Last week the OS/2 Museum received a classic red NetWare box with all sorts of junk inside: PCI and ISA network cards (most Ethernet, one ArcNET), BNC cabling, one or two manuals, and over a 100 floppies, mostly NetWare but also a handful of 3Com driver disks.
There was a mix of 5.25″ and 3.5″ NetWare floppies, the 5.25″ ones in three original NetWare boxes but most of the 3.5″ disks just more or less loose in the big red crate. As I tried to organize the floppies, I quickly realized that it’s not that simple.
At a quick glance, there were floppies from several NetWare sets:
- NetWare 2.2 on 5.25″ floppies
- NetWare 3.11 on 5.25″ floppies
- NetWare 3.11 on 3.5″ floppies, two sets
- NetWare 3.12 on 3.5″ floppies
Now the difficulty with NetWare is that unlike, say, Microsoft or IBM, Novell didn’t just label all the disks in a box “NetWare 3.11”. There was in fact significant overlap and e.g. many disks were identical between NetWare 2.2 and 3.11, and later between 3.12 and 4.0. Related to that, NetWare didn’t refresh all disks for each update; only the disks that actually needed updating were changed. It was thus standard for a NetWare disk set to contain floppies with several different revisions.
That gets really complicated if you have a pile of disks and no easy way to tell which sets belong together. And it didn’t end there either: Novell shipped various add-on products with their systems, such as Macintosh clients, OS/2 Requesters, backup and mail software, and so on. And again, these were not labeled as belonging to a specific release, because they were to some extent independent.
In the big box there were, for example, four 3.5″ disks labeled WSGEN, part no. 136-000833-001 Rev. A. Interestingly, the labels didn’t all look the same and the floppies themselves had two different part numbers and copyright years. How does that match with three 3.5″ NetWare disk sets?
My best guess is that—since NetWare 3.12 did not come with a WSGEN floppy at all—the four 3.5″ WSGEN floppies belong to 5.25″ NetWare 3.11, 3.5″ NetWare 3.11 (two sets), and 5.25″ NetWare 2.2. That is a well informed guess based on other NetWare disk sets, but still only a guess.
Sometimes mass-duplicated floppies have markers, usually an odd-sized sector in the 81st track, that might make it possible to match floppies based on production runs, date of duplication, or some such data. Novell does not appear to have had any such markers, or at least nothing I could find in Kryofluxed images. The physical diskettes also looked in many cases identical, with identical “Made in Canada” labels and not other distinguishing information.
To top it off, there were also four 5.25″ WSGEN floppies in the box, with the same part number (153-0000049-001 Rev. A) but three different copyright years. I have to assume that they again belong to NetWare 2.2 and to the three NetWare 3.11 sets. To make system administrators’ life easier, NetWare shipped the WSGEN floppy in both 5.25″ and 3.5″ formats. The NetWare OS itself was delivered either on 5.25″ or 3.5″ media depending on the server, but the WSGEN floppies needed to be used on workstations which were expected to be a mix and typically not the same hardware as the server in any case.
In the end, I was able to more or less fully organize the floppies after looking at the contents of other NetWare disk sets. The big red box turned out to contain the following:
- Complete NetWare 3.12 set on 3.5″ media with a 50-user license. This did not include online documentation, which I believe was an optional item and language specific. This would have cost almost $5,000 in 1993.
- Two NetWare 3.11 Runtime sets on 3.5″ media with 1-user licenses. More on that below.
- One nearly complete NetWare 3.11 set on 5.25″ media, sadly the only thing missing being the license disk. That’s a shame because I already have a 3.11 set on 5.25″ media that looks identical and the license disk is the only thing that would have added any real value.
- One complete NetWare 2.2 set on 5.25″ media with a 5-user license. Back in 1991, that would have been the only sub-$1,000 NetWare package. This was welcome because I previously only had an incomplete NetWare 2.2 disk set.
- OS/2 Requester 1.3 on 5.25″ media. This was almost certainly shipped with NetWare 3.11.
- German NetWare Lite 1.1 on a 3.5″ disk.
- Original Novell NE2000 5.25″ driver disk (LAN_DRV_107).
- UnixWare Personal Edition 5.25″ boot floppies (set of 3), of all things.
There was also a 1988 NE2000 boot ROM from Novell in an unopened anti-static box, which I also duly “imaged” with an EPROM reader:
As far as I can tell, the 1-user versions of NetWare 3.11 are “runtime licenses” that were not sold as the normal NetWare NOS (NetWare 3.11 started with 20-user licenses, and generally 5-user licenses were the smallest Novell offered) but rather sold as part of some other product, such as NetWare SAA. The system floppies do in fact say “NetWare Runtime v3.11”.
With some of the floppies, it’s truly impossible to figure out where they came from absent original packaging. For example the DOSUTIL-1 to DOSUTIL-4 floppies are identical between NetWare 2.2 and 3.11. As long as the disks are truly identical, it does not really matter. But when the disks actually look different (such as different font or different media part number), that causes complications when scanning or photographing the disks and uploading the pictures to, say, archive.org. I mean what if someone took the Internet seriously?
Only after I sorted the floppies into product sets in a (to my satisfaction) reasonable manner, I realized that those NetWare products are old enough that maybe Novell published the disk lists. And sure enough, I found just that in a 1992 Novell Support Encyclopedia issue:
Not only was the list of floppies there, all the files with their sizes and time stamps were listed, too:
When everything was sorted, I was left with a floppy labeled NetWare Hub Services V2.0, which could have belonged with one of the NetWare 3.11 Runtime sets. There was also a five-disk set of AVM-branded NetWare MultiProtocol Router for ISDN, which may have come with the other set of NetWare 3.11 Runtime disks. Maybe. There is extremely little to be found about the NetWare Runtime kits.
There were over 180 floppies in the box, nearly all of them high density. Two were 3.5″ DD floppies in funny Macintosh CLV format that Kryoflux had trouble with, although I have no reason to think the problem was with the actual disks. Of the PC-formatted floppies, all except one read without errors. The only problem floppy was a 5.25″ HD disk that was a German CHIP magazine supplement, and it mystified me a bit: While one side of the disk read without errors, the other was almost completely unreadable (not recognized as formatted by Kryoflux) but there was no apparent physical damage to the disk. I don’t know if that floppy got too close to a magnet or what.
All in all, a pretty successful archiving run.