User avatar
Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Tue Feb 09, 2016 10:26 pm

In the following tutorial I will explain step-by-step how to connect a Windows PC to an Amiga to easily transfer files back and forth. This is an absolutely essential first step towards making your Amiga a relevant and useful machine, particularly with all of the fabulous files and programs available all over the place.

I used the following (your hardware and OS may differ, and in most cases that is entirely fine):
  • Amiga 1200 running Workbench 3.1 on a HDD (again, the OS version and HDD are not relevant but are what you will see in some images below)
  • Windows PC running XP, Service Pack 3
  • Null Modem Cable
    In my case, and I believe in most cases, you need a 9-pin female port for the PC and 25-pin female port for the Amiga side. In technical terms the cable is called DB9F/DB25F. The cable I purchased on Amazon can be found here. - Note that the pictures on Amazon, if you zoom into the product photo, these cables literally say “null modem” on them. It’s quite important to get the real deal and not some cable that looks like it will fit. Several resources I encountered (including Amiga Forever) made a point of getting “the real thing” or to expect com port communication errors.
    They should look like this:
  • Amiga Explorer (AExplorer) which you can find here
    Once installed on the Windows side, Amiga Explorer can self-install to the Amiga over the serial cable without requiring any additional software, but the Amiga must be able to boot first (e.g. with a Workbench disk, at least version 1.2)
Those are really all of the things that you will need to perform this little procedure. The Amiga Explorer program is PC-only, by the way. I actually shelled out for the Amiga Forever Plus Edition, which comes with AExplorer along with a ton of other goodies, but you can get Explorer for only $10 if you only want to move files. It’s worth it in my opinion. AmigaExplorer makes the transfer of files (as in multiple files, and larger than a floppy disk) extremely easy after the hardware side is taken care of. As I quoted earlier, it will install a program for you on your Amiga to help facilitate future transfers. More on that in a moment.

First, let’s set up the connection.

With the power off, plug your serial cable into the back of your PC and your Amiga. Be sure you plug the cable into the Serial port on the Amiga, not the Parallel port! They look the same. On my machine, you can see the serial port clearly labelled in the attached photo. Turn on both computers once the connection is solid. (I don’t screw the cables in as once I finish transferring files I unplug, but that’s up to you.)
Turn on your Amiga and launch Workbench. Find your Prefs folder and then the Serial program (the icon may look different than in the picture below depending on your version of Workbench).
Double-click Serial and copy the following settings:
Now boot your PC.

In Windows XP (or a similar version of Windows) right-click on My Computer, select Properties > Hardware (tab) > Device Manager > Ports (Com & LPT) > select Com port

This took me a couple of tries as I I wasn’t sure which com port was which on my PC that I was plugging into. In the end mine tuned out to be Com Port 1. Yours could be different depending on your peripherals. Regardless, your settings on Windows should be set like this:
Note how the PC settings are nearly the same. At this stage your Amiga and PC should both be on, connected, and ready for the final step: installing Amiga Explorer (think of AExplorer as a file browser on your PC of your Amiga) on your PC.

Launch the AExplorer installer, if you haven’t before already. It will start the Setup program. If you had tried to launch it in the past in vain, right-click on the icon and select “Setup” from the menu to begin a series of pop-ups like you’ve never seen before! But it’s all good.
You’ll then encounter a series of pop-ups about your hardware setup (which you’ve already done) …
And your version of Workbench…
You’ll see another reminder about the port settings on your Amiga (and PC) that you’ve already done….
And then finally you’ll be asked to reach over to your Amiga to perform a few simple tasks on the Amiga side...
After the install is complete, theAExplorer program will be installed for you on your Amiga in your RAM disk. I've since moved my AExplorer to my Workbench partition, which is the most logical place for me for regular use.

If you double-click the AExplorer icon on your Amiga, it will show you a brief screen of the port settings then suddenly vanish. Don’t be fooled - it is still running in the background. But now if your Amiga Explorer program on the PC side is launched, you’ll encounter a wonderful file browser … of your Amiga's file system!
You can now easily drag files to your RAM disk (or wherever, if you have a HDD) to do as you please. Note that not all files can simply be transferred and launched (e.g. ADF files of your favorite game) as alas there are more variables involved. But there are many files that you can download on a PC and move to your Amiga, and vice versa. This is the beginning of what will keep your Amiga relevant for years to come.

I've also created a semi-short video of this exact same topic where I walk you this this process and discuss some of the additional benefits of Amiga Explorer - particularly file management and ADF creation and transfers to disk.

User avatar
Detroit, MI, USA

Posted Sat Mar 19, 2016 2:39 am

Nicely written guide. I enjoyed all the screenshots. In case you want to pull screenshots from the actual Amiga, I have a couple such utilities that I use. Keep in mind you're going to get distorted screenshots, given how many Amiga resolutions intended on those resolutions being stretched into 4:3 - So you'd have to manually correct them. Hell, I think my first piece on this site will be about screenshots on an actual Amiga. Not that I don't enjoy the pictures of the screen (I kind of prefer them, hence why my videos all have a camera pointed at the CRT - Because I like it) but there are lots of reasons to have actual screenshots now and then for certain things. I use them to make title cards and left/right boarders to fill the 16:9 screen when I'm showing 4:3 content.

I actually did a video on this topic awhile ago. You don't "need" Amiga Explorer. It is of course, a very handy piece of software, especially to get a better look into your Amiga hard drive - To organize files you're sending over... I love it. But for years I used another program that was free. That should be discussed for anyone that wishes to go that route. If you're just wanting to put disk images from the PC to an Amiga floppy disk than there is a great free utility called Transdisk that I've used.

I'm not here to give a guide on that one, it's in my video if anyone really cares... My style is more off the cuff information VS step by step. Basically, if you look up transdisk and read the documents, in order to get the program over to your Amiga in the first place you'll have to write a Basic program (It's fun just to have it on your computer so you have an excuse to mess around in Basic) which when run will allow you to input the name and size of a file to be transfered from the PC. You use transdisk on the PC end to send the Amiga transdisk file over via that Basic program. Keep in mind the Basic program would only be needed for Workbench 1.0 though 1.3, as 2.0 and above featured that CrossDOS or whatever it was called (its been awhile since I've messed around in the newer Workbenches) which would be another way to get the transdisk file over.

And this can all be put on a floppy or hard drive, whichever works best for whoever. You then run transdisk from a shell....I should remember the exact command....:

transdisk -w ser:

^ That's the main command, which will tell the Amiga to be ready for an adf to be sent from the PC to DF0: on your Amiga. Then you go over to the PC and use the transdisk program there to send the adf over. It's actually a very nice and simple free alternative that I still use when I only have say one or two disks to send over. Much of the time I end up collecting a bunch of disks, putting them in a zip file, then sending the zip file to the Amiga to be unzipped from there. If you want to do this (which is highly recommended to decrease file size and thus make everything faster) then you will actually NEED Transdisk if you wish to copy adf files on the Amiga to a disk drive on the Amiga. I mean maybe you can do that with AExplorer too, I've never tried to copy an adf that was already on the Amiga to a floppy drive on the Amiga. But I know for those zip files I use which contain a bunch of adf files I always use transdisk to copy the adf on the Amiga to a disk drive. Your mind will be blown away at how fast an adf will write on the actual Amiga VS it via null modem. But yet... So much time and sanity has been saved by collecting a larger batch of files, zipping them, throwing them over to the RAM disk or hard drive of the Amiga, going off to do your own thing, coming back, and then unzipping them on the Amiga and using Transdisk to copy the adfs from the Amiga super quickly to the disk drive. Less than a minute to copy an adf already on the Amiga to a disk drive. It's so wonderful. hahha. But yeah, anyone looking for a free alternative to AExplorer, or as a supplement to Amiga explorer if you wish to send a bunch of zipped files over and copy the adfs later, it's definitely worth looking up.

If you want to copy an adf already on the Amiga to DF0: I should hopefully remember the command here...

transdisk -w example.adf

There are tons of other commands as well, but they start to get stupidly complicated and I can never remember them. I never use transdisk to copy an adf to DF1: because rather than say adding DF1: to that shell command, which would make sense, it becomes several words of BS you'll do a couple times and then never again.

User avatar
Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Sat Mar 19, 2016 9:24 am

Great stuff, man. Please feel free to link to your relevant YT videos in your posts wherever you see fit.

I took shots of my actual screen as sort of proof that I went through the process, but also because I wasn't sure about screen capping the Amiga.

I may try your suggestion this weekend. ;) Which programs do you prefer to use?

I've watched your video about transferring files. I do the transfers from Amiga Explorer to RAM disk because I have 64MB and bypass the floppy headaches altogether.

Hell I've not been able to move a single disk's worth over - the 880KB (unpacked I guess) is still too large to fit. So I pass it all by and shoot it to my HDD.

You can absolutely use AExp to move over whatever you want. I'm gonna my to get the 1200 soon just to browse directly to Aminet - apparently it is very Amiga/iBrowse friendly.

User avatar
Detroit, MI, USA

Posted Wed Mar 23, 2016 3:24 am

Here is the video I did about all this in case anyone wants a visual. Although what is written above is a much better step by step guide. All of these guides I do are primarily to tell people it's all possible, that it's not too hard. It baffles my mind how hard some people make it out to be. I'll never understand how people emulating an Amiga can bitch about 12 disk games when they could so easily emulate a hard drive and install the thing. All my stuff is unscripted, stuff I know having dealt with it. I think the reason I made the transferring video was from reading people pretty much recommending you get a better Amiga in order to transfer things. "Can't be done on an Amiga 500!" oh, go to hell! Anytime someone says something can't be done they're either full of it or that's what will cause someone else to figure out how to do it.

My video will give anybody looking to do this for free a good idea. That's how I started. I resurrected my Amiga and I didn't have any clue if anything would work. I was not going to pay money to find out it was trash. I also give tips on how to speed things up a bit by zipping things and doing most of it on the Amiga end rather than the PC. Which I find the more time I spend utilizing Workbench the happier I am. But what my friend has written for his guide is probably the best I've ever seen on it.

User avatar
Detroit, MI, USA

Posted Wed Mar 23, 2016 4:06 am

As for screenshots: I'm really just going to have to write up something and maybe do a video on it. I'll try to write it up here first though. The thing with Workbench 1.3 is the programs are extremely hard to find and they're not memorable in terms of names. I imagine since you've got the 1200 that there has to be some nice screen capture software for that. I'll say one thing for the newer Amiga's, the "power" users upgraded, and thus, a whole hell of a lot of awesome shareware/freeware was developed for machines with Workbench 2.0 and above. Now, there was actually a hell of a lot of that stuff for Workbench 1.3 as well, it's just because of the way it was distributed I don't think it's allowed on Aminet. Of course Aminet being the best place to find most awesome Workbench freeware. I have a source for thousands of 1.3 freeware stuff but it's the biggest pain in the ass to find anything. I've been looking for better screen capturing stuff for years. I've got one that works maybe half the time "if" the game cooperates with AmigaDOS. No bootloaders. In terms of that issue, I don't believe anything newer would help. If the game has a bootloader you're out of luck unless you hook some kind of capture device to the Amiga. I do have one program that can sort of rip stuff from memory upon resetting. I've never had good luck with it though. So it has to be ADOS friendly, and even then it's not all of them. Sometimes I'll get the indication the program is working but it ends up capturing the Workbench screen, it's all complicated and none of it is perfect.

If you have a 1200 you'd probably do best to go to Aminet and search for screen capture. You're bound to find something. I found my program through what is called a "fish disk" and good luck to anyone on that! haha. I'll try to write something up on those as well. They were disks distributed for free (mostly in America! - Power users baby! We used Workbench, Europeans just played games) that included all sorts of individual creations. Possibly monthly. My dad had some but they were under a different name, ours were called SMT disks but it had the same stuff, sooo... Probably someone else trying to make a little money? Anything from CLI programs to search for stuff on your hard drive, to cool sounds or pictures, to screen capture stuff... I've found a lot of use for some of these disks. But there were over a thousand of them. You can't just go to an index and search for what you want. I have one site where I can download the disks, and another site that lists the contents of the disk. Using the site that lists the contents I could search for "screen capture" and find some stuff... But there's bound to be useful stuff in there I just can't think of... So slowly...very slowly... I'll just glance over the contents and see if anything sounds good. None of these programs are on Aminet. And Aminet itself does not have much 1.0-1.3 stuff. - So that's my hell... You should not have to go through that though.

Anyway... Once you managed to get a screen capture on the actual Amiga, simply use AExplorer or whatever and send it to your PC. Keep in mind the way you saw it originally, probably full screen 4:3 - and using a paint program - I use for this part - Enlarge/Stretch to your desired 4:3 format. When resizing this part is extremely important - If you want to enlarge it and have it still look "right" - as in not be all blurry and crap... I find using the "Nearest Neighbor" method is best. Other modes will be blurry and look like crap. Using the nearest neighbor method you can enlarge it quite a bit and it will still look clear and look like what you saw on your Amiga, minus CRT things. Personally I'd want to enlarge anything from the Amiga, because 320x200 stuff is damn small on todays monitors. When resizing there will probably be a button for "Maintain Aspect Ratio" uncheck it because the Amiga used all sorts of messed up resolutions that were meant to be distorted. So, I usually distort it into 800x600 using Nearest Neighbor in Any 4:3 aspect ratio resolution will do for the Workbench stuff/NTSC stuff/PAL stuff.


^ My PAL Workbench screen shown 1:1 perfect, I.E. wrong - 640x256


^ My PAL Workbench screen shown in 4:3 (as I see it on the real screen) stretched into 800x600. The reason for things like the hard drive icon looking like crap is because those magic workbench icons were designed for even higher resolutions like 640x400/640x456. I've been trying to find better looking stuff for mine.


^ NTSC 320x200 game Pirates! stretched into 4:3 (as artists intended) at 800x600

User avatar
Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Wed Mar 23, 2016 12:25 pm

I remember reading that Magic Workbench was discontinued and abandoned by its creator out of frustration. But a couple guys on EAB picked up the torch and starting running with their own thing, I think, and created a ton of "themes".

Not sure if they are backwards compatible to WB 1.3, though.

User avatar
Detroit, MI, USA

Posted Wed Mar 23, 2016 3:31 pm

Magic Workbench does not even support 1.3 - I hacked that in there. Still, given I find a set of icons I like I do know how to put them in there.

User avatar
Detroit, MI, USA

Posted Wed Mar 23, 2016 6:35 pm

When I emulated the Amiga I got really into Workbench 3.1 stuff. I had the super nice looking modern (for 2000) desktop with high resolutions but it could still play Amiga stuff. I would go on the internet through the Amiga emulator. It was cool. I had some nice 3.1 apps on that thing. I am a power user of any computer I have. But since I have the real Amiga now I've been doing what I can with that. In some ways it's more rewarding. If I want Workbench to have a few extra colors and look a little nicer? I have to hack the thing in order to get MagicWB to work. If I want to get a screenshot? I've got to go through a thousand freeware disks, transfer it over, figure that out... All these Amiga's really offer a lot of enjoyment in these other areas. It has always been about a lot more than games with this nerd. Hacking MagicWB into 1.3 was just as, if not more fun than playing any game. - My next big Workbench project that I'm really into is getting a hold of some of these very first emulators back in the day. There were some emulators made for the Amiga that would emulate a AppleIIGS or ST...The C64 maybe as well... I'm sure they suck, but for some reason I would love to have them.

User avatar
Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Wed Mar 23, 2016 8:13 pm

I hear ya. For the life of me I'm baffled as to why my current WB is set to 4 colors. I see other folks' screens sometimes and I'm like, "Hey, WTF?" I'm sure it's a simple patch or Monitors settings tweak in WB but I haven't spent much time on it yet. I know there are some folks out there where that's all they do - tweak their WB desktops.

User avatar
Detroit, MI, USA

Posted Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:25 pm

I don't think Commodore ever understood why users would want to mess with all that stuff. They didn't want you to have more than 4 colors. Because Workbench is in medium resolution that's using extra pixels and they decided 4 was all they could give it and keep the multitasking happy. When you do that stuff it eats up the chip memory which is not good. I have 8 colors on my Workbench and I have a couple programs I use for certain games that won't run because of it. Not enough memory unless I use a program and reduce the colors before running it. I've got 8mb of fast ram but it's not using that! I think most of the super sweet workbench 3.1 stuff you are things that are near impossible on the real thing. Sure, give that A1200 100mb of chip ram! I could be wrong but usually the best I see out of Workbench from a real Amiga is MagicWB stuff. Anyone feel free to post an example of some of the more impressive stuff on a real Amiga, it would be cool to see it.

The "tweak" to change the colors in Workbench is actually easy. But you need something running that will take advantage of it and Workbench out of the box won't do it. I have some kind of script running during startup that puts it in 8 color mode. Then it's just a matter of having 8 color icons, which required me to get another program to change the icons. That's permanent though. I could load Workbench from an old disk and you'd still have my icons tied to it, they just wouldn't look right unless you had the 8 colors on.

Of course the real Magic Workbench I think might integrate itself into Workbench and give you a load more options. It's always funny how all of that works to me. Stuff like Amiga Forever, you can get that super resolution fancy desktop... But once you open the folders, it's still MagicWB at best. You've got a desktop background that's 1024x768, looks sweet, you've got a Windows like start button... But the second you open those folders they're just using Magic WB. I think if I was able to do all of that it would be too much, getting too far away from the history of the real thing.

Truth be told I think Workbench 1.3 with its default blue was the best looking of them all. I never liked the grey stuff. But I was longing for some better icons and stuff and going to 8 colors required me to adopt the newer Workbench colors. I mean I can change them but when the icons were designed like that, it's doubtful I'll ever come across a combination that would make the hard drive look good while giving me back the blue background. Oh well, I like my icons for the most part. Sometimes I just put on Hippo (Amiga MOD player) and tweak around. Fun stuff for me.

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