Recovering Win3.1 Data

Maciej W. Rozycki macro at
Tue Jan 13 16:01:06 CST 2015

On Tue, 13 Jan 2015, Douglas Taylor wrote:

> In the mid-90's I had a Packard Bell computer that ran Windows for workgroups
> 3.11.  The computer is long gone, but I saved the disk. It is a 420 MB Conner.
> I recently tried to recover the data by attaching it to one of those IDE/SATA to
> USB devices and read it under Windows7, didn't work.
> I am able to copy files to floppy, but the stuff I want to save won't fit on a
> floppy.
> I put the disk in an old PC and it will boot to DOS, it tries to start WIN3.1
> but exits because of some missing sound card hardware.
> What is the path of least resistance here?  Is linux any help?

 How old is "old PC", is it at least 80386?  Do you have another IDE disk 
available that works with your IDE/SATA to USB bridge?

 Given that you mentioned Linux I infer you're prepared to use it and then 
I think the path of least resistance (for me at least, FWIW) would be to 
install Linux on that other disk to start it on the old PC and then copy 
data from the other disk there.  The two disks should work just fine as a 
master and a slave with any IDE adapter (very old IDE disks occasionally 
had compatibility problems in a master/slave configuration with other 
drives, but that would be within the 40MB range rather than 400MB).  You 
may have to find an old distribution to stay compatible with your old PC's 
processor, but that shouldn't be a problem (I have recently looked for 
RedHat 2.1 to check something there and it was still online).

 Beware of the old limitations though, often long forgotten, such as the 
need to put the boot partition within the first 508MB; other data may be 
anywhere.  You may need to know the right C/H/S disk geometry too when 
installing the boot loader.  Of course you can boot the kernel from a 
floppy instead since you have it; then you can ignore the limitations.

 Please note that support for the 80386 has been dropped from the Linux 
kernel a while ago and modern distributions may require a newer yet 
processor such as at least a P6-class one due to the instruction set 
selection made with package compilation options; to say nothing of memory 
size requirements, that is.


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