

    1. You can transfer files over a null modem or special parallel port cable with LapLink: https://winworldpc.com/product/lapli...for-windows-95

    2. MS-DOS 6.2.2 had INTERLNK and INTERSVR which could do the same thing: http://www.pcxt-micro.com/dos-interlink.html
    This works (but is not included) with Windows 95. You'll have to get the files on the hard drive somehow. Also you'll want to make sure both PCs have the same file system (ie. both FAT32 or both FAT16) else you'll have issues.

    3. There were parallel port storage devices:
    - BackPack CD-ROM: https://www.ebay.com/itm/233344882856
    - LS-120: https://www.ebay.com/itm/163774672160
    - ZIP 100 Drive: https://www.ebay.com/itm/153695520437

    4. If the laptop supports it, you can get an IDE to SD card adapter like this: https://www.ebay.com/itm/252470736918
    This way, you can just put the SD card in another PC and copy files to it and put it back in the laptop.

    As for the floppy drive, make sure the stepper motor isn't seized that moves the heads. Try lubing up the worm drive (if it uses one) with silicone grease and spinning it gently by hand to move the heads back and forth. If it's seized still, you'll have to take the stepper motor off and apart to see why it's seized up.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by GiGaBiTe View Post
    There are other ways of transferring files, but unfortunately, most require some way to get software on the machine.

    1. You can transfer files over a null modem or special parallel port cable with LapLink...
    LapLinlk allows you to transfer/install the software from one machine that is already running it to the other machine when you're using a null modem cable.
    PM me if you're looking for 3" or 5" floppy disks. EMail For everything else, Take Another Step

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by MrAureliusR View Post
    It has two PCMCIA card slots, one of which was occupied with a Xircom combination 28.8 modem/10Mbps Ethernet card. Unfortunately, it did not come with the cables that attach to the card to make it work. I have a hunch that these cables were somewhat standard between manufacturers of the time, but I'm not totally sure.
    I own three PCMCIA network cards (two NE2000 clones and a 3C589). All use the same connector between card and ethernet. Neither works with the wrong adapter.

    Quote Originally Posted by MrAureliusR View Post
    The issue I am having at the moment is the included floppy drive will not read any floppy discs I try.
    What about using a different floppy drive (or a Gotek)? Many notebooks used compatible floppy drives.

    Quote Originally Posted by MrAureliusR View Post
    If anyone here has any ideas, I'd appreciate it. I was thinking of picking up a CompactFlash PCMCIA card, but if the installed Windows 95 doesn't have the drivers then I'm out of luck.
    I've got such a card, and it depends mostly on the CF card itself whether it works or not. Windows 95 did not have any trouble with small cards (8 MB or 64 MB), but I remember that some DOS drivers did not like the 64 MB card.

    Well, the system boots, so you have many options. Supplied with the OS are INTERLNK/INTERSVR (in Windows 95, they are on the installation CD-ROM in \OTHER\OLDMSDOS). Software such as Norton Commander can clone itself to a system through a null-modem cable (the receiving system does not need to have anything installed except DOS), and can then be used to copy other applications. Windows 95 itself comes with Direct Cable Connection (although that probably needs the installation files, which also applies to any other PCMCIA card). It also comes with HyperTerminal, allowing you to use any serial terminal software to transfer files. So, I'd recommend you to get a null-modem cable (and possibly a USB-serial adapter for the modern machine) unless you have one already.

  5. #5

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    Thanks so much for all the great ideas! Luckily someone copied most of the Win95 installation media to a folder on the hard drive, so I was able to install HyperTerminal. I need to check again but I don't think I saw a folder named Other.

    The hard drive connector is not plain IDE, it's some odd proprietary connector. I need to open up the hard drive enclosure and see if there's just a regular IDE drive in there. If so, I might just replace the hard drive with a 4 or 8GB CompactFlash card.

    Also, the floppy drive uses a weird interface as well. It plugs in to a flat flex connector on the back of the drive, and goes to their VersaBay connector which is constructed as Flex-on-PCB. It then slots into the back of the carrier and the whole thing slides into the bay. I guess proprietary interfaces were the thing of the day.

    The worm drive for the floppy heads was turning freely, but I could definitely add some silicone grease. I am worried that I may have affected the head alignment. There is a screw accessible from the back of the drive that I thought was part of the case screws, but I believe it adjusts the track 0 stop. I loosened it about a turn, and it stopped, then I tightened it back up about the same amount but I know that needs to be very precise.

    Thanks so much for all the ideas!

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by MrAureliusR View Post
    The hard drive connector is not plain IDE, it's some odd proprietary connector. I need to open up the hard drive enclosure and see if there's just a regular IDE drive in there.
    In my Highscreen notebook, that is exactly the case. Unfortunately, a CF card doesn't work in it (the system simply does not turn on when the adapter is connected).

    Quote Originally Posted by MrAureliusR View Post
    The worm drive for the floppy heads was turning freely, but I could definitely add some silicone grease. I am worried that I may have affected the head alignment.
    You can easily test alignment issues by formatting and writing to a floppy in the failed drive. A misaligned drive can read its own disks without issues, but is not compatible with other drives.

  7. #7

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    Unfortunately it struggles to even format disks. Something odd is going on. I lubricated the worm drive, that didn't make any difference that I can tell.

    Today I found a PCMCIA wireless card, from 2004 ish. If I can get drivers onto this laptop I'll see if it will work, though I might need to use Win 98. I found a serial cable to perhaps use HyperTerminal with, but I need to find another machine, and I will likely need a null modem adapter as well. Plus I would love to find those Xircom modem cables.

    As of right now, my plan is to get a 44-pin CompactFlash adapter. I opened up the hard drive Caddy and found an IBM 44-pin SDF drive, which is great because it means getting replacement drives will be a lot easier. I do have a Zip 100 drive at home in Toronto, so when I get back I will test it out (again assuming I can get the drivers on there).

    So happy to find other people interested in these older machines! I will probably be asking lots of questions here. Crossing my fingers this machine works with a CompactFlash storage replacement.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by MrAureliusR View Post
    Unfortunately it struggles to even format disks. Something odd is going on.
    That is a bad sign.

    Quote Originally Posted by MrAureliusR View Post
    Today I found a PCMCIA wireless card, from 2004 ish. If I can get drivers onto this laptop I'll see if it will work, though I might need to use Win 98.
    I wouldn't get my hopes up on this one. Wireless cards for PCMCIA are extremely rare and generally cannot support WPA at all (independent of the drivers). What you have is almost guaranteed to be a CardBus card. I don't know if Windows 95 supports such cards at all, but the drivers provided are unlikely to support WPA/WPA2 either. Native, driver-independent WPA support only arrived with Windows XP SP2.

    Quote Originally Posted by MrAureliusR View Post
    I found a serial cable to perhaps use HyperTerminal with, but I need to find another machine, and I will likely need a null modem adapter as well.
    Just get a null-modem cable. While it is very slow, it is the most reliable form of communication in my opinion: There is very little which can go wrong.

    Quote Originally Posted by MrAureliusR View Post
    Crossing my fingers this machine works with a CompactFlash storage replacement.
    Given that your machine is of the Pentium era, I don't see why it shouldn't. Older 386/486 notebooks tend to be more finicky.

    Good luck.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Svenska View Post
    Just get a null-modem cable. While it is very slow, it is the most reliable form of communication in my opinion: There is very little which can go wrong.
    I've used a parallel cable with LapLink quite extensively and it's never been an issue, whatsoever. Plus it's many times faster than the serial method.
    PM me if you're looking for 3" or 5" floppy disks. EMail For everything else, Take Another Step

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stone View Post
    I've used a parallel cable with LapLink quite extensively and it's never been an issue, whatsoever. Plus it's many times faster than the serial method.
    Good to know. I am 100% positive I have both a serial null modem and a parallel cable back home in TO. I also have a dual serial/single parallel port card installed in my Windows 10 machines, and I have a lot of USB to serial cables/boards around. They are TTL level, but I also happen to have a tube full of MAX232 level translator chips so I can pretty easily rig something up.
    Another project would be to build an infrared transceiver to take advantage of the IR ports on the front and back of the machine. I'm sure I can probably just buy something off the shelf, but it'd be fun to build. I have a Dangerous Prototypes IR Toy board lying around and it would also be a good candidate.

    This forum is pretty awesome! A bit of a shame that it doesn't have HTTPS though, sending credentials in the clear is so.. retro :P

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