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I want to extend the life of this harddrive as much as possible because I found it nearly impossible to clone.

It is running MSDOS 6.22. 110mb harddrive from 1990. The computer is only utilized 1 hour a day, 5 days a week.

If I want to keep it alive as long as possible, is it better to turn this computer off everyday or keep the computer powered on 24/7?


Edit: I tried using dd_rescue and clonezilla to try to duplicate the contents of the harddrive, but no mater what I do, the harddrive never boots into msdos. I spent half a week trying to clone it.

I am not concerned about anything but the hard drive because it is irreplaceable unless I can manage to successfully clone it.

More info: The computer hardware is a modern early 2000's pentium 4 dell. Only the harddrive is ancient

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Why would it be impossible to clone? – MichelZ May 29 '12 at 14:30
This is a touch question. Your motherboard capacitors are likely to fail befoe the mechanical drive does. I would actually suggest using SpinRite 6 in order to keep HDD aware of bad the sectors. The HDDs of yesterday are a great deal dumber then they are today, although they had an easier time doing their task, also might allow you to sector-by-sector duplicate the HDD. – Ramhound May 29 '12 at 14:33
I meant to say "tough" not "touch" stupid keyboard. – Ramhound May 29 '12 at 14:38
Have you considered virtualization? – jftuga May 29 '12 at 14:56
Raymon Chen had a blog entry about how an old computer died recently: – Mat May 29 '12 at 15:29

MS-DOS 6.22 should work under just about any VM software I know about. Is there something else special about this system necessitating it to be running besides MS-DOS? Have you tried imaging the drive and then creating a VM?

Is the problem that your hard drive is not recognized by the BIOS? You may need to set the hard drive to "TYPE AUTO" somewhere in the BIOS. It's possible that your hard drive is more or less "too new" for the system. There are also BIOS addressing limitations you may be running into, such as the 504(?)MB barrier or the 8GByte barrier. If the tools you are using the image are recreating the partition table, it may be doing something the old BIOS doesn't like.

MS-DOS fits easily on a standard 3.5" floopy. Back in the day, anyone who had to work with MS-DOS in such a capacity had a boot disk that would boot into MS-DOS and have a few very necessary recovery and install utilities, namely SYS (puts MS-DOS on a disk), FDISK (partitioner), and FORMAT, and then COMMAND.COM.

It's not overly difficult to covert a system that is booting off of C: to boot off of A: in MS-DOS, without modifying C: at all. The C: drive will be visible and accessible like normal. Basically you would make the boot disk with a SYS A: from a running MS-DOS system, copy over COMMAND.COM to the root of the floppy, and then copy and change CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT as needed. As long as your COMPSEC line in CONFIG.SYS doesn't point to A:, and your final line in AUTOEXEC.BAT is C: (to change current drive to C:), the floppy isn't needed or used after boot. This may be an option for you.

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While it would run under VMWare my experience is that the screen performance is atrocious in text mode. I would be inclined to try something like Dosbox. – Loren Pechtel May 29 '12 at 15:36
holy crap thankyou for your post. I will try some of this stuff and see if I am able to get my nonworking cloned harddrive working. – Philip Nguyen May 29 '12 at 16:01
@LorenPechtel, while VM performance in text mode may be awful, any machine that originally ran MSDOS 6.22 was akin to a 66Mhz Intel 486. I would take a VM on modern HW over a 486 any day of the week, text mode or otherwise – Mike Pennington May 29 '12 at 16:08
Is cloning really needed? If I remember correctly, migrating an msdos system from one HD to another involved fdisk-ing and formatting the new drive with the s switch, and then copying the contents. The only problem was remembering to copy files with the system and hidden attributes. So just copy the files. – horatio May 29 '12 at 17:31
@LorenPechtel, what's your point? Are you seriously suggesting your example is indicative of a real VM deployment scenario today? The last Pentium III that was produced by Intel was in 2003 – Mike Pennington May 29 '12 at 22:47

Even though keeping the hard drive on will possibly extend the life of it since there are more read/writes at startup than at any other time. This will only extend it for a while but it might be that it'll die in two weeks instead of one.

That said, if the information stored in the hard drive is important and the cloning is difficult I would personally suggest you to get something like this and connect the hard-drive to another computer and use something like clonezilla or Acronis True Image to make a precise copy of the hard drive

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If you can read the drive (and it's not encrypted), you should be able to copy the data. Aside from any operating system files, and maybe some old applications that you can't reinstall any more, everything else is just data. You should be able to just copy the files manually.

As @MrJackV says, the least complicated way to copy things is to pull the drive out and attach it to another system using the device he suggests or a similar one like Vantec makes Newegg

Once the drive is connected as an external drive to another system, you can be sure that no files are locked or being updated, so you get a static (good) copy of your data.

If you don't have another machine handy, try getting an old version of DSL (Damn Small Linux) as a live CD and boot from that. It uses very little hardware, so it works on a lot of older equipment. Once you get that running, you can copy files or the whole image of a drive partition to any other drive that is connected to your system. Again, since the live cd is running (and not whatever OS you have on your main drive), you get a static copy of everything.

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