13GB: AST Advantage! 623

BIOS update, EIDE card, or overlay software? (FAQ Hard disk recognition)
Post Reply
I didn't read the rules
Posts: 6
Joined: Thu Jan 16, 2003 8:37 pm

I have this really old AST computer and a non recognized 13GB hard drive from WD. The BIOS appears to be AST's own, but upon closer examination turns out to be a customised Award BIOS.

AST distributes BIOS upgrades by downloadable floppy images. There seems to be just one single big file that takes up the entire floppy, but the BIOS is only 64KB in size. Also, the built in SiS graphics card's BIOS is included on that same floppy image. There is no DOS or any recognizable system on the floppy.

The BIOS upgrade procedure is performed by first going to the BIOS settings by pressing <CTRL+ALT+ESC>, then to the menu Update BIOS. A text screen tells you to put your upgrade floppy into the drive, turn the computer off and then on. If everything goes as it should, the screen stays black, a very short read of the floppy is performed, and two long beeps are heard. Then you should turn off the computer and remove the BIOS upgrade floppy.

I must say that this unusual procedure is quite intimidating. But all went well. Now I have version 1.04.03 of AST's BIOS. Instead of 1.02. The VGA BIOS is updated as well.

The only problem being that I went through all that just for the sake of being able to use that big 13GB hard disk on this system. No go.

I have tried Western Digital's EZ-drive, but it doesn't work well with NT4. I have also tried two different IDE enhancing add-on boards, but they're too old as well. One is limited to about 8GB and the other to even less.

My system's AST service number is:
(The don't bother calling them poetic names like "Advantage!" etc.)

Here is some information on my BIOS:

And here it can be downloaded

Here is the text string found in the beginning of the BIOS which tells us that it in fact is an Award BIOS. Only the AST part is displayed during post:


Copyright (c) A S T Research, Inc. 1997

All Rights Reserved

If someone is interested in helping me out with this I can instead of the floppy image send him a 64KB file containing only the BIOS. Here's my email address:


I know that someone will say "Go buy another computer" or "Get another drive", but neither is an option at the moment.

Regards, Dick
The Hardware Archivist
Posts: 6274
Joined: Wed Mar 20, 2002 7:11 pm
Location: Netherlands

What about: get an add-in card that DOES support >8GB.

Do not assume anything

System error, strike any user to continue...
I didn't read the rules
Posts: 6
Joined: Thu Jan 16, 2003 8:37 pm

Well, I tried that as well.

Perhaps I'm an idiot, but that didn't work out either. Maybe these cards can't boot for themselves? It appears they need drivers to work well? The card I've tried is a CMD649, it has a ROM chip onboard. I know that the 13GB WD works and that the cables are all OK.

I really have no idea of how difficult it may be to patch that AST BIOS? Am I asking too much?

Is there some generic description of how these Big-Harddisks-patches are realized in a ROM? Is it possible to just cut and paste some piece of code into a free ROM area?
BIOS Bodhisattva
Posts: 3145
Joined: Fri May 03, 2002 10:34 am
Location: Thames Valley, UK

The sort of PCI IDE card you need should have its own BIOS with all the necessary support in it, just as some SCSI cards do. I would expect to see a message from the card on boot-up. Typically I would expect the motherboard controllers to be disabled if possible, or drives set to "none" otherwise. There could be an issue with the two BIOSes clashing if AST's BIOS is not well written, but if they used to support SCSI drives I don't see why there *should* be.

If your current ROM image is only 64KB, I don't expect there's a lot of scope for patching it. How did you save the BIOS ? Do tools like Uniflash recognise the Flash chip ?
Tested patched BIOSes. Untested patched BIOSes.
Emails *will* be ignored unless the subject line starts "Wim's BIOS forum"
Post Reply