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I have two 50-pin SCSI hard-drives that I need to image. However, after spending quite a while searching across the Internet, I cannot find any adapters to convert the 50-pin connector to something useful.

The make/model of the hard-drives is the Quantum Lightning ProDrive, and they hold 540MB each.

How can I attach these to a more modern machine?

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    Welcome to Retrocomputing, and to Stack Exchange. This is an important data-preservation question; thank you for asking it. +1. – wizzwizz4 May 25 '16 at 16:34
  • I think Jim Kyle has a business doing that. – JDługosz Jun 2 '16 at 13:24
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If "a more modern machine" includes systems with ISA, PCI or PCI Express slots, it should be easy enough to retrieve the data from the drives. You'll need a SCSI adapter (known as a host bus adapter, HBA); you can find loads on auction sites, or SCSI4ME and other places (depending on which country you live in). Adaptec cards are very good and well-supported on most operating systems. You'll also need a 50-pin cable such as these ones; avoid long cables and cables with too many connectors, you may have termination issues with your drives.

Once you've got all that, plug your adapter into your computer, connect the cable to the drive (the connectors are keyed so there shouldn't be any issue there), connect a power cable to the drive and you should be good to go.

If you can't use a PCI or PCI Express card, there are SCSI-to-USB converters, but they are usually designed for external SCSI devices so you'll need an additional SCSI converter to go from whatever SCSI port is on the SCSI-to-USB converter, to the 50-pin port on your hard drives. They also tend to be very expensive. Finally, you can also get PCMCIA SCSI HBAs for laptops, but the same issues apply, and they're even more expensive!

There are a couple of issues to keep an eye out for, but if you only connect one drive at a time they shouldn't cause any actual difficulties. The first is that SCSI drives have identifiers which can be changed, usually using jumpers; just make sure they're not set to 7 and you should be fine (7 is the SCSI HBA's identifier). The second is termination: SCSI buses need to be electrically terminated. Most HBAs from the last twenty years handle their end of things themselves, and the drives might well have built-in termination too (another jumper to look out for). As mentioned above though, if you're only connecting one drive at a time on a short enough cable, termination shouldn't be an issue.

  • Thanks for the great answer, can't believe I didn't think of looking for PCI cards after I failed to find any cable adapters. – David B May 25 '16 at 16:39
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    Careful with the termination. Having dealt with these Quantum drives myself I know they can be very finicky about it. Don't trust auto-termination: force the terminator to on or off. For some Quantums it has to be ON even for very short cables. Other drives work better if it is OFF on very short cables. In some models there is no jumper but 1 or more resistor arrays that need to be inserted or removed. Check the manual of the drive. They are easily found online. – Tonny May 26 '16 at 9:56
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    By the way: If you have a ribbon-cable with 3 or more connectors you can hook both drives up simultaneously. Only the 2 devices at the outer ends of the cable must be terminated. Any devices in between NOT. First try each drive individually because a broken drive can cause so many errors on the SCSI bus that it may actually cause the other drive to fail as well. I just hope for you the content is still readable and it is in a format that is still supported by modern computers. (Use Linux: It has by far the widest support for ancient and obscure filesystems.) – Tonny May 26 '16 at 10:01
  • SCSI drives can have non-standard sector sizes (not a power of 2) if they come f.e. from a storage array (Netapp etc.) -- not sure how well these are supported not on their native system. – sendmoreinfo May 28 '16 at 22:00
  • I still have a Windows95 system with ISA/VLB slots. I think PCI (legacy slot) motherboards would not be too hard to find as yet. I have a PCI SCSI card that should still work. – JDługosz Jun 2 '16 at 13:27

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