This is the 4th post in a 6 post series on the Compaq Portable 386 Computer. In this section we take a look at the floppy drive, the 720K disks it accepts and the Compaq Diagnostics program to configure the computer. You can jump to:

  1. First Impressions
  2. The Gas Plasma Screen
  3. Booting Up & Opening Up
  4. The Floppy Drive
  5. The Hard Disk
  6. Installing MS-DOS´╗┐

Configuration / Setup Disk for The Compaq Portable 386

The first thing you need to get working is the floppy drive as you will need to run a configuration utility to setup the computer before you can get past POST. Download the Compaq Setup Diskette here. You will need to unzip the file and write the image file to a 720K disk, then insert the disk and switch on the computer.

The setup / diagnostic programs the CMOS chip that stores settings about the computer’s configuration. Make sure you’ve swapped out the old battery before making changes to the configuration – if you don’t, once you’ve powered down the computer, you will lose all your settings. 

Floppy Drive Options

The default floppy drive that comes with a Compaq Portable 386 is the 5.25 inch 1.2MB variety – it accepts 720KB and 1.2 MB disks. Luckily Compaq configured the Portable 386’s ROM to also accept 3.5″ 1.44 MB floppy drives, selectable from the diagnostics utility. However, the boot disk must also be a 720KB 3.5″ disk – it won’t boot from the high density 1.44 MB disks.

The floppy and hard disk caddy from the Compaq Portable 386
This newer floppy disk drive fits perfectly in the slot designed for the 5.25″ drive.
Fits the look and feel as well! Note I also replaced the hard disk drive with a Compact Flash card

If you have a 720K disk lying around and a computer with internet access and a 3.5″ floppy drive, then you just simply need to download and write the configuration utility image to disk. The image files for the floppy can be found here.

Running the Setup Utility Diskette

The welcome screen of the Compaq Setup Utility
This is taken from an emulator, but the steps to setup are the same: type “setup” at A> and press return to enter the setup program
You should see something similar to this screen – press “3” to change the Fixed Disk Drive Type. On my Compaq Portable 386 I use “Type 38”, and if needed change the Diskette drive to 1.44 MB

Once you have completed the setup, you can test it by booting a 1.44 MB Dos Boot Disk.

Alternately you can also use a GOTEK floppy emulator so you can save space and move away from Floppy Disks which might be hard to find and are getting somewhat unreliable in 2019.

GOTEK Floppy Emulators are much easier to store programs than floppy disks!
My Gotek mounted in my Compaq Portable 386

Next step – the hard drive

Or… Check out my full video review:

Floppy Drive & Diagnostics

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