Old BIOS (What do?)


Dec 19, 2011
So I have a really old Compaq Presario 4550 running windows 95. I need to clone & replace the hard drive that's in the computer because I fear it is dying out and I have vital information on it.
After multiple calls to HP trying to get info if the BIOS would support a hard drive larger than 4 gigs all I was told was...

"This computer is obsolete. We aren't going to provide you information with this computer because we want to sell you a new computer. We cannot comprehende a 4 gigabyte hard drive because we are not real technicians and have never touched older machines. We get payed 0.10$ an hour and live in India, would you like to buy a new HP computer now? "

So after 2 hours of this I decided, hey, why not ask people who know what they are doing?
And here I am :)


-Need to replace hard drive
-Need to know the maximum hard drive size this BIOS will support (It's a really old machine).
-Can't find ANY support info regarding this subject on any HP or 3rd party website

I will continue to hunt for info, but just checking if anyone has had experience with older Compaqs here.

Thanks a bunch guys,


Mar 3, 2012

Ok, I am in the process of updating a very old Gateway Solo 9100 (from 1998). See my posts. So I kinda feel your pain!

My BIOS limitation is 8.4 GB, but, I want to emphasize that in Windows XP the whole drive is seen anyway and you can use the 8.4 GB as your C: boot. Right now I have a 160 GB drive in the Gateway, and XP reads it all.

It really depends who made your motherboard. Since it's Compaq, I guess it's Intel.

Can you shout us back with the mobo info?

VV5 out


There are two "aims" tied up here. One is to preserve the data on the old HDD. The other seems to be to preserve the machine itself and keep it running with a new HDD. Now, do you really want / need to keep running the old machine?

If all you really need to do is preserve the data, you could move the old HDD into a new machine (presumably with an IDE port to connect to) and clone it to any new larger HDD. (In making the clone you should have the option to make the new copy's Partition size whatever you want, not merely to make a clone the same size as the old HDD.) Now you have data in a safer place, but you cannot use it in the old machine and that will have to be replaced.

HOWEVER, if you want the old machine still working, OR if you really need to keep using Win 95, merely preserving the data is not sufficient. If that's your need, then you will have to pursue your current path, aided by VV5 and anyone else who can.

If you decide you must keep the old machine and maybe the Win 95 OS running with a new HDD, here's one idea to keep in mind once you find out what really is the largest HDD you can use in it. (I had to do this with a Pentium2-class machine whose BIOS would allow HDD's only up to 128 GB.) Many Seagate HDD's have a feature that allows you to limit the drive to a specified size. It is done using one of their free HDD testing utilities, Seatools. You can set the maximum LBA Block Number for the unit. (There is a separate tool in Seatools to restore the HDD to its original full size.) After this is done, the HDD always behaves to all other systems as a drive of the size you set, and you can't mistakenly write to or use in any way space that is not really available to your system. For example, in my situation I bought a 160 GB Seagate drive and used the utility to set the maximum LBA Blocks to 2^28 (that's because the hardware drive controller on the mobo used the older 28-bit LBA system), or 2,684,35,456. At 512 bytes per Sector (block) on a HDD, that limited it to 128 GB. A small amount of HDD space will never be used, but it's hard to buy an HDD these days that is smaller than 160 GB.

I had to replace an old 486-based machine running a DOS-based POS software package under Win 98 for our retail store. The software is well-designed and works under many M$ OS's, including Win XP Pro, the OS on the new machine. However, we did have one big problem. That software writes directly to peripheral ports like the receipt printer on a COM serial port, but Win XP does not allow that - it takes complete control of all ports. The software supplier's Tech Support people showed me how to make this work using the NET USE commands to redirect printer traffic to a network printer, and even how to create a virtual network on this stand-alone machine so the NET USE system became available. Just an example to show I understand that moving to a new machine and OS is not always easy, but can be done.