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.


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.)

  • 386 laptop is very likely to have some crazy HDD. Neither compatible with PATA 40 pin cables, nor with modern 2.5" laptop standard. 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. Nov 29 '09 at 19:02
  • 1
    What model is it? Look for numbers on it and google it. 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
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    @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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