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Brian's Dad's Dan PC, circa 1995, is not recognising its C: drive. It is happy to boot from a floppy until it fails to access the hard drive, and we have the software he is used to on floppy disks. We have every reason to think that if we can replace the hard drive he can have a computer back that he recognises as his own.

Anyone out there with any relevant knowledge: do you reckon our chances of sourcing and fitting a new hard drive? Or should we just give up now? One computer repair place has already said "no way", and another has sucked its teeth and said come back and talk to the chap who is in tomorrow, which doesn't sound awfully promising.

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( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
history_monk
29th Dec, 2015 16:12 (UTC)
That is going to be pretty challenging. The problem is that the interfaces used to connect drives to the rest of the computer have changed, and nobody makes drives to the old standards any more. You may also find that the old machine's firmware can't cope with the sizes of modern drives.

As an analogy to explain this, you're trying to put a modern transmission into a car from the 1970s. There isn't the same market in used computer parts as there is in old car parts. The old machine is almost certainly
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parallel_ATA and all the new hardware since 2003 or so is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_ATA.

At this point, it's probably best to step back a bit and look at what you're trying to accomplish. What OS is he used to using, and what software does he run? I presume he doesn't have Internet connectivity and doesn't particularly want it?
lsanderson
29th Dec, 2015 16:20 (UTC)
Stupid Point
The size should not matter that much. It will just have to be partitioned down to a size that the computer can access. PATA to SATA is a $10 part over here, and PATA drives are out there on eBay and elsewhere.
ffutures
29th Dec, 2015 19:00 (UTC)
You can get a SATA-PATA adapter board for a couple of quid. I've no experience with them, but it looks pretty simple. But I've also got some old PATA drives I would otherwise probably freecycle, so it isn't an issue.
lsanderson
29th Dec, 2015 16:17 (UTC)
Can you...
List the information from the hard drive?

At first guess, it should be fairly easy. You should (may?) be in IDE territory. IDE uses a broad ribbon cable between the motherboard and the hard drive which looks similar to the floppy ribbon cable. Current hard drives use a modern version, and it's about $10 for an adapter that converts IDE to SATA -- which is the current standard for home PCs. You'll need a power cable adapter too, if it does not come with the converter.

You can still buy PATA or IDE drives: http://www.ebay.com/bhp/pata-hard-drive.

I'd seriously recommend biting the bullet and updating the PC, but I understand that's not always what works.

There are other hard drive protocols out there, but IDE/PATA is the most likely. I'd not spend a small fortune for a repair job, but then I usually build my own computers.

You're going to need a copy of the operating system that you can install on the hard drive, serial number, etc.

The adapter/motherboard probably has size limits on what it can access on a hard drive, so you're not going to need a big one (540 MB?)
murphys_lawyer
29th Dec, 2015 16:23 (UTC)
CCL sell a 160GB IDE (parallel ATA) drive for £12 - http://www.cclonline.com/category/701/Storage/Hard-Drives/attributeslist/140012/ I'm sure other people sell them too.

ffutures
29th Dec, 2015 16:24 (UTC)
As John says it's probably PATA - as it happens I have at least one PATA drive knocking around that you're welcome to. The bigger problem is likely to be finding an operating system that still works on hardware that old, but if you still have that you're probably good to go.

I'll bring it along to the Tun next week unless you tell me otherwise, but please remind me nearer the time.
ffutures
29th Dec, 2015 18:55 (UTC)
Further to this I've got a 6.5 gb and a couple of 80gb. The 6.5gb is almost certainly going to be compatible with any computer that old, 8ogb might be slightly iffy but worth a try. I'll bring one of each to the Tun.

They're 3.5" drives, if by any chance your computer had a 5.25" hard drive you'll need an adapter kit which I don't have. But if it is 5.25" there's a strong possibility it won't be PATA anyway, probably one of the earlier standards I can never keep straight in my head.
heleninwales
29th Dec, 2015 16:57 (UTC)
Which operating system is Brian's dad used to? It may be possible to resurrect the old machine in the short term, but is there any reason why he can't upgrade to a current OS? What exactly does he do with the computer and what programmes does he normally run?
ffutures
29th Dec, 2015 17:09 (UTC)
I'd imagine speed and RAM would be the big problems for any modern OS.
heleninwales
29th Dec, 2015 17:40 (UTC)
Sorry. I meant just to buy a new computer. They're not all that expensive and he's really had his money's worth out of the old one.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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