How to copy data off an old IDE disk

John Costello cos at
Tue Apr 1 18:13:36 BST 2008

On Sun, 30 Mar 2008, Andy Wardley wrote:
> I'm assuming that a Mac should have no trouble mounting a FAT32 disk, but it
> complained: "The disk you inserted was not readable by this computer" and the
> syslog sayeth: disk2: I/O error.
> The Ubuntu box also failed to automount it and throws up a bunch of media
> errors and other kernel grumblings.  I spent many hours on this before giving
> up.  I suspect that the new fangled disk enclosure is none too happy with
> old IDE disks and between them and the Linux drivers, they can't make the
> necessary SCSI emulation magic happen.  But that's just a guess.

How certain are you that the disk is fat32?  I ask because I'm staring at
the fat= options (Ubuntu) and wondering if an old floppy is fat=12,
fat=16, or fat=32.  For something from the early 1990s (or in my case, for
a mid-90s floppy), I'm more inclined to go with fat=16.  In my case, it
should be an ok gamble as the on the floppy hasn't been needed by
me for the past decade.  For you, it might result in problems.

See man mount for more info on the fat= options.  You'd *maybe* want "-t 
msdos" for the filesystem type.

> Incidentally, I can still boot MSDOS from the disk, browse all the source code
> I'm trying to recover, and even run the applications.  But this is DOS 3, so
> there's no support for network, USB or CD burning.  However, I do have a
> working C/C++ compiler and assembler on that disk, so I haven't yet ruled out
> writing something disgustingly low-level to try and blat the data off the
> disk through a piece of electric string.


Dos 3?  I'd lay money on fat=12 or fat=16, since 
says the following:

"1996 Aug.	MS-DOS 7.10, MS-DOS component for Windows 95 B and higher, 
supports the first time FAT 32 harddisks"

Now, if I can just figure out how to unzip a multi-floppy disk archive 
(assuming fat=16 works).


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