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I've been asked to create a backup of an old, old laptop.

It's a 386 with 640KB + 1MB of RAM, a floppy disk drive and a serial port. The HD is 80MB. Ideally I'd still like to get an HD image out of it so I can try to get the software running in vmware/qemu/dosbox/...

Ordinarily I'd boot the system with a linux live CD and copy the HD image over the network. Obviously that won't work here.

I've considered a linux boot disk and transferring the image over a serial connection but I don't even know where to begin looking for something that will even boot.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

USB drive enclosures are pretty cheap -- you can get one for under $10. Drop the drive into the enclosure, plug it into your machine and use your favorite imaging tool (Clonezilla, for instance).

(As an alternative to USB you can also go with a 2.5 to 3.5 IDE adapter and just connect it to your PC.)

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386 laptop is very likely to have some crazy HDD. Neither compatible with PATA 40 pin cables, nor with modern 2.5" laptop standard. – Tadeusz A. Kadłubowski Nov 29 '09 at 18:55
I removed the hard drive and it at least has the same PIN layout as a modern laptop drive. Hooking it up to the USB adapter doesn't seem to work but that might be because the drive is as good as dead. – Kristof Provost Nov 29 '09 at 19:02
What model is it? Look for numbers on it and google it. – Tadeusz A. Kadłubowski Nov 29 '09 at 19:11
I think you'd have to connect the IDE drive. A machine that old wouldn't have USB (unless you could find an ISA card to add USB ports). – TheSmurf Nov 29 '09 at 20:39
@DannySmurf -- Just to clarify, the idea would've been to connect the old laptop's drive to a USB enclosure and connect that to another machine to do the actual imaging. – Chris_K Nov 29 '09 at 21:15

you can use Norton Ghost for DOS to boot from floppy disk and backup the drive image accross your network or via a parallel port connection with a hi-speed bidirectional LPT cable, instructions here:

Radified's Guide to Norton Ghost: Imaging (Ghosting) Across a Network

if you don't happen to have a PARCP (Laplink) cable handy, here you find a schematic diagram. DIY from two old printer cables.

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