I have a very old(1989?) 80286 computer. I can tell it was a very good machine in it's day. It has a harddrive installed.

I finally got a PS/2 to AT keyboard plug today and got it to boot. Now I have a problem though. It's CMOS battery must've died at some point. The BIOS is completely cleared out and I have to reconfigure it. It has a harddrive and the harddrive appears to spin up. However, there are 45 different "TYPE"s of harddrives for the BIOS(labeled TYPE1 to TYPE45)

How do I tell what I should configure the BIOS to?

Also, for TYPEs 15 and 25, instead of "harddrive controller error" I get "harddrive configuration error", if that helps

  • 2
    Can you read the cylinders and sector values on the outside of the harddrive? – Fergus Sep 22 '12 at 18:52
  • 4
    No dice, unless the BIOS spits out a model number as it boots you're going to have to open it up. – Mokubai Sep 22 '12 at 18:54
  • 2
    Those old drives always have cylinders/heads/columns and capacity mentioned on the outside, so you can reconfigure. Apart from the predefined types, BIOSes in those days usually had way to specify c/h/c instead of choosing a type. Googling for "HD 40 MB cyl head col" may also turn up some info. – Jan Doggen Sep 22 '12 at 19:04
  • 1
    @JanDoggen It could be IDE, but possible also MFM/RLL drives (up to 4 per controller, with a data cable and a cable carrying the analog head signal). I am not sure when they stopped with those, but my old 386SX-16 still had one of those (approx same time era as a late 286) – Hennes Sep 22 '12 at 19:11
  • 1
    @Hennes yes. Also, I found the specs for the harddrive: 4drives.com/DRIVESPECS/QUANTUM/3425.txt the weird part is that in the list of options for the motherboard(there is a menu that tells what each TYPE means I've found) this motherboard isn't listed. There has to be a custom option hidden away somewhere – Earlz Sep 22 '12 at 20:23

There are two ways to solve this.

The "correct" way is to use the TYPE which directs your BIOS to a pointer on the ROM to an entry in the MBR that defines the correct numbers of cylinders/heads/sectors. The TYPE will be either 15 or any one of TYPEs over 33. Unless you can get your hands on a copy of the BIOS setup manual you will have to attempt by trial and error. The good news is your BIOS only accepts TYPEs 0-45. Some BIOS went up to 254.

The "easy" way is to find the freeware DOS utility Anydrive. I'd give you a link, but I'm at work right now and my corporate firewall blocks sites that distribute shareware/freeware. You'll set the TYPE to any anything with fewer cylinders/heads/sectors then boot to DOS prompt and run ANYDRIVE.EXE and follow the prompts. I've only ever discovered one HDD it didn't work on so your probability of success has to be 90%.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.