Mount ancient PATA disk (from a 386) to restore files (ATA 1, or older)


I have a PATA disk from a 386 laptop (1995?) which I would like to get files off.

It is a Seagate 9096A, and is working. Using the old laptop is not possible.

I have tried a USB - 2.5" PATA adapter, but it failed to properly interface with the drive. In linux, it reported the size as 0xffffffff (2000 GB!), and in Windows XP, it failed to show up in Drive Management. A dd from the disk failed, and tried to create a 2TB file.

I have tried it in a Pentium-M (2005?) laptop, but it is not recognised by the BIOS.

Any suggestions? Why isn't it working? I assume that the PATA / IDE instruction set has changed since then.

Edit: To future readers; it seems that the laptop BIOSs didn't support old IDE standard versions, and the drive in question comes from the early days of IDE standardisation. Fortunately, it worked with an adapter, see the Answer for details.

asked on Super User Oct 11, 2010 by James Broadhead • edited May 6, 2017 by Journeyman Geek

2 Answers


Most 2.5" adapters can be connected backwards, did you try it both ways? It probably is the usb chipset that has issues with it, use a 2.5 to 3.5 pata adapter, then connect it directly to the motherboard of a desktop with a IDE cable, take the usb chip out of the equation.


answered on Super User Oct 11, 2010 by Moab

The reason this drive won't work on your USB adapter is that these USB adapters only support ATA drives. Your drive from a 386 probably uses PIO, or possibly (but unlikely) UltraDMA.

See this resource for more information:

Most motherboards support these old drives just fine. I have no idea why these USB controllers don't, but I suspect that there is a good technical reason for it.

answered on Super User Nov 3, 2010 by Brad

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