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Victory shall be mine!


Experienced Member
Apr 27, 2010
Rimbey, Alberta, Canada
And indeed victory is mine, it all started when I started playing with my recently purchased IBM Portable.

Not wanting to write a novel, here's the abridged version of my adventure.

Started out by cleaning the dust bunnies out of the works, and doing a quick check for properly seated IC's in sockets. Next I fired it up, and got the expected 'non system disk or disk error' message, so far so good.

The hunt for a boot disk didn't go so good, never did I think the day would come when I couldn't find a 5.25" boot disk laying around. Things are a bit of a mess here at the moment though so it wasn't that big a surprise. So at this point I decided to try a 3.5" drive in the machine. No luck though with the 1.44M drives, they just spat out a disk controller error, I assume now that only 720k drives work on XT's?

After some more hunting (out in the cold storage, brrr) I finally found a disk labeled 'Electric Pencil Bootable', WooHoo I thought, and tried this disk with no luck. Darn, 1.2Mb disk for sure. I tried some 1.2Mb drives in the system and again got the aforementioned controller error. Back to square one...

Time for a workaround, I hauled my primary PC over to where I was working then remembered that I had recently pulled the system disk to build a system for a friend. So I figured that I would toss in one of the old IDE drives that I have laying around in for a quick and dirty boot, with no luck. Turns out that the older OS's don't jive well with this new SATA equipped PCI-E and Dual video motherboard, not such a big surprise but a let down indeed.

Next came another venture out to the cold storage, this time for a Compaq 486 that is my only currently operational 486. I hauled it in, let it warm up for a few hours and went back to work. Turns out though that somebody had a bright idea of leaving a pin on the vga card plugged, possibly to encourage customers to use a matching Compaq monitor? A little gentle persuasion with a screwdriver and I removed the pin in question from a spare cable and was up and running. I pulled the floppy drive from the portable and plugged it into the Compaq and was ready to roll.

From this point things were looking up, momentarily. The bios configured itself for the drive the old Win3.11 file manager recognized it. I put a blank disk in the drive and ran a format. All seemed well so far so I tried copying command.com over. The drive seemed to write the index fine, but when the head moved forward to write the file it would step ahead a couple tracks then jump back to track zero and jump back and forth. Try after try I had no luck, the disk would appear to format fine but simply would not write files.

Damn, I thought to myself, I didn't want to have to replace the original drive what with it's IBM embossed faceplate, so a little TLC was in order. I took the drive up to the kitchen table (our home workbench, lol) and spent some time with it. First I blew out the various optical sensors well to make sure there was no dust mucking things up. Next I took some good light turbine oil and lubed up the head rails, stepper motor bearing, spindle motor bearing, and the top and bottom spindle bearings.

Things felt a lot smoother at this point, so I took the drive and reattached it to the Compaq, reformatted the disk, copied the system files, and it all went perfectly! Victory at last! I powered down the 486 and returned the drive to the IBM. Fired it up and was rewarded with a [very welcoming at this point] 'Booting MS-DOS...' message.

What a rewarding feeling in the end, to have returned the system to life. Even with the frustrations that one encounters in the process it's still so much fun!

Next order of business is to figure out a better way to move files across, I think I'll have to dig up my null-modem parallel cable because this current operation of moving files 360k at a time while swapping the drive back and forth between systems just isn't going to do it...


Veteran Member
Oct 1, 2007
New Zealand
Congratulations! There is nothing quite as satisfying as bringing an old machine back to life. Often the more effort you've put in, the more rewarding is that ol' boot splash screen!