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Help: IDE to Compact Flash not working

Spidey01

Well-known member
Almost makes me wonder if Macs distinguish between cards set to removable/pc card and fixed/IDE modes. I seem to recall something about needing a DOS tool to twiddle how a card identifies itself.
 

Fizzbinn

Well-known member
Some cards report themselves as fixed disks, others as removable media. Try to get one that reports as fixed disk. Often, the "industrial" branded ones can be switched between fixed and removable with a utility binary available from the "industrial" brand.

Almost makes me wonder if Macs distinguish between cards set to removable/pc card and fixed/IDE modes. I seem to recall something about needing a DOS tool to twiddle how a card identifies itself.

This is definitely a big part of what CF cards will work with these early IDE Macs. I can’t remember how I looked this up for the cards I tested with my Quadra 630 (disk info from modern Mac & USB CF reader?) but the only ones that worked for me identified themselves as fixed, non removeable IDE devices (just like a standard IDE hard drive). All the CF cards I have that identify as removable would not work.

The first CF card I got to work was a Kingston 1GB model pulled from a Cisco router that I bought a bunch of for cheap a long time ago. Appears to be this:


I recently traded up to a Transcend 8GB “industrial“ card for more space. WAY cheaper when I bought a few months ago, but this is it:


… actually looks like Amazon swamped in a different card, the one I received looks like this:

64D3D300-0209-4EAB-9382-1211B0B82177.jpeg

Transcend info on fixed vs. removable CF cards:
 
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Spidey01

Well-known member
I would imagine that macOS (and other unix) would print something useful to the kernel or system log when probing the bus, but I’d like to think someone’s made a tool or three by now that can at least dump the card’s parameters.

Most of my experience with CF owes to one of my employers products, where they had an arrangement like CF card flashing an IDE drive. But the hardware side was mostly before my time aside from porting its “Recovery“ to use a SATA controller. All the real CF stuff had been done years previously by people long since gone. That said, I do think about swapping the 2 GB drive in my Wallstreet series with a CF….which means learning more and remembering what I’ve forgotten 🙃
 

Cory5412

Daring Pioneer of the Future
Staff member
I found an old 160GB IDE HDD sitting around. So I popped it into my Performa, expecting to have similar difficulties as with the compact flash cards, but lo and behold it initialized and formatted without a hitch. In fact, I created a 2GB partition on it as boot, installed OS 8.1, then created a 100GB partition and copied a TON of stuff over to it. It's sitting humming along like a champ now.

Yeah, so, a 630 is beyond the era when disk sizes were severely limited, at least by the base hardware. Really 7.6.1 on an '040 can handle up to a 2TB volume, although as mentioned the LBA addressing on IDE makes a difference compared to what newer IDE implementations can do. Big volumes is one of the reasons I trend toward 7.6.1 over 7.5.x or earlier.


Almost makes me wonder if Macs distinguish between cards set to removable/pc card and fixed/IDE modes.


I think this is it. It's less about "bugs" and more about not, well this. Basically I don't think Apple set up that bus to expect any removable media at all. I guess you could call it a "bug" but really in 1994 do you think anybody predicted camera memory cards would eventually get used as storage replacers for vintage computers?

That said: I do wonder what would've happened if you'd used third party or hacked disk partitioning software. There's an unlocked copy of drive setup hanging around somewhere and tools like Silverlining and HD Toolkit usually work with unofficial storage media. I've been meaning to get an IDE <> CF adapter to play around with and I have a 6200, wo it might be worth looking.

It is a bummer that newer Sandisk card didn't work because those can still be bought new. I'm pretty sure that card or its predecessor, hilariously, at 32 gigs, is what's in my IIgs, and I've been thinking of picking up a few more before they aren't being made any more, for both old computers and my cameras.

There's also IDE to SD adapters and I think those are set up to more straightforwardly pretend to be old hard disks similar to what the scsi disk replacers do, so that might end up being suitable for the 630+ machines.

(Incidentally a lot of powerpc machines should be in this same boat because the 6200, 6300, 5200, 5300, and powerbooks 2300, 5300, and 1400 are all basically 630s with pre-integrated PPC upgrades, I think the 190 might share this architecture as well.)
 

Gorgonops

Moderator
Staff member
There's also IDE to SD adapters and I think those are set up to more straightforwardly pretend to be old hard disks similar to what the scsi disk replacers do, so that might end up being suitable for the 630+ machines.

I would suggest at least trying one of these in the future; they cost little more than a CF-IDE adapter, use much cheaper media, and I’ve had excellent luck with them. They do use the same conversion chipsets as CF-SD adapters, which apparently you didn’t have great luck with, but they use firmware specifically set up for the hard disk replacement role and you also eliminate a second sketchy layer of conversion plugs by going straight in.
 

Spidey01

Well-known member
I guess you could call it a "bug" but really in 1994 do you think anybody predicted camera memory cards would eventually get used as storage replacers for vintage computers?

Beyond people developing new storage technologies, I doubt it. Back then I was still using a single 5 1/2” floppy system and amazed we had no problems finding disks at the local school supply store. I question somewhat how many folks even thought their solutions would live long enough to be someone’s vintage problem, so much as whether they could solve their own problems.
 

Fizzbinn

Well-known member
I think this is it. It's less about "bugs" and more about not, well this. Basically I don't think Apple set up that bus to expect any removable media at all. I guess you could call it a "bug" but really in 1994 do you think anybody predicted camera memory cards would eventually get used as storage replacers for vintage computers?

That said: I do wonder what would've happened if you'd used third party or hacked disk partitioning software. There's an unlocked copy of drive setup hanging around somewhere and tools like Silverlining and HD Toolkit usually work with unofficial storage media. I've been meaning to get an IDE <> CF adapter to play around with and I have a 6200, wo it might be worth looking.

I decided to look at this again since I couldn't recall how I finally figured out that fixed vs. removable was the issue with the CF cards I tried in my Quadra 630. It was not a modern machine via CF USB adapter, my modern Mac running Catalina calls any CF card "Removable". I think this is likely more to do with the USB mass storage driver not caring what the CF card itself identifies as. It was actually FWB Hard Disk Toolkit (v2.0.6) running on an external Orb drive with System 7.5.3 that I was using when trying the various CF cards on the Quadra:

Does not work - "Type = Removable" - SanDisk Ultra II 1GB:
SanDisk 1GB pic.jpg

Works - "Type = Hard Disk" - Transcend CF300 Industrial 8GB:
Transcend 8GB pic.jpg


Drive Info for SanDisk Ultra II 1GB:
I/O component type: device
IDE Bus ID: 0
IDE Device: master
Model Name: SanDisk SDCFH-1024
Revision: HDX 3.19
Serial#: 120808G1106A3344
Device Type: Removable
Media: removable

Block size: 512
ATA/CAM compliant: no
Supports Power commands: no
Data rate: > 10Mbs
#Cylinders: 1986
#Heads: 16
#Sectors/track: 63
Buffer size: 1024
#ECC bytes on R/W Long: 4
#Sectors R/W Multiple: 4
Logical Block Address: yes
Direct Memory Access: yes
PIO Mode (word 51): 2
DMA Mode (word 52): 0
Supports PIO Mode 3: yes
Supports PIO Mode 4: yes
Current CHS config valid: yes
Current #cylinders: 1986
Current #heads: 16
Current sector/track: 63
Current capacity(sector): 2001888
Current R/W Mult. valid: yes
Current R/W Mult confg: 4
#Total sectors(LBA): 2001888
------------------------ ------
I/O component type: bus or channel
IDE bus ID: 0
Vendor: Apple Computer, Inc.


Drive Info for Transcend CF300 Industrial 8GB:
I/O component type: device
IDE Bus ID: 0
IDE Device: master
Model Name: TS8GCF300
Revision: 20110407
Serial#: A461909F31120F000122
Device Type: Hard Disk
Media: fixed

Block size: 512
ATA/CAM compliant: no
Supports Power commands: no
Data rate: > 10Mbs
#Cylinders: 15796
#Heads: 16
#Sectors/track: 63
Buffer size: 1024
#ECC bytes on R/W Long: 4
#Sectors R/W Multiple: 1
Logical Block Address: yes
Direct Memory Access: yes
PIO Mode (word 51): 2
DMA Mode (word 52): 0
Supports PIO Mode 3: yes
Supports PIO Mode 4: yes
Current CHS config valid: yes
Current #cylinders: 15796
Current #heads: 16
Current sector/track: 63
Current capacity(sector): 15922368
Current R/W Mult. valid: yes
Current R/W Mult confg: 0
#Total sectors(LBA): 15922368
------------------------ ------
I/O component type: bus or channel
IDE bus ID: 0
Vendor: Apple Computer, Inc.


I have two other CF cards of each type (fixed vs. removable) that are of different brands/sizes and confirm this behavior. Apple simply didn't plan for these Macs to work with IDE devices that identified as anything other than fixed hard disks.

Also interesting in the detailed info is the "PIO Mode (word 51): 2" info, even though the card is identified as supporting faster modes 3 and 4. Seems that these early IDE Macs, at least with 7.5.3, supported only up to mode 2 which has a maximum transfer rate of 8.3MB/s, although that's notably/theoretically faster than the SCSI 5MB/s maximum of all but the high end Power Macs of the day.
 
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Spidey01

Well-known member
I believe NT and probably 9x/older have the same issue with removables. I want to say where I learned the bit existed was a restoration video on an early ThinkPad.

From what I’ve been able to tell, 68k Macs seem to be willing to boot off darn nearly anything it can perform block I/O on with a system folder. I’m guessing that when Apple went to IDE, be it due to controller firmware or system design, they too had to suffer the slings and arrows that PC OEMs did.
 

Cory5412

Daring Pioneer of the Future
Staff member
It was actually FWB Hard Disk Toolkit (v2.0.6) running on an external Orb drive with System 7.5.3 that I was using when trying the various CF cards on the Quadra:

there is so much going on here.

That said: yeah this makes perfect sense now. I bet Drive Setup would do the same thing if you pointed it at a Zip/Jaz/SyQuest or even the Orb. (by the way: wow, you have a working orb?)

My theory up-thread was that third party utilities like FWB HDT or LaCie SilverLining would probably be able to format these cards, at which point you'd be able to boot from them. I see you're in HDT in the screenshot above, did it do anything? it can clearly see the device.



I’m guessing that when Apple went to IDE, be it due to controller firmware or system design, they too had to suffer the slings and arrows that PC OEMs did.

Nope, it's more like Apple configured its own disk formatter utility only to work with approved disks.

That PCs and PC OSes don't boot from alt-media is mostly down to BIOSes, foibles within Windows (but not necessarily other OSes) and external media being attached by the parallel bus which wasn't meant for that.


I might have to give it a go at some point - I'll have to see if I can either source a 2.5 IDE<> CF adapter for my 1400 or a 3.5 IDE <> CF adapter for my 6200 and see what I can get going. Worst case I put their original disks back in and use those adapters on other systems.

Though, as @Gorgonops mentioned -- SD card adapters may be the better way forward for this group of systems, I'm gonna look for those.

At some point I need to make a vintage budget line in my YNAB and just start listing projects/things and set up a priority because I alluded earlier today to maybe eventually buying more scsi SD card devices too.
 

Spidey01

Well-known member
SD to IDE would be convenient IMHO, but probably have to fall into the same boat as the SD to SCSI adapters: somewhat expensive with relatively specialized hardware/software to make the magic happen.

CompactFlash’s relationship to IDE/ATA seems to have made IDE adapters pretty cheap and relatively simple.

Last time I looked, prices were low enough it seemed like I’d be paying more for the CF card than the adapte for converting an old system.
 

LaPorta

Well-known member
SD to IDE would be convenient IMHO, but probably have to fall into the same boat as the SD to SCSI adapters: somewhat expensive with relatively specialized hardware/software to make the magic happen.

Not necessarily. I have used this in my PB1400, which also has finicky IDE implementation:

 

Gorgonops

Moderator
Staff member
SD to IDE would be convenient IMHO, but probably have to fall into the same boat as the SD to SCSI adapters: somewhat expensive with relatively specialized hardware/software to make the magic happen.

To second/third/whatever: the devices to do this are widespread and very inexpensive, and come in both 44 pin laptop PATA and 40 pin desktop flavors. The average price you'll pay for either format is about $15, but I recently ordered a pair of those $11 laptop ones I linked above (that exact link) and they work fine. (They all have identical PCBs; the exact version of the conversion chip soldered to the board may vary, the ones I have vary in the firmware ID they spit out when queried, but I haven't noticed any functional differences.) One of these plus a 32 or 64GB "Endurance Pro" SD card rated for punishment on par with an industrial CF card will cost you around $25 total, which is as cheap or cheaper than an IDE to CF adapter with a smaller card.

I've used these devices on machines including my homemade 8-bit XTIDE cards, a 486 laptop, and a Via C3/Eden based mini-PC I set up to play retro DOS games and they've worked well in all of them. I'm curious if they work in Apple's kind of half-baked Beige-era IDE implementations (working in a PB 1400 is a good sign, though) but the fact they work in that 486 makes me reasonably optimistic.
 

Gorgonops

Moderator
Staff member
... re: the above, finding CF cards that were reliably compatible with my XTIDE devices was also a huge PITA. I actually formally tested over a dozen cards I'd scavenged from various places (most of them "industrial" card pulled from old network equipment) in a range of sizes from 128MB to 2GB and the majority of them had problems. Some failed badly enough they wouldn't ID or format, but an insidious subset of them would appear to work well enough to take a format and run the machine, but they'd corrupt data over time. (Which I was able to suss out with the mediatest option of this program. The same cards would be okay *in the same CF->IDE adapter sled* when tested with a USB IDE dongle or when the card alone was tested in a multi-flash reader.

My experience here was not atypical; the PC forums are full of compatibility threads regarding CF cards(*). It seems like the IDE implementation of many CF cards is extremely picky. (CF cards support multiple access methods, only one of which is the PATA compatibility mode.) By contrast I have had perfect luck "mediatest"-ing those PATA->SD adapters; their benchmarked performance can vary a lot based on the SD card you plug in but I've had no compatibility issues or data corruption since switching to them. Frankly I'm just done with CF.

(* Footnote: The extremely stupid argument comes up from "SD haters", which exist for some reason because that's how tech forums work, that somehow CF cards are always inherently superior to an SD adapter for the hard disk replacement role because they "natively support IDE!". Obviously the problem with that argument is it completely ignores the fact that there's nothing about the flash memory in a CF card that's inherently "more IDE" than that in an SD card, the level of compatibility you're going to get is entirely reliant on the implementation of the controller in front of it. And it's clear to me that some CF cards just don't do the job of presenting a highly compatible desktop/laptop compatible PATA interface as well as those SD adapters do. The theoretical argument just falls down in the real world.)
 
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Spidey01

Well-known member
Not necessarily. I have used this in my PB1400, which also has finicky IDE implementation:


Think I'll need to give that a try for my G3. I have plenty of spare SD but no CompactFlash cards at home. So that would lower the cost of replacing the original IDE to the raw cost of the SD adapter.

To second/third/whatever: the devices to do this are widespread and very inexpensive, and come in both 44 pin laptop PATA and 40 pin desktop flavors. The average price you'll pay for either format is about $15, but I recently ordered a pair of those $11 laptop ones I linked above (that exact link) and they work fine.

I'm oh so happy to be wrong in this case 😄. Given the access methods for SD cards, I expected that wouldn't be so cheap by the time you've done the board and decided to sell tons of them, versus selling simple CF adapters. Most people I've met solving the problem rely on CompactFlash, and have never mentioned SD adapters.

(* Footnote: The extremely stupid argument comes up from "SD haters", which exist for some reason because that's how tech forums work, that somehow CF cards are always inherently superior to an SD adapter for the hard disk replacement role because they "natively support IDE!". Obviously the problem with that argument is it completely ignores the fact that there's nothing about the flash memory in a CF card that's inherently "more IDE" than that in an SD card, the level of compatibility you're going to get is entirely reliant on the implementation of the controller in front of it. And it's clear to me that some CF cards just don't do the job of presenting a highly compatible desktop/laptop compatible PATA interface as well as those SD adapters do. The theoretical argument just falls down in the real world.)

I've largely avoided CompactFlash over the years for two reasons: I generally walked away from IDE as soon as my hardware was using SATA for both HDD/DVD, and by the time I could afford such nice things as digital cameras and cellphones: SD cards were common.

Using CompactFlash tends to feel more like a step back to me, but still beats shopping for an IDE drive.
 

Tom2112

Well-known member
I tried a variety of disk tools. Apple's provided disk tool, a patched version of the same, an IDE drive tool, Silverlining, various SCSI tools (not that I expected the SCSI ones to work, but I had them handy). NONE of them would recognize that there was a drive/partition there to initialize. Every tool failed to initialize the drive. It's not a software/utility problem. It was somewhere deeper, likely OS level.

I have a few IDE-to-SD-card devices. None of them would work either. Perhaps that's because of the removable nature of the SD cards. I don't know.
 

Fizzbinn

Well-known member
there is so much going on here.

That said: yeah this makes perfect sense now. I bet Drive Setup would do the same thing if you pointed it at a Zip/Jaz/SyQuest or even the Orb. (by the way: wow, you have a working orb?)

My theory up-thread was that third party utilities like FWB HDT or LaCie SilverLining would probably be able to format these cards, at which point you'd be able to boot from them. I see you're in HDT in the screenshot above, did it do anything? it can clearly see the device.


Nope, it's more like Apple configured its own disk formatter utility only to work with approved disks.

That PCs and PC OSes don't boot from alt-media is mostly down to BIOSes, foibles within Windows (but not necessarily other OSes) and external media being attached by the parallel bus which wasn't meant for that.

@Cory5412 Not really that much going on, just booted off an external SCSI disk trying to format an internal IDE disk, it really doesn't matter that I used an external SCSI Orb drive vs. Jaz, Zip, regular hard disk, etc. Notably you can get access to other formatting tools this way vs. booting from an Apple OS install CD-ROM though. (Yes I have a working Castlewood Orb drive which I stalked on eBay for the very nice USB to SCSI adapter they often shipped with which works with many other SCSI drives set to ID 0 on modern OSes via their built in USB mass storage drivers.)

...but you are right in that I was only testing trying to format the CF cards with Apple Drive Setup. I tried the Apple Drive Setup version that came with 7.5.3 and the patched versions 1.5 and 1.7.3. The "removable" CF cards alway fail initialization with Apple Drive Setup while the "fixed" CF cards work just fine.

I'm kinda embarrassed that I didn't try formatting with other utilities, I guess I'm biased to the Apple ones for fear of odd compatibility issues. I just tired three other utilities:

FWB Hard Disk Toolkit 2.0.6 (1997):
Success! The SanDisk Ultra II 1GB "removable" CF card formatted, I copied over the System Folder from the external drive and was able to boot from it. Did not play with it long but seemed fine.

Intech Hard Disk SpeedTools 3.3 (1999):
Identifies the SanDisk Ultra II 1GB "removable" CF card as "CD/DVD Rom Device", does not allow formatting.

Silverling Pro 6.1 (1999):
Identifies SanDisk Ultra II 1GB "removable" CF card as "Write Once"/"ATAPI", does not allow formatting.

I guess the point I was trying to make earlier is that "fixed' vs. "removable" CF cards definitely behave differently in these systems (maybe in all classic Macs on IDE busses?). Apple’s Drive Setup doesn’t identify the difference other than always failing for “removable” CF cards. I imagine if an SD to CF adapter works well compatibility wise it likely identifies itself as a "fixed' CF card.
 
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Cory5412

Daring Pioneer of the Future
Staff member
FWB Hard Disk Toolkit 2.0.6 (1997):
Success! The SanDisk Ultra II 1GB "removable" CF card formatted, I copied over the System Folder from the external drive and was able to boot from it. Did not play with it long but seemed fine.

Yay! So it is possible to work around this, although to be honest at this point SD cards and SD card hardware are cheap enough that that should probably be the standing recommendation.'

That FWB HDT was able to do it kind of implies that it's possible to work around whatever's going on in the hardware, firmware, and OS and the other tools either didn't, or, it's more about the partitioning tools saying no than about the actual hardware or firmware and a partitioning tool that's willing to say yes can get the job done. I used SilverLining on my scsi2sd but it's easy enough to add another tool to the toolbox.

maybe in all classic Macs on IDE busses?

As far as I know, this issue is not present in any of the IDE-having Macs with PCI buses. (Though, again, I think it's fair to say that the SD card hardware should probably be the standing recommendation there, as well.)

Perhaps that's because of the removable nature of the SD cards. I don't know.

Huh, it seems like the IDE <> SD adapters just present the SD card as a hard disk. CF has this problem because CF <> IDE adapters are completely passive pin adapters and not all CF cards behave well on a standard IDE bus. I suspect the "removable" bit is really only part of it, but that is mere speculation.
 

Fizzbinn

Well-known member
I bought two different CF to SD adapters to try out with my Quadra 630:

1 - Comimark 1Pcs SODIAL(R) 44-Pin Male IDE to SD Card Adapter - $11.09

This one is for laptops but I used it with a passive 44-pin to 40-pin IDE adapter on the Q630. No joy here, I tried multiple SD cards and it always showed up as a the wrong size (~1TB?! for a 8GB SD card) and failed to format with all the utilities I tried.

2- KOOBOOK 1Pcs SD SDHC Card to IDE 3.5" 40Pin Male Adapter Male IDE Hard Disk Drive Adapter - $12.99

This one worked but not with any of the versions of Drive Setup I tried, FWB Hard Disk Toolkit 2.0.6 was able to format the SD cards though. I did some benchmarks and it was basically the same as the CF cards I had got to work previously. The system IDE interface is likely the bottleneck here.

Of note both of these showed up as "fixed"/"hard disk" in the drive utilities that let you see that (Not Apple's Drive Setup). I had expected that this would mean Apple's Drive Setup would be fine with these "disks" as it is with the CF cards I have that show up as "fixed"/"hard disk" but I guess there is something else at play here...
 

Gorgonops

Moderator
Staff member
I can’t think of a good reason why the 40 pin adapter works while the 44 doesn’t, they have exactly the same guts on them. If it’s easy for you to chuck it into another machine I’d sanity check to see if it could be defective. (That’s a downside of these super cheap electronics from China, I don’t think QA is really a thing.)
 
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