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Reformatting a 486 computer? Answered

I have a pile of used university 486 computers laying around(from Laurence Tech, actually), I want to install DSL n them and work up from there, but I can't see any drives, CD or otherwise, at all which means I can't install anything, there is no my computer icon or anyting that resembles it, ctrl+alt+del doesn't work either.


CD/DVD-ROM drives are cheap to buy (or easily salvaged) and easy to install.  A quick look in BIOS should also show you if something is installed but disabled.  You wouldn't necessarily need to install something as light as DSL, though.

Oh, what I'm having an issue with is in the software. They all have physical floppy drives(not the monster floppies either, the small ones) and CD drives in them all hooked up and ready to go, but in the majority of them, those drives are not recognized in the OS(win 98, BTW)
Another small issue I found was that I can't access the bios at all with any of the typical key stroke accessing method, nor does it display a "press either of these keys to get to the bios" message(were older computers using a different way to get in?)
About DSL, what linux distro would you recommend for these?
         Side issue about DSL, It won't autoload(I figured it wouldn't), and within the disk hierarchy(i guess) I can't find anything that appears to be a "open this to make me work" file and I tried the DOS and run commands(it can run within another OS, right?)

When reformatting and installing a brand new OS, regardless of the OS, it shouldn't matter what the old OS is or whether it recognizes the drives (although that may be a warning flag that the drives are bad). As long as the computer will boot to a drive prior to the hard drive, you're okay. This would be something you'd check and configure in BIOS, however, so we must first figure out why it's not posting.<br /> <br /> Considering these were once university computers, the IT department probably locked out the BIOS to prevent tampering. To fix this, crack open the computer and remove the CMOS battery. Then, find the jumpers (which should be near the battery and labeled "CMOS", "Reset CMOS" or something to that effect) and short them for about 5 seconds. This should cause BIOS to adopt default settings, allowing you to view the POST screen and change things (if this doesn't work, I can't really tell you how to go further).<br /> <br /> Next, check out BIOS. It should list all the drives, as well as allow you to change the boot order. If possible, choose the CD as first and the hard drive second. Also note RAM and other devices in the computer, as this may effect whether you can install a GUI Linux distro without (or with minimal) upgrading.<br /> <br /> Depending on the specs, you can select from <a href="http://www.linux.org/docs/ldp/howto/Ecology-HOWTO/ecology-howto-lifecyle-hardware.html">this list of recommended distros.</a> However, I wouldn't feel too hampered if the RAM or hard drive is light on room; even the cheapest hard drives available today will no doubt dwarf whatever comes with this machine, and a new hard drive will be a great investment anyhow since I'm positive the old one has seen its better days (it's no doubt riddled with physically bad sectors and mechanical wear). Compatible RAM may be a bit harder to locate, but if you can find it I'm sure it will be incredibly cheap.<br /> <br /> Don't get me wrong, DSL is fine for this setup - I just feel strongly that in this day and age, even with an old machine, there's no excuse to do without even a basic GUI. My one complaint with Linux has always been that you have to use command line way too much. Perhaps I'm just spoiled or lazy, but since the machine came with Windows 98 it's obvious that it'll handle a GUI (hell, if a Commodore 64 can handle a GUI with 64K RAM and a 1 MHz processor, then so can this machine).<br /> <br /> I guess my point is, don't make things harder to use than they have to be. As a PC user you have bragging rights just by using Linux anyway.<br />