Help with H8DUtility3

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Mitchell Smith

Dec 24, 2021, 6:38:43 PM12/24/21
Greetings everyone.

What I would like to do is create a bootable 3.5" floppy disk for my H8.

I've got Norberto's HSFE board and a couple 3.5" drives. The H17 controller is in the system.

Unfortunately I have no bootable media. I've been using the SVD III with various boot images. That at least functions but it's not really a usable solution.

To make the system usable again I really need to boot from floppy.
I looked at the H8DUtility3 and I'm not really clear on how to proceed.

Can someone educate me on what steps I need to take?

Thanks a bunch!

Glenn Roberts

Dec 24, 2021, 10:32:56 PM12/24/21
Take a look at REMarks issue 3. 

That was written for a previous version of Les’ software but may fill in enough of the pieces to get things working… I think the version discussed in the article is all you need and is still on Les’ site…

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Mitchell Smith

Dec 25, 2021, 8:12:21 AM12/25/21
Thanks very much Glenn!
I'll give that a try.


Mitchell Smith

Dec 26, 2021, 10:05:34 PM12/26/21
I was finally able to create some bootable disks.
Still I'm having some problems.
When the disk imager runs successfully, the tracks seek from one to the next and when finished I seem to have a good disk.
Right now, my issue is that I'm trying to create an image and it will write one track, then seek a few times before writing the next track.
This continues for about 15 minutes. When it's done, the disk will not mount. HDOS says it hasn't been properly initialized.

I can't seem to find any documentation for the new H8DUtility3 and I clearly don't understand what I'm doing.

So I'm assuming that one of the problems is that the image that I'm trying to write is not "compatible" with my floppy setup. That is 3.5" floppy
with the density hole covered with black tape.

The other issue is that when I have made a usable disk, some of the files give me read errors. I tried testing the media with test17 and had no bad sectors.

That's as far as I've gotten.

At this point, I'd like to know more about all the options that are in disk imager.


Dec 27, 2021, 9:35:07 AM12/27/21

A few thoughts…


You say on some you “seem to have a good disk”.  Do you mean sometimes everything works and you get a good disk and can boot it, access files, etc?  or do you always have problems and your comment about “seeming to have good luck” was just based on the initial results of the disk imager getting your hopes up?


It sounds like you’re using “HD” 3.5” disks with the HD hole (upper left corner as you face the disk with the metal shutter at the bottom) covered with tape.  What are you using for a disk drive? Is it an old drive or more modern one?  It’s possible the older drive would have trouble reliably using HD media which has a higher coercivity.  If you happen to have any older 3.5” disks (marked Double Density and/or “DS/DD”) you could try them. These were very popular in the early years of Macintosh as that’s what they used. Later everyone moved to HD, which stores twice as much (1.4M vs 720K).


Also you said you have “a couple” of 3.5” drives.  Have you tried both?  Same results? Several members here have reported seeing reliability problems with 3.5” disks/media.  I personally have had pretty good luck using DS/DD media and old (ca. 1995?) disk drives by Sony and Epson.


I presume you’re not trying to do double-sided operation?  That is possible but requires a mod to the H17 controller board and uses one of the bus pins to transmit side select.  My suggestion is to use the original “100K” format (40 tracks; 10 sectors/track; 256 bytes/sector) which is what most of the H8D images are in. 


You got the HSFE board from Norberto so I presume that’s the old Chris Elmquist one (ca. 2009)?  Presumably it was working fine for Norberto…?


Also perhaps stick to the older H8D Utility for now as it is well documented (scroll down to the “Utilities” section)

I don’t think you need any features of the new one (which can handle both hard- and soft-sectored disks)


Finally, you said you have an SVD that works.  You should be able to boot from that and then FORMAT and SYSGEN a physical floppy. You can make the SVD be SY0: and the floppy SY1:


  • Glenn

Les Bird

Dec 27, 2021, 6:39:42 PM12/27/21

When the drive seeks between track writes it is not writing good tracks.

I'm guessing you are using H8DUtility3 with H8DIMGR4? Let me know what your set up is.

Sometimes with the HSFE you need to restart it - unplug it from the disk cable then unplug it from the power cable and (1) plug the power cable in then (2) plug the disk cable in. On occasion the HSFE will not power up properly. This happens to me sometimes so I have to "reboot" the HSFE. Also, if you power up the H8/H17 first and the HSFE is connected to the ribbon cable it will get some juice from the H17 but not enough to properly boot. That is why you should power the HSFE first then power on the H8/H17.

There are a couple of imagers on the H8 side. They are:
1. H89LDR - this the program that you punch in on the H8 keypad then connect a serial cable and click the "SEND LDR" button. When you do that it'll upload H89LDR to the H8 and then execute it. This option only supports 100K single side 40 track disks.
2. H8DIMGR2 - this is an older version of H8DIMGR (current version is H8DIMGR4). This utility runs on the H8 and is only available by writing the H8DIMGR2 disk image to a floppy using H89LDR.
3. H8DIMGR4 - current version of the imager. It runs on the H8 and again is only available by writing the H8DIMGR4 disk image to a floppy disk using H89LDR then booting the floppy disk on the H8.

Mitchell Smith

Dec 31, 2021, 8:33:43 AM12/31/21
Thanks for the help and suggestions!!
I was finally able to get some boot disks created.
My entire problem seems to be with restarting the HSFE board..

I have a Teac FD-235HG and an Alps DF334H 3.5" floppy drives.
The SVDIII which is currently disconnected.

I put a bunch of images onto floppies using the H8DUtility3.
I was able to boot and use the system with no errors.

Still struggling to get the system to boot initially though. Some sequence of power up with the HSFE board I think.
Going to work on this more today.

What is my next step to make this all more reliable? I thought I read something about a H17 controller with a built-in HSFE?


Les Bird

Dec 31, 2021, 3:05:25 PM12/31/21

I have my 3.5 inch drives and HSFE powered by an external PC power supply. I power it up first before powering up the H8. Seems to work pretty reliably that way.


Jan 1, 2022, 6:56:16 PMJan 1

Great progress Mitch!


Last year Norberto developed a new version of the H17 board that incorporates an on-board HSFE capability.  But (big but) it’s designed as a “piggyback” board to load on top of the H37/67 board. Now if you have an H37 board it’s much more logical to use the 3.5” drive as a soft-sectored drive, giving you ~720K of storage. 


Here’s the info:

Norberto’s H8 Computer (


This requires a Z80 and PAM37 or higher ROM to work.


Other than the power up sequence issue what reliability issues have you had?


From: <> On Behalf Of Mitchell Smith
Sent: Friday, December 31, 2021 8:34 AM
To: SEBHC <>
Subject: Re: [sebhc] Help with H8DUtility3


Thanks for the help and suggestions!!

Norberto Collado

Jan 1, 2022, 7:25:09 PMJan 1

Soon, we will have the full size H17 controller with VDIP1, FT245R, and HSFE Controllers included.



Mitchell Smith

Jan 2, 2022, 7:53:45 AMJan 2
Thanks Glen and Norberto!
Once I incorporated everything into the H17 drive unit, it started working perfectly.

I'm definitely interested in the full size H17 controller. Add me to the list!
Also I think I'll build a Z80 CPU. Are there any boards around?

Lastly, I want to try and give back for all this help I've received and for you guys putting up with my dumb questions.

If anyone wants to build surface mount versions of any boards, I'm willing to do the assembly. Just try to stick with 1206 and 0805 size components or larger. Even though I have a microscope, anything smaller is difficult to manipulate.

Thanks again!


Jan 2, 2022, 8:58:14 AMJan 2

Nice setup. Thanks for sharing the pics!


Todd Goodman has been working the new board orders for us.

The “rev 4” Z80 CPU board is the latest, listed as “H8 Z80 64K RTC ORG0 v4” on Todd’s site


I have a Rev 3.1 version of the board which I don’t plan to build if you (or anyone else here, should you decline) wants it. The rev 4 board incorporates a few enhancements over 3.1 but I can’t recall an exact list.  One enhancement is that the Rev 4 uses an EEPROM so it’s easy to flash new ROM image. Also Douglas’ enhanced ROM software has some nice features including ability to load/run programs directly from USB flash.

Mitchell Smith

Jan 2, 2022, 9:32:42 AMJan 2
Thanks Glenn. I'll get in touch with Todd.
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