I'd like to use the XT-IDE Universal BIOS with an IBM XT 286 (5162), but it's known to be incompatible. With the card installed, it will not boot from a floppy from which it would otherwise boot (it starts to, but then glitches out).

I plan to try third-party system BIOSes to see if that might fix it, but while I wait for EEPROMs to show up, I thought it might be worthwhile to see if I can fix whatever incompatibility there is directly. The source code seems unmaintained, though I did try flashing the latest version just in case (it has the same problem).

I'm a professional programmer by day with quite a lot of experience at low-level programming, but no experience with my new (to me) IBM or computers of its era. If I wanted to debug this problem, how might I start?

  • 1
    XT-IDE BIOS author started troubleshooting that, btw -- <vcfed.org/forum/… . The problem manifests as "It initially appears to work, but reads are randomly corrupted. Later revisions of the 5170 BIOS reduce the corruption, but it's still there. " (from same thread) Dec 25, 2017 at 19:15
  • 1
    From above thread, at least one person who got XT-IDE working on a 5162 describes the process: vcfed.org/forum/…
    – Brian H
    Dec 28, 2017 at 16:43
  • Yeah, I saw that and tried it. Doesn't work for me, for whatever reason. :'( I replied to the thread about it.
    – Sydius
    Dec 28, 2017 at 19:43

2 Answers 2


Depending on your skill level and the hardware you have access to, there are a few possible approaches I can think of:

  • you could read the code for the various BIOSs involved and try to figure out the incompatibility that way
  • you could use an in-circuit emulator to debug the problem
  • you could use a bus sniffer such as reenigne’s to trace the system booting

As you can imagine, none of these are simple...


I suppose what I would try is moving all the involved ROMs to RAM (a simple byte-copy routine can handle this), but then you would need to search for absolute jumps and retarget them to whatever RAM region you copied to.

Then, write a program that soft-boots the machine (either invoke the appropriate interrupt, or simulate what the CPU does at startup), then run this program under a debugger that lets you single-step through code. (this is why you needed to copy the ROM to RAM, so that you can set breakpoints).

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