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Thread: Help with old compaq

  1. #1

    Default Help with old compaq

    I came across a compaq prolinea 5100e and need help. Before ibstart repairing/restoring i want to know if amyone has the recovery disk files or knows where to get them? Ive heard this era of compaq may have had a proprietary bios software that makes reinstalling generic windows a pain. Be a nice addition to the line up of retro machines if I can get it working. Thanks in advance.

  2. #2

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    Ok so quick update. I was able to make the needed setup and diag floppies. But the current install of dos is messed up so will need to try and reinstall once I find/make new 6.22 disks. Oddly cant find much info on google about this machine besides basic specs and it was sold mid 95. Anyone have any extensive knowledge on this style of compaq or is this one of those hated ones that people dont like talking about lol

  3. #3
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    Right, Compaqs of this era did not have a BIOS setup program in ROM like normal clones. Instead they ran a software based BIOS setup program from a hidden partition on the hard drive. This partition had to be set up and installed prior to the installation of the OS. An OS could run without this partition, but then it would be difficult or impossible to change the machine's settings. This made upgrading hard drives and deploying standardized images an extra headache.

    Never made any sense why they chose to do it like that.

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by SomeGuy View Post
    Right, Compaqs of this era did not have a BIOS setup program in ROM like normal clones. Instead they ran a software based BIOS setup program from a hidden partition on the hard drive. This partition had to be set up and installed prior to the installation of the OS. An OS could run without this partition, but then it would be difficult or impossible to change the machine's settings. This made upgrading hard drives and deploying standardized images an extra headache.

    Never made any sense why they chose to do it like that.
    Yea i found that out last night. I made the setup and diag floppies. So i take it I can delete the previous bios partition, create a new one, them format and reinstall a dos for a win95 os while using the setup and diag disks to make sure macjine settings take place? Seems almsot stupid to do it that way. This thing way differnet than my ibm.

  5. #5

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    This takes me way back... Compaq business computers in the 90s were not very nice to set up, although they worked ok.

    You could get 100, 120, 133, 166MMX, 200, 233, 266, 300 and 333MHz models (this was an era of rapid hardware development - you got whatever was the latest at the time).

    The BIOS, as you've discovered, lived on a partition and came supplied on the hard drive. But, it could get deleted or corrupted, or you might upgrade the drive. So you'd have to reinstall it from floppies.

    Once done, then you would normally install DOS with Windows 3.1, or Windows for Workgroups 3.11. I suppose you could install Windows 95, if the drivers could be found.


    After this series, they moved on to the 350, 400, 450 and 500 MHz models which had the bios inbuilt in the conventional manner. These were exceptionally well-engineered, and can be expected to still work today.
    Last edited by Robbbert; November 17th, 2019 at 02:11 AM.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by New2vtgpc View Post
    I came across a compaq prolinea 5100e and need help. Before ibstart repairing/restoring i want to know if amyone has the recovery disk files or knows where to get them? Ive heard this era of compaq may have had a proprietary bios software that makes reinstalling generic windows a pain. Be a nice addition to the line up of retro machines if I can get it working. Thanks in advance.
    First read:

    ftp://ftp.hp.com/pub/softpaq/sp1501-2000/sp1575.txt

    Then download

    ftp://ftp.hp.com/pub/softpaq/sp1501-2000/sp1575.exe

    While the setup of older Compaq's is somewhat frustrating (especially so if you have a bad floppy drive), they tend to be some of the most durable old machines out there, once you get them going.

  7. #7

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    Alright new issue (of course lol)got it all running with partitions as they should, and got win95 osr2 installed....buuuttt i have issues. First cd rom only works when i use a slave/master ide cable, which works, but as soon as I plug cdrom into ide secondary...nothing, pc doesnt see it until I put them both on same channel. Its a creative quad speed that had a isa slot cdrom controller card but no combo of jumpers worked.
    Second is I have a pci sound card but no drivers ive tried work with it, it's an ensoniq pci card but read creative sb will work but no nothing.
    So my thought is to get a new ide cable (slave master style) and try an isa sound card since I know i have one that works in my ibm. Or is there something i havent tried? Ive used every creative driver I can find, as well as ensoniq ones, both floppy and cd, and no changes, no sound. It detects a pci audio device but no drivers can be found regardless of driver I have. And I hope its not the pci slot since i have a diamond vid card id love to pop in if I do go thr route of isa spund card.

  8. #8

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    What brand of CD drive is in the machine? If original compaq, then its likely failed

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by T-R-A View Post
    What brand of CD drive is in the machine? If original compaq, then its likely failed
    Its a creative quad speed....i think cd4000m? And I swapped with an 8x from my windows98 machine and same thing but creative responded in other pc, so i know it functions. I got it to work but i had to grab the 2 drive ribbon cable from another pc and have hdd be master, cd rom be slave on same ide channel on riser board....and still works when cdrom set to master and hdd to slave on shared cable. Then it works but cant assemble pc like that, and if fails to detect even in dos mode when I revert it back to have cdrom connect to the isa controller card (creative branded) and also fails when I connect cdrom to a secondary ide channel connector.

  10. Default

    I was going to mention the IDE issue with those computers, but you've already found it for yourself. There's a hardware design defect where if you put the HD as Primary Master, and the CD as Secondary Master, it won't boot. You have to put the CD as Secondary Slave. I can't remember if CD on Primary Slave works.... too long ago.

    The later Compaqs (450, 500MHz as referenced above) always used Cable Select for all the drives, and obviously the special Cable Select cables. It could be the solution with your older model too. Cable Select cables can be identified because they show which plug is used for Drive 0, Drive 1, and System (meaning the motherboard). Normal Master/Slave cables have no markings.

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