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[ The PC Guide | Troubleshooting and Repair Guide | The Troubleshooting Expert | Troubleshooting Specific Components | Troubleshooting Hard Disk Drives | Windows Issues ]

I want to enable 32-bit disk access under Windows 3.x but it does not work on my system

Explanation: There is an option in Windows 3.x to enable so-called "32-bit disk access" but whenever you enable it, an error message is generated saying that a problem occurred and you have to turn it off.

Diagnosis: First of all, this feature was totally misnamed by Microsoft. There is no such thing as "32-bit access" to an IDE hard disk, because the IDE/ATA interface is 16 bits wide. The 32 bits being talked about here really refer to the use of 32-bit protected-mode software to access the hard disk. In essence, its simply about using better drivers to access the disk instead of using the native BIOS disk routines. The problem is that Windows 3.x ships only with an ancient generic driver that is five years old and does not handle modern hard disks properly. Unless you are using an older hard disk, you need a specific driver to handle your disk to enable this feature.


  • Look at your hard disk manufacturer's technical support web page, where you will most likely find a driver that is designed specifically to allow that manufacturer's disks to work with Windows 3.x 32-bit disk access. I am not sure what you are supposed to do if you have multiple disks from different vendors running on your system, however...
  • Just disable 32-bit disk access, and don't worry about it. While it does improve disk performance, the difference is not enormous and if it doesn't work properly, it's not something you need to worry about a great deal in my opinion.

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