Amiga Hard Disk Guide
By Peter J. Hutchison - April 2001
1 Choosing a hard disk
2 Installing a hard disk in your Amiga
3 Partitioning a hard disk
4 Changing or Upgrading the FileSystem
5 Installing Workbench on your Hard disk
6 Installing software on your Hard disk
7 Looking after your hard disk
8 Problems that may occur
9 Using Large Hard Disks
10 About the Author
Choosing a hard disk
The type and size of hard disk are the main requirements when
selecting a hard disk for your Amiga.
Types of interface
IDE - Intelligent Device Electronics. A simple interface
designed mainly to add hard disks (upto 2) to a computer.
Modern interfaces, using Atapi, can make it possible to add
upto 4 devices including CDROMS. IDE also refers to ATA and
EIDE which are also compatible.
SCSI - Small Computer System Interface. A faster and more
powerful system then IDE which allows upto 7 devices added to
the computer through a daisy chain. SCSI-3 drives are not
usable at the moment.
UDMA - Ultra Direct Memory Access. Speeds up transfers to
33MB/sec. Amiga does not directly support this but such drives
'should' work on older interfaces but work at slower speeds.
ATA 2/ATA 2 FAST - Fast IDE interfaces normally appear on newer
computers such as PCs. Now supported by the IDE replacement,
the 'Power Flyer' from Power Computing.
You may come across other types but they are incompatible with
the Amiga. eg. MFM, ESDI, FireWire, USB.
Size of hard disks
The physical size of a hard disk can vary from 1½" to 5ĵ" in
size. The most usual sizes are 2½" and 3½" sizes. The height of
the hard disk depends on the number of platters (surfaces) the
disk has: full height, half height, slim etc.
Capacity of hard disks
The capacity of hard disks has doubled approx. every two years
and it is now possible to get 40Gb hard disks! It is quite
difficult these days to find small capacity hard disks.
If you own upto Workbench 3.1 without FFS updates, then you can
use upto 4Gb (spit into 2x 2Gb partitions) Hard Disks.
If you own Workbench 3.5, and/or PFS2 or 3 or SFS then you can
use much larger Hard drives of 4Gb or more. Please note that
the size can be either quoted as formatted or unformatted and
may be rounded to nearest 100Mb.
Makes of Hard disks
Known Compatible drives:
Hitachi DK221A-34 (340Mb)
Hitachi DK223A-11 (1.1Gb)
Quantum Fireball 540
Fujitsu M1606S (SCSI, 1Gb)
Quantum Fireball TM3220S (SCSI, 3.2Gb)
Quantum Fireball 1280A (1.2Gb)
Seagate ST3144A (124Mb)
Western Caviar (4Gb)
Seagate ST5127A (1Gb)
Seagate Barracuda ST32550N (SCSI, 2Gb)
Conner CPF1060S (SCSI, 1Gb)
Seagate ST1080N (SCSI, 1Gb)
IBM (80Mb) - slow spin up
Fujitsu 1Gb - slow spin up
Seagate Hawk - unreliable
Interfaces available in Amigas
A500 - None
A600 - IDE (2.5")
A1200 - IDE (2.5")
A1000 - None
A2000 - None
A1500 - None
A3000 - SCSI (3.5")
A4000 - IDE (3.5")
A4000T - SCSI (3.5")
CD32 - None
The above are the recommended types and sizes to use in your Amiga.
If you have a Zorro based Amiga, it is possible to purchase IDE
or SCSI adaptors and add a hard disk that way. Some
accelerators cards now have built in SCSI interfaces:
Commodore A2091 SCSI For A1500,A2000
Oktagon 2008S SCSI for Zorro Amigas
Warp Engine accelerator with SCSI-2
Squirrel SCSI For A600 and A1200
Blizzard accelerators have a SCSI option
Appollo accelerators have a SCSI option
CyberStorm accelerators have a SCSI option (SCSI-2/3)
Viper 520CD has a IDE interface for A500
A570 Hard disk for A500
GVP HC-8 SCSI
Buddha IDE Controller for any Amigas
Alfa Quattro IDE interface for A4000
For A500 owners, the hard disk is usually supplied with an
interface to be attached to the expansion port on the left side
(on the A1000 it is on the right side).
The A600 and A1200 has a PCMCIA port and hard disks can be
added via a SCSI interface such as the Squirrel or Dataflyer or
a special Overdrive hard disk. Accelerator cards also have the
option to add SCSI interfaces.
Attaching more than one hard disk
If you want to add a second hard disk then you must note the
For IDE systems the hard disks must be able to switch to
master/slave mode through a jumper on the back of the hard
disk. If the disk does not have such a jumper then you cannot
attach a second disk. 2.5 Drives do not normally have
master/slave jumpers but most 3.5 drives do. For SCSI systems,
all you need to do is set the SCSI ID number to an unused value
(0-6) and add it to the scsi chain and check termination.
This entirely depends on where the hard disk is going to be
put. Most external HDs are very easily attached and require
just common sense (See instructions supplied with HD for
details). Internal HDs are a bit more complex:
Unscrew the two halfs of the Amiga. Remove the top half. The
keyboard may need dettaching via the ribbon mear the back on
the Amiga. Insert the short IDE ribbon cable in the interface
located in the small cradle in the metal shield on the left
side of the Amiga. Make sure the cable orientation is correct
as it also supplies power to the HD! Attached the IDE Hard disk
to the other end of the cable and place it on the supplied hole
in the sheilding. Now reassemble the Amiga.
Unscrew the lid of the Amiga. The hard drive will need a cradle
and an IDE ribbon cable (if not already supplied). Unscrew the
cradle from the Amiga and screw the HD into the cradle.
The cable should be attached to the multi-pin connector on the
mother board and the cable to the back of the hard disk. Check
that Pin 1 matches the 1 on the HD. The A4000 comes with extra
power cables (four wires with a white coloured plug at the end)
from the PSU, attach this to the back of the HD. Screw the
cradle into the Amiga case at the back of the Amiga next to the
PSU. Reassemble the Amiga.
If you are adding a second IDE HD then set the Master/Slave
switch to Slave for the 2nd hard disk (these usually appear on
3.5" disks, not 2.5" disks).
You will need a 2-way split IDE cable for both HDs as you
cannot chain them like SCSI disks.
For SCSI, ensure that the new HD has its own unique SCSI id and
insert it into the SCSI chain, also change the termination if
necessary or you may find that some SCSI items may not be
Usually, instructions are supplied by the retailer or if you
are unsure how to install a hard disk or if your Amiga is still
under warranty get the dealer to fit it for you!
Partitioning a hard disk
The standard partitioning software is called HDToolbox and it
is usually supplied on the Install disk with Workbench.
Sometimes third party software is supplied such as GVPPrep,
RDPrep and so on.
1. Locate and run HDToolbox.
2. The program will search through available SCSI slots and
then display a menu screen. (NB: IDE drives on A1200/A600 are
listed as SCSI, even if they are not, this is normal). If a HD
is not found, change the tooltype SCSI_DEVICE_NAME=scsi.device
to the correct device name. Rerun HDToolbox.
3. At the top of the screen a list of drives is shown at the
top. If it is not recognised then 'Unknown' would be listed. If
it is unknown, then do the following steps:
a) Click on the item and select 'Change Drive Type'.
b) Click on 'Define New...'
c) Click on 'Read Configuration' to read the drive's settings.
d) Click on OK until the main menu appears.
4. Now select 'Partition Drive'.
a) A new screen with a graphical representation of the
partition(s) on the hard disk appears. Sometimes a hard disk
may be set up with one or two partitions.
b) You can resize partitions using the blue triangle to the
c) You can delete unwanted partitions by selecting the
partition with the mouse and select 'Delete Partition'.
d) If there is space, then selecting 'New Partition' will
create a new partition for you by clicking in the free space.
Use DHx for partition names where x is 0,1,2 etc..
e) To make a partition bootable, click on the appropiate
partition e.g. DH0 and click on Advanced Options and tick the
'Bootable' option. Make sure no other partitions have this
f) Click on Change and more options will appear, click in the
MaxTransfer box and change the default value (0xfffff) to a low
value eg 0x1fe00. This will prevent corruption when copying
large files onto the hard disk. Click on OK.
g) If you have made a mistake, you can always, click on
'Cancel' and exit HDToolbox.
h) Once changes have been made to your satisfaction, click on
OK and then on the main screen select Save Changes to Drive.
i) Exit HDToolbox and reboot your Amiga. This will force the
system to read the new settings on bootup.
5. Boot off a copy of the Workbench disk or the Install disk
6. You can now format the new partitions using the Format
option on the Workbench Icon menu. If the disk icons fail to
appear you will need a new version of FFS.
Most people use the filing system provided on the ROM (ie
resident File system, also known as DOS1). For most users the
FastFileSystem is the default.
It is possible to choose an alternative file system for your
hard disk. If changing to a different file system than you must
backup first, or you may loose all your data.
Other filing systems include AFS (Advanced File System), PFS
(Professional File System) and SFS (Smart File System).
To upgade to a new file system, complete the Following steps:
1. Copy the new file system to the L: directory.
2. Start up HDToolbox and enter Partition Drive screen.
3. Select the partition you wish to update.
4. Click on Advanced Options and then on 'Add/Update...' button.
5. Click on 'Add New File System ...' and a dialog box will appear.
(you can use Update if updating an existing file system).
6. Enter path and name of the new file system e.g. 'L:FastFileSystem'.
7. It will display the DosType (in hex) & the version, revision numbers.
8. Click on OK until the main menu appears.
9. To commit the changes click on 'Save Changes to Drive'.
10. Exit and reboot to use the new file system. If necessary, format the
new partition ready to be used.
1. If you have an Install disk then run the language version of
the installation script in the Install drawer e.g. English for
English speaking users.
2. If you do not have the install script then follow these
a) Boot off a Workbench disk and double click on the Shell icon
to open a Shell window.
b) Insert the Workbench disk and type:
COPY WORKBENCH3.0:#? DH0: All Clone Quiet
NB: If you have a different version of Workbench, change the
name of the disk used to the one inserted (type INFO to see
whats mounted). DH0: is the bootable partition.
c) Insert the Extras disk and type:
COPY EXTRAS3.0:#? DH0: All Clone Quiet
d) Insert the Fonts disk and type:
COPY Fonts:#? DH0:Fonts All Clone Quiet
e) Insert the Locale disk and type:
COPY Locale:#? DH0:Locale All Clone Quiet
f) The Storage disk contains extra drivers and may be installed
later. Not all the files are required but copy the files via
Workbench if they are needed.
3. Remove any disks and reboot the Amiga. It should now boot
using the files stored on the Hard Disk.
4. Run each of the Preferences programs to configure the
keyboard, mouse, screen and printer as you see fit. Some files
may need to copied to DEVS drawer first for Printer, Keyboard
and Monitor drivers from the Storage disk.
1. Most application software can be installed in three ways:
a) Using an Installer script. If no Installer program is found,
copy the program from the Install disk to the C directory. If
possible use the latest version, the current version is v43.3.
b) Using an AmigaDOS shell script.
c) Copying the Drawers or files via Workbench (or a File
Manager) by dragging the files from one disk to another
location on your Hard Disk.
2. Using method (c) is sometimes hit and miss and some programs
require extra libraries and drivers to be installed seperately.
a) All files ending with .library should be copied to the LIBS
NB: It is now common for some programs to have their own libs
drawer e.g. MUI. Also, never replace a library with an older
b) All files ending with .device should be copied to the DEVS
drawer. Printers, keyboard maps, monitors, Datatypes are also
stored in Devs and in Classes as well.
c) All files ending with .font with their drawer should be
copied to the FONTS drawer. Compugraphic fonts are installed
here, run Intellifont to install the new font. Run FixFonts if
adding or removing bitmap fonts.
d) Handlers are stored in the L: directory.
e) Scripts, config files and so on can be stored in S: (or ENV:)
f) Check the program's manual to see what should be installed
g) If the program asks for you to insert a volume you should
note down the name of the volume and then add an ASSIGN to make
a fake volume (or logical volume) which points to the directory
on your HD. These can be added to your s:user-startup or Assign
Manager program if you use one.
e.g. The game Xtreme Racing requires an volume called XTR
ASSIGN XTR: Dh1:Games/XTR
3. Check the program runs by double-clicking on the icon, it
should run okay or give a requester asking for a particular
library, device or whatever.
4. If the program has its own preferences menu or prefs
program, run that so that it's set up correctly. Check the
manual to see what preferences to set to.
5. If you are unable to run a program, check its requirements.
It may require a particular version of WBench, a particular
processor (maybe an FPU or MMU unit), amount of memory or disk
space. Check requirements in the program's manual.
6. If you are still unable to run a program, find a copy of
SnoopDos, run it and then try running the program. The log from
Snoopdos can tell you which files it fails to open and what
versions are required.
NB: Some open failures are ok to ignore but to decide whether it's
important or not is dependant on your experience.
7. Not all software is installable on hard disks. Disks that
appear as DF0:NDOS or DF0:???? cannot be installed unless there
is an installer program. A lot of old games can be installed
using patches to copy the disk to the hard disk and run it.
Check aminet in game/patch.
It is important that you look after the hard disk so that it is
well organised and does not fill up too quickly. I read
somewhere, that a certain person was having problems with his
computer and could not save data until somebody pointed out
that his hard disk was full!
The following tips should be noted:
1. Allows backup your hard disk. The cheapest method is to
backup your hard disk onto floppy disk. It would be wise to
invest in some good backup software and external backup device
e.g. Tape drives, Zip drives etc.
You do not always have to do a full backup but an incremental
every day, week or 2 weeks is advisable. It depends on how
important the data is up to you.
2. Optimise the hard disk using a defragmentation utility. This
speeds up the use of the hard disk as files can become
fragmented over time. This only requires doing at the most once
3. Delete programs that you are no longer using . Archive data
onto other media if it no longer being used, you can always
copy it back if you want it.
4. Get some disk repair tools such as DiskSalv or Quarterback
This will enable you to repair any errors that may appear when
the Filing System is damaged by errant programs. They will also
allow you to Undelete files you accidently removed.
5. To save disk space, it is advisable to install some sort or
real-time dearchiving utilities such as PowerPacker, or XPK
utilities which allow you to compress files to save space and
then unarchive them on-the-fly when you want to read/view them.
6. Make a note on paper the type, size and details of the
partitions (see Advanced options). If the hard disk is
accidently erased then it may be possible to setup the hard
disk as normal.
The RDB-Salv utility could be a life saver!
Useful software to have:
HDToolbox - HD Preparation
HDBackup - HD Backup
BRU (CLI Backup) - HD Backup
ReOrg 3.11 - Disk defragmenter
Defrag - Disk deframenter
AFSOptimiser - Disk defragmenter for AFS
HDInst - HD Installation tool
FixDisk (WB 1.3) - Disk salvager
DiskSalv 2 (WB2+) - Disk Salvager
AFSUndelete - Undelete for AFS
PFSUndelete - Undelete for PFS2/3
MRBackup - Backup
ABackup - Backup
FFSTD64 - 64 bit File System patch
RDBArc - RDB Backup
MyFormat - Format replacement
Format64 - Large disk formatter
SFS - Smart File System
IDEFIX 97 - CD/IDE NSD Support
ReadRDB - Read/Backup RDBs
AmigaOS 3.5/3.9 (with FFSv45), Power Computing etc
Quarterback v6.1 & Tools, Quasar
Diavolo Backup 2000, Schatztruhe (NEW)
AmiBack 2, Amiback Tools
Amiga Repair CD incl. DiskSalv 4, Schatztruhe
RDB-Salv (RDPrep also has a facility to save RDB info)
Professional File System (PFS3), Greed, Weird Science, Schatztruhe
As with any hardware or software, there may be problems that
may occur when setting up or using a hard disk.
1. Programs won't load or run and data is corrupted.
This is mostly likely due to the MaxTransfer settings being too
high for the Amiga to cope when copying files onto the hard
disk. Load HDToolbox and goto Partition Drive, click on
Advanced and then on Change. Set the MaxTransfer value from
0xfffff to 0x1fe00 and OK and Save Changes.
Reboot and the new settings will be used. You will need to
reinstall programs that don't load.
2. The Amiga reboots and the disk light is constantly on.
Best thing to do is boot with both mouse buttons held down and
wait until the hard drive light goes out. When the hard disk
filing system (FFS) is damaged the AmigaOS automatically runs a
Validation routine on the partition affected. Do NOT reboot if
this happens, wait until it finishes before running anything.
Use a utility called WaitValidate in your startup-sequence to
cause the bootup to pause while validation is in progress.
3. Read/write errors are occuring on the hard disk.
This is more serious as this a hardware fault on the hard disk
surface. These are known as Bad Blocks and can be mapped out
from the Filing System by Using the Verify Data option in
HDToolbox or use Quarterback Tools in Repair mode to check the
hard disk surface for these Bad Blocks.
If you know where the errors occur on the hard disk you can
also manually map them out using the 'Modify Bad Block List'
screen and enter the Cylinder, Head, Bytes from Index and
4. Checksum errors, corrupted or undeletable files or directories.
These occur when the filing system is corrupted and the
validation routine has not fixed them. You need to run a Repair
of the filing System using a program such as DiskSalv or
Quarterback Tools. As shareware version of DiskSalv 2 is
available on Aminet (disk/salv) or other PD sources. These
tools will only work on partitions below the 4GB limit, it is
not possible to repair larger partitions with FFS with these
If errors like these re-occur then only a reformat (high or low
level) should cure it.
5. HDToolbox does not recognise my Hard disk.
First, check that the hard disk isn`t a slow spin up drive. Do
a warm restart (Ctrl+Amiga+Amiga) and see if the HD is then
recognised. If the HD is still not recognised, try cutting Line
1 of the IDE cable.
If this occurs, the hard disk is either incompatible or has
become irretreivably damaged. I hope you have a backup of it!
If important data is on this hard disk then some companies can
retrieve it for you - for a price! Try rebuilding the hard disk
If you own an A600, some models have an older version of ROM
whose scsi.device does not recognise IDE drives. You will need
to install a newer version of the ROM to use IDE hard drives.
The Kickstart chip version must end with a 5 or 0 for hard
disks to be used.
Make sure that the drive you do install is IDE and not SCSI,
you can sometimes tell by either the label on the disk. SCSI
drives tend to use 50 pin interfaces while IDE uses 40/44 pin
HDToolbox defaults to scsi.device, other hard disk controllers
will use their own device drivers e.g. 2nd.scsi.device,
squirrelscsi.device etc. They will be either in Devs: or in
ROM. Check manual or check memory via Snoopdos or other
utility. Change the Tooltype SCSI_DEVICE_NAME=scsi.device to
the correct device name.
If using AmigaOS 3.5/3.9 add the ASKDEVICE=TRUE tooltype to
scan for hard disks on third party hard disk controllers.
6. The partitions have disappeared!
Unless you have a copy of the hard disk and partition
information, it is next to impossible to retrieve information
again. Viruses also may be a cause of losing RDB information!
It is possible to recreate the partitions if the RDB is saved
either on paper or on disk from RDB-Salv program.
Use "Advanced Options" in HDToolbox to manually enter the
Partitions can also disappear if you are using an old Filing
System on a Hard disk bigger than 4Gb as the current limit is
4Gb for FFS v40. You need to upgrade to FF v45, PFS3 or other
filing system with updated device driver.
7. Hard disk does not boot from cold or even a warm boot.
This sometimes occur on particular models of hard disks. If the
hard disk does not boot from cold, press Ctrl+Amiga+Amiga again
to boot up. The hard disk sometimes takes too long to spin up
before the exec tries to read the hard disk's RDB. If the hard
disk does not boot from cold or warm boots then check the
Bootable option for DH0 in HDToolbox, cut line one of the cable
to fix it or update Kickstart to 3.1 which has a built in
feature to wait longer for slower hard disks.
8. I cannot partition my hard disk properly (-ve sizes,
The Fast File System (v40) currently has a 2Gb limitation on
the size of the partition you can have on the Amiga. Also, you
cannot use hard disks larger than 4.2Gb as it cannot address
the larger values, in such a case use many smaller disks (SCSI
is best here) instead.
Older FFS may have lower size limitations, these occur if you
try to add partitions above the limit and don't appear on the
Workbench or cannot be formatted. To solve this get a new
version of FFS or upgrade Kickstart and Workbench.
If using the standard FFS in ROM do not use any disk space
above the 4Gb limit as data can wrap around to the start of the
disk and overwrite the RDB thus losing all your partition info!
9. How can I use large hard disks?
If you intend to use large hard disks/partitions, then you can
download the latest updates from Aminet:
dev/misc trackdisk64 - Trackdisk with 64 bit extensions
disk/misc FFSTD64 - FFS with Track disk 64 bit extensions
disk/misc Format64 - Format disks >4GB
AmigaOS 3.5/3.9 has updated FastFileSystem and patches the
scsi.device to allow bigger hard disks. Please note that the
scsi.device needs the ROM update to work with the
ide_scsi.device patchs to allow 8Gb or more hard disks. The NSD
patch to v40 scsi.device will only allow upto 8Gb Hard Disks.
You can also purchase third party filing system such as PFS3
and SFS which supports large hard disks.
10. Can I use long filenames in Workbench? AmigaOS dos.library
supports filenames upto 102 (incl. .info extension) characters
long. The FFS (incl. AmigaOS 3.5/9) can only support upto 30
characters (incl .info). To use longer filenames, you need to
install a third party file system such as SFS (95 characters)
or PFS3 (102 characters).
From Workbench 1.3, the FastFileSystem was introduced to store
files on hard disks. The first Hard Disk for the Amiga was the
A590 with a 20MB hard disk. Later as the technology improved,
disk sized doubled every year, and now in 2001, hard disks are
on average 10GB or more in size.
AmigaOS is a 32 bit system, which means that it can store large
numbers from 0 to 2^32 (or approx. 4,000,000,000) so it can
safely address hard disks upto 4GB but over that, it will not
work. This applies to all Amigas will AmigaOS from 1.3 to 3.1
Due to the large size of disks, these days, AmigaOS 3.5
introduced New Style Device (NSD) and 64 bit file systems to
address larger hard disks. Also, new versions of the
partitioning software HDToolbox, a new Format program and
patches to the OS have been introduced.
Note, if using another partitioning program eg SCSIConfig, then
stick to using that instead of HDToolbox as they use different
methods to read hard disk setup and you may lose partitions and
Amiga Inc. developed the NSDPatch which allow WB 3.1 users to
use large hard disks this has been incorporated into the
SetPatch command which must be run when Workbench loads.
Definitions for each hard disk controller are included in the
NSDPatch.cfg file to use the new NSD features.
For Amiga OS to boot the boot partition must be within the
first 4GB or if using a direct SCSI file system (PFS3 for
instance), within the first 8GB.
When using the internal IDE device on the Amiga
A600/A1200/A4000 there is a built in limitation of 8GB. For
larger hard disks above the 8GB limit then you must install the
full ROM Updates via Setpatch or use IDE-Fix to use it
otherwise you cannot address the whole disk.
Further information about Disk and File operations are on the
AmigaOS 3.9 CD in Manuals/FAQ directory and at
Author: Peter Hutchison
Address: Halifax, UK
Information in this guide is accurate as far as I know. Any
modifications made to your hard disk is done at your own risk.
I cannot claim responsibility for any damage caused directly or
indirectly by the advice given in this guide.
Other Guides in the series:
PC Task 4.x
Expanding the Amiga
Available from Aminet or my Web page.
Contacting me (about anything):
Web site: http://www.blizzard.u-net.com/