Megafile 60 problems

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Megafile 60 problems

Post by markus44uk »

Hi All:
First time poster....
I rescued my 1040ST and Megafile 60 from the attic after not using since 1998 (when all worked fine). The 1040 seems to work fine with the floppy drive. However, my Megafile is not booting. It whirs a bit when I power it up and the yellow light flickers a bit and then goes out. I then power the 1040 and it doesn't "see" the Megafile. Tried using Atari HD Utilities but get error message saying it can't see the Megafile.

Questions:
1) Is there anyone out there (hopefully in the UK) that can create an image copy of the Hard Disk? Entirely consists of Utility programs, MIDI files and Midi software. Frankly if I can't retrieve this stuff, there's no point in proceeding.

2) Assuming I can find someone who can do the above recovery, is there someone in the UK that can replace the Seagate ST-277r hard disk with a reliable replacement that will plug and play with the 1040ST?

Would really appreciate some referrals to qualified persons.

Thanks in advance :cheers:
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Re: Megafile 60 problems

Post by mrbombermillzy »

1.) There are HDD data recovery specialists, however, Im not sure theres anyone who has the tooling for old MFM drives anymore.

2.) Similarly to the above, these drive types are getting scarce. Prices are going up to ridiculous amounts.

You say it 'whirs a bit'. Do you know the difference between the fan and the drive spinning up? The drive makes more of a slower pitching up sound when you turn it on. Is this happening?

If so, or if you are not sure, when the yellow light flickers does it make a faint ticking/clicking sound?

I would recommend you turn the Megafile on first and about 10 seconds later the ST, to give the drive time to spin up and communicate.

Gotta go to bed now, but I will catch up here tomorrow!
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Re: Megafile 60 problems

Post by charles »

send to me , I have a Winchester for the pc plus I have many Atari , I bet I can resurrect some files

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Re: Megafile 60 problems

Post by tzok »

It is not so easy operation with these drives. Remember that these drives had only mechanical parts and analogue front end on them, while the actual drive controller is on the card (in PC) or on the controller board in the HDD case. Details of the formatting depends on the controller BIOS, so it is rarely possible that MFM/RLL disk formatted with one controller card would actually work with another controller card. It was IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) standard in 90's which made HDD easily interchangeable between computers.
To make things worse, Megafile 60 uses an RLL controller, which were very rare on PC in general, and in this case, to have a chance to read anything from the disk, you'd need to have a PC controller card, with the same RLL controller chipset that sits inside the Megafile. You also don't know the sector interleave, nor the head map... the AHDI file system is also incompatible with DOS (thus, Linux kernel has some support for it).

To the author: make sure disk spins (you can't not hear nor feel it with the ST277R drive ;) ). Try to use ICD tools, not the Atari ones. If the platters are stuck, try to power it from PC power supply. Don't worry, these drives do have automatic head parking mechanism.
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Re: Megafile 60 problems

Post by markus44uk »

Hi

Thanks for your response. I have extensive working knowledge of PCs having built a number of them over the years. However, my knowledge of the 16 bit Atari hard disks is very limited. I do know the difference between a fan and a hard drive noise and can confirm that the hard disk IS spinning whenever it is powered on or off and that the yellow indicator light on the front of the Megafile does light up when this occurs.

I also turn the Megafile on ahead of powering the 1040ST as I have always done in the past and also according to the instructions for the Megafile.

I have been told that it might be the DMA chip in the 1040 that is the issue but I have also tried using the Megafile with a friend's 1040ST with the exact same result, so unless BOTH 1040s have faulty DMA chips, it would seem that the problem is with the Megafile...but I can't be certain as I have no way to test the DMA chip (I don't have another working Megafile unfortunately).

I have also tried running the AHDI program from a Floppy and the message I get is:

Atari Hard Disk Driver
AHDI v5.00 Dec 03 1991
----------------------------
ASCI devices:
Unit 0 - Identification unavailable
UNit 1 - Not responding
----------------------------
NOT Bootloaded

During this process, the Megafile drive does spin (making its usually loud clatter) and the yellow light illuminates so there is definitely SOME communication going on.

Cheers

Markus
mrbombermillzy wrote:1.) There are HDD data recovery specialists, however, Im not sure theres anyone who has the tooling for old MFM drives anymore.

2.) Similarly to the above, these drive types are getting scarce. Prices are going up to ridiculous amounts.

You say it 'whirs a bit'. Do you know the difference between the fan and the drive spinning up? The drive makes more of a slower pitching up sound when you turn it on. Is this happening?

If so, or if you are not sure, when the yellow light flickers does it make a faint ticking/clicking sound?

I would recommend you turn the Megafile on first and about 10 seconds later the ST, to give the drive time to spin up and communicate.

Gotta go to bed now, but I will catch up here tomorrow!
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Re: Megafile 60 problems

Post by markus44uk »

Hi canada

Thanks for your kind offer but as I am in the UK, shipping to Ontario is prohibitively expensive at this point. If I am completely unsuccessful resolving this from within the UK, I may take you up on your offer.

Cheers

Markus


charles wrote:send to me , I have a Winchester for the pc plus I have many Atari , I bet I can resurrect some files

canada
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Re: Megafile 60 problems

Post by markus44uk »

Hi Alan

Thanks for your comments. I am becoming more and more familiar with the intricacies of the RLL drives as I have been researching this now for over a week. The disk is definitely spinning. Where can I obtain the ICD tools your refer to so that I can try them from the 1040ST floppy drive. I have no modem on the Atari and no floppy drive on any of my PC desktops so would need a floppy with the ICD tools on a floppy that the 1040 can read. Otherwise, I would need to buy a floppy drive for one of my PCs and then download the ICD tools onto a floppy.

Suggestions?

Markus
tzok wrote:It is not so easy operation with these drives. Remember that these drives had only mechanical parts and analogue front end on them, while the actual drive controller is on the card (in PC) or on the controller board in the HDD case. Details of the formatting depends on the controller BIOS, so it is rarely possible that MFM/RLL disk formatted with one controller card would actually work with another controller card. It was IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) standard in 90's which made HDD easily interchangeable between computers.
To make things worse, Megafile 60 uses an RLL controller, which were very rare on PC in general, and in this case, to have a chance to read anything from the disk, you'd need to have a PC controller card, with the same RLL controller chipset that sits inside the Megafile. You also don't know the sector interleave, nor the head map... the AHDI file system is also incompatible with DOS (thus, Linux kernel has some support for it).

To the author: make sure disk spins (you can't not hear nor feel it with the ST277R drive ;) ). Try to use ICD tools, not the Atari ones. If the platters are stuck, try to power it from PC power supply. Don't worry, these drives do have automatic head parking mechanism.
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Re: Megafile 60 problems

Post by spiny »

markus44uk wrote:
I have been told that it might be the DMA chip in the 1040 that is the issue but I have also tried using the Megafile with a friend's 1040ST with the exact same result,
It will not be the DMA chip.


I have a copy of ICD here:

http://www.spiny.org/atari/utilities.html

cheers, Phil.
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Re: Megafile 60 problems

Post by markus44uk »

Hiya

Thanks for the link. Given your user name, are you able to perhaps create an image file of the data on my Megafile so that I could possible go down the UltraSatan route? My problem is that without all of my data, there is really no point in proceeding any further.

Cheers

Markus
spiny wrote:
markus44uk wrote:
I have been told that it might be the DMA chip in the 1040 that is the issue but I have also tried using the Megafile with a friend's 1040ST with the exact same result,
It will not be the DMA chip.


I have a copy of ICD here:

http://www.spiny.org/atari/utilities.html

cheers, Phil.
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Re: Megafile 60 problems

Post by spiny »

markus44uk wrote:Hiya

Thanks for the link. Given your user name, are you able to perhaps create an image file of the data on my Megafile so that I could possible go down the UltraSatan route? My problem is that without all of my data, there is really no point in proceeding any further.

Cheers

Markus

Well, I can't promise anything - I have a megafile myself (that has a duff disk) so in theory I could try swapping your disk into my enclosure, but if it's your disk itself thats faulty then I wouldn't be able to recover your files.

Plus, I'd need to dig mine out to make sure it's the same type of drive, there were RLL and MFM types, I don't think it's possible to use one in the other.

cheers, Phil.
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Re: Megafile 60 problems

Post by markus44uk »

Hi Phil.

It is definitely an RLL drive (Seagate ST-277R). The Megafile 30 and 60 units are identical other than the size of the Seagate drive housed within. I am also in contact with a couple of data recovery companies but so far nobody has the controllers to enable accessing the disk to do a data recovery. That is first and foremost my requirement as without the data, all of this is moot. If you could check to see what type of hard disk is inside your megafile enclosure that would be a good start. If it isn't a Megafile 30 or 60 then I'm afraid you wouldn't have any luck swapping the drives.

Ultimately, if I can get the data recovered, I would probably want to see if I can switch over to an Ultrasatan box to eliminate the need for an actual hard disk. But will cross that bridge after I am certain I have my data intact.

Cheers

Markus
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Re: Megafile 60 problems

Post by ijor »

tzok wrote:It is not so easy operation with these drives. Remember that these drives had only mechanical parts and analogue front end on them, while the actual drive controller is on the card (in PC) or on the controller board in the HDD case. Details of the formatting depends on the controller BIOS, so it is rarely possible that MFM/RLL disk formatted with one controller card would actually work with another controller card. It was IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) standard in 90's which made HDD easily interchangeable between computers.
That's not exact. You do need a compatible controller, of course. You can't read a RLL formatted disk with an MFM controller, or the other way around. But most RLL controllers were compatible with each other. And similarly, most MFM controllers were compatible with each other as well.
.. you'd need to have a PC controller card, with the same RLL controller chipset that sits inside the Megafile.
You don't need the same chipset, all you need is an RLL controller.
You also don't know the sector interleave, nor the head map... the AHDI file system is also incompatible with DOS (thus, Linux kernel has some support for it).
None of this is important. Certainly the DOS/Atari incompatibility is not critical because it is always possible to make a blind sector digital image of the whole disk and then process it later.
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Re: Megafile 60 problems

Post by markus44uk »

Thanks for the clarification. So allI need to do is locate a uK-based data recovery person who has an RLL controller right? Whats confusing is the Megafile has an RLL controller on the circuit board so would think an external controller wouldn’t be needed...but admittedly I don’t know how data recovery processes work. I wonder if my 1040ST can’t access the data on
the drive then how will someone else access it?
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Re: Megafile 60 problems

Post by ijor »

Hi Markus,
markus44uk wrote:It is definitely an RLL drive (Seagate ST-277R). The Megafile 30 and 60 units are identical other than the size of the Seagate drive housed within. I am also in contact with a couple of data recovery companies but so far nobody has the controllers to enable accessing the disk to do a data recovery. That is first and foremost my requirement as without the data, all of this is moot. If you could check to see what type of hard disk is inside your megafile enclosure that would be a good start. If it isn't a Megafile 30 or 60 then I'm afraid you wouldn't have any luck swapping the drives.
As long as the physical disk is ok, you should be able to recover your data. Might be Spiny won't be able for any reason. But you should be able to find somebody with a working RLL controller.

It doesn't even have to be an Atari. Probably there is some user here with a compatible controller (doesn't have to be a Megafile, just any RLL controller). But in the worst case, you might be able to find somebody in other legacy/retro communities. If you find somebody that has, say, a PC with an RLL controller, then make a physical sector by sector digital backup of the disk. With that image we should be able to extract your files.
So allI need to do is locate a uK-based data recovery person who has an RLL controller right?
Right. But I assume you should be able to find an Atari user with a compatible hard disk.
Whats confusing is the Megafile has an RLL controller on the circuit board so would think an external controller wouldn’t be needed
But your controller might be bad, that's why we want to use a different one.
I wonder if my 1040ST can’t access the data on the drive then how will someone else access it?
Probably not with the same hardware. So we want to use a completely different hardware, except that the ST-277R disk itself, of course.

Again, as long as the actual ST-277R disk is ok, which might be not ... even then it should be possible to perform, at least, a partial recovery. It is even possible to recover data from disks that are not rotating. But this kind of recovery is very expensive and probably none of us can afford something like that.
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Re: Megafile 60 problems

Post by markus44uk »

I got a quote of £450 to recover the data but am holding out for a better deal elsewhere from someone more experienced with 80’s tech amd RLL. First I need to exhaust the existing megafile before next steps. I found a working Megafile 30 for £40 and I may buy that and swap hard disks to rule out the controller plus if it works as is with my 1040ST then at least I know its my megafile that is the problem.
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Re: Megafile 60 problems

Post by spiny »

markus44uk wrote: I found a working Megafile 30 for £40 and I may buy that and swap hard disks to rule out the controller plus if it works as is with my 1040ST then at least I know its my megafile that is the problem.

thats probably easier than sending yours to me and it getting even more damqaged in the post.

When I dig mine out, if it is the same type, then I can maybe just post my board for you to swap out - cheaper than shipping the whole unit.
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Re: Megafile 60 problems

Post by markus44uk »

Thanks for that. Will let you know. You could just remove the Seagate drive and send me the rest as that will drop the weight significantly
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Re: Megafile 60 problems

Post by ijor »

markus44uk wrote:I got a quote of £450 to recover the data but am holding out for a better deal elsewhere from someone more experienced with 80’s tech amd RLL.
That quote is surely for a "normal' recovery that assumes the ST-277R is fully working. Otherwise, say the disk is not spinning, we are talking about a completely different magnitude. I agree that it would be better to get some service with experience in that kind of controller.
I found a working Megafile 30 for £40 and I may buy that and swap hard disks to rule out the controller plus if it works as is with my 1040ST then at least I know its my megafile that is the problem.
I think that might be the best idea
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Re: Megafile 60 problems

Post by tzok »

There was no standard way of keeping drive configuration, some controller keep the configuration in NVRAM, some keep it on the drive itself. It was common for that controllers to use sector interleave and head/platter sector skew, without this data, even if you could make a binary copy of sectors, it would be just garbage. If you connect a "foreign" drive (LLF on a different type of controller) to a controller which expects configuration data on track 0, it won't be able to initialize correctly, and won't be able to read anything.I had such case with my Digital Data Deicke 64 (rebranded Megafile 60). Track 0 data was corrupted, and drive didn't want to initialize. I have low level formatted it and it works, but all the data is irreversibly lost.

The naming convention is a little bit confusing, because the RLL is a way of encoding bits into magnetic flux pattern. But disks called MFM use... RLL(1,3) encoding pattern, while those called RLL use RLL(2,7) encoding pattern. They were often exactly same drive, but formatted using RLL(2,7) instead RLL(1,3) could handle 50% more data. The ST251-1 was exactly the same drive as ST277R (actually there also was ST251R which was a different drive). The only difference between ST251-1 and ST277R was the fact, that the later one was certified for RLL(2,7) encoding, which was more demanding on media quality. So drives with lower quality platters were ending wits ST251-1 badge, while better ones wits RL277R badge. ST277R will work without problems with MFM controller (after llf of course, and will have 32 MB), while ST251-1... will also work with RLL controller (thus reliability may be affected) and will have 64 MB.

Luckily for you both, Megafile 30 and 60, were using the same RLL controller based on Adpatec's AIC010+AIC300 chipset (it is equivalent to Adaptec ST506 RLL to SCSI adapter board type ACB4070). The older 20 Meg SH-204/205 were using MFM ACB4000A controller. All SH/Megafile are ST506 to SCSI to ACSI bridges.
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Re: Megafile 60 problems

Post by ijor »

tzok wrote:There was no standard way of keeping drive configuration, some controller keep the configuration in NVRAM, some keep it on the drive itself. It was common for that controllers to use sector interleave and head/platter sector skew, without this data, even if you could make a binary copy of sectors, it would be just garbage.
Sorry, but you are talking nonsense.

Those parameters, such as sector interleave or head skew, are relevant when you perform a physical format of the disk, and are important only for optimization purposes. You don't need them for reading (or writing) the disk after that. In the worst case it would perform slower. All you need is the physical characteristics of the disk, number of heads and number of sectors per track. These are intrinsic to the disk model (277R).
The naming convention is a little bit confusing, because actually MFM is the physical way of storing data on the medium, while the RLL is a way of encoding bits into magnetic flux pattern.
You are wrong again, they are both encoding.
Luckily for you both, Megafile 30 and 60, were using the same RLL controller based on Adpatec's AIC010+AIC300 chipset (it is equivalent to Adaptec ST506 RLL to SCSI adapter board type ACB4070). The older 20 Meg SH-204/205 were using MFM ACB4000A controller.
You can use (almost) any RLL controller. I did exchange RLL controllers more than once back at the day.
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Re: Megafile 60 problems

Post by markus44uk »

So here is where I am now:
The seller of the Megafile 30 cannot confirm whether it works other than to state that it powers up so there's a risk that buying it will lead to another worthless piece of hardware.
I have found a lot of floppy disks which have all of my programs and some of the SNG files I need in order to move forward. I am thinking that a Satan or Ultrasatan is the way to go rather than trying to replace Megafile drives. Is the only difference between Ultrasatan and Satan the number of SD slots? If so, a Satan with a 1GB SD card should be more than enough to cover the Megafile 60's 60 megs in a couple of partitions.

Final question is how do I ensure that the Satan will act as a bootable HD with my 1040ST.

Where can I get the Satan box and will the standard Atari Megafile 19pin cable do the trick to connect it to the 1040ST HD Input port?

So much to learn in so little time !
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Re: Megafile 60 problems

Post by tzok »

UltraSatan is much faster than both SatanDisk and Megafile. SatanDisk, in the opposite, is very slow, especially on writes.
ijor wrote:Sorry, but you are talking nonsense.

Those parameters, such as sector interleave or head skew, are relevant when you perform a physical format of the disk, and are important only for optimization purposes. You don't need them for reading (or writing) the disk after that. In the worst case it would perform slower. All you need is the physical characteristics of the disk, number of heads and number of sectors per track. These are intrinsic to the disk model (277R).
Yes, I was wrong, and I can admit to mistake... but you could say that without offending me, by writing that I'm taking nonsense. Yes, sector numbers are stored in their headers, and this information is enough to arrange them in the right order.
ijor wrote:You can use (almost) any RLL controller. I did exchange RLL controllers more than once back at the day.
I also did that, but most PC MFM/RLL controller cards were based on the same Western Digital chipset, and thus were compatible. If you'd try this with early MFM XT (8-bit ISA) controllers, you'd be out of luck. As the Megadrive, nor Atari ST doesn't have NVRAM, the drive configuration (geometry) unlike in AT controllers, must be stored on a drive itself (just like those early XT controllers).
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Re: Megafile 60 problems

Post by ijor »

tzok wrote:Yes, I was wrong, and I can admit to mistake... but you could say that without offending me, by writing that I'm taking nonsense. Yes, sector numbers are stored in their headers, and this information is enough to arrange them in the right order.
Sorry about that. But I replied politely once. You insisted and made me lost my patience. I should have been even more patient. I apologize.
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Re: Megafile 60 problems

Post by ijor »

markus44uk wrote:I have found a lot of floppy disks which have all of my programs and some of the SNG files I need in order to move forward. I am thinking that a Satan or Ultrasatan is the way to go rather than trying to replace Megafile drives.
If you can recover most of your stuff from floppies and nothing critical is left on your old Megafile, then don't give this a second thought. There is no much point in replacing the Megafile, in the worst case you might want to recover the data.
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Re: Megafile 60 problems

Post by markus44uk »

I have found a company in Wales that say they can recover the data so after I get an idea of the cost, will consider that but I think I am definitely going down the UltraSatan route after that...just hoping that the Seagate HD is not fried and its something else on the Megafile PCB that is causing the problems....in that case, the data recovery guys just have to hook the HD to their controller and copy all the files...easy peasy.

I really want to thank everyone here for their valuable help....I'm not there yet but am at least moving forward a bit.
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