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Problem with formatted disk when used in another PC


Experienced Member
Jan 26, 2011
Kerpen, Germany
OK, i thought long if i should post this in the portables section, but on the other hand it's an 80C88A with MS-DOS 3.3 and the problem is rather with the formatting of the disk - and I know loads of gurus browsing this section daily have loads of experience with HDDs, floppies and ancient formatting.

So - I have a Sharp PC-3000 which is an ancient handheld from 1991 running DOS 3.3. It has 2 PCMCIA slots where you can use SRAM cards basically like a floppy. I have loads of SRAM cards with storage sizes of 512KB, 1MB, 2MB.

So the PC-3000 handles them pretty much like a floppy - the BIOS binds the 2 slots to drive letters A: and B:. The MS-DOS format command has been replaced with a custom version that will format these cards.

That all works fine - i can format every card fine and use it like a floppy - saving spreadsheets, text files, folders and everything - look and feel of a floppy.

However - if i use that card in a different machine - like the HP 200LX - all files look (and are) garbage (random ascii characters, file content is usually just something like "UUUUUUUUUUUUUUU" or so)to the 200LX and even the volume label is gone. If i insert the card in a Windows 98 system it will just say like "The drive is not formatted, do you wanna format it?". If i format the card in Windows 98 or in the HP 200X (MS-DOS 5.0) they work fine in Windows or the HP 200LX - but all files and the volume label look like garbage in the Sharp. At some point i had a format on the card where all systems could write fine, but the files from the corresponding "other" system looked like garbage and the "own" files looked fine. Crazy, i know.

OK, so i thought maybe these systems use just a different FAT version (FAT12? FAT16? FAT32?) and the Sharp PC-3000 uses "magic FAT".

Buuuuuuut.... And here comes the real surprise - if i format the card in my old Poqet Prime (ALSO MS-DOS 3.3, other manufacturer and system software though) I end up with a perfect formatted card that can be read and written by ALL systems - Sharp PC-3000, HP 200LX, Windows 98 and the Poqet.

Soooo, the curiosity is killing me AND i wanna help a friend who also has a Sharp PC-3000 (But no poqet). So what is this magic format the Poqet does.

I was looking for MS-DOS (or Win 98) tools that give more detailed info about the formatting since i don't have a Linux laptop with PCMCIA. Or even better - a tool that does formatting just like the Poqet. And yes - i copied the Poqet format.com tool, but it just won't run without a poqet (I guess they didn't want it to be used anywhere else... sigh).

Any ideas?
I think the easiest solution might be to hack the poquet format.com to disable the system check.
Actually, you're not talking about "formatting" per se, but rather initializing various structures.

The easiest way to handle this is to format up a specimen on the Poquet and then use a disk imaging tool to create a simple disk image. When you need a formatted disk, just use a utility such as rawrite to write the image to the RAM card. It will probably be no slower than using the format programs.
That actually sounds like a brilliant idea. Is there any (hopefully FREE) disk imaging tool you could recommend? Would be great if it work in Windows 95 or Windows 98 since i can't get the SRAM drivers to work in Windows XP...

Edit - i tried RAWRITE, but it will only work for FLOPPIES and Win 98 rather treats the PCMCIA SRAm cards as a "removable device" (e.g. like a flash card, USB stick, etc...).
You could try an old copy of Norton Utilities for DOS, that can save a range of sectors to a file and write them back.

But I would be a little concerned that some of these formatters may be setting configuration information that is not exposed as part of the visible block device.
OK, i tried Winimage 8.1 - that is the last version to support Win98. Great tool, but it won't offer the drive with the SRAm card. I guess they only check for proper "removable media" since it lists HDD, floppy and CD-ROM just fine. The SRAM drive doesn't appear in the menu though...

I took a look at DD, i DID read the included manpage - but honestly i didn't understand it. So like if my SRAM card is drive E: I'd expect some parameter like "source drive" or so? like dd.exe e: c:\temp\mydump.bin - or something like this. Unless someone can help me I simply don't understand how to use dd.
Hmmm, it looks like the gnu utilities have a bug.

If I do "dd if=C: of=x", I get a "bad file number" message. Something's screwy.

I have a look in my stash.
OK, i found the SRAM driver from transcend which was intended for Windows 2000, but i could install it on my Windows XP laptop. To my surprise that worked well - the SRAM card now works fine in XP even though it isn't a Transcend brand card. And under Win XP with this driver i could also use WinImage to clone the card.

Thanks to all for your helpful input.
@kyodai - This has been interesting to read as although I was a seasoned PC3k warrior from the mid 90s up to 2002 a move and a tear-down of my rig and subsequent battery leak in the unit and it being off power, meant I lost all my routines. However, it still runs but I want to get both my 2Mb SRAM card and and a stacked 10Mb Flash up again and I am struggling to remember all the foibles!

Have put a new CR20125 in the Melcard but is not seen so I must have to reformat it again and although I do have an external floppy, it will need the driver loaded into the PC3k to see it! Having an external formatted SRAM to slot in would save a lot of ball ache with intrsrv/laplink etc

I still have access to PCMCIA slotted Thinkpads - one running XP3 the other W98 so info / access to that Transcend formatter would help!

If anyone is interested my website discussing what I originally achieved on my PC3100 is here: