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1991 Western Digital Low level formatting utility needed

acadiel

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Have an old WDAC280 WD Caviar from around 1991 or so.

Need whatever the WD equivalent of Disk Manager (Seagate's program) to low level format and get rid of the bad sectors. Anyone have it?

Note, this is not "reinitilization" or zeroing out the drive. This is the utility to actually low level format the sucker.

Thanks!
 

Stone

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Have an old WDAC280 WD Caviar from around 1991 or so.

Need whatever the WD equivalent of Disk Manager (Seagate's program) to low level format and get rid of the bad sectors. Anyone have it?

Note, this is not "reinitilization" or zeroing out the drive. This is the utility to actually low level format the sucker.

Thanks!
Disk Manager does *NOT* LLF an IDE drive. It takes a formatted drive and prepares it for an OS to be installed.

There is no utility to LLF an IDE drive outside of the drive's factory environment/equipment.

YOU cannot 'actually low level format the sucker'. :)

So, what do you really want to do to this drive?
 

ibmapc

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Someone correct me if I'm wrong! I believe that's an IDE drive. You don't want to LLF that drive!! Some IDE drives can be made unusable after LLF.

Looks like Stone replyed while I was replying.
 

SomeGuy

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If it were me I would just throw MAXLLF at it: https://winworldpc.com/product/maxtor-low-level-format-utility

With IDE it all works the same way. All a program can do is throw a command at the drive that that *requests* a low-level format. It will probably just wipe the sectors, and hopefully re-map that bad tracks. In some rare cases it can cause early IDE hard drives to "forget" what its actual geometry is, but if it is already full of bad sectors then you don't have too much to lose.
 

acadiel

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MAXLLF is what I'm looking for, sounds like. Something that can actually remap spares and take bad sectors out of use on this old 80MB drive. Spinrite and other refresh type utilities aren't taking them out of service.....
 

pearce_jj

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I had some success with maxllf back in the day with various drives. Definitely worth a go.
 

acadiel

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Someone correct me if I'm wrong! I believe that's an IDE drive. You don't want to LLF that drive!! Some IDE drives can be made unusable after LLF.

Looks like Stone replyed while I was replying.

Don't laugh, but back in the day ~ 1998, I had a Toshiba laptop with a 500MB 2.5" IDE drive in it (noisy little thing, too). Had some sector errors on it that formats and such weren't taking out of service, so the drive would get stuck on 1-2 of them consistently. Toshiba actually had me download a small command line utility that ran in DOS that "low level formatted" the drive (or remapped the bad sectors correctly) and I didn't ever have another issue with that drive. It was tiny (probably <50K), and Toshiba said they didn't give it out except for that one particular use case that I had encountered. Was the best 3 year warranty ever on that 400CS, and always got some top notch tech support back then.... :)
 

SomeGuy

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Don't laugh, but back in the day ~ 1998, I had a Toshiba laptop with a 500MB 2.5" IDE drive in it (noisy little thing, too). Had some sector errors on it that formats and such weren't taking out of service, so the drive would get stuck on 1-2 of them consistently.
Not laughing here. That sort of thing happens all the time on IDE, SCSI, and SATA drives. When a bad sector develops, the drive may sit there for infinity trying to get a successful read. It won't give up until something writes to the sector, so it knows it can re-map. But since those frequently develop inside important system files, that never happens and people just assume the drive is dead.

In theory just wiping the drive with something like Linux "dd" should do the same thing, but I have seen instances where that still doesn't help for whatever reason. Then bring in the "low level formatter" and it cleans everything up. Of course, as I mentioned, the name is inherited from how the earliest drives handled the format request. What it actually does is up to the drive firmware. Since it often has the same visible result of fixing things up like a real low-level-format, the name kind of just stuck.
 

acadiel

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Not laughing here. That sort of thing happens all the time on IDE, SCSI, and SATA drives. When a bad sector develops, the drive may sit there for infinity trying to get a successful read. It won't give up until something writes to the sector, so it knows it can re-map. But since those frequently develop inside important system files, that never happens and people just assume the drive is dead.

In theory just wiping the drive with something like Linux "dd" should do the same thing, but I have seen instances where that still doesn't help for whatever reason. Then bring in the "low level formatter" and it cleans everything up. Of course, as I mentioned, the name is inherited from how the earliest drives handled the format request. What it actually does is up to the drive firmware. Since it often has the same visible result of fixing things up like a real low-level-format, the name kind of just stuck.

So, it's not literally a "low level format", but it's something built into the drive firmware, sounds like, that causes it to 'refresh' the good and bad sectors, correct?

Yeah, Spinrite was having fits with this 80MB drive last night. I haven't had that system powered up (it's a Tandy 2500 SX/20) enough yet to trust it overnight, and after about 6 hours, and only getting 30% or so through the 'refresh' operation, I went ahead and told it to stop. The bad part is the drive STILL thinks those "unrecoverable" sectors are there, even after Spinrite read/wrote them into oblivion (the drive SHOULD have realized those were needing to be remapped.)

I did try a 512MB CompactFlash card in that system, and tried dwindling around with the CHS settings in the BIOS setup program ("custom" settings) as well as the AUTO and other settings (like 348MB, etc) of the different types. I got it to be recognized and was able to FDisk and Format it, and even managed to write some files to it. However, booting and/or reading the files locked up the CF card (the LED stayed "ON") and it refused to do anything.

I did get one of these 256MB Disk On Chips for like $11 on eBay. We'll see if it works or not if I can't get this 80MB drive working again.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/26228734255...49&var=561039841516&ssPageName=STRK:MEBIDX:IT

If all else fails, I'll have to see if that guy that did the last run of the XT IDEs has any more, as I'll have two Tandy's that need them then. :)
 

SomeGuy

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So, it's not literally a "low level format", but it's something built into the drive firmware, sounds like, that causes it to 'refresh' the good and bad sectors, correct?
Correct, except for some very early stepper-motor based ones where that may have done an actual low-level format.

Yeah, Spinrite was having fits with this 80MB drive last night. I haven't had that system powered up (it's a Tandy 2500 SX/20) enough yet to trust it overnight, and after about 6 hours, and only getting 30% or so through the 'refresh' operation,
Hmm, Spinrite mainly does its magic on MFM/RLL drives. I was under the impression that the later versions were IDE aware, but if it doesn't know how to do anything special with IDE, then it is just going to sit and spin :p . Since SpinRite is a non-destructive tool, it is going to waste a lot of time reading bad/weak sectors if you don't actually need anything on the drive. If the drive re-certifies OK after using MAXLLF, then perhaps give Spinrite a try to see if it finds any new weak areas.

But it could be that the drive has already exhausted its spares or didn't have any spares to start with.

I did try a 512MB CompactFlash card in that system, and tried dwindling around with the CHS settings in the BIOS setup program ("custom" settings) as well as the AUTO and other settings (like 348MB, etc) of the different types. I got it to be recognized and was able to FDisk and Format it, and even managed to write some files to it. However, booting and/or reading the files locked up the CF card (the LED stayed "ON") and it refused to do anything.
Might test that on another systems. Sounds sort of like a dead one I ran in to, where the first 64K or so was readable and the rest resulted in errors - so the drive looked fine, but actually doing anything with it made it barf.
 

Stone

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But it could be that the drive has already exhausted its spares or didn't have any spares to start with.
A good rule of thumb is that once a drive has used up all its allotted spares it's time to remove it from service. IOW, once you begin to see bad sectors the drive has deteriorated enough that it should no longer be considered reliable. Of course, YMMV but don't forget that there is always a risk of data loss.
 

NeXT

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I really want to smack the idiot who started spreading around that you could just LLF any hard drive. It confuses the hell out of the newbs.
 

RWallmow

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I gotta play devils advocate here and ask, why aren't you just using a CF card, DOM, or modern IDE drive or something? I would never mess with old IDE drives, too unreliable, I would much rather use modern IDE drives, or best yet CF cards in cheap CF>IDE adapter or industrial DOM.
 

acadiel

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If it were me I would just throw MAXLLF at it: https://winworldpc.com/product/maxtor-low-level-format-utility

With IDE it all works the same way. All a program can do is throw a command at the drive that that *requests* a low-level format. It will probably just wipe the sectors, and hopefully re-map that bad tracks. In some rare cases it can cause early IDE hard drives to "forget" what its actual geometry is, but if it is already full of bad sectors then you don't have too much to lose.

Gave it a try and got a 'divide by zero' error on the Tandy 2500 SX/20 (386). (4MB + 1MB RAM).

Will have to transplant it into another system and try there.
 

acadiel

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I gotta play devils advocate here and ask, why aren't you just using a CF card, DOM, or modern IDE drive or something? I would never mess with old IDE drives, too unreliable, I would much rather use modern IDE drives, or best yet CF cards in cheap CF>IDE adapter or industrial DOM.

Oh, I have a DOM on the way from eBay, a 256MB one. We'll try that one. :)

I did want to try and resurrect this old drive. It might be a lost cause, but it's the fun of it.

What happens in these old systems that have the 528MB barrier? i.e. If you try and put a 1GB DOM in a system with a 528MB barrier, can you work around that and still get 528MB?

I'm gathering that with a new hard drive bios (like the XTIDE), that's moot and you can use the 2GB in DOS 5.
 

RWallmow

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Oh, I have a DOM on the way from eBay, a 256MB one. We'll try that one. :)

I did want to try and resurrect this old drive. It might be a lost cause, but it's the fun of it.

What happens in these old systems that have the 528MB barrier? i.e. If you try and put a 1GB DOM in a system with a 528MB barrier, can you work around that and still get 528MB?

I'm gathering that with a new hard drive bios (like the XTIDE), that's moot and you can use the 2GB in DOS 5.

You can run ontrack disk manager software, it can overcome the BIOS limits, OR you can install XTIDE BIOS, if you already have IDE controller you dont need the XTIDE card, just a place to install the BIOS ROM, I use a NIC Boot ROM socket on a few PCs I have. I have some 286's with 20GB and 40GB drives in them, fully utilized with multiple 2GB FAT16 DOS partitions.

Without the software overlay or XTIDE BIOS, most PCs will just see the drive as 528MB, which for some folks isn't an issue if you don't mind wasting some space and are just after the reliability of modern hardware.
 

Stone

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Without the software overlay or XTIDE BIOS, most PCs will just see the drive as 528MB, which for some folks isn't an issue if you don't mind wasting some space and are just after the reliability of modern hardware.
Gotta be really careful here. There are several other possibilities and they are not as nicely behaved as the one you mentioned which is the first possibility below:

How a BIOS handles Oversized Hard Disks
When you install a hard disk into a computer system that is larger than that which the BIOS is capable of handling, the system may react in a number of different ways, most of which are predictable. How a particular system responds though, will depend largely on the system, the BIOS date, and the overall quality of the BIOS routines. Most, if not all, issues noted below occur as the result of the hard disk having a total cylinder count larger than the maximum supported by the BIOS.

These are the four most common reactions you may expect with a machine having an older BIOS and a hard disk larger than it is capable of supporting, listed in the order of probability.

Truncation:
A BIOS, when presented with a logical geometry containing more cylinders than it can handle, will simply truncate the total number of cylinders to the maximum it can support. You will usually experience this in an older BIOS that doesn't support more than 1,024 cylinders, or in some cases in a BIOS with a set maximum of 4,096 cylinders. This is commonly found in systems that do not support Int13h extensions, as these systems typically see drives larger than 8.4 GB as being just 8.4 GB in size. Although truncation defeats the purpose behind adding a larger hard disk, the risk of losing data is minimal to nonexistent, and preferable to the other possibilities outlined below.

Wrap-Around:
Many an old BIOS will presume that the number of cylinders in a drive will always be 1,024 or below, and therefore will only look to the bottom 10 bits of the cylinder number reported by the hard disk (2[SUP]^10[/SUP] = 1,024). As a result, when drives report cylinders over 1,023, the BIOS counts up to 1,024 and then wraps around to zero and starts over. As an example, let's presume for the moment that you have purchased a brand new 60 GB hard drive for your computer. For the purposes of this example, we'll presume this new drive was manufactured by Maxtor and it has 119,150 actual cylinders. Even in a recent manufactured computer you could only manually enter a maximum of 16,383 with current ATA specifications. In this scenario, the BIOS would only see 366 cylinders. This is because the BIOS would count up to 1,024 one hundred and sixteen (116) times to yield 118,784, or wrap around 116 times, ending with a net 366 cylinders (119,150 minus 118,784 = 366).

A nearly identical scenario can occur with a BIOS that supports only 4,096 cylinders, as it will only look at the bottom 12 bits. A troubling problem surfaced only a few years ago when computers began upgrading storage in older systems with small (by today's standards) 2.5 GB hard disks only to learn that they had only about 400 MB of usable space showing up. Unfortunately, this was a common failure in systems that had a BIOS that didn't support more than 4,096 cylinders.
alert.gif
Even some BIOS's that support translation may wrap the cylinders if you disable translation. When you re-enable translation the problem may go away.

BIOS Ignorance: This is truly an ugly issue. Some systems with an older BIOS correctly reports the true number of logical cylinders of the drive, making you think the motherboard and BIOS (your system) supports the full size of the hard disk. In reality, the BIOS doesn't have a clue as to the number of cylinders or what to do with them. It's actually just reporting what the drive reports. When you attempt to partition and format the hard disk, you're faced with the stark reality of a 1.024 cylinder limitation, but this is not readily evident. It can have you chasing your tail for hours trying to determine what is wrong. Fortunately though, this is only seen in systems with an older BIOS and the 1,024 cylinder limitation.

BIOS Failure: While you may not view it this way, a BIOS failure when attempting to install a large hard disk in a system with a BIOS that doesn't support is probably a very fortunate situation. Obviously no one wants to deal with a barrier when upgrading their computer, but this particular failure might save you hours of searching for the reason for the failure. Many times and older BIOS will cause the system to completely lock up if you try installing a hard disk larger than can be supported. While fairly uncommon, it does occur with the more proprietary computer systems where the manufacturer withholds accurate BIOS and disk support information. Often you will experience this with some of the larger hard disk barriers and also with some of the more obscure ones.
 

acadiel

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You can run ontrack disk manager software, it can overcome the BIOS limits, OR you can install XTIDE BIOS, if you already have IDE controller you dont need the XTIDE card, just a place to install the BIOS ROM, I use a NIC Boot ROM socket on a few PCs I have. I have some 286's with 20GB and 40GB drives in them, fully utilized with multiple 2GB FAT16 DOS partitions.

Without the software overlay or XTIDE BIOS, most PCs will just see the drive as 528MB, which for some folks isn't an issue if you don't mind wasting some space and are just after the reliability of modern hardware.

OK, just for kicks and grins, I downloaded the XTIDE Universal BIOS (version R580) and burned the 386 image to an 8K EPROM. I happened to have an Etherlink II laying around, so I slapped that EPROM in there, stuck it in the Tandy, and disabled the hard drive in the built in BIOS (i.e. NONE).

XTIDE menu booted up. Told it to boot from A:. FDISK saw the 8GB CompactFlash card just fine. Formatted CF after partitioning it into a bunch of 2GB partitions with the /s option. Rebooted system. System booted from CompactFlash.

Just need to figure out how to mount that sucker now. Hah, the DOC is going to work well if I get a larger one!

Thanks for the idea!
 

RWallmow

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Gotta be really careful here. There are several other possibilities and they are not as nicely behaved as the one you mentioned which is the first possibility below:

How a BIOS handles Oversized Hard Disks
When you install a hard disk into a computer system that is larger than that which the BIOS is capable of handling, the system may react in a number of different ways, most of which are predictable. How a particular system responds though, will depend largely on the system, the BIOS date, and the overall quality of the BIOS routines. Most, if not all, issues noted below occur as the result of the hard disk having a total cylinder count larger than the maximum supported by the BIOS.

These are the four most common reactions you may expect with a machine having an older BIOS and a hard disk larger than it is capable of supporting, listed in the order of probability.

Truncation:
A BIOS, when presented with a logical geometry containing more cylinders than it can handle, will simply truncate the total number of cylinders to the maximum it can support. You will usually experience this in an older BIOS that doesn't support more than 1,024 cylinders, or in some cases in a BIOS with a set maximum of 4,096 cylinders. This is commonly found in systems that do not support Int13h extensions, as these systems typically see drives larger than 8.4 GB as being just 8.4 GB in size. Although truncation defeats the purpose behind adding a larger hard disk, the risk of losing data is minimal to nonexistent, and preferable to the other possibilities outlined below.

Wrap-Around:
Many an old BIOS will presume that the number of cylinders in a drive will always be 1,024 or below, and therefore will only look to the bottom 10 bits of the cylinder number reported by the hard disk (2[SUP]^10[/SUP] = 1,024). As a result, when drives report cylinders over 1,023, the BIOS counts up to 1,024 and then wraps around to zero and starts over. As an example, let's presume for the moment that you have purchased a brand new 60 GB hard drive for your computer. For the purposes of this example, we'll presume this new drive was manufactured by Maxtor and it has 119,150 actual cylinders. Even in a recent manufactured computer you could only manually enter a maximum of 16,383 with current ATA specifications. In this scenario, the BIOS would only see 366 cylinders. This is because the BIOS would count up to 1,024 one hundred and sixteen (116) times to yield 118,784, or wrap around 116 times, ending with a net 366 cylinders (119,150 minus 118,784 = 366).

A nearly identical scenario can occur with a BIOS that supports only 4,096 cylinders, as it will only look at the bottom 12 bits. A troubling problem surfaced only a few years ago when computers began upgrading storage in older systems with small (by today's standards) 2.5 GB hard disks only to learn that they had only about 400 MB of usable space showing up. Unfortunately, this was a common failure in systems that had a BIOS that didn't support more than 4,096 cylinders.
alert.gif
Even some BIOS's that support translation may wrap the cylinders if you disable translation. When you re-enable translation the problem may go away.

BIOS Ignorance: This is truly an ugly issue. Some systems with an older BIOS correctly reports the true number of logical cylinders of the drive, making you think the motherboard and BIOS (your system) supports the full size of the hard disk. In reality, the BIOS doesn't have a clue as to the number of cylinders or what to do with them. It's actually just reporting what the drive reports. When you attempt to partition and format the hard disk, you're faced with the stark reality of a 1.024 cylinder limitation, but this is not readily evident. It can have you chasing your tail for hours trying to determine what is wrong. Fortunately though, this is only seen in systems with an older BIOS and the 1,024 cylinder limitation.

BIOS Failure: While you may not view it this way, a BIOS failure when attempting to install a large hard disk in a system with a BIOS that doesn't support is probably a very fortunate situation. Obviously no one wants to deal with a barrier when upgrading their computer, but this particular failure might save you hours of searching for the reason for the failure. Many times and older BIOS will cause the system to completely lock up if you try installing a hard disk larger than can be supported. While fairly uncommon, it does occur with the more proprietary computer systems where the manufacturer withholds accurate BIOS and disk support information. Often you will experience this with some of the larger hard disk barriers and also with some of the more obscure ones.

All of this would be moot if you use ontrack or XTIDE BIOS, both of which were my primary suggesstions, I said MOST (in my experience) will end up just seeing 528mb (despite some reporting full size), but there are always exceptions, personally I have run into a few earlier pentium era machines that will hang on detect/boot with drives over a certain size, but being PCI machines its SUPER easy to cram PCI SATA cards in them and no more problem lol.
 
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