PC backup for Windows 95 system


Thread Starter

Luca Gallina

hello all,

A customer of mine has a proprietary HMI application (actually a DOS executable) running as full screen on Windows95 and it communicates with a Siemens S5 PLC on AS511 port by means of a non-siemens TSR driver loaded into memory (DOS style).

No documentation nor backup copies are available, so I want to backup this system "as is".

The PC is a desktop containing just an HD and a damaged floppy driver. No CDROM, no SATA, no USB and no Ethernet card are available. Just a spare IDE port.

I want my backup to be done with minimal intervention on the system, just adding a CD /RW unit, so I simulated on a similar PC a backup procedure using a couple of popular software such are Acronis and Paragon. None of them worked because the PC is very low in RAM (128K or less) or did not recognize the CD reader/writer.

I'm trying the following solution: adding a FAT formatted HD on the spare IDE connector and run a freeware backup app named ODIN (http://odin-win.sourceforge.net) which seems to run on low memory PCs. Drawback is that to restore the system I should have a Win95 machine already set up before copying back the disk image.

Is there any alternate clean solution with better results?

Thank you
Here are a few options:

On a system *that* limited I would at a minimum pull the drive and hook it up to a PC with a parallel ATA card in it and run Acronis. At least then you have the image and can restore it with some additional effort. I'd look into a removeable disk caddy for a laptop or full size drive.

I'd also try an old copy of Powerquest DriveImage, it used to be my favorite in those days and worked well from DOS. I can't remember if this would burn a CD though... I don't think it would. I believe I used to use those disk caddies for IDE drives and keep my backup unplugged.

Believe it or not I have an old OS/2 computer I need to support. I upgraded the Motherboard about 12 years ago to a PICMG Pentium II-300Mhz with something like 256meg of RAM. It has an Ethernet card on it and I use a universal DOS boot disk (netbootdisk dot com) to boot and log into our MS windows network and map a drive to our backup server. PowerQuest Drive image executable is located on the share and also backs up this drive to this network share. If you can get your floppy repaired and add an Ethernet board I would think this is your best option.

Short of that try to get a removable IDE disk caddy on the second IDE channel and use a pair of boot floppies to boot to DOS and then run drive image.


bob peterson

My personal opinion is that it is time to just replace this HMI altogether with something that is actually still supported.

You might be able to buy a W95 PC on eBay or some similar place that has more memory and just move the HD to that PC. I would warn you that some ancient hard drives had interface hardwarethat were not exactly standard.

A PC that has only 128K of RAM is pretty unusual. W95 would barely have run on it. Can you add memory to the PC itself? You can find ancient memory still.

Do you really want to just keep this thing that is close to dead alive for a few more years? Or would it make sense to just fix it now and not have permanently die some day?

While you are at it, the S5 is not long for this world either. You may wish to look at replacing the whole control system with something that has better support rather than trying to keep this beast alive on life support.

Win95 would have required much more than 128K of RAM... did you mean 128meg?? I was assuming this when I read it. I can't remember a DOS machine that had less than 640K .....


This is all possible using a combination of tools. I would use something like slax (linux based), create an image of the harddisk to file using 'dcfld' or 'dd' then import it into a virtual machine using VmWare. At least this way you will have an exact copy of the hardisk using 'dd' so the harddisk replaced (dd will carry out an exact clone of the drive). The virtual machine will if set up correctly work exactly the same as the original on a modern PC.


Note dd is not for the novice you can erase the source disk if not careful

Chris Jennings

> ==> Automation List post by Luca Gallina...
> I want my backup to be done with minimal intervention on the system,

I have recently backed up quite a few legacy computers running WinNT and the easiest method I've found is to remove the hard drive and use a USB->IDE converter to attach the hard disk to a modern computer. Then use Clonezilla to make a full disk image.

I then can use this disk image to make a VM and use VMware Player to test the restored image. I keep both the Clonezilla image and VM on backup media. The VM is a great way to test software, check settings and develop training material.

If you need more detailed instructions let me know.

Chris Jennings
I agree with Bob, you really should try to convince the customer that if the system is worth keeping up it's worth looking at upgrade paths.

Having said that we have to maintain legacy systems ourselves. As far as backups I'd be reluctant to run anything within the OS, I'd be more inclined to use something like Clonezilla. Download the ISO, burn it to CD, boot it up and copy a disk image to a second HD. Memory won't be a problem as Clonezilla runs from a Linux shell and is the only thing running. If you have a little Linux knowledge running the dd command from a rescue disk will achieve a similar result.

Which ever way you go getting a copy onto a new HD would be my first priority.

Luca Gallina

Thank you for directions, I’ve been on site and copied the HD content.
The PC was running on 16 Mbytes of RAM, the minimum allowed to run Win95.

I was not able to perform a true disk image, in the rush I missed the detail that ODIN is a 32 bit app and Win95 is a 16 bit O.S. ;-)

I managed to get an IDE hard disk, split into partitions <= 2 Gigabyte (which is the largest size readable by Win95) and formatted as FAT. Then connected it to a spare IDE port and made a simple copy of files, including system and hidden ones. Had to skip a few unreadable files (not related with the HMI), another sign of how urgent is to move the application to a new installation.

After retrieving the disk contents I was able to analyze it and I discovered that the HMI was just an series of executables running in the HMI folder, in a way nowadays is fashionably named "portable" (which in my wishes it will be once again the way to run all programs, getting rid of installations). Setting up a new system will be easy, just copy the HMI folder. Have to find some old machine in the scrapyard though, for the HMI communicates via a true COM port and needs a dongle connected to the LPT port...

I also suggested the customer to upgrade to a newer automation system, the small company does rely on that equipment for the most of the production. Hopefully the customer will be wise enough to plan a revamping and don’t jeopardize the company, but there’s a saying here that sounds more or less like “in order to save money, they’re willing to spend (=risk) any amount”.

Some quick answers:

@ Ken
I did not want to pull the drive and insert to a different PC: Windows would detect different motherboard and components and start asking for proper drivers. And I did not want to have that system messed up.

Thank you for PowerQuest hint, although I’ve been in so short time I could not test it. I’ll keep it in mind for next trouble ;-)

@ Bob
You’re right, I misspelled Kbytes for Mbytes.
The PC was running on bare 16 Mbytes of RAM.

@Keivn and Rscho
Sometimes I use Linux Puppy to resurrect PCs. Will check SLAX but, once again, could not find any Linux distribution running on 16MB RAM.

I will surely purchase an USB->IDE converter: in that case it will also avoid the tampering with the slave/master/cableselect settings.
And yes, indeed I do make use of VMware, great product! Once retrieved the disk contents from the PC I was able to check it on a virtual machine.

Once again, thank you all for hints.