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Best SSD Solution for 486 and Pentium 1?


Veteran Member
Sep 16, 2014
SE Michigan
I have an IBM ValuePoint 433SX/S and IBM Personal Computer 350 that have noisy old hard drives that I'd like to replace with a modern (and hopefully much quieter) solid state device. What's the current recommended solution? Should I get a cheap CF to IDE adapter off Amazon and use that or is there something better now?
Watch out for the cheap ones, if you go that route. The only ones that work for me consistently are the ones from StarTech. Unless you need lots of storage, you might be better of with a DOM or CF adapter.
Watch out for the cheap ones, if you go that route. The only ones that work for me consistently are the ones from StarTech. Unless you need lots of storage, you might be better of with a DOM or CF adapter.
So something like this? https://www.amazon.com/StarTech-com-Single-Adapter-Reader-35BAYCF2IDE/dp/B000T9QQP0/

Don't 40 pin DOMs need extra power? Honestly I think a 4GB or less CF or DOM would work. I like to have one partition for games and one for my utilities.

Is there any real difference between using a CF adapter and a DOM?
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Note that HDDs implement ATA Read/Write Multiple Sectors, while solid state storage generally doesn't, so if you're stuck in PIO mode (as you generally are on a 486) a spinning HDD might actually be faster in some benchmarks, especially considering the cache in a modern, quiet SATA HDD is enormous compared to the kinds of accesses a 486 is doing.

I have had good luck with JMicron-based (cheap) SATA-to-IDE converters and a Toshiba 1TB hard drive. The main caveat is that IDE DMA (i.e. the Win95 OSR2 DMA checkbox) does not work with an Intel 430HX (and possibly other) chipsets. Some sort of incompatibility.

There is a lot of support for a StarTech SATA-to-IDE converter, but I find with Pentium era motherboards with onboard PCI IDE, using that on the primary IDE interface somehow blocks the secondary IDE interface from working. I haven't had time to debug that. It's also really annoying when these converters want the "Floppy" power connector, which you're always seemingly short of, instead of "Molex" of which there is plenty.

I have a PNY 240GB SATA SSD that I can't get working through either converter.
I have a more modern than the Toshiba WD 1TB SATA HDD that I can't get working through either converter.
If it were me, unless the drives are failing or making that awful angle grinder noise, I'd just keep them for period correctness and less headache until they fail...
IDE DOM is good. But using an adapter IDE to Compact-Flash and then a CF card of any size your PC can adress is another good one. You may also be able to get a CF to SD card adapter and then run a modern SD card on your IDE interface.
Back in the 486/Pentium days it was rare to find drives over 2gb. The folks I knew who were running 4gb drives were using SCSI
I have had very good luck with the generic mSATA-IDE (44 pin) enclosures on Amazon. I generally buy the smallest mSATA SSD that is currently available from a well-rated seller, whenever I need to setup a new host.

I agree that the StarTech ones are the highest quality, but they are proportionally more expensive. To me, their biggest advantage over the generic plastic mSATA-IDE adapters is that they fit more easily, since their external physical tolerances are much more consistent than the cheap plastic ones.

Whenever I run into a BIOS issue with size, I use one of the drive overlay tools, like Ontrack Disk Manager, assuming that I am running DOS. Using the XT-IDE BIOS also works around the LBA issues.

- Alex
One stumbling block with a 486-era system might be that many of these things only offer LBA addressing (and perhaps 48 bit at that) and not CHS, which your system may require. Check your system capabilities carefully. On older systems that support LBA addressing, it may be restricted to 2GB or less (22 bit LBA).
I use the mSATA SSDs because they are more available, more cheaply. But both are the same, protocol-wise.

And @Chuck(G) , yes, I am aware of the limitations. That's why I use the drive overlay software, and/or a BIOS upgrade to cover the problems.

- Alex
Here's my experiences......since I've taken all the *weird* options....

My main 486 uses an actual 128GB SSD - full on 2.5" unit - on a SATA to PATA adapter, through a PTI-255W Super I/O Controller (WBIDE is the DOS Driver so IIRC off the top of my head here, a WD chipset). It ROCKS! I use the 128GB for FreeDOS 1.3 (or whatever the latest version of FreeDOS happens to be). That's acutally the drive I use most of the time. Yes, I have full capacity, 32GB each Partition.....so much space (but much needed as I use SHSUCDX to virtualize most of my CD-ROMs/DVDs to save wear and tear on the real ones).

I did get one of those super cheap mSATA adapters for it and had some luck with mSATA but I got read/write errors on the 486, and the original intent was to use them on the NEC Versa and NanTan FMA9200 - problem was, they don't really work with the laptops at all. It was a very cheesy $8 affair though so maybe with a higher quality adapter the mSATA drives would like to play nice. I know when one of my laptops dies I'll have an extra 128GB or 256GB to play with.

I've been toying with getting an m2 reader of better quality and trying it out - I have an, uh, resource of 16GB Optane NVME drives that I Could snag one or two to play with for giggles. Not sure how well those might play ball though given I've heard some, uh, *things* about NVME drives.

The speed is comparable, maybe a hair better, than one of my ATA-100/133 setups on the same system (all of the 486 machines have ATA-100/133 drives in them most of the time save for the desktop that has the SATA SSD). Windows 95 on a SATA SSD is about 34 second boot time on a 486 DX4-100 with 64MB of RAM, roughly a little bit less in FreeDOS. Last night I was running 95 off an ATA 100/133 80GB Drive I have, roughly the same boot time.

For most of these I'm using OnTrack 9 for my DDO, mostly because I can install the O/S by booting off the DVD-RW Drive I put in the 486 (my 486 has a 5.25" Mobile Rack that I use as a literal O/S playground).


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