View Full Version : I have an old 386 computer. Suggestions on what can I do with it??

12-04-2003, 04:44 PM
Its a quite old PC General 386, computer. I have no idea what its clock speed is though. It has a 540mb hard drive, 4xCdrom, floppy, and 8mb of ram as far as I can tell.

Its running DOS and Win3.1

There are some old games I would like to get off its hard drive before I do anything to it - Doom2, Wing Commander and a few other classics. How do I get the data off the hard drive, bearing in mind they are slightly too big for a floppy disk?

Secondly what can I use this computer for? A stripped down version of linux? e.g Use for a firewall, sharing a few files?? Anything?? Ideas People?


12-04-2003, 05:05 PM
> Its running DOS and Win3.1

Wow that is an old pc :D :) & win 3.1 is still around today!! Did any one know that! :p I am Not Joking

> There are some old games I would like to get off its
> hard drive before I do anything to it - Doom2, Wing
> Commander and a few other classics. How do I get the
> data off the hard drive, bearing in mind they are
> slightly too big for a floppy disk?

Sticking the old HDD in to your other pc & moving it that way???

What OS do you have on your other pc?

> Secondly what can I use this computer for? A stripped
> down version of linux? e.g Use for a firewall,
> sharing a few files?? Anything?? Ideas People?

Web server, file server, firewall.
I do not know if it will work but that is just some ideas.

12-04-2003, 06:27 PM
it will work as a linux based anything box. you probably wont get a shell/gui going.. it'll be all cli based, so start reading linux books

12-04-2003, 07:25 PM
Well, we've got 3 other computers. A Win98se soon to be, A win2000, and a XP machine.

Can any of those operating systems read the data on the hard drive?? It'll be coded in dos I'm guessing.

I tried putting the hard drive into my XP comp a while ago, wouldn't work...not enough power cables. Then it wouldn't even detect my proper hard drive! Pain in the neck :)

I spose I could try sticking it in the 98se computer.

12-04-2003, 08:31 PM
I've got an old 500 MB HD in my win 98SE computer that I use to backup files on... win98 is based on dos a bit, and I'm sure XP & 2000 can read old HDs (if they are in fat32 or fat16 format anyway).

13-04-2003, 01:55 AM
they should be able to read the filesystem on the hdd.. all of them should be able to.. IIRC it'll be using fat16

Rod J
13-04-2003, 02:08 AM
Hi PoWa,

I've successfully transferred data from two PC's using a null-modem cable connected to the serial ports of the PC's and using a little DOS utility called FastLynx (LapLink, I think, is another similar program). Not sure of the availability of the cables nowadays, and if you can get one, the parallel port version is faster, I believe.


13-04-2003, 04:55 AM
Cool I'll look into that programme Rod...Umm a serial cable...is that the thing printers use to connect to a computer??

How do you set up Linux on an old computer anyway? Any Linux gurus out there?

13-04-2003, 11:15 AM
I read some whare what you can stick a flopy disk in the drive and then you can use yoru old computer as a switch or rutor or some network thing, you dont even need the hard drive, Its some linux thing i think.

or you can give the comp to me :)

Rod J
13-04-2003, 12:46 PM
The null-modem cable is not a standard printer cable. Check out this (rather technical description) of the cable: [here] (http://www.nullmodem.com/NullModem.htm). You may be able to buy one from Dick Smith or similar for a few dollars. I picked one up at a computer auction some years ago.

Rod J
13-04-2003, 01:03 PM
I just discovered Dick Smith have null modem cables on special to clear. I think this cable has two 25 pin connectors and your newer PC might only have a 9 pin serial port. You would need to buy a 25-to-9 pin adapter in this case, but they are usually cheap. Another thing these cables can be used for is to play Doom, etc on two PC's without needing network adapter cards :-)

Dick Smith null modem cable (http://www.dse.co.nz/cgi-bin/dse.storefront/3e98a68e0a098374273fc0a87f99073e/Product/View/X2609)

Graham L
13-04-2003, 03:19 PM
If it's MSDOS 6.x it will have interlink (interlnk?) which will use a null modem cable (on a serial ports) or a "LapLink" cable for the parallel ports. (Any file transfer usingthe serial or parallel ports needs "crossover" cables. Just having the right connectors is not enough. :D). These should work to the W98 machine, but you might have problems with "Non-DOS" Windows. (W98 may have the interlink software (look on the CD for an "olddos" directory, or something like that name).

In desperation, get PKZIP, and use "spanned" ZIP files on floppies. That works well, but it can get tedious.

13-04-2003, 03:47 PM
I have a copy of FastLynx.... it evolved into LapLink when Windows came around...

Anyways... If its being read over a network - for if you go with a FireWall.. Or even for transferring Data via FX, it doesnt matter if its an NTFS file-system or a FAT12 file system... or Ext3 for that matter - the OS basically sends it as 'data' and so seeing as its not being stored on a file system, the HDD FS doesnt matter!

13-04-2003, 09:52 PM
Alright. I think I'll use it as a firewall. Been reading up on that SmoothWall program. Sounds like it will do the job. Just wondering if it would work on a 386 though??

Also how do you set up something like that? I mean we've got a router which has 4ethernet ports, and that connects to the net. Where do you slot this firewall machine in?

13-04-2003, 09:59 PM
I know your probably doing this to expand your knowledge.
But do you really need a firewall?
That aside, i suggest your read up on firewall/proxy configurations, you can have a few, but you will probably go for a basic DMZ set up.
That means the 386 is connected to the net, and your main computer is connected to the 386, resulting in the 386 acting as a proxy, which is ideal in ur situation.
Anybody else have any hints for Powa? I havn't done firewall configs in a few years.

13-04-2003, 10:03 PM
Yeah.. im looking to set up a DMZ soon - only Ive beenrecommended I use a router and put it directly onto my LAN switch - so how does that work?
Use the router in place of the PC??

13-04-2003, 10:03 PM
You could always blow it up or burn it or something. Remember to record ot though. Should be fun. perhaps you could throw it off a bridge or your roof. If you do do it send me an email to nzbwf@yahoo.co.nz and we'll look at getting your footage onto our next video :D

15-04-2003, 02:27 AM
Update: I managed to copy everything off the hard drive on the 386, by putting the hard drive into the Win95 Machine. It detected it fine and I copied all that stuff over the network to my WinXp machine :D Sweet as.

Now for phase 2. I'm going to try out this smoothwall thing
and turn it into a firewall. Might be fun :)

15-04-2003, 10:31 AM
firewall eh? um....... howmany computers will be connected to it?
if the answer is one, then i wouldn't bother. why not just use a firewall prog like zone alarm. tis free after all.

15-04-2003, 11:07 PM
No 3+ computers and JetStart Adsl. I think a firewall is in order. :P Especially since 2 of the computers connected don't have any firewall at all. Why not set it up once instead of 3 or more :)

15-04-2003, 11:12 PM
paper weight??

small linux firewall / proxy??

John S
16-04-2003, 12:41 AM
If you want to try a Linux based firewall I recommend "Freesco". I have tired Smoothwall, GNatbox and a few of the LRP derivatives and finally settled on Freesco.
It is Super simple to set up and you don't have to commit to blowing away a HD. as it boot from a 1.4Mb floppy..
Don't be put off by that ... it is a full featured router firewall which will support up to three NICs ie two protected networks that cant see each other (unless you explicitly say they can [not sure why you would do that]) with the third NIC for your ADSL modem. And you can use a modem to dial into you network to get access via the ADSL. (become an ISP... just don't charge for it!!)
If you are using Dialup to ISP it will do all that to, and disconnect automatically.
There is even a browser based administration to setup banned sites etc and check on who has been trying to get into you network etc. So you box doesn't need a screen. ( screen/keyboard needed to do the initial setup)

The support on the Freesco forum is superb.. These guys (and a few girls) are super good at helping out even the absolute newbies.

Real easy to put on a HD and it boots faster.. but what the heck.. mine has been running, booted off floppy, as of today, 106 days...

A 386 with a NIC, a modem, a floppy and 8Mb ram is all you need to have a play with a linux box.

Rgds...John S

16-04-2003, 01:36 AM
>Web server, file server, firewall.
thow win NT4 on it and do this

the other thing you can do is SMASH IT
go to a glass blower and get them to poor you a coffee table
a coffee table with PC parts would look cool

19-04-2003, 12:52 AM
>the other thing you can do is SMASH IT
go to a glass blower and get them to poor you a coffee table
a coffee table with PC parts would look cool

that just defies the laws of physics

19-04-2003, 01:16 AM
I've tried similar. Its really a bit slow for linux.

If you could find another 8megs it would be usable, otherwise it will spend too much time thrashing the disk to keep up.

Slackware 3.3 will install in 8 megs. The later 3.x & 4.0 won't, even with a swapfile (BTW early kernels give funny error messages when they run out of memory). Sticking the drive in another computer works since it isn't tied to the hardware too much, plus its much faster.

19-04-2003, 01:32 AM
My god PoWa,
that's what I had, until this week just gone!
Yes I had Win 3.1, MS Works on it etc. Mind you I was only using it for typing my screenplays on, for 3 years! Have a secondhand Pentium 2 now, as I wanted to hook up to the net from home.
People here have already told you how to get data off your hard drive. I got a comp. guy to come in and delete off my hard drive, but saved everything on a floppy, can't remember how he did it though, LOL!
So yeah, been there done that. As for what to do with it, well I too have recieved humourous comments as well, even when I was using it! ( the word "dinosaur" was used on numerous occasions over the 3 yr period )
It's probably good as some sort of ornament round the house, as people have already suggested here, or some child might want it to play the games on if you choose to change your mind bout getting rid of the games on it, otherwise it's not really good for anything else once you have got a much better system to operate on.

Just my five cents worth there.

All the best PoWa.

-Gregg Buchanan.

19-04-2003, 02:35 AM
Thanks :)

I just tried to install the smoothwall program, needed to make a boot disc to get it to run off the cd. But no troubles there. Anyway, it reckons I need to have a network card in it before it will continue to install...figures..

I'm gonna try that freesco programme out as well, that looks cool.

Where can I get a new network card that runs in one of those old old old slots ummm what do they call them ISA or PCMCIA or something??

After I put one of those cards in where do I go from there...

I have an ADSL router that has a 4port switch built into it (Dynalink RTA300). Luckily there is one ethernet port free on that. Where does this firewall or proxy thing fit into the equation??

Do I plug a network cable from the 386 into the router...set up the firewall on the 386 and tell it to connect to the internet through the router...then tell the other computers to connect to the internet through the 386 (make it the gateway) ???

The other computers are running XP,2000, and 98se now...if I set up the gateway for the LAN on each computer to be the 386, wouldn't all network traffic slow down heaps??? cos the network card will be a max of 10Mbs ??? or is there someway to make network traffic go through the router (100Mbs) and all internet traffic to come via the 386.

Confused yet? Read my post again ;)

19-04-2003, 07:13 PM
Does this card look very good?

DSE ISA Network Card (http://www.dse.co.nz/cgi-bin/dse.storefront/3ea0e7ed0587d49c273fc0a87f990773/Product/View/XH7597)

They are $28 Is that very good? or can I get a better deal elsewhere?

19-04-2003, 08:20 PM
Too slow for a gateway, even with linux. Been there done that.

19-04-2003, 10:51 PM
mp3 box???

add network card, have a hdd a harddrive of a few hundred mb, maybe a gig if you can get it to work and then transfer files over network... should work!

- David

John S
20-04-2003, 10:25 PM
Agreed.. To old a PC for a recent Linux distro.. but perfectly adequate for a Freesco firewall serving 20-40 clients from a adsl modem.
There has been reports of 500+ users behind a 100Mhz/64M ram Freesco box on a cable connection.

Stick with the 0.2.7 version as the latest is a bit more resource hungry and not 100% stable yet.

You will need an ISA bus card I think for that old 386PC.. and don't worry about it only being a 10Mbit card.. you are only going to have a max 8Mbit (and only 128Kbit for a jetstart) adsl connection.

Register on the Freesco forum.. and if you need any help... you will get all the help you need.

Rgds.. John s

20-04-2003, 10:50 PM
Great thanks John :)

21-04-2003, 12:10 AM
$28 is a bit steep. You should be able to get a second hand NE2000 or etherlink III (aka 3c509) for a few dollars.

21-04-2003, 01:04 PM
Yeah I'm getting 5isa nics for about $1 on trademe lol