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Tips on IBM Thinkpad 750Cs

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Magic_V
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Tips on IBM Thinkpad 750Cs

#1 Post by Magic_V » Thu Mar 21, 2019 8:21 pm

Hi there everyone, I'm new on these forums.
Being a 28 year old I have fond memories of playing Quake on my father's lap at his IBM Thinkpad back in 96. These days I'm using a Lenovo P50 daily for my work in 3D content creation.
Today I finally purchased my first vintage IBM Thinkpad: A 750Cs and I was wondering if other owners could give me some tips.

I'm going to be very honest here and say that I have very much skipped the DOS era of computing and I grew up thinking Windows 3.1 was an arcane piece of [censored]. Only recently I have come to appreciate anything that came before Windows 95 and those old school DOS games are not really my thing. Rather I would use the system for doing some text editing and explore the programming possibilities on this platform (ANSI-C & C++). I don't mind using the command line (either DOS or Unix).

As such I have made a small list of questions for the more seasoned collectors/enthusiasts.

OS wise what are my choices?
Is a GUI worth the performance cost at this generation of hardware?
Which software was used for programming in these days?
Could anyone give me platform specific tips on maintenance / common failure points?

Thank you a lot, I hope I'm not asking too much. I'm very exited about this new purchase (I even bought an original ball mouse and external numpad out of enthusiasm).
Focus & Simplicity
1993 IBM Thinkpad 950Cs - Still considering OS
2012 Lenovo Thinkpad X220 - Manjaro Linux KDE x64
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Re: Tips on IBM Thinkpad 750Cs

#2 Post by Thinkpad4by3 » Thu Mar 21, 2019 9:06 pm

Magic_V wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 8:21 pm
Hi there everyone, I'm new on these forums.
Welcome aboard!
Magic_V wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 8:21 pm
Being a 28 year old I have fond memories of playing Quake on my father's lap at his IBM Thinkpad back in 96. These days I'm using a Lenovo P50 daily for my work in 3D content creation.
Today I finally purchased my first vintage IBM Thinkpad: A 750Cs and I was wondering if other owners could give me some tips.
Nostalgia trips are always fun! A 750Cs is a good starter machine if you got it for a good price.
Magic_V wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 8:21 pm
I'm going to be very honest here and say that I have very much skipped the DOS era of computing and I grew up thinking Windows 3.1 was an arcane piece of [censored].
It was.
Magic_V wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 8:21 pm
As such I have made a small list of questions for the more seasoned collectors/enthusiasts.

OS wise what are my choices?
W3.11, W95, and a few flavors of linux that are old enough to run on that hardware. Since the 750 came with a 486SL 33Mhz processor which W95 will run like a snail, but they're upgradable so a 75Mhz DX4 chip will run W95 quite speedily. A CF card for a HDD will also be a lifesaver and also speed up performance.
Magic_V wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 8:21 pm
Is a GUI worth the performance cost at this generation of hardware?
From what it sounds like you want to do, no.
Magic_V wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 8:21 pm
Which software was used for programming in these days?
Not my specialty, but Borland Turbo C comes to mind.
Magic_V wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 8:21 pm
Could anyone give me platform specific tips on maintenance / common failure points?
Not anything that is super unreliable, but it is still a 25y/o machine, you get what you get. Most of these IBMs are still alive and kicking. My 755C suffered tragic motherboard failure. I have not gotten around to replacing the board yet, but yours could die at any point. Quite unlikely, but still possible, so enjoy it while it lasts. Maintenance, there isn't much to do besides give it a low humidity temperature controlled home to live in. Depending on how much nostalgia glasses you put on, you may want to do a TFT swap. Get rid of the laggy, low-contrast DSTN panel and get a sharper, high contrast, high-refresh rate beautiful TFT panel from a 750C.
Magic_V wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 8:21 pm
Thank you a lot, I hope I'm not asking too much. I'm very exited about this new purchase (I even bought an original ball mouse and external numpad out of enthusiasm).
No problem, welcome to the addiction :twisted: ...err... I mean club. Ball mouse?? You ain't using an IBM Thinkpad without the trackpoint. Haha just kidding, not all of us prefer it, but personally I do :mrgreen: . Nice find, give that 750Cs a new home :thumbs-UP: .
Thinkpad4by3's Law of the Universe.

The efficiency of two screens equally sized with equal numbers if pixels are equal. The time spent by a 4:3 user complaining about 16:9 is proportional to the inefficiency working with a 16:9 display, therefore the amount of useful work extracted is equal.

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Re: Tips on IBM Thinkpad 750Cs

#3 Post by Magic_V » Fri Mar 22, 2019 6:22 am

Thinkpad4by3 wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 9:06 pm
W3.11, W95, and a few flavors of linux that are old enough to run on that hardware. Since the 750 came with a 486SL 33Mhz processor which W95 will run like a snail, but they're upgradable so a 75Mhz DX4 chip will run W95 quite speedily. A CF card for a HDD will also be a lifesaver and also speed up performance.
Would I have to upgrade the entire logic board (like I read about in some other post) or is the actual CPU upgradable? :D
Thinkpad4by3 wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 9:06 pm
Not my specialty, but Borland Turbo C comes to mind.
Thanks I'll be sure to check it out!
Thinkpad4by3 wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 9:06 pm
Not anything that is super unreliable, but it is still a 25y/o machine, you get what you get. Most of these IBMs are still alive and kicking. My 755C suffered tragic motherboard failure. I have not gotten around to replacing the board yet, but yours could die at any point. Quite unlikely, but still possible, so enjoy it while it lasts.
That's a real shame, good luck with the repairs! The condition of the 750Cs is good but the previous owner was talking about a flickering display recently and trouble booting into Windows, he said it booted into Windows fine in the past.
Thinkpad4by3 wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 9:06 pm
Depending on how much nostalgia glasses you put on, you may want to do a TFT swap. Get rid of the laggy, low-contrast DSTN panel and get a sharper, high contrast, high-refresh rate beautiful TFT panel from a 750C.
Yeah I've been thinking about keeping an eye out for a TFT version if I can get it at a good price as they are obviously superior. However, I've also considered keeping the machine original if at all possible, perhaps hooking it up to an external display can also satisfy my needs. Would I specifically need a 750C screen? Or would one of the later models also do?
Just realized that I have also swapped the display on my 2016 Thinkpad P50 quite recently for a 4k display with better brightness, it's a thing of all ages. :lol:
Thinkpad4by3 wrote:
Thu Mar 21, 2019 9:06 pm
Nice find, give that 750Cs a new home :thumbs-UP: .
Yes I hope to keep it working for a long time and I'll treat it with care. I'm also quite curious to compare the keyboard experience with my modern laptops.
Focus & Simplicity
1993 IBM Thinkpad 950Cs - Still considering OS
2012 Lenovo Thinkpad X220 - Manjaro Linux KDE x64
2016 Lenovo Thinkpad P50 - Windows 10 Pro x64

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Re: Tips on IBM Thinkpad 750Cs

#4 Post by fultontech » Fri Mar 22, 2019 6:45 am

The TP750C/Cs is one of the last systems that will run AIX PS/2 1.3 if you can find about 100 IBM floppy diskettes and have a 170MB or 340MB HDD.
With the last BIOS update, the TP750C/Cs can use the 810MB and 1.2GB HDD (not useable with AIX though) from the TP755
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Re: Tips on IBM Thinkpad 750Cs

#5 Post by Magic_V » Fri Mar 22, 2019 10:55 am

fultontech wrote:
Fri Mar 22, 2019 6:45 am
The TP750C/Cs is one of the last systems that will run AIX PS/2 1.3
This is awesome, the IBM UNIX based OS. I will look into this.
Would this be a good source for the installer files? http://ohlandl.ipv7.net/AIX_1-3/AIX_Index.html
The least I would get out of it is being able to run GNU Nano on the 950Cs :D

When searching the forums just now I saw in another post that you're running AIX 1.3 on your TB 950Cs.
If I decide to try to make this happen, should I make a thread about it, or could I pm you with specific questions?
Focus & Simplicity
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2012 Lenovo Thinkpad X220 - Manjaro Linux KDE x64
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Re: Tips on IBM Thinkpad 750Cs

#6 Post by fultontech » Fri Mar 22, 2019 11:14 am

Yes, you can PM me. I am away from home again and don't have access to the 750 at the moment. I still have it running as a VM, but there are differences installing on a physical machine.
The owner of that site is also a user here.

Keep in mind that The PS/2 version 1.x is the same as the RT version 2.x if you go looking for documentation.

If you can find media and a license key, you could install SCO Xenix. It was a manual nightmare process to setup the drive format as I recall.
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Re: Tips on IBM Thinkpad 750Cs

#7 Post by Magic_V » Sat Mar 23, 2019 9:57 am

So I did some basic orientation with regard to operating systems.
I was wondering if it would be possible to install Windows NT 3.51 on the 750Cs?
It is available on floppy install, and the minimal system requirements seem to be met.
I found some information on installing here: http://ps-2.kev009.com/pcpartnerinfo/ctstips/480e.htm
Did some tests in a similarly spec'd VM, and worked pretty ok.

Would there be any reason why it wouldn't work?
Reason I'm asking is because the installer is 22 floppies, so it'll be a little bit of a project.

Thanks a lot!

Edit: I'll just have a try and report back here on the progress with the machine. I'll also post some pictures later.
Focus & Simplicity
1993 IBM Thinkpad 950Cs - Still considering OS
2012 Lenovo Thinkpad X220 - Manjaro Linux KDE x64
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Re: Tips on IBM Thinkpad 750Cs

#8 Post by Magic_V » Mon Apr 01, 2019 2:20 pm

Hi there!

So the system came in last week and I did some extensive testing on it as well as took it apart fully and put it back together again twice.

The display on the 750Cs gave out soon after I received the unit (before I took apart btw), which is a bit of a shame but yeah it's a Cs so the screen wasn't particularly fancy or anything.

The HDD wasn't spinning up when first running the machine, I checked the SCSI to IDE ribbon between the drive and the systemboard and all the connections
were working. I received an IDE to USB adapter not long ago and I found out that the 340 MB IBM drive actually still works, so that is good news. But the bad news seems to be that the problem is related to the systemboard...

The floppy works fine and I was able to boot into MS DOS 6.22 this way. Tested the keyboard also fully functional. The casing of the machine is in really good shape and all the things that belong to it are still on there except for the original battery and cmos battery.

There was a 32MB (aftermarket) memory module included, so the system has around 36MB of ram.

I'm considering using a PCMCIA card to Compact Flash to try to get something of a HDD going so I can install things, would I need anything special for this?
Focus & Simplicity
1993 IBM Thinkpad 950Cs - Still considering OS
2012 Lenovo Thinkpad X220 - Manjaro Linux KDE x64
2016 Lenovo Thinkpad P50 - Windows 10 Pro x64

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Re: Tips on IBM Thinkpad 750Cs

#9 Post by Thinkpad4by3 » Mon Apr 01, 2019 2:28 pm

Magic_V wrote:
Mon Apr 01, 2019 2:20 pm
I'm considering using a PCMCIA card to Compact Flash to try to get something of a HDD going so I can install things, would I need anything special for this?
You want to get one that can be run in Fixed disk mode. There is a utility to do it...but I don't remember where to find it. I'd search up a tutorial for it...and make sure to find a compatible card. Also....don't do it through PCMCIA. I don't believe the 750 can boot off the PCMCIA slot. Use a CF -> IDE adapter.
Thinkpad4by3's Law of the Universe.

The efficiency of two screens equally sized with equal numbers if pixels are equal. The time spent by a 4:3 user complaining about 16:9 is proportional to the inefficiency working with a 16:9 display, therefore the amount of useful work extracted is equal.

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Re: Tips on IBM Thinkpad 750Cs

#10 Post by Bondi » Mon Apr 01, 2019 2:41 pm

Magic_V wrote:
Mon Apr 01, 2019 2:20 pm
I'm considering using a PCMCIA card to Compact Flash to try to get something of a HDD going so I can install things, would I need anything special for this?
You will need a pcmcia driver to enable the PCMCIA/CF card.
In W3.11 there is IBM PC Card Director software. Some native PCMCIA drivers for DOS are also there.
But for DOS I prefer to use UNATA PCMCIA enablig software from Apsoft http://www.tssc.de/site/default.aspx#ht ... fault.aspx
Works flawlessly, but it's not free (yet 2 weeks trial is available)
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Re: Tips on IBM Thinkpad 750Cs

#11 Post by Thinkpad4by3 » Mon Apr 01, 2019 2:52 pm

Bondi wrote:
Mon Apr 01, 2019 2:41 pm
Magic_V wrote:
Mon Apr 01, 2019 2:20 pm
I'm considering using a PCMCIA card to Compact Flash to try to get something of a HDD going so I can install things, would I need anything special for this?
You will need a pcmcia driver to enable the PCMCIA/CF card.
In W3.11 there is IBM PC Card Director software. Some native PCMCIA drivers for DOS are also there.
But for DOS I prefer to use UNATA PCMCIA enablig software from Apsoft http://www.tssc.de/site/default.aspx#ht ... fault.aspx
Works flawlessly, but it's not free (yet 2 weeks trial is available)
Yeah but he doesn't have a working boot drive...so this doesn't work.

And for MagicV- try and shake the drive and reinstall. Ive had that work on those machines plenty of times.
Thinkpad4by3's Law of the Universe.

The efficiency of two screens equally sized with equal numbers if pixels are equal. The time spent by a 4:3 user complaining about 16:9 is proportional to the inefficiency working with a 16:9 display, therefore the amount of useful work extracted is equal.

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Re: Tips on IBM Thinkpad 750Cs

#12 Post by Bondi » Mon Apr 01, 2019 2:53 pm

I don't believe the 750 can boot off the PCMCIA slot. Use a CF -> IDE adapter.
It actually can. I've personally booted from PCMCIA-CF on 755CD and 360CE(full analog of 755C). But it worked only with one of my CF cards - Apacer 256Mb. All others did not. Including 1Gb IBM Microdrive, or cards smaller or bigger than 256Mb, industrial/nonindustrial, etc. So I'm not really sure what the rule is here.
But all of them (tried cards up to 2Gb) were readable in DOS with mentioned UNATA programm.

But my understanding was that the intention was not to boot from CF, but transfer data to HDD.
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Re: Tips on IBM Thinkpad 750Cs

#13 Post by Bondi » Mon Apr 01, 2019 2:58 pm

Thinkpad4by3 wrote:
Mon Apr 01, 2019 2:52 pm
Yeah but he doesn't have a working boot drive...so this doesn't work.
The other option in this case is to boot from FDD and enable PCMCIA from it. The unata.exe file is small enough.
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Re: Tips on IBM Thinkpad 750Cs

#14 Post by Magic_V » Mon Apr 01, 2019 4:25 pm

Bondi wrote:
Mon Apr 01, 2019 2:58 pm
The other option in this case is to boot from FDD and enable PCMCIA from it. The unata.exe file is small enough.
Thanks for the tip, I'll keep this in mind. It would mean a bit more involved boot sequence every time I start up the machine, but it would work for MS DOS.
Thinkpad4by3 wrote:
Mon Apr 01, 2019 2:52 pm
And for MagicV- try and shake the drive and reinstall. Ive had that work on those machines plenty of times.
With regard to the HDD, the drive works, I tested it on my other computer using an IDE to USB adapter. Shaking it didn't solve the problem with regard to the
connection to the system board. The indicator light for the HDD is dimly lit compared to the FDD indicator light. I also tried a larger 60GB Hitachi drive I had lying around but it wouldn't even post with that. So I have to conclude that I cannot connect a HDD to the system with IDE through he conventional path. The laptop did come with a docking station that includes some kind of small connector (with a floppy icon printed above it), could this be used for a bootdrive?

As I understand from you guys' comments this is actually a pretty big problem as this means no booting other than from floppy. I might consider doing a board swap for a 755 if I can find one (hopefully a DX4 like you suggested earlier). I pretty much decided I want to dualboot MS DOS 6.22 with Windows NT 3.51 + Windows 95 style menu patch if at all possible (tested it in a vm), and I suspect I can forget about that with 33 MHz, the 36MB memory should be good though.

Btw, I'm still very happy with the laptop, the keyboard on this thing is really an experience (in a good way).
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Re: Tips on IBM Thinkpad 750Cs

#15 Post by Bondi » Mon Apr 01, 2019 4:33 pm

Did you try to clean the contacts both on HDD and Mobo?
Is the HDD visible in BIOS?
Also not sure what docking station model you have, but some of them allow to connect additional HDD. And if this is the case, most probably you can boot from it as well.
Also FYI HDDs bigger than 6-8Gb will not work on these machines.
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Re: Tips on IBM Thinkpad 750Cs

#16 Post by Thinkpad4by3 » Mon Apr 01, 2019 4:36 pm

Magic_V wrote:
Mon Apr 01, 2019 4:25 pm
With regard to the HDD, the drive works, I tested it on my other computer using an IDE to USB adapter. Shaking it didn't solve the problem with regard to the
connection to the system board. The indicator light for the HDD is dimly lit compared to the FDD indicator light. I also tried a larger 60GB Hitachi drive I had lying around but it wouldn't even post with that. So I have to conclude that I cannot connect a HDD to the system with IDE through he conventional path. The laptop did come with a docking station that includes some kind of small connector (with a floppy icon printed above it), could this be used for a bootdrive?
The 750 is BIOS limited to 528MB...so it is no wonder a 60GB drive didn't POST. It also can't support the LBA formatting of the 60GB drive. Actually, it not posting shows signs of life that it is detecting the drive, and finding it to be invalid...which gives hope.
Thinkpad4by3's Law of the Universe.

The efficiency of two screens equally sized with equal numbers if pixels are equal. The time spent by a 4:3 user complaining about 16:9 is proportional to the inefficiency working with a 16:9 display, therefore the amount of useful work extracted is equal.

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Re: Tips on IBM Thinkpad 750Cs

#17 Post by Magic_V » Mon Apr 01, 2019 4:45 pm

Bondi wrote:
Mon Apr 01, 2019 4:33 pm
Did you try to clean the contacts both on HDD and Mobo?
Is the HDD visible in BIOS?
Also not sure what docking station model you have, but some of them allow to connect additional HDD. And if this is the case, most probably you can boot from it as well.
Also FYI HDDs bigger than 6-8Gb will not work on these machines.
Docking station model is small and only has some sort of 26 pin connector that looks like a SCSI connector but smaller (with the FDD icon printed above it), serial, parallel, 2x PS/2 connector for keyboard + mouse and VGA.
Thinkpad4by3 wrote:
Mon Apr 01, 2019 4:36 pm
The 750 is BIOS limited to 528MB...so it is no wonder a 60GB drive didn't POST. It also can't support the LBA formatting of the 60GB drive. Actually, it not posting shows signs of life that it is detecting the drive, and finding it to be invalid...which gives hope.
Ah this explains a lot. I will try to clean the pins on the motherboard with some alcohol, as well as the pins on the IBM HDD. Is there any way I can format the 60GB drive to behave like a much smaller drive with the correct scheme?
Focus & Simplicity
1993 IBM Thinkpad 950Cs - Still considering OS
2012 Lenovo Thinkpad X220 - Manjaro Linux KDE x64
2016 Lenovo Thinkpad P50 - Windows 10 Pro x64

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Re: Tips on IBM Thinkpad 750Cs

#18 Post by Thinkpad4by3 » Mon Apr 01, 2019 4:47 pm

Magic_V wrote:
Mon Apr 01, 2019 4:45 pm
Bondi wrote:
Mon Apr 01, 2019 4:33 pm
Did you try to clean the contacts both on HDD and Mobo?
Is the HDD visible in BIOS?
Also not sure what docking station model you have, but some of them allow to connect additional HDD. And if this is the case, most probably you can boot from it as well.
Also FYI HDDs bigger than 6-8Gb will not work on these machines.
Docking station model is small and only has some sort of 26 pin connector that looks like a SCSI connector but smaller (with the FDD icon printed above it), serial, parallel, 2x PS/2 connector for keyboard + mouse and VGA.
Thinkpad4by3 wrote:
Mon Apr 01, 2019 4:36 pm
The 750 is BIOS limited to 528MB...so it is no wonder a 60GB drive didn't POST. It also can't support the LBA formatting of the 60GB drive. Actually, it not posting shows signs of life that it is detecting the drive, and finding it to be invalid...which gives hope.
Ah this explains a lot. I will try to clean the pins on the motherboard with some alcohol, as well as the pins on the IBM HDD. Is there any way I can format the 60GB drive to behave like a much smaller drive with the correct scheme?
I believe anything 8.4GB or below can work but otherwise I believe not.
Thinkpad4by3's Law of the Universe.

The efficiency of two screens equally sized with equal numbers if pixels are equal. The time spent by a 4:3 user complaining about 16:9 is proportional to the inefficiency working with a 16:9 display, therefore the amount of useful work extracted is equal.

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