• Published on | Feb 20, 2014 | by Chris Osborn

Well that was unexpected!

My newest Mac next to my oldest Mac I pulled out a dual floppy Mac SE for the Macintosh 30th anniversary for a spur of the moment photo. Since I had it out I thought it would be fun to have it dial in for BBS Week. But while I had a bootable external hard drive with System 7.5.5 and Crystal Quest, it had no other software on it, not even the AppleTalk drivers. Since it has been too long for me to remember which files I needed to add to get at least AppleTalk working, I decided to do a complete reinstall of the OS. With only 2.5megs of RAM though it wasn't able to do it. Just the week before I had unearthed a stash of old parts and in there I found a pair of 30 pin 1 meg simms, so I decided I might as well pop the SE open and max out the RAM.

I have a set of very long Allen wrench hex keys that I purchased for opening a Mac plus 20 years ago. I wasn't sure they would work since the SE uses Torx, but the 3/32" fit perfectly. I used a couple of putty knives and a screwdriver to split the case and avoid gouging up the plastic.

Once I got the cover open I was completely surprised! There was a hard drive shoved inside! Completely unexpected since I had never had any issues connecting an external drive on ID 0 or 1. The drive had to be completely dead. When I was going through the Macs several years ago getting them ready to be given away, I had added the 40 meg external drive so that it would have something to boot from.

Is.. Is that a hard drive? The hard drive inside was a Quantum 80 meg ProDrive, that had been blessed by Apple. Not original for the SE, the drive was probably a leftover from some other Mac that had been upgraded. Even though I was sure the hard drive was completely dead, I also had nothing to lose so I stuck the drive in the freezer overnight, just to see if I could revive it.

The next day I pulled the drive out, now dubbed #FreezerDrive and hooked it up to power to see if it would spin up. Nope, it was dead. But not entirely dead! I could hear the drive motor power up and stall. Apparently when the circuit board couldn't get the drive to spin up it took itself offline which is why I had never had any SCSI ID conflicts.

Curious to find out just how seized up the drive was, I took the cover off so I could try to turn the spindle by hand. It was very very hard to budge. For fun I even hooked up power and then tried turning the spindle by hand. The platters would make one or two revolutions and then seize up again. I thought the internet needed to see how seized up the drive was so I setup a camera and started recording video of manually spinning the drive. Suddenly the drive went up to full speed! I couldn't believe it!

Knowing that I probably had a very small window before the drive was completely dead, I scrambled to get a Linux computer together with a SCSI card so I could see if there was any data on the drive. I still had an old computer with an Adaptec card, and I set it up only to find it wouldn't boot at all. With time running out I grabbed another nearby computer, moved the SCSI card, and booted it up. Now that I had a working computer I connected the SCSI hard drive and watched to see if the Adaptec BIOS would see the drive.

The SCSI card saw the drive! I couldn't believe it! Linux then proceeded to boot and it also detected the hard drive. Wow! There may be a chance to get some data off this thing yet. Instead of trying to figure out how to read HFS under Linux, I used GNU ddrescue and told it to image the entire drive to a file. 80 megs is just nothing these days so why not copy the entire thing? I added the log file argument to ddrescue since I was expecting it to have lots of errors reading, after all the drive had been seized for nearly a decade, plus I the cover was off and dust was now getting into it.

It read the entire drive with no errors at all. My followers on Twitter were clamoring for me to use #FreezerDrive to boot the SE. I figured what the heck, and gave it a try.

Of course since the computer was once used in an office environment, there was really nothing very exciting on it. Mostly productivity apps and scheduling information. The only thing interesting was that there was a "Utilities" folder and it was filled with a bunch of games. Hah! The boss will never look there, right?

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