Frequently Asked Questions
Copyright © 1998 Warren Block (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This document is freeware. It has been copyrighted to assure its
availability to everyone. Fred Fish and the Aminet are explicitly
allowed to include this document in CD-ROM or floppy compilations;
others should ask first. Please do not modify and distribute this
file without permission.
Q. What is the IFAQ?
A. Irritating questions are those that are asked over and over.
They can be answered a thousand times, and the next day somebody
will ask again. While asking questions is a time-proven way to
gather information, many long-time Usenet users get sick of
answering the same old thing. So here's this FAQ. Odds are pretty
good that you'll get this instead of a custom- written answer;
don't take this personally. In fact, the next time you see somebody
ask that question, you can do the same thing. (Please realize that
in many cases, I have intentionally left out some detail to avoid
clouding the issues.)
Q. I feel so guilty. What can I do to atone for having asked
some of these irritating questions myself?
A. When someone else asks, help answer them. Eventually the
crippling guilt will fade. Probably.
Q. You seem to write a lot of these FAQ things. Why?
A. Because so often a question is asked, and never gets
answered, or worse, gets a wrong answer. That really bugs me. It's
a big waste of time; for instance, look at how much time has been
wasted in discussions of MaxTransfer, and even now it's still
It would be nice if I could do this type of technical writing
and get paid for it. Everyone is welcome to contact me regarding
that type of thing.
Really Irritating Questions
Q. Could my MaxTransfer rate be too high? What should it be?
A. My initial reaction to questions about MaxTransfer is usually
a shout of "Bite me! Arrrrrggggh!" This usually frightens off
everyone except the really serious. MaxTransfer has almost nothing
to do with transfer rates. It sets the Maximum Transfer
SIZE, and is needed to deal with many IDE drives that are
built assuming that they'll be used only in rock-stupid PC
hardware. If a transfer larger than this size (usually 128K) is
requested, the drive will garble some data. Setting MaxTransfer to
0x1FE00 for each partition will force large transfers to be broken
into 128K sections, avoiding the IDE bug. Very old drives might
need a setting of 0xFE00. MaxTransfer is almost never an issue with
SCSI drives, and you can usually set it to arbitrarily large values
(HDToolBox defaults to 0x7FFFFFFF). For more details on
MaxTransfer, see the >A1200 Hardware FAQ.
Q. What should I do to people who keep associating MaxTransfer
A. Make up bizarre explanations. See if you can get them to try
every value from 0 to 256K in increments of four bytes. Or you can
just have them try DiskSpeed with various values, but that's not
nearly as much fun.
Q. I really, really, really want to hook up my parallel Zip
drive to my Amiga parallel port. Is it possible?
A. Yes, see the hard/hack/ppazip.lha file on Aminet. Now go
Q. Will other PC parallel-port devices work on the Amiga?
A. Usually not. Except for printers, PC parallel-port devices
like tape drives, Ethernet adapters, digitizers, and storage
devices are built for the quirks of the PC parallel port, and won't
work on the Amiga. There are two problems: some of the lines on the
Amiga parallel port are not software-controllable, and most of the
manufacturers of PC parallel-port devices will not reveal details
of how to program these devices.
If you want to share a Zip or EZ drive between an Amiga and a
PC, get the SCSI version of the drive and an inexpensive SCSI
adapter for the PC (like the Zip "Zoom" or the Adaptec 1505, both
about US$50). Or you could get the "Zip Plus," which has both SCSI
and parallel interfaces.
Q. Jumper J213 on the A4000 motherboard looks like I can get 8M
of Chip RAM. Does it work?
A. Yes, it does, but don't tell anybody. If it really worked, do
you think everybody would still be using 2M of Chip? I'm always
tempted to tell people to try it and report back if their machine
blew up. No, it doesn't work, it was there for future chipsets that
Q. I have a Connor hard disk, and...
A. There is no such thing. There is a brand whose name is
spelled "Conner;" perhaps that's what you mean.
Q. What is Aminet?
A. Aminet is a huge collection of Amiga software; in fact, it's
the largest collection of computer software for any type of
computer. Anyone with an Internet connection can use it, or it can
be inexpensively obtained on CD-ROM from Cronus.
Q. How do I use Aminet over the Internet?
A. Step 1: Find your closest Aminet mirror. Look in the list at
Step 2: Access this mirror site with a web browser or FTP
Q. How do I find files on Aminet?
A. Download the INDEX file or INDEX.Z (the compressed
version--use util/pack/gzip124x2.lha or the Unix compress program
to decompress it). This is a complete listing of all the files,
along with short descriptions.
Q. Is there an Amiga emulator that runs on PCs or Macs?
A. Yes. See http://members.aol.com/swmillar/whatuae.htm.
Q. What about that other one, you know, the one that shows the
Kickstart hand and then locks up?
A. It's a fake. It doesn't work and never has.
Q. Can the Amiga emulate PCs or Macs?
A. Yes, and a host of other machines. See the misc/emu directory
of Aminet and the Usenet newsgroup comp.sys.amiga.emulations for
more information on the numerous commercial, shareware, and public
domain emulator packages.
Q. Can PCs or Macs read and write Amiga floppy disks?
A. Short answer: Not for free. Get over it.
Longer answer: While the Amiga does use PC-type floppy drives,
it uses the custom Amiga chips to control them, and writes entire
tracks at a time with no sector gaps. This is beyond the
capability of the standard PC floppy controller. There is a special
floppy controller called the Catweasel that makes this possible;
Q. Can Amigas read and write MS-DOS floppy and hard disks?
A. Yes, no problem. Later versions of the Amiga operating system
came with CrossDOS, which does just that. There are also some
utilities of this type on Aminet. (Slight catch: many Amigas have
only double-density floppy drives; on these machines, you can only
use 720K MS-DOS disks.)
Q. Can Amigas read and write Macintosh floppy and hard
A. Yes, within hardware limits: most Amigas have only
double-density floppy drives, and they are incompatible with the
older multi-speed Apple 800K drives, as is pretty much everything
else. Desktop A4000s came with high-density drives, which can read
and write Mac high-density disks. See misc/emu/CrossMAC_Demo.lha on
Q. Will high-density diskettes work when formatted to
A. Not reliably. It'll often seem to work, then fail at the
worst possible moment.
Q. My Amiga has a double-density 880K floppy. If I replace it
with a regular high-density PC floppy drive, will I be able to use
A. No. Amiga high-density floppy drives are modified versions of
those used in the PCs. See hard/hacks on Aminet for experimental
projects on modifying standard drives.
Q. Is there a way to attach and use unmodified high-density PC
floppy drives with standard Amigas (A500, A1000, A2000, A3000,
A. Yes, the Catweasel: http://www.jschoenfeld.com.
Q. Do the Iomega Zip and Jaz drives and Syquest EZ and SyJet
drives work on the Amiga?
A. The SCSI and IDE versions, yes. There are both commercial and
PD utilities for using the custom features of the Zip, and you may
need to use a PC or Mac running the Jaz tools to disable the verify
option of that drive. Otherwise, treat these just like hard
Q. Can I read MS-DOS-formatted Zip, Jaz, and EZ disks on the
A. Yes. See the Aminet files disk/misc/ZIPMount_12.lha and
Q. Can I use 3.5-inch hard drives in the A1200?
A. Yes, although you might have to slightly modify the internal
shield and heavily modify the IDE cable. And you might very well
need to replace the power supply to cope with the drive's higher
power needs. And set the MaxTransfer value to 0x1FE00 for all
partitions. And realize that a 3.5-inch drive usually generates
more heat than the 2.5-inch drives, so that might cause operating
problems. And larger drives draw more power, which the A1200 might
have a hard time supplying through the standard power connector; a
direct power cable from the power supply to the drive is often
needed. Other than that, it's pretty simple.
Q. Will EIDE drives work in the A1200 or A4000?
A. Yes. Plug it in, set MaxTransfer to 0x1FE00 for all
partitions, and go. See the A1200 Hardware FAQ for information on
slow spin-up and disabling reset of these drives.
Q. Will EIDE (ATAPI) CD-ROM drives work in the A1200 or
A. Yes, with the proper software and maybe a cable. Point your
browser to Asimware,
http://www.elaborate-bytes.com or search for "atapi" in the
disk/cdrom directory of Aminet.
Q. How big can a partition be? How about a whole drive?
A. Safe limits: 2G per partition (or 4G, but there's a catch), 4G
per drive. FFS can use partitions up to 4G in size, but some
utilities will show partition sizes larger than 2G as negative
values. If you're lucky, that's the only problem you'll have. If
you must, there are some other options:
Beta FFS filesystem from Amiga International:
giga.device: (device driver) disk/misc/giga171.lha on Aminet.
Guru-ROM: (replacement ROM for GVP and A2091 controllers) Support
for drives larger than 4G. Available from Cronus.
Q. Will low-level formatting ruin my hard drive?
A. Maybe, but probably not. On a few old IDE drives, it might.
Most recent IDE drives simply ignore the low-level format command
and pretend they did it. For SCSI, you should generally not need to
low-level format the drive (and some SCSI drives ignore the
command, too). If you must do a low-level format, make sure there
are no power interruptions and that you give it adequate time to
finish. A full low-level format can take quite a while, half an
hour or more for large or slow drives.
Q. I interrupted a low-level format on a hard drive before it
completed. Now the drive won't work. What happened?
A. Most SCSI drives will go into a "stupid" mode if a low-level
format is interrupted. In this mode, the drive knows there isn't a
complete format, and refuses to do anything *except* a low-level
format. The cure is to do a full low-level format and let it
complete. Some people find that the only way to do this is with a
PC SCSI system. IDE drives generally don't have this problem, since
most now ignore the low-level format command.
Q. My friend and I have the same hard disk, but our parameters
(blocks per track and number of heads and such) are wildly
different. Both machines work, though. Why?
A. SCSI and IDE drives both work by block number. The computer
requests a read or write to a certain block number, and the drive
handles the rest. As long as the settings
(heads*blockspertrack*cylinders) don't go over the total number of
blocks available, it'll work. The heads, blockspertrack, and
cylinders parameters are really mostly vestigial (like your
appendix), and may someday be replaced with a "total blocks" value
(unlike your appendix).
Q. How do I use a tape drive from the Amiga?
A. There's commercial and shareware software (look in the Aminet
biz/demo directory). Then there's BTNtape, a PD tape device handler
(on Aminet, disk/bakup/BTNtape30.lha). With this and most of the
Amiga variants of the Unix "tar" program (in the util/arc directory
of Aminet), you can read and write tapes that are interchangeable
with other systems.
Tar for MS-DOS:
Tar for Mac:
Q. Will a tape drive made to connect to a PC's floppy or IDE
cables work on the Amiga?
A. No, unless there's a special driver via the Catweasel
controller. See: http://www.jschoenfeld.com.
Q. Why does the A2091 SCSI controller run so slowly in the A3000
A. Because the A2091 can't DMA to 32-bit RAM. The Guru ROM for
the A2091 can help; also see the A4000 Hardware Guide section on
the A2091 for more details on the problem (a pointer to the Guide
is at the end of this document), or various programs in the
disk/misc and hard/drivr directories of Aminet.
Q. Does the A3000's SCSI interface support "Fast SCSI"?
A. [by Ralph Babel] No, but upgrading it to do so is *extremely*
simple: First, replace the standard WD33C93A SCSI chip by a
WD33C93*B*. Be sure to provide the appropriate input clock on pin 7
(DIP) as described in section 3.1.16 of the WD33C93B data sheet.
Finally, rewrite Commodore's scsi.device driver to select the
proper clock divisor (see section 3.1.3); take the new input clock
into account when dealing with incoming and outgoing SDTR messages,
and set the WD's FSS bit accordingly. The driver should replace the
one in ROM.
Q. Hey! There's a "scsi.device" loaded on my A4000, but I
thought I only had IDE drives. Do I have a SCSI interface, too?
A. No. The desktop A4000 only has an IDE interface built in,
but, in a stunningly confusing move, the software driver for it is
called "scsi.device". Clever, huh? (The A4000T does have a SCSI
interface built in, but the software names are still screwed
Q. What SCSI controllers are available for the A4000?
A. The A4091 and Fastlane are both Zorro-3 Fast SCSI-2
controllers, but can be difficult to find. Fast SCSI-2 controllers
are available for accelerators, either built-in (Warp Engine) or
optional (Cyberstorm). If the slower performance of plain SCSI-2 is
acceptable, most Zorro-2 boards work in the A4000, although some
are quite slow; of the Zorro-2 boards, the most popular are the
Oktagon and DKB Rapidfire.
Q. After installing a removable media device (CD-ROM, Zip drive,
or such), the Amiga's hard disk light flashes every few seconds.
A. The system is polling the removable media device so it can
detect when a disk has been changed. This is normal.
Q. Is there an adapter to use SIMMs for the motherboard memory in
A. Yes. See http://users.informatik.fh-hamburg.de/~plewka_j for
one, or email email@example.com for another.
Q. Does the Amiga use special SIMMs? Can they use SIMMs with
A. Amigas that use standard 72-pin SIMMS (not all of them do)
will work with either 32-bit (without parity) or 36-bit (with
Q. Can I use an 8M SIMM on the motherboard of an A4000?
A. Yes, usually:
Q. Can I use a 16M SIMM on the motherboard of an A4000?
- Some A4000s (possibly older revisions) may only recognize 4M of
an 8M SIMM.
- The low-profile sockets used in the desktop A4000 are not made
to take double-sided SIMMs, and most 8M SIMMs are double-sided.
They'll still make contact, but some other means of holding them in
place must be found.
- The motherboard Fast RAM limit is still 16M, so at most you can
only use two 8M SIMMs, and they must be in sockets 1 and 3.
A. Possibly. It may depend on the revision of the
Q. Can EDO SIMMs be used in an Amiga?
A. In some of them, yes. It depends on the particular model:
All DKB boards (reported by DKB)
The A4000 motherboard
The Warp Engine
Blizzard 1230 and 1260
Still, try before you buy for any RAM expansions. Unless the RAM
expansion has specific provisions to take advantage of EDO SIMMs,
they won't run any faster than normal SIMMs.
Q. My A2000/A3000/A4000 has PC ISA slots. Can I use PC cards in
A. Those slots only have power connections. Some ISA cards only
need power, and they'll work (some timebase correctors, for
instance). For anything that needs the logic signals, a bridgeboard
of some type is needed. This can be either a PC hardware emulator,
or a special purpose board made just to allow the use of PC cards.
See http://www.infinet.com/~erd/GG2 for one possibility.
Q. My Bridgeboard doesn't want to work with a 68020/030/040
A. Try disabling the processor's caching.
Q. Can the 8-bit ISA slots in an A2000 be extended to 16-bit
AT-style by simply soldering in the extra connector?
Q. If I add a math coprocessor (FPU), will my machine run
A. Only on floating-point math, and the operating system and
most productivity software doesn't use much (or any) floating-point
math. The major use for FPUs is for ray-tracing graphics
Q. The A3640 processor board can be used in an A3000, right?
Q. Will a CGA monitor work on an Amiga?
A. Yes...barely. It'll only display 16 colors, and probably only
in NTSC. There are those of us who say that even a color composite
monitor is better. Check the local pawn shops.
Q. Will an EGA monitor work on an Amiga?
A. If it does CGA mode and you can come up with the appropriate
interface circuitry, it'll work as CGA. See the previous question
for comments on using CGA.
Q. Will the 1084 monitor work on a PC?
A. Only if you have a genuine CGA board in the PC (not a VGA
board emulating CGA), and are willing to build an appropriate
adapter cable. It'll be mostly useless with modern PC software.
Q. Can I use a VGA monitor on the Amiga?
A. A multisync-type VGA monitor that syncs from 15 KHz and up
will work with all Amigas, but most recent monitors don't sync that
low (standard VGA is 31.5 KHz). The A3000 has a built-in
deinterlacer port that will work will all standard VGA monitors,
and equivalent boards can be added to the A500, A2000, and
ECS and AGA machines (the A3000 and later A500s and A2000s) can
also display doubled modes. These modes range in frequency from
about 23 KHz up to about 29 KHz. The VGAOnly "monitor driver" will
force these screen modes to operate at even higher frequencies so
that they can be used on some pickier monitors. It's not really a
driver; its only purpose is to raise the frequencies of the other
Q. What kind of cable do I need to connect a VGA or multisync
monitor to the Amiga DB23 video connector?
A. The good old silver DB23-to-HDD15 adapter that came with the
A4000 is available from many mail-order or local dealers, or see
the Aminet file hard/hack/ami2vga.lha, or see the Connecting VGA
Monitors section of the A4000 Hardware Guide.
Q. I have this goofy monitor that they were throwing away at
work. It has some connectors and stuff. Will it work with my
A. Maybe, maybe not. You'll need to find out the sync
frequencies this monitor can use. You'll need to find out the
pinouts and possibly other technical details, and may have to make
an adapter cable for it. If the monitor is of the fixed frequency
variety, you might be able to use a graphics card to drive it. Or
Q. Can I network my Amiga with my PC over a serial cable?
A. Yes. See comm/misc/PC2Am308.lha on Aminet, and other files in
the same directory.
Q. My somewhat older Amiga doesn't have AmigaOS 3.1. It seems kind
of expensive--is it worth it?
A. Yes. Get it.
Q. Does a PC mouse work on the Amiga? Can I use an Amiga mouse
on a PC?
A. Not directly, because the two are electrically different. See
the hard/hack section of Aminet for ways to modify some PC mice for
use on the Amiga; also see hard/drivr/SerMouse221.lha which will
let you use a PC serial mouse on the Amiga. Some commercial
hardware adapters have been produced, too; see http://www.raach.com/bestellung_e.html.
Finally, if you need a new Amiga mouse, consider that the old A1000
mice will work with later Amigas, although you might need an
extension cable or adapter due to the right-angle connector on the
A1000 mouse cable.
Q. Does a PC keyboard work on an Amiga?
A. Not directly, but adapters are available to connect them.
Q. I've heard of a software emulator called SoftAGA that
provides AGA compatibility for machines without the AGA chipset.
Does it work?
A. It's a fake, a joke. You can't upgrade your hardware by
changing software, any more than you can grow taller just by
concentrating on it.
Q. Will an external modem for a PC or Mac work with the
A. Yes, with the appropriate cable. Be aware that some pins on
the Amiga serial port supply power, and should not be hooked up. On
the other hand, most modems don't connect anything to these pins,
so it's usually not a problem. The safest way to connect an
external modem is to use a 9-wire serial cable (only pins 1-9 and
Q. My clock battery has fuzzy white crud on it, but it still
keeps the time. Does it need to be replaced?
A. Yes. Your battery is leaking, and the acid can eat into the
motherboard. To do it right, you take out the motherboard and
desolder the battery. It may be possible to clip off the battery
leads from the top, without taking out the motherboard. For a
replacement, you can use a standard PC-type 3.6v nicad, a cordless
phone nicad, or one of the high-capacity capacitors (1.0F) now
being used for this kind of thing.
Q. The instructions for my new modem say that it can communicate
with the computer at 57600 bps or even faster, but the Prefs/Serial
program only goes up to 31250. How can I set this?
A. Terminal programs ignore the Prefs/Serial settings. Each
terminal program has its own setting, perhaps under a Settings or
Preferences menu or the equivalent. Set the speed there, and don't
worry about the Prefs/Serial program (it is very rarely used, and
usually only by those with serial printers). The Amiga's serial
hardware is not particularly fast, and you might have data
corruption problems operating the serial port at high speeds; there
are replacement serial.device programs on Aminet in the comm/misc
directory which attempt to compensate for this.
Other FAQs That Help
Answer Irritating Questions
A4000 Hardware Guide
Amiga FAQ: docs/misc/AmigaFAQ.lha on Aminet.
CDROM FAQ: docs/help/CDROM35.lha on Aminet.
Zip Drive FAQ: docs/help/AmigaZipFAQ12.lha on Aminet.
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