Toshiba T3200 SXC

Monday, April 1. 2002

Toshiba T3200 SXC

Closed Opened In February 2002 I got my hands on a 10 year old laptop. A Toshiba T3200SXC. I think it was a very expansive machine 10 years ago. Today it is just a funny thing to play with. Here are some technical details:

  • 80386 SX CPU with 20 MHz (At least I think it is that fast)
  • 120 MB Hard disk
  • 1 MB RAM on board, 4 MB extra memory already installed. Can be upgraded to a total of 13 MB.
  • TFT Display, 640x480, 256 colors
  • WD 90C21 video chip, 256 KB RAM

Disassembled Unfortunately the hard disk was no longer working so I decided to open the machine. A lot of screws later I was inside and found a pretty normal standard IDE harddisk. I removed the old defective drive and installed a newer harddisk with a capacity of 2 GB. Enough for this pretty little machine. The BIOS is not able to recognize this harddisk so it is necessary to tell the BIOS that no harddisk is installed. Otherwise it will end up in an error message and it is not able to boot. Yes, if you disable the harddisk in the BIOS you can't boot from it. But no problem. The machine has a floppy drive so I created a boot disk with a linux kernel on it. Linux recognizes the harddisk even if it is not enabled in the BIOS so the kernel can mount the harddisk as the Root-Partition.

Screenshot As Operating System I decided to use Debian GNU/Linux. Fortunately there already was a running Debian installation on the hard disk I used so I didn't have to do a fresh installation. The machine has no CDROM drive and I don't have enough working floppy disks to create an installation disk set, so a fresh installation would have been difficult anyway.

Well, well, the laptop is now able to boot the latest Debian Linux distribution (3.0) with a current Linux kernel (2.4). Because the machine is pretty slow and sometimes I don't have the time to shut the system down properly I converted the file system to the journaling file system EXT3. Now I can switch the machine off at anytime without needing to check the harddisk on startup which takes VERY VERY long (Remember: The machine was never intended to run a harddisk with a capactiy of 2 GB!)

NIC A linux laptop without a network connection is lame. But the T3200SXC comes with two standard ISA slots on-board. One of them is a 16 bit slot, the other is only 8 bit. After a little while I found an old ISA network interface card (A 3COM Etherlink III 3C509) and it is working flawlessly in this nice laptop. Now the machine can be used as a fully fledged internet terminal by using console tools like lynx, ncftp, ircii, etc.

With 5 MB of RAM linux is running pretty slow because the swap space is used very often. The machine has three paired memory banks to expand the memory. Two 2MB modules were already installed. To max out the memory another four 2MB modules are needed. Unfortunatelly I found only 1MB and 4MB modules. The 4MB modules are not working, but the 1MB modules are accepted so the machine has now 9 MB of RAM. Linux is running much faster now.

Accessing the BIOS

Thanks to Peter Ulrich Hinze who found the DOS program Test3.exe on the net. With this program you can setup the machine and do some basic diagnostics (i.E.: Memory check). Just put this program on a DOS boot disk, reboot your machine with this disk and then type test3 on the command line. If you are not able to access the BIOS of the T3200SXC, this program is VERY useful for you. By the way: If you know the key combination to access the BIOS without using the test3.exe program, please let me know!

Getting XFree86 to work on the Toshiba T3200SXC

The Toshiba T3200SXC has a 640x480 pixel display. Some specs says the graphic board has only 256 KB RAM but other specs says Windows runs in that resolution with 256 colors. But for 256 colors in 640x480 you need more than 256 KB RAM. It's a mystery. I tried to use XFree86 with 256 colors and ended up with a black bar on the bottom part of the screen, so I believe it's true, that the device has only 256 KB of video ram. So it's only possible to use 16 colors in 640x480. This works in XFree86 v3 (VGA16 server) and XFree86 v4 (vga driver). Here are working example configuration files:

XF86Config for XFree86 3.3.6
XF86Config for XFree86 4.1.0

If you know how to get it working with the SVGA server of XFree86 v3 (To get accelerated video display) let me know. I was not able to get the Western Digital WD 90C21 chip working with this xserver. And I have absolutely no idea which driver I have to use for XFree86 v4 to get accelerated video output. I think it would also be nice to have a 320x240 resolution with 256 colors but even this I can't get to work. So I'm currently stuck to only 16 colors.

Installing linux

If you want to use linux on the laptop I recommend putting a new IDE harddisk with some gigabytes capacity into the laptop. It's a good practice to install linux on the harddisk BEFORE you put it into the laptop by using a standard PC (Because it's much faster this way). After you have installed linux on the harddisk, put in into the laptop and create a boot disk with a linux kernel on it. I used 'syslinux' to create the boot disk. You have to prepare the kernel so it will mount the harddisk as the root device. You can do this with the following command:

# rdev kernelfile /dev/hda1

You can also use my bootdisk image. It has a 2.4.22 kernel with ext3 support. The bootdisk requires that linux is installed on the first partition of the harddisk (/dev/hda1).

How to open the Toshiba T3200 SXC

This small howto will explain how to open the chassis of the Toshiba T3200 SXC to get access to the memory banks and the harddrive. Click on the small pictures to view a larger version of them.

Bottom screws Remove the six screws at the bottom of the device.

Back screws Remove these two screws from the back of the device. After that you can remove the plastic plate to get access to the next screws.

Another three screws Remove these three screws.

Hidden screws Removed the damn plate Another two screws are hidden on the left and right back-corner. There is a plastic plate which needs to be removed by pressing and pushing and moving and a lot of luck.

Under the keyboard Under the keyboard Remove the keyboard and you will find another two screws which holds a metal shielding. After removing the shielding you have access to the memory banks.

Under the keyboard Under the shielding is the last screw which holds the top of the device the display is mounted to.

Under the keyboard Now the top cover is released, but you can't remove it completely because of the cables to the video display. But the cables are long enough so you can rotate the display to get access to the harddrive. I can't really remember the first time I opened the device. Maybe the video cable was fixed with a cable tie or something like that. If there was such a thing I have forced it out of the way.

Posted in Professional | Comments (54)
Oliver M at 2007-09-08 11:19
The articles serve an important purpose in documenting history. With certain older T3200SX(C) bioses there is a way to boot up the computer with a larger HDD. The BIOS on my T3200SX for example, recognises my 2gb HDD as a 40MB. Instead of throwing me an error message, it reads it's first 40 megs. As soon as it reads the MBR of the hard disk, a boot-up program inside it reprograms the bios parameters to read it as a 512mb HDD (yes, there is still always that bios limitation). This seems to be a rather rare bios, but somehow I think a copy of it should be made somehow. Maybe somebody should read the chip and create a bios image?
Klaus Reimer at 2007-09-10 09:08
Are you sure this is a matter of the BIOS version? Maybe your 2 GB harddisk is just matching some criterias of the BIOS (regardless of the BIOS version) and so it recognizes it at least as some harddisk while my harddisk is totally incompatible with the BIOS and so it isn't recognized.

But if it's really the BIOS version: Unfortunately I'm not an electronic guru so I don't know how to write a new (or old) BIOS version to the chip...
Oliver M at 2007-09-10 12:38
Yeah, I believe this is a matter of BIOS versions. I have two BIOSes lying around (newer + older), and a few HDD's. Tried all kinds of hard disks with the new bios with no avail. The new bios just seems to halt the computer while booting. However, the old bios with chip id: '003C' boots the HDD thinking it is 40 meg. Then, a DOS program called 'ANYDRIVE' changes the BIOS parameters while booting. The command 'anydrive 0 2048 16 63' should be used when installing it on a bigger than 512meg HDD. Only 512 megabytes can be used. That's okay. On an old computer like this, that is a lot more than enough.

The T3200SX bioses allow only for 40meg. And T3200SXC is hard-wired to 120meg? There shouldn't be any other differences in hardware except the built-in display which is in color.

I've given the old bios a spin with a 1.6gig Quantum Fireball ST and now it is running on a 2.1gig Fujitsu HDD (MPB3021AT). I am looking into ways to copy the old bios chip - only problem is this system could be pretty proprietary. We'll see. Would be a shame to see the light go out, if you know what I mean.
Oliver M at 2008-03-11 01:36
I just dumped the unlocked BIOS to a file. The unlocked BIOS image and 'anydrive' can be found here:

Does anyone have an idea whether or not the BIOS can be copied on a generic chip?
Teguh Rumiyarto at 2008-05-16 06:28
did the harddisk has standard IDE connection? why in t3200 it appear like "serial"??? with 27 cable.
Julio C Silva Croome at 2008-05-01 18:35
I'm still using one of this jurassic park desk top machines, for an fscan plantar pressure analysis software that I bought in 1992. I live in Argentina and I have a problem with the video chip so I have to conect the computer to an external screen. Is it possible to get a new WD 90C21 video chip? I have a friend in the US That can bring it here.Thanks. Julio
Teguh Rumiyarto at 2008-05-15 10:13
Hallo, I'm newbie here, can I ask you something, what is the standard connection of the harddisk inside the t-3200? if not mistaken, it has 28 pin with a connection that i don't recognize. how can i connect this fujitsu M2227dt harddisk to another type of connection to be read by another pc? thank you very much.
Klaus Reimer at 2008-05-15 10:31
My T3200SXC had a standard IDE drive. Maybe the T3200 (no SXC) is different? Then I don't know what type of hardware your machine has.
Teguh Rumiyarto at 2008-05-15 20:42
yes, it is t3200 without sxc. the connector is somewhat with 27 cables and connected to the harddisk by 28 pin (one is NC). does your t3200sxc has fujitsu M2227DT as the HDD? thanks. (I really need the software inside)
Teguh Rumiyarto at 2008-06-10 10:05
Sorry, when I open this t3200, I've found that the harddisk (Fujitsu M2227DT) was connected to another card by 26 cables. that card was connected to the motherboard(?) with 34 pin just like a "floppy drive standard". I decided to connected this card to my floppy drive connector. my pc can't recognize it. Could anyone give me some enlightment over here? thanks before.
EdCa22 at 2009-07-08 12:07
I think the hard disk interface is ESDI rather than IDE, so you will not be able to use normal IDE drives in the machine, or connect it to a normal IDE controller (or a floppy controller). What you can probably do is get an old PC that has ISA slots (some PCs even up to about pentium 2/3 have them) and find an ISA ESDI controller card (on ebay?) to access the data on it.
Fons at 2008-05-20 21:01
Great page! I just "found" a t3200sx in the basement at work (a telco operator). It works perfectly, except for the CMOS battery (that has died). Because of this dead battery I get the BIOS menu every time I boot. But that battery shouldn't be too hard to replace.

Judging by the software on the laptop, I think it was used for ISDN line testing. Although I also found Porntris on there :-)
Rod Proctor at 2008-06-13 18:31
Old hard drive seems stuck on hte back end as if I'm missing a screw somewhere. Anyone have any thoughts?
superchad at 2008-09-01 22:44
hey, i have a toshiba T3200SX with a broken video cable connector where the plastic connector seems to have broken off, is there any way to connect the cables without the connector so i can use it, and is there any way to convert the video cables to VGA, so that i can put new mATX or mITX parts in it.
superchad at 2008-09-03 00:29
ok, so i got the video cable fixed, but when i boot it says Time-of-day clock stopped
Invalid configuration information - please run SETUP program, plz email me if you know how to fix this error.
Oliver M at 2008-09-03 08:25
It should say something like "Press F1 to continue or F10 to enter Setup".
superchad at 2008-09-03 14:00
nope, it does not desplay that at all. it stops after display setup program.
superchad at 2008-09-10 05:54
any help at all would be appreciated
Oliver M at 2008-09-10 07:53
If it doesn't display the text to let you choose the setup, I have no idea. Maybe it is malfunctioning?
superchad at 2008-09-10 16:23
yea i guess so, does anyone else know?
Rod Proctor at 2008-09-24 09:57
Try the aforementioned TEST3.EXE file, which you can find on the Toshiba USA Web site if you search hard enough.
superchad at 2009-01-04 22:56
i think i tried, but this laptop probably has 720kb floppy, i tried to format a 1.44mb floppy as 720kb but it didnt work. im thinking its a problem with the bios chip, or the motherboard somewhere.
Matthias at 2008-10-24 23:11
Hallo, I just bought a T3200sx at a flea market and it works just fine. However, when I installed ram modules (4 1MB simms) I get the following error message at boot: "Memory parity failure at 100000-10FFFF". In the BIOS setup the memory is detected and after a warm boot the system starts correctly. But when I start Windows it crashes with "I/O parity failure at... ".
The ram modules are not from Toshiba. Judging from the pictures on this side I figured it should work with standard simm modules but maybe I have to use the original Toshiba modules?
Oliver M at 2008-10-27 08:05
My T3200SX has RAM modules from other manufacturers, and it works fine. With this type and age of hardware it is common for RAM modules to break. Make sure the contacts are clean and replace incorrect/faulty ones with working modules. Also check that the modules are installed in pairs on opposite sides.
Anonymous at 2008-10-27 22:14
I did as you wrote but the error message still occurs. I tested 16 different modules that all worked fine on a 386sx mainboard but I did not get them working with the T3200sx.
EdCa22 at 2009-07-08 12:10
Is the laptop supposed to take parity RAM? Try finding some non-parity 36 pin SIMMs for it...
Calvin Kirk at 2009-01-18 22:53
I have a T3200. To access BIOS menu press Ctrl+Alt+F10 :)
superchad at 2009-01-18 23:10
tried it, doesnt work.
rocco1949 at 2009-02-17 21:00
The BIOS is accessing only with the option 0 (SETUP) in TEST3 software.
From the User Manual (December 1990, 1st Edition))
superchad at 2009-02-17 22:27
then how do i make it work?
edca22 at 2009-07-08 12:00
press ctrl-alt-esc to get to bios
superchad at 2009-07-08 18:42
nope still doesnt work, i also dont have a way to format a 720kb floppy to put test3 on.
Joel at 2010-03-09 21:08
Hello from California,USA. I have a T3200 286-12 I bought at a Ham Swap-Meet. The problem I have with mine is when I try to read a 1.44MB floppy disk, I get "Not Ready Reading Drive A". The drive itself is marked 1.44 on the button so I would assume it would work. I tried test3 to configure the floppy drives and I still get the error. I even tried plugging and external floppy controller (set to hex 3f8) into the 8-bit slot with a separate HD floppy drive. I get the same error on that drive as well. My computer also has the ESDI 27Pin Hard disk. But I cant upgrade the operating system without floppy access.
Joel at 2010-03-22 22:48
Found a way around the floppy issue. Installed an Adaptec AHA-1542CF ISA SCSI controller card. This card has the built-in floppy controller. The T3200 recognized it as A:\. I now was able to copy My Backpack Bantam CDROM drivers to the Hard drive and load software. I was also able to upgrade from DOS 3.3 to 6.22 and save some very old CrossTalk XVI,PC Anywhere, Kermit, etc programs off of the drive to floppy. I'll also copy Windows 2.03(?) and save that.
Joel at 2010-11-28 22:25
I found a Citizen OSDA-32C floppy drive on E-bay. It has the special interface plug for the board. It works perfect! It sees it as A: or B:, kinda funny. The old one turned out to be bad after all. I thought it might have been the controller.
Tim B at 2010-09-11 10:05
Trying to get the hard disk out of mine - can't get the lid open far enough to even turn it sideways. Cable's too short...

And here I was thinking I was taking the easy way to getting DOS reinstalled on it (do it in another computer with a CD drive)...
Oliver M at 2010-09-20 18:35
Hehe. I can't figure out how they got it to fit in there in the first place.
Joel at 2010-11-28 22:16
If you are referring to the T3200, You have to remove the screws under the Power,HDD label on the front part of the screen. Be careful in removing the label. You'll probably have to put it back on with rubber cement after. Anyway, carefully pop off the front screen bezel. Now, there are 4 screws holding the screen on to the back cover. Remove those, tilt the screen out slightly and carefully unplug the cables in the back and detach the ground wire. Make sure all of the screws are out underneath. There are 3 underneath the sliding handle, and I believe 2 on each side Deep Set. You have to "Pop" the tabbed seams all around, use a plastic wedge tool of possible. It should come off now, feed the monitor cables though the hole. There are 4 screws close together on the bottom of the T3200 holding the hard disk to the base. Unplug the drive and remove the screws. It should come out.
Joel at 2010-11-10 00:37
All I have to do now on the T3200 is Replace the CMOS battery. Found exact replacements on E-bay, just have to cut off the end and butt splice the connector on.
Caleb Harber at 2011-09-26 11:38
I don't know if it's possible, but might you take a picture of the keyboard with a keycap removed?
gian at 2011-10-04 21:56
Hi to everyone. I have the toshiba t3200 sxc with a wrong hd. I know that my bios can't read hard disk non-stock hard disk. Anyone knows a solution to bypass this limitation? On the web i can't find a hd compatibile with this bios.
Sam at 2012-08-26 22:55
I have discovered out how to make a standard 2 Meg or 1 Meg 30 pin SIMM work in the T3200sx. What you have to do is cut the trace that is connected to the CASP line (pin 28) and connect that to the CAS line (pin 2). This will result in a 1 Meg module that will work with out the parity error that you will get with out this modification. I have noticed that your 2 Meg Toshiba SIMMs have only 4 chips on them instead of the usual 9 or 3. It would be interesting to try and find the datasheet for the chips and try and figure out the pinout of a 2 Meg Toshiba SIMM. In my T3200sx my 2 Meg modules have 6 chips and I have only been able to find the datasheet for 4 of them. I think that the other 2 are the parity chips but I am not sure. I have found out that pin 19 is grounded on the 2 Meg Toshiba SIMM. I am also guessing that pin 28 on the 2 Meg Toshiba SIMM is A10 but I am not sure. By the way feel free to post this information on your website where ever you think that people will read it.
Rafi at 2012-10-29 16:07
i have a toshiba t3200sxc with only 1Mb of ram, what kind of modules used for the extension, you can give me the reference?
Klaus Reimer at 2012-10-30 06:38
You need 30 pin SIMM modules with a capacity of 1 MB or 2 MB. 4 MB modules are not recognized.
Rafi at 2012-10-30 10:57
Ok Klaus,

I have seen in ebay 30pin modules.

One more question, the ethernet card that installed is 3com509B-TPC?

which of the two slots is the 16-bit ISA, the top or bottom? Thanks
Klaus Reimer at 2012-10-30 13:41
Sorry, I can't check this. I haven't used my Toshiba since years and it is currently securely stashed away somewhere. But the 16-bit ISA slot can easily be identified because it is longer than the 8 bit ISA slot.
Alberto at 2012-10-31 17:57
Hi, I have a toshiba T3200sxc and not know how to change the contrast / brightness.
John at 2013-04-18 08:29
Anyone have a T3200SX that they're willing to sell? I've been using mine for a couple of important purposes, but have been having bad luck lately with the screens (of two different units) that have failed - so I'm back looking for another unit to buy and use.
Xavier SUDRES at 2013-05-02 21:21
I have a working T3200 1 meg and looking for buyer
Thomas Brandt at 2013-06-15 10:01
Hey all

I have baught a working t3200sx. With 2 x 1mb simms installed. Can someone name exact names/numbers on working ram modules? It seems it's very picky.

I'd really like to fill out the banks. Preferably with 2mb modules, but 1mb modules will do.

I baught 4 pairs of 1mb Samsung modules on ebay. The parity error and read/write error appears. The trial and error method is too expensive :-)

Tried everything combination wise, so no need for tips on that part ;-)

Logic dicates Toshiba simm rams are a good bet. But I can't find any confirmation on the net.
Sam at 2013-06-16 23:21
@Thomas Brandt

If you follow the directions in my previous post you can make your 1mb modules into ones that work with the computer. Also pin 28 is not A10 as I thought it is somthing to do with the parity control.
Thomas Brandt at 2013-06-22 08:01

Thanks, but I don't quite follow your last post. I mean, I can't visualice it. I'm not much of a mod man myself. Would it be possible for you to make a few pics, or even better, a youtube video? On how to do it.

Sadly, I can't find a name, or info on my working mudules. As I would have something to go on, searching for more compatible ones. But I took a pic. Maybe it can help others in the hunt
(be sure to click on the pic for full size, very large res.)

I'd still love to get names, specs, pics, on working modules :-)
Sam at 2013-06-23 19:50
@Thomas Brandt

I can not seem to open the picture that you posted however the two modules that i have are marked as folowing (Simple Tech Silicon Graphics/Toshiba 3200) this is a 4Mb module and (SMART SMT0132sx) this is a 2Mb module. I would like to post a picture of my modules how ever I don't have a way of uploading them.
Andy Walter at 2015-01-14 23:19
I have 2 x 2MB ram cards for Toshiba T3200. They are each Kingston KTT-3200SXC/4, seem to work ok, and have come out of a m/c I just scrapped. Email me if you'd like them posting to you.

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