Getting Documents Off Old PC
March 16, 2008 10:57 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to get all the pertinent documents off of a Gateway 2000 PC running Windows 98 on to a new Dell running Vista Home Premium. The CD drive on the Gateway doesn't work, it has a floppy drive, and the CAT5 cable doesn't fit in the telephone only jacks. I tried to use my USB stick, but it can't find the drivers as it's not connected to the internet. The new computer has no floppy drive, so I can't just put the driver on a floppy. What do you recommend for the lowest cost and easiest solution?

I'm staying with my aunt for one more day to try to help fix this, but I have to leave tomorrow (Monday) morning.

I'm trying to get all the pertinent documents off of a Gateway 2000 PC running Windows 98 on to a new Dell running Vista Home Premium. The CD drive on the Gateway doesn't work, it has a floppy drive, and the CAT5 cable doesn't fit in the telephone only jacks. I tried to use my USB stick, but it can't find the drivers as it's not connected to the internet. The new computer has no floppy drive, so I can't just put the driver on a floppy. What do you recommend for the lowest cost and easiest solution?
posted by alcopop to Technology (26 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Does the new computer have a free harddrive IDE plug on the motherboard? Pull the drive out of the Gateway and plug it into the Dell, then copy over any needed documents.
posted by Diddly at 11:02 AM on March 16, 2008

You could try:

1.) Purchasing some kind of USB-to-USB data transfer cable and included software. However since the old laptop is Win98, there is no assurance it will work. Also, the sofware will probably come on CD, so you'd have to (if possible) find some way to copy it to floppy. Might be difficult considering the arrangement you have (only have floppy on Gateway)

2.) Figure out how to pull the hard drive out of the Gateway. (its probably a 2.5inch laptop hard drive). Buy a empty external USB enclosure (that will take 2.5inch laptop drive) and plug it into the new Vista machine via USB. It should see it just fine.

3.) Since it sounds like the Gateway has a modem. Could you temporarily borrow someones dial-up internet account. and email or FTP yourself the files ? (or find some online service that will allow you to temporarily store files that you can bring down to the VISTA machine. It would be slow, but it would work.
posted by jmnugent at 11:07 AM on March 16, 2008

format the USB stick as FAT32 on the Vista machine so it doesn't need drivers maybe?
posted by sharkfu at 11:08 AM on March 16, 2008

Ooops!.. I misread. You dont have a Gateway LAPTOP... its a PC.

In that case, yeah----The WAY EASIEST solution is to just remove the hard drive from the Gateway and temporarily mount it inside the VISTA computer to copy your files over.
posted by jmnugent at 11:09 AM on March 16, 2008

If the files are small enough that floppy disks are a reasonable transfer method, you could get a USB floppy drive for the new computer. That'll be cheap (like, $US15 delivered on eBay), and work without extra drivers on a modern PC (or probably Mac), and it can also be a quite handy thing to have on the shelf for other random moments like this one.

(EBay is of course not an option if you must have the solution tomorrow; in that case, I mention the usual price only so you can gauge the rip-off factor of the local computer store.)

If the files are big, then yanking the drive is indeed a good idea. USB PATA/SATA drive adapter cables are also cheap these days (and not hard to find at ordinary computer stores), and will give you a way to plug arbitrary hard drives into newer computers without cracking the case.

It's also not hard to find Win98 drivers for modern 100BaseT network cards, on account of the fact that there isn't really any such thing as a modern 100BaseT network card. If a given card only supports 10BaseT and 100BaseT, not gigabit Ethernet, then it'll have an older chip, and probably come with Win95/98 drivers on a floppy.

PCI Ethernet cards of this type are very cheap, and even crappy computer stores should have them on the shelf for not more than $25.
posted by dansdata at 11:13 AM on March 16, 2008

It's likely that the new Dell has SATA hard drives and the Gateway almost assuredly has EIDE.

If that's the case, the easiest thing might be to pull the CD drive from the Dell (which is probably still IDE*) and plug it into the Gateway (Win98 might have generic CD burner drivers already installed), burn the documents, and reinstall the CD drive back into the Dell.

*Had to install an additional HD to a new Dell about December - SATA HDs but still had EIDE CDs
posted by porpoise at 11:14 AM on March 16, 2008

I'm a casual computer nerd, so I would be completely lost opening it up. I'm going to try reformatting the USB as FAT32, do I need to create an MS-DOS start up disk?
posted by alcopop at 11:21 AM on March 16, 2008

It's pretty easy to pull a drive out of a computer. Just make sure you touch the case when you do it to prevent static from zapping your drive. Other than that though, it's really no biggy.

My solution: buy a $20 or so USB IDE external drive case. Put the drive in that case. Connect to the Dell. Bingo. That's if there are no IDE ports on your dell motherboard, which there probably aren't.
posted by sully75 at 11:25 AM on March 16, 2008

I don't have Vista, but this looks how you can format fat 32: link. Just make sure you select the USB drive and not your main partition.
posted by sharkfu at 11:27 AM on March 16, 2008

The reason your USB stick is prompting you for drivers is NOT because of how its formatted. USB sticks have control chipsets inside of them, and if Win98 doesnt already have built-in drivers for that USB stick/chipset, its going to prompt you to install new drivers.

if you want to use the USB stick.. you are going to need to go to the manufacturers website, and see if they provide Win98 drivers. Download those, unzip them (if necessary) and copy them to a floppy disk before you will be able to use the USB stick on Win98.

It sounds like, because of the hardware limitations you have, the only option (if you want to use the USB stick) would be to get on the Gateway and use dial-up to the internet to download the USB stick drivers directly to the Gateway.
posted by jmnugent at 11:27 AM on March 16, 2008

Most solutions are going to entail opening 'er up. The USB drive is probably the best idea that doesn't, but in my experience USB drives have been spotty at best on Win98. (Definitely try it, though.) Working with dial-up is another option. (Seriously, that's all it has?!) As jmnugent says, you might get drivers for the USB thing, or just copy all the files somewhere (e-mail them all to a GMail account?)

This is something I never thought I'd recommend, but you might want to solicit the help of a local CompUSA/BestBuy rent-a-geek sort of service, which would be able to take the Win98 hard drive, plunk it into the Vista machine, and copy the files over for you.
posted by fogster at 11:33 AM on March 16, 2008

is it possible to buy an adapter to go from the CAT5 cable to the telephone jack in the Gateway? would that work at all or would you think that the computer can only do dialup?
posted by alcopop at 11:38 AM on March 16, 2008


You simply need the Windows98 mass storage driver to get the USB to work. If the PC can get on dial-up internet then you can simply download them from the website I linked to. Now the USB drive will work.

Another easy thing to do is buy a USB enclosure for the drive, put the drive in the enclosure, and then connect the enclosure to the new computer. I'm not going to recommend buying and installing an ethernet card unless you have your windows98 disc on hand.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:53 AM on March 16, 2008

If it's a telephone-shaped jack (RJ-11, a bit smaller than the RJ-45 on Cat5), it's just a dial-up modem. I've never heard of an adapter between the two, since they're really wholly different technologies.
posted by fogster at 11:59 AM on March 16, 2008

BestBuy has a USB floppy drive that they say works with Vista. It's a ripoff at $40, but I thought I'd throw it out there.

How much data do you have to move? Floppies don't hold much (1.44MB), and they're not even that reliable. But it's something that would work and wouldn't require you to open computers up. (Unless you're moving files over 1.44MB, such as MP3s or really large pictures.)
posted by fogster at 12:16 PM on March 16, 2008

Get this IDE to USB hard drive enclosure and pull the hard drive from the old computer and follow the enclosed directions to install it in the enclosure. Opening a case and pulling a hard drive is really simple, and I'm sure you can find instructions on the internet somewhere. It is 100% guaranteed to work as it doesn't require you to have any drivers for the 98 computer, and the Vista computer will recognize the disk automatically without drivers. As an added bonus, when you are done, you can re-formate the disk and have a free external hard drive!

$54 for that thing is a huge ripoff, but if you need it by tomorrow then I'd suck it up.
posted by jtfowl0 at 12:27 PM on March 16, 2008

Having had to fiddle with getting the right drivers installed for a USB thumbdrive to work on Win98, I would also say to just go with the IDE to USB hard drive enclosure. It's SUPER easy to pull the old hard drive from the old computer. Lifehacker has a sorta step by step.
posted by gemmy at 12:52 PM on March 16, 2008

If the files in question are just Microsoft Office type stuff, and you have an internet connection on that box, you could create a Google Docs account and upload everything. Or you could create a series of zip files and email it all to yourself as attachments. If you have any server space, you could FTP the files and then download them to the new box.
posted by wheat at 1:20 PM on March 16, 2008

If your new computer lacks a floppy drive, put the drivers on the flash drive & visit a Kinko's or copy shop to copy them to a floppy.
posted by Pronoiac at 1:36 PM on March 16, 2008

If the many equipment-based solutions offered here don't pan out, you could always resort to a bit of manual labor.

How many documents are we talking here? A huge stack? A couple file folder's worth? If it's a reasonable amount of paper involved, you might try printing them off from the old Gateway, then hooking up a scanner and some allowing you to simply scan the documents into the Vista machine without having to figure out how to get it and the Gateway talking.

OCR isn't perfect - the more formatting and tables on a document, the more difficulty it has accurately scanning it in as something you can edit. If some of these are documents that you won't need to edit, you'd probably be better off just scanning them as images and making pdfs from them.

It's a pretty crude solution, and it might call for the purchase of a scanner. Doesn't have to be a fancy one -
Here's mine. It came with a pretty decent OCR package, which has done a pretty good job capturing documents for me.
posted by EatTheWeak at 2:00 PM on March 16, 2008

Oh noes. When the guy giving you computer advice forgets to close his link tag, take that advice with a grain of salt. Or two.
posted by EatTheWeak at 2:01 PM on March 16, 2008

it was meant to read: then hooking up a scanner and some OCR software

and now I'll stop explaining my typo. Oy.
posted by EatTheWeak at 2:03 PM on March 16, 2008

nthing USB mass-storage driver. Every Win98 PC should have it installed.
posted by krisjohn at 3:37 PM on March 16, 2008

If you can't get the mass storage driver onto the gateway somehow, an external hard drive enclosure will be the cheapest (and most reusable) way to do this by far.

I think the best way to understand what all the crap inside your gateway PC will be to look at people's guides to building one. Relax, it's a lot easier than you think. If you can find the specs for your PC (probably on gateway's website) it'll say what kind of HD you have so that you know what kind of enclosure to get.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 3:58 PM on March 16, 2008

Thanks for all of the great help! Unfortunately, today we had to run a bunch of last day errands, but I called Firedog and Geeksquad, who charge 30-40 for taking out the HD and putting in the Dell. Interesting how they charge $90+ just to copy a <1GB folder to a CD, though.. I think we'll probably end up taking the computer in.
posted by alcopop at 4:24 PM on March 16, 2008 probably can't put this hard drive in your new dell. It's an IDE drive and your dell most likely takes SATA drives. That's why the external case trick will work.
posted by sully75 at 6:42 PM on March 16, 2008

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