Amiga HDD Recovery – Part One

Whilst “Up North” for a project back in March I stayed a few nights with my parents over in Ellesmere Port. During the stay they announced that they were clearing out junk and asked if I wanted my old Amiga 1200. I thought that maybe I could extract files from the Hard Drive and rediscover some of my early/lost projects – if it still worked?

In the end I came home with the Amiga as well as a ZX Spectrum 48k, 48k+ and a 128k+2 – Stevie was thrilled. 🙂

Years of storage in a damp shed, however, hadn’t been kind to the Amiga and when I opened it up it didn’t look good. I did have to laugh when I realised that the Hard Drive was secured in place using Blu Tack though – 90s engineering at its best.

Grubby Inside

Grubby Inside

Nothing ventured, nothing gained I jumped on Google and discovered that it should be possible to mount a real Amiga Hard Drive directly in WinUAE (an Amiga Emulator) and simply copy the files I wanted to the PC.

Unfortunately PC Motherboards have moved on a bit and so I didn’t have a direct method of connecting what was effectively a 170MB 2.5″ IDE drive. A bit more Googling said I should be okay with a USB to IDE Adapter so I shuffled off to Maplin and brought one of these:

Item Price Link
IDE/SATA to USB 2.0 adapter £39.99 Maplin

I carefully took the Hard Drive out of Amiga, hooked it up to the adapter and plugged the USB end into the PC. To my complete surprise it started to spin up!

USB/IDE Adapter

USB/IDE Adapter

In Windows 7 I managed to get WinUAE to see the connected drive, however, couldn’t get it to add the Hard Drive despite trying ‘run as administrator’ (at which point the Amiga Drive disappeared) and the -disabledrivesafteycheck option as a number of forums suggested.

Access Denied

I then tried it on Windows XP but, even though it was definitely registering as attached, it never appeared in WinUAE for selection.

Device Manager

I tried several iterations of WinUAE including 2.5.1, 2.4.1 and 2.3.2, just to be sure, and then started to become paranoid that Windows 7 had somehow managed to knacker the Hard Drive completely.

Feverishly I reconnected the Hard Drive inside the Amiga, hooked it up to our TV (which happened to have a Composite Video connector) and flicked the ‘on’ switch. Amazingly the aging and abused Amiga actually booted to Workbench!

Back to Google and I found Amiga Explorer and, specifically, an article which suggested that I could connect the (now working) Amiga to the PC over a null modem serial cable and transfer the files over that.

Cursed by the ever-moving world of technology it’d been several years since I’d even seen a PC with a serial port – so it was back off to Maplin to construct a 2013 equivalent.

Item Price Link
Serial Null Modem 25-Pin Female to 9-Pin Female cable £12.99 Maplin
USB to Serial 9-Pin Male adapter £14.99 Maplin

The setup now looked something like this:


There were a couple of pre-requisite steps in Windows:
(the Acer was a Windows XP Home installation, FYI)
1. Install the USB to Serial adapter driver
2. Install Amiga Explorer
3. Install WinUAE (ever the optimist 😉 )

There were also a couple of pre-requisite steps on the Amiga:
(Note: Screenshots accurately recreated using an emulator/Paint Shop Pro based on photos of the real process)
1. Decrease the ScreenMode Colour Depth (Workbench > Prefs > ScreenMode > 4 Colors > Use)


2. Setup the Serial Port as specified by Amiga Explorer (Workbench > Prefs > Serial > (options as shown) > Use)


Everything looked ready to go and the next, make or break step, was to setup Amiga Explorer over the Serial connection…

The fact I’ve got screenshots of my Amiga from an emulator probably ruins the suspense a bit here, however, the next bits are screenshot-heavy end-to-end processes for setting up Amiga Explorer, copying the Hard Drive files (slowly) across and then adding them into WinUAE so it’s best we take a break for now.

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