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CD R/W and BIOS problem

penneck
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Registered: 03-08-2007

CD R/W and BIOS problem

At work, I have a job of building some working replicas of a type of server that was built about 7 years ago. The original servers were special designs, intended to fit into a very small space, so, at times the original design uses unusual choices because of lack of space for the normal choice. One of these unusual choices is the CD R/W drive (with an adapter board to give it an IDE interface). The CD R/W cannot be changed because of lack of space. We have scoured the world and found brand new items (including the CD drives) to build these servers.
The CD R/W they used was a slimline CD drive from a laptop pc. The problem I have is that, on the new server, at first the BIOS could see the CD drive, but the server couldn't see the CD in it. I tried two other slimline drives, but to no effect. I then loose-fitted a desktop DVD drive. The BIOS could see this, and it could see and use the CD in it. However, now I have gone back to using the slimline drives, the BIOS can no longer see those drives. Therefore, I am worse off now than I was.
Has anyone any suggestions as to what to try to get this slimline drive working, please?
Thanks in advance
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MrT
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Re: CD R/W and BIOS problem

Try testing the slimline drives(s) on another PC. They can't all be faultly but the adaptor board might be! Are there any drivers for the adaptor board or is it plug and play?
penneck
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Re: CD R/W and BIOS problem

Thanks MrT. I'll try that. Unfortunately (or should that be fortunately?) I wont be at work again until next Wednesday, so I will have to leave this problem until then.
Regards
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Re: CD R/W and BIOS problem

[quote=MrT]Are there any drivers for the adaptor board or is it plug and play?
I doubt if there are any drivers, as most of these IDE adaptors are either a circuit board that just has interconnections between the connectors, or the same thing but all moulded into one plastic plug-socket.
In addition there are versions of both that have additional circuitry to drive onboard LEDs to indicate IDE traffic and power status, but these don't require any drivers.
penneck
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Re: CD R/W and BIOS problem

Back to work earlier than expected.
The situation now is we have two servers built, and a work-bench lash-up, so three independent test beds, each having its own motherboard, CD Drive, psu, monitor, keyboard, etc. All show the same problem, i.e. the BIOS sees the CD Drive as Primary Slave, but none of them can see the CD fitted in the CD Drive.
I have tried resetting the BIOS on one server, but when I fitted the link on the Reset position, the server refused to power up. I have tried installing the latest BIOS onto one of them, by creating a DOS bootup floppy, which I then load with the BIOS software (after unpacking it from the Exe file), but I get the fault message:-
PHOENIX PHLASH16 ERROR
CANNOT FLASH IF MEMORY MANAGER (e.g. HIMEM) PRESENT
PRESS ANY KEY TO EXIT
I have tried creating a floppy for DOS 6.22, but that becomes too full for the unpacked BIOS software.
If anyone can offer good suggestions I would be grateful to hear them
TIA
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Re: CD R/W and BIOS problem

[quote=penneck]the BIOS sees the CD Drive as Primary Slave, but none of them can see the CD fitted in the CD Drive.
How can you tell ? - as the BIOS won't tell you a CD is loaded.
Are you trying to boot from a CD ? - in which case have you set the BIOS boot sequence correctly ?, and are you sure the CD is bootable ?
Are you booting to an OS prompt (perhaps from a DOS floppy or Linux USB stick) and then trying to find the CD drive from the prompt ?
penneck
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Re: CD R/W and BIOS problem

An update.
Have been able to load new BIOS. The secret of getting the new BIOS in was to create the DOS 6.22 boot disk on one floppy, but delete the HIMEM.SYS and EM386.EXE files from it, then have the new BIOS files (only the ones that are necessary) on a second floppy. Bootup with floppy #1 then change to #2, and hey presto, the BIOS installs.
However, it hasn't solved the problem that the BIOS can see the slim CD Drive, but is unable to read a CD in that drive, so I am still looking for a solution to that particular problem. If it cannot read a CD, how do I load the opertating system? I'm not looking for an answer to that, I just want to get the pc (without operating system) to be able to read a CD (such as PC Check).
Oh, yes. The bootup order is CD Drive, then floppy drive, then hard drive.
As the CD Drive is a slim CD Drive, that is, it was designed for use in a laptop, it doesn't have link positions to select whether it is a Master, a Slave, or is Cable Selected like a desktop CD drive would have (or does it but I just haven't found it yet?). Is a laptop pc CD drive designed that it automatically works as a Master, or as a Slave, or as Cable Selected?
Thanks
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Re: CD R/W and BIOS problem

Could you get a known working 'normal' CD/DVD drive, connect it via an IDE cable (due to the physical constraints you have), then install you OS, remove the 'installation' drive, and then reconnect the intended CD drive.
I know this does not solve WHY your slimline drives don't boot, but it might get your servers built !
In addition, if you find that using the 'normal' drive doesn't work either, then you will know that it is unlikely to be the slimline drives being at fault - which is your current assumption !
I know you alluded to have done this earlier, but it seems that things have changed since you first tried, also it would be interesting if the OS does install, as to whether the OS can read files from CDs in the slimline drives.
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Re: CD R/W and BIOS problem

Quote from: penneck
Is a laptop pc CD drive designed that it automatically works as a Master, or as a Slave, or as Cable Selected?

This only matters if you are trying to connect two devices to the same cable.  I don't think laptops do that; the CD and the hard drive have dedicated cables.
Edit:  Since writing this I have come across an old laptop where the optical drive was configured as a slave on the same IDE channel as the hard drive, so the statement I made above was wrong.      
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Re: CD R/W and BIOS problem

Have you tried my previous suggestion about looking for the CD files, having first booted to a DOS prompt ?
[quote=purleigh]booting to an OS prompt (perhaps from a DOS floppy or Linux USB stick) and then trying to find the CD drive from the prompt ?
i.e. -
A:> dir D:

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Re: CD R/W and BIOS problem

The other obvious question -
Are you absolutely sure that the installation disc you are trying to boot from really is a CD and NOT a DVD ?
If you are trying to boot to a DVD disc in a CD drive, then it is never going to work,
but this would explain why you were able to boot to a "loose-fitted desktop DVD drive" earlier.
penneck
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Re: CD R/W and BIOS problem

Sorry, been away for a couple of days. Have tried running PC Check on a CD from the slim CD Drive - no result. Did the same from the desktop CD Drive (it IS a CD Drive not a DVD Drive). That worked, and PC Check checked the motherboard, the microprocessor, the memory, the hard drives, the floppy drive, and the serial ports. That did mean that the CD it was checking was the desktop one, but at least it confirms that the motherboard-to-CD Drive interface is okay up to the point where the CD drive attaches to the ribbon cable. Therefore, that would suggest the problem lays in the slim CD drive and its adaptor board, but they work if connected to a completely different type of motherboard. I am unable to use the other type of motherboard in the servers I am trying to get built because that would mean getting a different software load - a big no-no.
I have tried loading the software using a ghost image CD in the desktop CD Drive, and that worked, nearly. The server has a RAID with two large arrays, and the second array failed to load correctly. I haven't tried rebooting to see if there is enough on the first array to get it going.
The reason for asking about the CD drive being a Master or Slave, etc, is that there is a link on a desktop drive to select which you have, and that affects the ribbon cable and how the BIOS sees the drive. A slim drive doesn't appear to have that sort of link facility (unless the laptop pc would deal with that automatically), so they don't mention anything about link positions on the drive itself. There are a couple of groups of 4 pins on the adaptor board (one looks like thae audio connection on a desktop drive) but the original servers didn't use these.
I haven't tried the boot up from floppy, and then try reading a CD in the slim drive. I'm back at work on Monday, so will try then
Thanks
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Re: CD R/W and BIOS problem

Could you document the manufacturers name, and full part numbers for the motherboard, adaptor card, and CD drive ?
as at the moment anyone reading this thread will be just guessing on what to try next,  whereas if you gave some clue as to what you are working with, then it might jog someone's memory.
For example you were talking about the drive not having links, well I have worked on ancient systems that didn't have the usual jumpers on the back, but instead had solder bridges on the drive's circuit board which you heated with a soldering iron to break the bridge between two adjacent pads - to change the Master/Slave, Bootable/non-bootable, writeable/read-only, and cable termination characteristics !.  However that level of detail is VERY specific to the exact model you are using, and unless you knew that fact the drives otherwise all look the same to the untrained eye !
When you fitted the slimline CD drive and adaptor board to another motherboard, did the drive appear as "Primary Slave" on that BIOS as well ?
I am wondering if the problem here is that very old BIOSes were sometimes limited to booting optical drives that were set as "Master" and NOT "Slave".
It is unusual to have links on the adaptor board for a slimline CD drive, so those four links would be worth investigating.
I just dug out of my computer 'parts' box, an IDE adaptor that does have links (but happens to be a compact flash adaptor instead of the 44-pin type you are using),
these links select -
    JP1  :  1-2="Master/Slave"  or  2-3="Slave/Master".
    JP2 :  1-2=3.3Volts  or  2-3="5.0Volts"  for the interface.
VileReynard
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Re: CD R/W and BIOS problem

Why not use an extra long IDE cable and power cable and feed it to a full-size external CD drive - with luck you would only need to actually attach the CD drive on rare occasions...  Smiley

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Re: CD R/W and BIOS problem

I doubt if 'penneck' will be allowed to do that, and even if the principle of an external CD drive was acceptable then it would be easier to use a USB CD drive than IDE, and then you quickly get to "why not boot from a USB memory stick"