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Apple IIGS - Adding solid state storage with compact flash

Apple II series computers. Articles posted in "Model - Subject" format.

Apple IIGS - Adding solid state storage with compact flash

Postby lmmtux » Wed Mar 26, 2014 2:09 pm

The Apple IIGS uses floppy disks with 3.5" and 5.25" drives, and can also use a standard SCSI drive for storage. However, with new flash media technology, the IIGS can also use a compact flash card for storage with the use of new adapters which have shown up over the years, which offers reliable and long term storage. Most of the SCSI drives built around the time of the IIGS were very well built and still work fine today, but converting to flash media will preserve the SCSI drives.

In this article I will show how I set up and installed an external SCSI drive that uses a compact flash card for storage. I chose to use an external SCSI drive because I wanted to simply hook it to the existing SCSI chain and replace my current SCSI drive which contains the original spinning disk inside. If you do not have a SCSI card in your IIGS currently, there are other cards available that fit inside the IIGS that will also allow you to use compact flash cards:

Or, look for an Apple SCSI card for your IIGS on Ebay. As you can see, there are many ways to use compact flash in your IIGS. Compact flash cards themselves are easy to find and very reliable. Since I chose to use an external SCSI enclosure, I also chose to use the AztecMonster compact flash to SCSI converter card to interface the SCSI chain to the compact flash card, and keep the IIGS hardware internally as-is. I will explain more about the AztecMonster card below. There are other compact flash to SCSI adapters available similar to the AztecMonster card, most made by "Acard" but I cannot attest as to how well they work.

Requirements and supplies

You will need these items below. If you don't have any, you will have to purchase them. I've noted what I did purchase.

  1. A SCSI connection on your IIGS.
  2. An external SCSI enclosure with centronics-type plugs on the back. I purchased a MicroNet enclosure on Ebay but there are many listed all of the time.
  3. A compact flash to SCSI adapter (AztecMonster).
  4. A compact flash card (no larger than 128 GB). Ideally, one around 128-256 MB is best and has the best value. I purchased the Transcend 256 MB CF80 Industrial (80x) card, Model number TS256MCF80, ASIN number B0009VPFSM.
  5. GS/OS 6.0.1 system disk with SCSI drive support (and HFS support which is optional)
  6. GS/OS 6.0.1 System Tools Disk 1

The AztecMonster card

The magic behind the entire solution is the AztecMonster compact flash to SCSI converter card. After reading that it is compatible with older Macintosh models,I decided to give it a try. It seems to be a very stable solution and so far is working flawlessly. Here are some things that I really like about this card:

  • It comes with a mounting kit to replace an existing spinning SCSI hard drive including spacers and mounting screws. It fits perfectly in the bay where the current SCSI hard drive goes and uses the original screw holes to mount.
  • The price of the AztecMonster card is less expensive than other compact flash to SCSI converters on the market (prices will probably fluctuate though).
  • It is available on Ebay (as of early 2014).
  • It comes with detailed and thorough instructions and also jumpers to set per the settings described in the instructions.
  • Is supported by Artmix who seem helpful in case of problems. I contacted them on a technical question and they responded within 1 day.

Converting the external drive to flash media

Assuming you have the required supplies above, here are the steps to convert the current SCSI drive to compact flash.

  1. Open the external drive case and remove the SCSI drive. If the case has a wire leading to an activity LED, make note of this as the AztecMonster has a connection for the activity LED. The SCSI drive might also have another cable running to it from the SCSI ID selector on the outside of the case, simply unplug and set it aside as it will not be needed (the AztecMonster has a jumper to set the SCSI ID internally).
    Case open with SCSI drive.
    enc_scsi_drive.jpg (66.28 KiB) Viewed 23499 times

    SCSI drive removed.
    enc_no_drive.jpg (73.5 KiB) Viewed 23499 times
  2. Install the AztecMonster spacers to the disk drive bay with the supplied screws.
    The 4 spacers, screwed down to the case in the 4 drive mount holes.
    enc_mounts.jpg (71.28 KiB) Viewed 23499 times
  3. Install the AztecMonster card to the spacers with the supplied screws.
    AztecMonster card screwed down to the spacers.
    enc_cardmount.jpg (104.13 KiB) Viewed 23499 times
  4. Set up the AztecMonster card with the SCSI ID. To do this, look at the jumper J4 on the board and set it per the included instructions. In my case, I chose to use SCSI ID 5, so I installed a jumper on the "1" and "4". Note: do not install a jumper on the "T" as I was not able to get it to work with the IIGS's SCSI card. Installing a jumper should bypass the AztecMonster's built in terminator, however I had to leave the jumper OFF to allow the AztecMonster to terminate the SCSI chain.
  5. Connect the HD LED of the SCSI encloser to the "HD LED" pins. Note: this is a JSR PH type plug, with a 2mm pitch, so you may need to buy a plug for this and wire it separately.
  6. Plug in the 50-pin SCSI ribbon cable from the SCSI enclosure to the AztecMonster card.
  7. Plug in the 4-prong power plug from the SCSI enclosure to the AztecMonster card.
  8. Install the compact flash card to the AztecMonster card. Note: the compact flash card must be face up with the brand label showing, and the "polar key" facing toward the card. The "polar key" is a small notch in the slide rail of the compact flash card.
    AztecMonster card fully connected.
    enc_cardmount_cables.jpg (103.58 KiB) Viewed 23499 times

    Top view of the AztecMonster card.
    enc_cardfinal.jpg (128.68 KiB) Viewed 23499 times
  9. Put the SCSI enclosure back together.

Initializing the new drive

For the next few steps you will need the GS/OS 6.0.1 System Disk with SCSI hard drive support (and optionally HFS support if you will want to create HFS partitions; really the only advantage I know of for HFS partitions is that they can support sizes larger than 32 MB, however I used ProDOS partitions and not HFS) as well as the GS/OS 6.0.1 "System Tools Disk 1". You may be able to use older versions of GS/OS however 6.0.1 is the newest version so I recommend that.

  1. Boot up the System Disk with SCSI hard drive support first.
  2. The disk will probably either boot to the Finder or the application selection menu, depending on how the disk was created. Tip: If you need to create a this boot disk, use the GS/OS 6.0.1 Installation disk, which you can use to create the boot disk and select SCSI Hard Drive support as one of the components.
  3. Insert the "System Tools Disk 1" and run the Advanced Disk Utility, which should be named "AdvDiskUtil".
  4. In the Advanced Disk Utility, click the "Disk" button until the hard drive shows up. I would strongly recommend only having your new hard drive connected, and no other existing drives to avoid losing data. Tip: If you cycle through all disks and the hard drive does not show up, check your SCSI connections and verify that you to NOT have the "T" jumper set on the AztecMonster board.
    The Advanced Disk Utility main screen, showing the hard drive detected.
    gsosadvdiskutil.jpg (86.1 KiB) Viewed 23499 times
  5. Once the hard drive is selected as you will see the hard drive icon shown, click the "Partition" button.
  6. The next screen will allow you to set up your partitions. It is very important to make careful decisions with the partition setup as you cannot redo this without erasing all partitions and starting over for the entire hard drive.
  7. Type in the name of each partition at the top and use the slider to select each partition size. Click on the "New" button to create another partition. A few important notes regarding partitions:
    • You can technically create up to 8 partitions, however I found that some applications did not work correctly (I use UtilityLaunch and it froze up). I ended up creating a total of 4 partitions and so far everything has been working OK.
    • If you plan on formatting the partitions as ProDOS, the maximum size you can specify is 32 MB. If using HFS, partitions can be larger than 32 MB however at this time I do not know the maximum size that the IIGS will be able to handle. I ended up using all ProDOS partitions so I created them all 32 MB in size.
    Advanced Disk Utility partition screen.
    gsosadvdiskutil2.jpg (98.07 KiB) Viewed 23499 times
  8. Double check the partitions are correct. When you are ready, click the "Partition" button.
  9. Next, it will prompt you for each partition and what format you would like to use for each one. If you enabled HFS support for your boot disk, you should be able to select HFS as the type. As mentioned previously, I used ProDOS for all of my partitions to ensure maximum compatibility.
  10. Once you have been prompted for each partition and it has formatted each, you should be returned to the main screen of the Advanced Disk Utility. At this point you can click "Quit".
  11. The disk setup should be complete! You can now use your new drive to store data.

Copying data to the new drive

If you need to copy data over from another hard drive, I'll cover a couple of alternatives here. In my case, I had a Macintosh Quadra 900 available to use as a temporary file server that I accessed from the IIGS, to back up my old drive to a file, then restore it to the new drive, using the Archiver program with GS/OS 6.0.1. The nice thing I like about Archiver is that the entire filesystem is preserved from the source hard drive, and is retained on the new hard drive, such as date created and date modified, for files.

An alternative method to using Archiver would be to simply copy files over from the original SCSI drive to the new compact flash based hard drive by connecting them both concurrently to the SCSI chain and dragging the files from one to the other. However, if at all possible, I strongly recommend Archiver as it will also create an excellent backup of all of your data, if for some reason both drives ever failed or you needed to restore from a backup for whatever reason. Therefore, the steps below I focus on using Archiver for the data copy.


  • An Archiver disk (created from the GS/OS 6.0.1 Installation disk).
  • A System Disk with AppleTalk support (also created from the GS/OS 6.0.1 Installation disk).
  • An Apple/Macintosh 8-pin serial cable.
  • An Apple Macintosh computer with a serial plug in the back (8-pin serial). I used a Macintosh Quadra 900 which has the 8-pin serial connector for the keyboard, modem, and printer ports on the back.

Backing up the SCSI drive:

  1. Connect the original SCSI drive you wish to back up from.
  2. Boot to the System Disk with AppleTalk support to mount the remote Macintosh hard drive. Click here for my article on how to interface the IIGS to a Macintosh computer. This article also covers on how to connect to the share on the Mac, which will show up as a disk on the IIGS that you can now back up to and restore from. Once this is done, proceed below.
  3. Insert the Archiver disk and run the "Archiver" program.
  4. In the main screen, click on "Backup".
  5. For the source select the hard drive partition you wish to back up. For the destination, select the mounted drive from the Macintosh.
  6. Click on the "Backup" button to start the backup.
  7. Optional but recommended: Quit the Archiver program once the backup is complete, and launch the Finder from the System Disk if it is available, or boot to a System Disk that contains the Finder. Click on each partition you wish to back up, and Press Apple-I to bring up a properties window for each partition. Note the disk space used, and free, and add them together to get the total size of each partition. You may wish to create the partitions on the new drive to the exact size of the original partitions. If you create the new partition .5 MB over the total size of the original partition, or greater, you will be able to restore to the new partition. However, after the restore is finished, the total usable size of the new partition will be the size of the original partition (and the remaining space will not be used).

Restoring to the new compact flash drive:

  1. Connect the new compact flash hard drive.
  2. Boot to the System Disk with AppleTalk support to mount the remote Macintosh hard drive.
  3. Insert the Archiver disk and run the "Archiver" program.
  4. In the main screen, click on "Restore".
  5. For the source select the mounted drive from the Macintosh and browse to the backup file created with Archiver during the backup. For the destination select the hard drive partition on the new compact flash drive to restore to. Note: As mentioned previously you can only restore to the new drive if the partition is .5 MB larger than the total size shown of the original SCSI partition that was backed up. To see the size of the original partition, check the previous steps above to note the size of each in the Finder.
  6. Click on the "Restore" button to start the backup.
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