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Shot97
Detroit, MI, USA
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Posted Sun Feb 05, 2017 8:59 pm

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My video on my GVP A500+ hard drive death and resurrection

It’s a really strange kind of depression; losing your hard drive. You can back them up as much as you want; you’re still going to be depressed… Is “less depressed” even a thing? In the end the act of replacing a hard drive and putting your data back on it is no different than many other non depressing events. You may upgrade a hard drive to a newer model with more space, you may be doing a fresh install or moving to another computer; the steps taken are pretty much the same no matter what… But when the hard drive dies on you?

Enter “selective depression”. This is not going to affect your day to day life, unless you never backed up your stuff and it’s your main computer holding decade’s worth of memories. I mostly dedicate this back room in my house to classic computers and consoles. The way the depression touches you is that you no longer wish to enter that room… Or dash to the other side with the consoles… You don’t even want to watch videos of that system for fear of being reminded of the thing you “have” to deal with… Someday… That’s what makes it all different; an upgrade is a choice, death is thrust upon you.

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^In better times; taken not too long after I got the hard drive

Amongst the classic beauties in this room is the love of my life; the Commodore Amiga 500. While I mostly keep her fairly original, I had to get myself a hard drive add on for the power using I was getting into. The hard drive is a GVP A500+. Inside the bay contained a non factory hard drive from Apple/Quantum with 500 megabytes of storage, as well as an 8 megabyte RAM expansion. I’ve had the drive for at least 7 years or so and it has received a good amount of use in that time. I regularly backed up the drive and was prepared for what might happen.

Perhaps not as much as I should have been though. A good month or more before the drive died I had started to notice the boot up sounds had changed. If you get used to how a drive sounds when it starts up, it should really never change. Seems like whenever I notice a hard drive sounding different, death follows… But you react to it and listen carefully. Things seem to be okay and everything runs just fine. It didn’t sound “bad”, it just sounded “different”. Before you know it that new sound becomes the normal sound and you question if it ever sounded different.

Turn the Amiga on one day; The worst noise imaginable. The head was bumping up against something… Reset it and it stopped making the terrible noise but it sure was not doing anything. I was instantly thrust into depression. I turned the Amiga on to have fun, not to have to deal with this crap!

Now I got to figure out what I’m going to replace the thing with… Another SCSI drive? How new of a drive can I get and have it work on the Amiga? SCSI has been around for a long time but they’ve gone through some changes, will these other versions work on this hardware? Should I convert the drive to IDE, as I’ve got boxes full of those? Should I be like everyone else and rip myself from the real hardware feel (get a flash card – answer – immediate no). When I figure all of this out, should I just use my last backup and mark whatever little changes occurred as gone?

I had been working on a review for a big Amiga game with a saved game. I didn’t want to lose that. I at least wanted to get that sucker up long enough to grab a few files from it! There are lot of tricks to getting a few extra pulses out of a hard drive. More often than not, with the old drives, is that the head is getting stuck. I’ve read this is a huge problem with Quantum drives due to the use of a rubber part. I was convinced that in the event I could get it to boot, it would stay running.

So I cracked that sucker open! Don’t knock it till you tried it folks! I opened it up, I played around a little, touched some parts, hell… Maybe I even banged it around a little… Kept hooking it back up and getting nowhere… Kept repositioning the drive in various angles and playing around some more… Then wouldn’t you know it; finally it sprang back to life. I made sure various programs and games still worked and loaded up Amiga Explorer. I first grabbed the files that wouldn’t have been in my last backup… But then I said what the hell? Why not go for the full thing?

Running nonstop for two days 99% of the files were recovered; exceptions of a couple adfs that caused read/write errors when copying. Yes; opening that drive up and screwing around with it made all the difference. It did no harm. You want to know how little harm it did?

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^ Only a true nerd knows how to massage a hard drive (left) – Ran just fine afterward (right)

That’s how little harm it did. To make a point I went ahead and touched the drive quite a bit in my video on this subject. Sucker ran just fine upon reset. I already had a backup, I have quite a bit of experience in dealing with hardware, and I really don’t take myself or anything very seriously. That’s for the people who think they know about computers but don’t seem to know too much… :D

So how about the new drive? I really didn’t feel like getting an era specific drive. I wanted it to be somewhat newer. I read that the Amiga 500/Workbench 1.3 can only handle up to 4 gigs. Is that 4 gigs per partition or 4 gigs total? The converters to turn a SCSI into an IDE are outrageous in price and the flash cards are just as terrible! I had to read up on newer SCSI drives, but I still didn’t want it to be “too new” for fear a large drive simply wouldn’t work. I bought two drives; a 4gb Quantum with a newer plug and play like connection, and a 4.3 gb IBM drive with yet another different connection. Figured I’d test the waters concerning storage limitations and perhaps someday I could go even bigger!

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^Top left; org Apple drive. Top right; org drive with two newer SCSI drives with adapters. Bottom pics; testing new drives

I tried out the 4gb Quantum first. With the adapter I got it working and installed Workbench… But it was just too damn loud… It does not say on the label but it had to have been at least a 7,000 RPM drive, perhaps even 10,000. I think it had been for server use. The larger drives seem to cause the Amiga a boot initialization delay of a good 30 seconds. Combined with this terribly loud noise I decided to test the bigger IBM drive.

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^Setting up my “new” IBM drive

Still had that boot delay, but it sounded nice and quite and with only a minor partition set up issue I got that 4.3 gig drive working at full capacity. I plan on making a separate guide on installing hard drives for the Amiga, so you’ll have to wait if you’d like to get into that. I installed Workbench onto the drive and tested a few other things before preparing for the transfer of my old files.

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^We have life! Good old Blue…

I ran Amiga explorer and started the transfer process. Again; a couple days later it had completed. Upon reboot I had my old Amiga back and it felt great! All programs, all the games working nice with the save files just as I’d left them. The nightmare was over. Depression lifted… Well… Until a month later when my DOS/Windows98 machine lost a drive for itself… ugh… But for a brief period of time I felt immense satisfaction for having beat the hard drive destroyer god’s.

Hope everyone will check out my video on the subject where I describe those emotions felt and go through my process for bringing that drive back to life and having everything be all right!

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^ Setting up for transfers… Long transfers… But in end I got her back just as I left her…

And they lived happily ever after… The End…

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Zippy Zapp
CA, USA

Posted Sun Feb 05, 2017 10:09 pm

Very Cool post and something many Amiga users will eventually experience as these old SCSI drives start dropping like flies.

I went through very much the same ordeal with my Old 68k and Power PC Macs a while back and basically did the same thing you did, bought up a bunch of U320 SCA 80 pin drives. As long as they support Single-Ended, they should work. I was amazed that these semi recent drives contained backward compatibility all the way to SCSI 1. At least the SE drives.

As you found out most of those are server drives and are usually 10k - 15k RPM. They are quite loud and do take a bit longer to spin up. But with the right SCSI 50 pin adapter these can be made to work fine. I bought about 6 different models and found that for Macs, they had to be seagate if they were to work with the built in drivers. I replaced a couple dead Quantum Fireball drives and these things seem to work great. The Amiga doesn't work the same way so any brand should be fine.

The IBM drives of that era are usually made by Seagate, at least the ones I have. The nice thing about these SCSI server drives is that they are made to last. They easily have 4 to 10 times better MTBF ratings then the consumer drives we are used to. So these suckers should last a pretty decent amount of time.

The only real downside I found was heat. Some of these drives really do need some kind of cooling fan in the case if they are used for long periods of time as they tend to generate quite a bit more heat then your typical consumer drive. My most recent purchase was a 73GB seagate 2.5" 10k U320 drive. I haven't tested it yet but supposedly they are quieter and don't generate as much heat on top of being smaller.

The server SCSI drives are a good solution for retro use because there tends to be a lot available and they are reasonably priced.

The only other item that I do want to try is the SCIS2SD adapter that cost about $60. I have read good things about its use in Amiga computers. I think Phil's Computer Lab on YouTube has a review of one. I have a IDE2SD adapter in one of my 1200s and it works great but yeah the SCSI to IDE Acard adapters are just plain ridiculously priced at what $250 or something like that. Highway robbery if you ask me.

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Shot97
Detroit, MI, USA
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Posted Sun Feb 05, 2017 10:45 pm

I forgot about the heat from the newer Quantum drive! Yes, I had noticed that as well; though the bay contains a fan and I noticed it was only the drive itself that seemed to get hot. Nothing around it warmed up at all. I imagine I could live with the noise if I had to, but since the IBM drive was bigger and quieter I just went with that for now. The drive label only mentions IBM itself, though I suppose I could look up the model to see if someone else manufactured it. Both drives were incredible priced from my view, 20 bucks each, if that. Adapter was less than 10 bucks. And most importantly it feels authentic to me.

Yeah, the IDE/SATA/Flash adapters for SCSI devices... There are some things where I just do not care what goes on with the electronics... Some things where even if they are only making 5 bucks due to the cost of the materials; that the price is just too damn high considering it's not much of an upgrade and the original stuff can still be gotten cheaply...

I don't think I ever ran into a dedicated flash to SCSI though; From what I was thinking you needed to first get the IDE to Sata converter and then you'd have to get a flash/IDE converter. So I suppose if this $60 flash/SCSI thing works then it would be acceptable in the event I ran out of hard drives... So hopefully never. :P Frankly I think a lot of people are going to be in for quite a shock when their SD cards they figure will last forever face their max write limit... But I suppose they're not expensive enough for anyone to care. Still; I'm willing to take bets on my 20 dollar authentic feeling drive lasting longer than others flash drives... I hate digital photography, still use film as much as I can, and I've already had flash devices fail in those things...and much much worse, slowly slow everything down as it happens.

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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA
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Posted Mon Feb 06, 2017 12:26 am

From what I've read, and been told, the SCIS2SD is an excellent option to get to pure-quiet non-movable 4GB storage, albeit with a minor caveat. One of my contacts, whom I trust, has had a couple flake out on him when he tried to use it 24/7. But there is another option, very similar from Japan. It is a tad over $100, but according to him it is rock solid and has never had a failure (he runs 2, non-stop). It can be used in more than the Amiga (in fact it was created for Macs originally) and folks swear by it from a card perspective. Of course any storage media can fail.

I plan to try it out in the next few weeks whenever mine arrives. It's called the AztecMonster. I wish there was still a new SCSI manufacturer of smaller drives, though. Wouldn't make sense for a company to do it, but I wish there was.

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Shot97
Detroit, MI, USA
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Posted Mon Feb 06, 2017 12:47 am

I've never had a huge SCSI drive so I wouldn't know if such an option might be available; But I do know that all IDE drives over 32gb feature a jumper setting to limit the drive to 32 gigs for old school compatibility. I had to use it myself for replacing my Win98 drive recently. Works like a charm! In the event SCSI also had such a jumper, might be the ticket. I know I went over the supposed max drive limit for Workbench 1.3, I got to use it all... I'm having my doubts about this limit... It caused a very minor and quickly resolved issue when partitioning, that's it.

I have to ask if anyone is actually paying any kind of attention and looking up their flash cards max write limit... Because I never hear anybody discuss it... and it's a pretty serious issue with those things... Bets? Place your bets! lol - All I'm saying with that is... I really do think people with those things have an enormous false sense of security hanging about themselves; when in reality they need to be backing up things more than I do.

The most common problem with real hard drives seem to be dependent on manufacture... With these Quantum's and this rubber part; which most other's didn't use. Perhaps with age and/or use the rubber is falling apart and getting sticky. From what I've looked into it, not that hard of a fix if you wanted to. But if you can get yourself a hold of some cheap drives that haven't seen much use, they really should not have any issues sitting around in storage, and oh yeah... SCSI drives have a HELL of a lot longer life cycle than IDE... and flash... :D

... also - make sure to buy from somebody who has performed a full format on it - that is, checked every single last sector and makes that clear in the description... Cause if the Amiga ever runs into a bad sector, say goodbye to that drive. And when you get the new drive, make sure to fully format it yourself. Those GVP setup utilities just do a quick format. Partition it, set it up, and then go into Workbench and do a full format.

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intric8
Seattle, WA, USA
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Posted Mon Feb 06, 2017 12:43 pm

I have to ask if anyone is actually paying any kind of attention and looking up their flash cards max write limit... Because I never hear anybody discuss it...
I think there are several reasons for this.

A lot of reasons why so many moved to SSD-like options. The CF (and eventually SD) options, relatively speaking, are so cheap and plentiful they are easy to deal with. Plus, for many, having it be a the "max" value is a nice benefit, too. I've read on EAB that there are patches which allow for 16GB and 32GB options, but (IMO) who needs them? I mean, on average. Now, I could certainly fill one up, but I really don't need to.

Also, the power consumption is minuscule (about 5% of a normal HDD), they are noiseless and virtually heatless, and read/write as fast as most machines allow. And they have soft-error checking.

As for the max-write limit, I think that's totally valid but realistically affects photographers a lot more who take tons of photos. If you are doing lots of photo shoots, San Disk recommends you swap out your cards every couple of years - just in case (of course, it's in their best interest to recommend this, too). But if I was getting paid to do a wedding, you better believe I'd be using fresh cards more often.

But on my Amiga? I barely go over 30MB as it is. That means (knock on wood) years of use, realistically, before I'd ever need to worry about a hard failure due to write errors. Depending on the card or the software, you could be talking about as many as 1,000,000 erase/write cycles. That's a lot.

I think for photography it's a big deal. For computing, not as much. My new MBP comes with an SSD now, which is based on the same idea - heck I think that's how most machines are shipped these days. And they can still fail, of course, but the benefits seem to outweigh the cons.

But I still have a stack of old drives I can use, of course. I like to have options. And currently I have a CF in 2 machines, and magnetic drives in all of the others.

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Zippy Zapp
CA, USA

Posted Mon Feb 06, 2017 1:05 pm

Shot97 wrote:I have to ask if anyone is actually paying any kind of attention and looking up their flash cards max write limit... Because I never hear anybody discuss it... and it's a pretty serious issue with those things...
Personally I don't see that as much of an issue. The cost of SD cards are so cheap. I mean you can get a two pack of 2GB cards or a 4GB card for less then 10 bucks. I actually have a supply of these just in case. I have bought 64GB fast SD cards for $14.

In addition to what intric8 already stated the Flash cards should last you quite a number of years. AmigaOS is so simple I don't even think it has or uses temp files of any kind. So how often are you writing to the system drive? Not like Windows where it is reading and writing every single time you boot up. Tons of writes on bootup. Amiga I don't think any.

So even if you did hit that write limit that doesn't mean it is game over you can still read the data on the card. It would be easy enough to copy the data to a fresh card and you are up and running in minutes. A failed HD? No such chance. If you did manage to backup the files you probably are still left with the task of reinstalling that you may not have to do with a flash card replacement of the identical type and capacity.

I will use the first Playstation as an example. People had the same fears about the memory cards then. Only so many write operations. Heh I bought my Playstation on release day in 1995 and I still have a Playstation and the original Memory Card. Both still work fine I can't even estimate how many times I have saved games to the card over the past 21 years.

So I think it may be not as big of an issue as we may think. Maybe that is why you don't hear much about it?

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Shot97
Detroit, MI, USA
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Posted Mon Feb 06, 2017 4:49 pm

Also as someone making YouTube videos. After a year I had to replace the card. So of course you're always going to have people with great/terrible experiences based on their applied application. In favor of it; I've had to bust open all my NES/SNES games to replace the watch battery dealing with save games where as Sega used flash; and those games just go on and on saving.

Consoles though... Different area for me. I have several flash cart solutions for consoles and I very much enjoy that I have them. Although I make sure there's a good backup for them. Still, in the end, a flash cart for a cartridge based system feels "more right". - and I almost never play a game I already own on cart on said flash cart. Indeed, once in awhile I still buy the real carts for them. Because it's nice to have them.

Much like it's nice to have the box for Eye of the Beholder II with all those goodies inside of it, with the real disks with great labels. But then you put them on a "noiseless", what could also be described as "soulless" flash card for a hard drive. While I recognize that in the end that may be our only option... I will say that the day for that being our only option is nowhere near as close as some choose to think.

As long as the drive is not distracting in nature, which few ever are... It can only add to the experience. Got a million floppies hanging around, because using them add to the experience. I can't ever imagine playing an interactive movie like Wing Commander III with a CD image, when I'll never forget that hum from the CD-Rom.

In the end, I respect all your opinions, your way is the right way, for you. - But remember; you're in my topic about hard drives. While I may be quite loud about the right way for me, I do in fact always mention such other options, even in a snide way, for some may wish to pursue them. But this here; by me and made for others who also might face such an issue with an actual hard drive and may indeed still want an actual hard drive. I feel those people need not be pressured into an option others feels is inevitable, when I most clearly do not feel that day is anywhere close to us. Much fun can still be had with real hard drives.... Indeed with real floppy drives...

Just saying that for this topic; The spirit of the post is in no way written as a doom and gloom "Get rid of those hard drives for flash cards as soon as you can!" topic. The death of the drive is a thing that may happen, the replacement of a drive is a cheap and still very viable option. The only one this writer wanted, and I make no claims of fair and balanced writings. Long live the mechanical hard drive. In terms of points/facts, you'll have some, I'll have some, but I'm perfectly fine with initiating a wee bit of light hearted "place your bets" type trolling when people link pages to buy SD solutions for an article about HD solutions. :D Should be a separate topic, one not written by me.





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