Compaq Deskpro 2000: How to enable BIOS Setup Menu ('F10=Setup')

I posted the following on the HP support website, but I'm including a copy here in case my post there goes stale.

Compaq Deskpro 2000
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As someone asked in another thread, I too have the same situation of a Compaq Deskpro 2000 166 MMX with no hard drive, and need to install a new hard drive with DOS.

But because there's no hard drive, there's no BIOS setup option in the BIOS boot screen (e.g. no "F10=Setup" message at lower right). Apparently one is supposed to install the BIOS setup on a special hard disk partition created by a set of three Compaq setup disks, so that one can choose F10 on boot to reconfigure hardware (set the date, boot order, etc)

Since it's an old thread (2019) I can't reply because it's auto-locked, so HP says at the top of that page "It has been a while since anyone has replied. Simply ask a new question to start the discussion again", so here I am.

That thread concludes that the machine is too old (late 90's/early 2000's), and HP doesn't support it anymore, and there would be nothing to find on the HP site to get the floppies to restore the BIOS.

I'm here to say: that's not so, there is an HP website file that can create the 3 floppy set that lets you install the "F10 Setup" on a new hard drive; I've just done it myself. The steps I did were (hoping I recalled this all correctly):

 

  1. Prepare 3 blank formatted 1.4 MB floppy disks (e.g. "FORMAT A:")
    You'll need these for step #4 below.

  2. Download the SP15674.exe file from the HP website which can be used to create the 3 disk diagnostics set.

  3. Extract the file by running it. You end up with a directory of ~4MB of files:

                  Size    Date        Filename
                  1150620 Sep 28 2000 CSVP._01
                  1050140 Sep 28 2000 CSVP._02
                  1176716 Sep 28 2000 CSVP._03
                    78668 Oct 27 1998 QRST5.EXE
                      737 Sep 28 2000 SP15674.CVA

  4. Create the 3 diagnostics floppies by running QRST5.EXE (above), and label them in this order:

          1) "DIAGNOSTICS"

          2) "SETUP DISK 1"

          3) "SETUP DISK 2"

    You will be prompted to use these by these names later, so label the floppies clearly with those names.

  5. Prepare your new hard drive by REMOVING ALL PARTITIONS on it. (e.g. FDISK in DOS, or fdisk in linux).

    Do not create any partitions or try to format the drive yet, or the diagnostics installer floppy will not create the diagnostics partition that gives you the F10/Setup menu for the BIOS.

  6. Connect your new IDE drive (with no partitions) in the Compaq Deskpro 2000.

    In my case I used a StarTech IDE CompactFlash drive with a 32MB SDC card installed in a Compact Flash to SD/SDC adapter, a great cost effective and durable alternative to physically spinning drives, and they have fast access times which means quick boots and quick load/saves.

  7. Boot the "DIAGNOSTICS" floppy.

    (If you see any BIOS warnings, just choose the defaults to get past them)

    The floppy will immediately prompt you to install the diagnostics partition. Follow the steps. It should prompt you through various disk changes for both setup disks 1 and 2 several times, then completes. You will now have diagnostics installed on the hard drive partition. When you reboot, you should see "F10=Setup" at the lower-right corner of white "COMPAQ" BIOS boot screen, which is the goal of this whole process..!

  8. From here you can add your OS partition to the drive and format/install it.

    Be sure not to remove the 6MB partition 1 the diagnostics disk created.
    It shows up in linux fdisk as type 12 (hex), which is the special "Compaq Diagnostic" partition type.
    In my case I was installing Win95 DOS, so my steps were:

          a) Add the OS boot partition to the hard disk by rebooting a regular Win95 DOS floppy,
              and use FDISK to add the partition. This created an extended partition, and I let it use
              the rest of the drive (default) for it, e.g.

              Here the "System" shows as "UNKNOWN" for the "partition 2" I added because the Win95
              partition was created but the OS not yet installed with "FORMAT C: /S"

          b) Reboot the Win95 DOS floppy so the OS can recognize the new C: drive,
              and then use "FORMAT C: /S" to format it, installing a bootable Win95 DOS.

          c) Reboot off the hard drive to test the new OS install.
              You should see the "F10=Setup" option on the BIOS boot screen.

I suppose you could use these same techniques to install linux instead of DOS/Windows in step 8 above.
Hope that helps you other poor folks out there having to deal with these weird machines.

What follows are some screen shots from the process. Here's what you want to see when the Compaq Deskpro 2000 BIOS boot screen comes up, with the F10=Setup at the lower right corner of the screen:

..but if you're reading this, you're probably NOT seeing that, and need to use the above instructions to install the BIOS setup partition on your hard disk, because that's really the only way to see it on boot.

After you've used the Diagnostics Disk, Setup Disk #1, and Setup Disk #2 to install the 6MB Diagnostics partition on your hard disk, and created a second partition for your operating system to boot from, DOS 'fdisk' will show the partition arrangement as:

Partition #1 is what the Diagnostic disk created on the blank drive; a 6MB partition for the BIOS Setup utility. This is what the BIOS looks for on boot to see if it can show the little "F10=Setup" message or not.

Here's the first screen you see when you hit F10 during the BIOS boot:

After you click past "OK", you'll see these choices:

By the looks of these screens, it would appear they're using a miniature version of Windows 3.1 here, probably one of the reasons the Compaq Setup software takes up 6MB on the diagnostics disk partition.

Anyway, if you click "Computer Setup", you access this screen to choose between the machine's built in devices, and 'add in' devices, which I guess is a summary of the probed PCI devices:

If you choose "Built-in devices", it shows this screen:

The BIOS (without setup) seems pretty good at detecting hard disk changes, so for me the menu of interest is not "Storage" so much as it is "System Information", where I can set the clock for instance:

At the upper-right, there's a "Date/Time" button where you can set the RealTime Clock.

Anyway, that's it for the screeshots.
If you have any things to add, you can email me: erco@seriss.com and I might be able to respond, depending on circumstances.


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