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August 2002

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The IBM Travelstar 8E PCMCIA drive

By Mark Dodel © August 2002

IBM Travelstar 8E PCMCIA driveI'm always on the lookout for a good buy, so I subscribe to a couple of different computer surplus outlet mailings from places like, and Recently in one of the mailings from PCSurplusOnline they were touting an 8 Gigabyte PCMCIA hard drive from IBM. It was cheap (only $49.95US+ the ever present shipping) and I thought this would be great additional storage for my laptop. So I went to their site to investigate further. The system I needed this for is a Toshiba Satellite 2545XCDT which only has a 2GB hard drive. So even though it may not be a lot by today's desktop standards, 8 Gig is a 4 fold increase over what I currently have. That is a lot of space for a mobile machine. I currently have eComStation 1.0 installed on the laptop.

The Travelstar 8E is an external hard drive with a cable that has a PCMCIA card on the end that connects to the laptop. The drive is 28.0 mm (1.1 inches) high by 108.0 mm (about 4.3 inches) wide, and 171.5 mm (6.7 inches) long, It weighs only 340 g (about 12 ounces). The harddrive inside has a 512 KB data buffer with 12 ms average seek time. Though it has a port for a +5VDC/1A power adapter, this unit gets its power from its PCMCIA socket. There is also an on/off button in the back, but that appears to only be there if an external power source is used. The box only contains the Travelstar drive and the detachable 9Pin to PCMCIA cable, so it was not possible to test the external power capability.

The drive is now out of support according to IBM, and only Windows9x/NT are listed as compatible, but it is basically just an IDE drive with a PCMCIA connector, so from everything I had read in the past, it should work with OS/2.

I already had socket services working on this laptop under eCS 1.0 and a working Compact Flash PCMCIA adapter assigned F: in slot 1 and a Cisco 340 wireless PCMCIA card in slot 2. So I knew PCMCIA works. I approached this with some trepidation though, since I had a great deal of trouble getting the Compact Flash PCMCIA adapter working under Warp 4 when I first attempted to get it working a couple years ago under Warp 4. It took some magic incantations and moving around the PCMCIA statements in Config.sys until it just started working one day. It has always worked under eCS though.

Trying the new drive

When I initially swapped the Travelstar in place of the CF adapter, PNP for PCMCIA showed it as a harddrive but didn't assign it any resources. Trying to access F: just gave "Drive is not ready". I updated to the latest DANIS506.ADD and changed to the latest DANIATAPI.FLT and then LVM showed a second drive of 96Meg of Free Space and said the partition table on Physical disk 2 "may be corrupt", followed by "The system is not able to use this disk". I know the drive came with windoze software on it, so I assumed (correctly as I discovered later)  it was already formatted FAT32. IBM didn't list the included software anywhere other then a flyer for an MP3 player called Rioport Audio Manager. The included version must have been crippled, since the flyer said you had to go to their website to download the full version. Since I have no windows installed anywhere, nor had I ever used the FAT32 IFS, I really wasn't concerned about the windows software anyway.

As with anything that doesn't work right, I immediately started playing around with things. I swapped the Cisco wireless LAN card and the Travelstar cards so that Travelstar was now in slot 1 and then it showed up with resources assigned in PNP for PCMCIA. I also changed my config.sys line from:

Where the /S:1 tells the driver the number of slots that may have an ATA (ATA meaning an IDE drive) and the /I:2 tells it to ignore slot 2 completely. But the drive was still not usable and no drive letter was assigned.

After seeing a suggestion to remove all the PCMCIA ATA driver from config.sys and just use the /PCMCIA parameter on DANIS506.ADD. So I added that to my config.sys and commented out the following lines:


Interesting that another suggestion in Danis506.doc was to move the PCMCIA drive to slot 1, because some socket services drivers can only find a drive in that slot. Well I had already done that, but not with the Danis506 driver.

However LVM still said drive 2 was only 96Meg. So I got bold. I ran LVM /NEWMBR:1 which reset the Master Boot Record. After doing that LVM showed 18Meg of free space and 7797Meg FAT32 partition. I created a 18Meg FAT partition using the freespace, and it worked. I could copy files to it and even read them. I then deleted both the 18Meg FAT and the FAT32 partitions and created a single 7815meg HPFS partition. I then tested it by copying a large number of directories and files to the drive and it worked.

Running Sysbench 0.9.4g, shows the following results for the two hard drives:
Laptop's IDE drive:

Disk I/O disk 1-1: 4126 MB - IBM-DKLA-24320
Avg. data access time : 21.800 milliseconds
Cache/Bus xfer rate : 2.621
Megabytes/second Track 0 xfer rate fwd : 2.624
Megabytes/second Middle trk rate fwds. : 2.619
Megabytes/second Last track rate bwds. : 2.579
Megabytes/second Average Transfer rate : 2.607
Megabytes/second Disk use CPU load : 91.690 percent
Total : 16.274 Disk I/O-marks
IBM Travelstar 8E PCMCIA drive:
Disk I/O disk 1-2: 7816 MB - IBM Travelstar 8E
Avg. data access time : 21.000 milliseconds
Cache/Bus xfer rate : 1.320
Megabytes/second Track 0 xfer rate fwd : 1.324
Megabytes/second Middle trk rate fwds. : 1.331
Megabytes/second Last track rate bwds. : 1.207
Megabytes/second Average Transfer rate : 1.287
Megabytes/second Disk use CPU load : 97.230 percent
Total : 9.288 Disk I/O-marks
The Travelstar 8E drive is only about half as fast as the laptop's IDE drive in just about every category except Average data access time where they are pretty much the same. Both seem to use almost the entire CPU load when being accessed. Compared with my UW-SCSI drives on my workstation though, where the average transfer rate is between 4.6 and 8 M/s, both these drives are slow pokes. To get a sense of real life usage I used XCOPY /H/O/T/S/E/R/V to copy about 500Meg of files from my boot drive to a backup directory on the Travelstar drive. That took 15 minutes. That's about 0.555 M/s.

But it is compatible with OS/2, Luanne.

In the mean time I heard back from IBM support <> about my question on getting the drive to work with OS/2. of course they only support windoze on it.
"Hello. The Travelstar E is not compatible with OS2. It is only compatible with Windows 95B (OSR2), Windows 98, and Windows NT 4.0. Since it is no longer a current product, no further testing is being done or drivers written.


Guess they aren't quite right here, because it sure is working with my eCS 1.0, which sure is OS/2. :-) The question is how compatible is it though. Though I have it working under eCS, there are some issues with it.

First off make sure you use the command EJECT x: before removing that PCMCIA drive if the system is running. I was used to just pulling my CF Adapter out and swapping CF cards. When I did that with just the DANI driver it rendered my Travelstar partition completely unreadable. The partition table was so hosed, LVM couldn't recognize what file system was on it, even after using the LVM /NEWMBR:1 on it again. DFSEE said it was FAT32. I ended up just FORMATTING the drive HPFS again, which wasn't a big deal since I was just testing the drive at this point. But that would have been devastating if I was actually using the drive. So make sure you heed Daniela's warning in the DANIS506.DOC file to always use EJECT x: before removing the drive. I had read it, but I just had to see what would happen if I didn't. ;-P

I can swap between my 2 CF cards (an 8Meg and an 80Meg) and the Travelstar drive so long as I eject the media first. I found that swapping in a new card won't allow me to access the new drive until I ran LVM for some reason. Asking on Usenet I was reminded that there was supposed to be a Refresh Removable Media object in my Drives folder. For some reason this object was missing. It is just a program object that runs LVM with the parameter /RediscoverPRM so I created one myself.

Another problem is that on boot, the PCMCIA drive is not found until I remove it from the slot and re-insert it and then run Refresh Removable Media. That makes it impossible to boot from this drive. I asked Daniela Engert about this problem, and she stated that this is probably the correct behavior with LVM given the problems with the current socket services drivers. Perhaps it would work correctly with Warp 4, but I no longer have a copy of that installed on this machine.

I wish it came with some velcro pads or some other way to attach the case to the laptop cover. The cord is short (only about 8 inches not including the connectors), but unless you are putting your notebook on a desk, you may find the external hard drive keeps hanging down. So I bought some velcro adhesive backed strips and mounted the drive case on the back of my laptops display. Since the drive is pretty light weight this works very well.

Running OS/2 based eComstation means that the systems K6-2 333 CPU and 64Meg RAM is still a very usable system. The only thing that was beginning to cramp its usefulness was lack of disk space. So for me getting 8 Gigabytes of disk space for that price helps extend the life of my Toshiba laptop for at least a few more years makes the few quirks listed above something I can learn to live with.

IBM Travelstar 8E PCMCIA hard drive
Developer: IBM Travelstar External Drives -
Price: $49 - $65

Computer Geeks -
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