IDE to SATA SSD Conversion: Adventures with a Pentium II and 1.33 GHz AMD Athlon

In early 2021, I converted the hard drives in my Pentium II computer which hosts my P/390E IBM mainframe processor card, which I call “Floppy Copy“. This machine boasts three different operating systems. Two are in support of its primary mission for copying floppies: Linux to host my Catweasel board (which may not see much future use, now that I have a Greaseweazle board), and Windows 98 for copying floppies using tools like IMD. It also has OS/2, in support of the P/390 board.

First some background: OS/2 had always acted a little wonky: I did the partitioning under Linux because OS/2 didn’t like to partition the 200GB drive. And then, having partitions of 2GB, 57GB, 57GB and 57GB, running OS/2 chkdsk on the last two 57GB partitions would sometimes clobber the first 57GB partition, for reasons I never understood – until I undertook this migration. (I still don’t quite understand why it never managed to clobber the 2GB FAT partition!)

So, off to Amazon I went, purchasing IDE to SATA adapters. The two from Startech and Kingwin worked fine. One from Sinloon worked, and the other did not work at all. In addition, I found, strangely, that the adapters would work with a 240GB drive, but not a 120GB drive. WTH?

So, then I went looking to see if the BIOS might be involved, and I found a BIOS update from Aug-17-1999 to Sep-09-2000. That cured the 120 GB problem. But then, in testing, I ran into the same kinds of issues on the 240GB drive I had seen on hard drives, with corruption after running OS/2 chkdsk.

Well, it turns out that this particular motherboard, a Chaintech 6BTM, has Ultra DMA-33 IDE ports – and only supports drives up to 137GB. Ahhh, so that was the problem.

I wanted to give OS/2 (and the P/390E) as much space as possible, so it got one 120GB drive. I tried and tried to move the drive partitions for Windows 98 and Linux over to a shared 120GB drive, but without success. The minute I created a second primary partition for Linux, Windows 98 would no longer boot. So, I simply imaged Windows 98 as is to a 120GB SSD (using only a fraction if it), OS/2 to a 120GB SSD and Linux to a 240GB SSD – because I already had it, having purchased it from before I learned about the 137GB limit.

Pentium II with SSDs for OS/2, Windows 98 and Linux (IDE to SATA adapter on OS/2 drive)

Only one of the three adapters I had supported IDE master/slave. The other two had to be alone on their cable. I am using one of those two (Kingwin) permanently.

Having gotten things tested, I went about testing the IDE to SATA adapters one at a time in order to write reviews. While testing the Kingwin adapter, though, I decided to plug it in with power on. Unfortunately I had the power connector upside down, and as soon as it touched, the computer dropped power. Worse, I could not then power it on at all — completely dead. Ohhhh nooooooooo!!!

After unplugging the power cord for a couple of minutes, I could at least try and turn it on, but it would not start up – no beep, no nothing. Fearing the worst, I tested the power supply voltages – all fine. Ohhhhhh noooooooo!!!

After 10 minutes of panic, I started testing cards from that machine in a reasonably close relative, my AMD Athlon machine with an ASUS A7M266 mother board. Video card: good. IBM P390/E even passed its diagnostics. (Whew). So then I pulled all the cards out of the Pentium II as well as the IDE to SATA adapter I had been messing with at the time of the infraction, and the machine came to life!

I put all the cards in one by one, and stopped at the POST test. All good. Then, just for giggles, I hooked up that last IDE to SATA adapter – dead in the water, apparently fried. Embarrassing: I fried an adapter. The good news: it costs less than $10. Glad I purchased four of them. (I kept the Startech out in reserve because it is the only one of the four which worked and can be set for Master or Slave.)

Having discovered that the P390/E was happy in the AMD with the A7M266 motherboard, and that the motherboard has OS/2 support as well, so in May 2021 I migrated the P/390E to the AMD machine, and upgraded to OS/2 Warp 4.52, so now I have support for the full 240GB SSD.