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C > COMPAQ > Portable II     

Portable II

After having invented the first IBM-compatible transportable computer, and having recorded half a billion dollars turnover, Compaq decided to launch its second portable AT clone. The system featured an 8 MHz processor and a 10 MB hard disk in a package 30% smaller and 20% lighter than previous PC model.

The general engineering idea behind this machine was to provide a cut-down IBM PC/AT clone with fewer expansion slots (5), a small hard disk and a floppy disc. This allowed Compaq to make the Portable II smaller and lighter without sacrificing too much specification.

Like many portable systems of the time, the keyboard attached to the front of the case and when the machine was ready for carrying, it was like a sewing machine.

The machine was supplied with 640 KB of RAM which was the maximum that could be fitted to the main board. However, RAM could be taken up to 2.1 MB by using a custom-designed expansion card.

Technically the Portable II gave its user more power than an IBM PC/AT for almost half the price.
At the same time, Compaq delivered two desktop computers, the Deskpro PC/XT and Deskpro PC/AT, and two portable systems, the Portable/Plus PC/XT and the Portable 286 which was a full function PC/AT clone.


Lucio Libertini says:
The Portable 2 comes with a single 360kb 5.25" floppy drive, but it is compatible with 3.5" ones. Indeed, replacing the drive is the first thing that should be done, as 5.25" floppies in decent conditions are getting almost impossible to find, while 3.5" ones are still being manufactured. 360kb is also uselessly small for most applications.

A suitable floppy cable is required for the modification, not to mention a caddy to put the smaller drive in the tray. One can always affix it in there with other means, but the result is most inelegant.

The Portable 2 doesn't boot any MS-DOS bootdisk above version 3.2; 3.21, 3.3 and 6.22 didn't work. There is a likely exception: I didn't test MS-DOS 6.00 floppies, but the hard drive mine came with has that inside, so it must have been installed from floppies.
The Portable 2 does boot DR-DOS floppies of versions 3.41 and 6.00 (5.00 untested), but 6.00 is awfully slow, so I suggest sticking with the older version.

The compaq diagnostic floppy that's required for BIOS setup is incredibly hard to find; after extensive Googling I managed to find a floppy image that contained the required programs, but wasn't bootable. I made a bootable floppy with DR-DOS 3.41 and the diagnostics; you can find it here. It's a raw image, writable with rawwrite (and many other apps) under Windows and dd under Linux. The BIOS access program is setup.exe.

Mark Dodd's memories:
One arm is longer than the other after having to lug these things around for a year or so.
We had several within Telecom Australia equipped with network sniffer cards and other addon cards for looking after the myriad of different network technologies that existed within the 84,000 employee behemoth.
My biggest nightmare was getting caught between buildings at the end of the day so I had to lug the thing home on public transport. I remember one old fellow looking at it with amazement on the train and telling me how the same power used to take up two floors of a building. I told him it still weighs the same....

Rob Brown also remembers:
This was the field service engineers nightmare. You were supposed to be Compaq trained to service this machine but very few engineers were. The main challenge was just getting it open. It was the first pc to use the torx type screws. You could not get hold of a torx screwdriver for love nor money in those days and I had a specially filed down flat head screwdriver which could just about turn a screw if wasn't too tight.
Once you got the plastic case off, there was another steel case to contend with. There were a few access panels, but trying to get to the right components was really difficult. Then you had to put it back together, which was even harder.

We need more info about this computer ! If you designed, used, or have more info about this system, please send us pictures or anything you might find useful.


I have a Compaq II in excellent condition. I bought it from a 90+ year old man who had it sitting in a closet. (He was a techno hoarder). But it won''t boot. There was no user manual and so I can''t decipher the flashing kepboard lights, which I believe used to indicate the problem. I THINK the problem is the boot disc. The 5.25 floppy that came with it is IBM DOS 3.30. The disc appears to be in godo condition, but I don''t think this version of DOS works with a Compaq II. Does anyone know? If not, any idea where I can get a 5.25" floppy with the RIGHT DOS version on it so I can boot the machine. I think 3.1 was the latest version that worked on this machine. Correct? ANY help is GREATLY appreciated!

Saturday 3rd August 2013
Larry Collins (USA - Texas)

you remove the shell by sliding the side slides more open then normaly then remove 2 black screws
2 on each sides then keybaord has more screws DONOT BREAK IT OFF NOT A GOOD IDEA SINCE THIS HOLDS THE CASE TOGETHER AND THE HANDLE HOLDS ALL THE COMPUTERS WEIGHT USING ONLY 4 screws if you break the keybaord screws LIKE i Did now only two screws hold the keyboard and 4 hold the case and almost cracked the case screws on the slide door sides carefull not to overtightin the screws on case as not to crack old plastic to mutch..
ALSO there is a lot of torks screws not security screws thank god but they are none the less tork screws also the SCREEN needs 24V ac and 12V ac I think its ac anyway it seems resonable it would take 24V ac and 12v AC since screens are mostly ac!! but Ill remeasure to see what exactly it takes on the 3 peg 3 pin connector the rest is CGA but shows up B/w on green screen
HMM Arcade pacman on green screen cool
R G B synk and ground hmm 5 pins 6 signals cool that explanes the graphics card to the screen pin out all i need now is to get a nother thing w cga or use arcade signals and i can run screen using cga HMM I could remove drives and pcb and run a arcade pcb off the 12V DC and the 5vDC or just the 5VDC voltages and have a mini arcade machine protable cool!. this is only cause the screen is 15 KHz Arcade cga type REd blue green synk and ground signals.. (-) synk!.
anyway thats how you get the case apart the rest is using a torks bit and removing in order a lot of screws .. be care full not to break the dut (daughter board) off the tie wraps on the power mini pcb.
the reason the power supply is so complicated is cause it has screen 12V ac and 24V AC power on it..
the 12v going into the screen might be DC ill have to check.. if you live in the UK I siggest getting a USA computer back up 900 power back up box and running a 110-125V in to it then hook youre computers to these outlets but normal tube computer crt monitors plug into normal outlets not using the battery back up cause to many screens can kill battery premature witch could blow fuse on line pole outside! carefull do not over load a UPS ..

Monday 27th September 2010
adam weisbrod

I have one of these and you can have two IDE WD drives and can boot the 360k drive from dos on a other machine take floppy drive with the harddrive and only connect floppy to big machine then format a blank 5¼ floppy disk in the original 360K disk drive as follows
from win98 win95 or win31 any dos from w98 7 to 6 to 5 format a:/f:360
then sys c: a:
then boot big machine from original normal xp drive leaving 360K floppy drive hooked up remove floppy so you can boot into xp ! then replace floppy you formated as 360K then copy cetup.exe file needed to get into c-mos then choose drive 0 type 41 then choose drive 1 type 41 and then ifyou have two ide cards choose drive 2 type 41 always pick type 41 unless you have the minisribe in witch you should just hook to usb to big machine cable and copy to WD drive 2gig to 20 gig work as type 41 then save push f3 and save then reboot remove 360K drive from compaq P II you booted to csetup from and then it will say missing operating system error as follows (ERROR LOADING OPERATING SYSTEM)
then replace floppy you formated as 360K w system transfered dos on it and c setup file and boot to dos on a:
then save type 1 2 drives or just drive 1 as type 41 for a 2gig wd up to 20 gig wd drive then save push f3
then reboot to a: then format C:/q/s
then copy a:$*.* C:$
donot overwrite
then boot to c:
once it boots to c:
make a autoexec.bat file then goto remove drive and put on xp machine using usb to ide or put as d drive in xp and copy away I copied ADV.exe and qwbasic and basica and copied a lot of old basic games i used to play a lot like eliza and adventure and bowling I want donkey to see how it was typed in in basic but cant find it and my machine only has 640K memmory lame huh but I will want to up it to 2meg if possible and if the chips are 256k i can change them to 512K and get 4 meg! but thats a pipe dream to upgrade the memmory in the proprietary compaq but if you need the c-mos file and a formated boot disk i can make on but you have to pay shippng and handling labor and Ill ship you one using media mail anyway my email address is if you need a 360k formated 5¼ floppy w boot and csetup file. then you can choose type 41 and put a 2gig or 8gig or 4 gig or 6 gig or 10 gig or 20 gig old western digital drive in and have 251M free to remove and put back into xp as d drive or win7 vista and copy files from here to play and relive the 80''s again.
I also have adv.exe and eliza basic I have basic but cant offer it nor can I offer boot disk here you have to email me and i can see what i can do but here I can not offer any Compaq Files or MS files but on email I could let you borrow my files and if i never get them back then my loss but I would have to charge return mail or you can send self stamped evelope to return from 55416 ST LOUIS PARK MN if you really need a boot disk I can make one for you . I could even use free dos but I would think Compaq would not care if i redistrubited csetup.exe since the machine is obsolete and I found NO sign of ot on since 80''s Compaq is defunct HP no longer supports dos machines SO I WOULD assume probably wrong but who cares I assume csetup.exe is public domain if its not I can borow you one copy of from mine but cant sell it and am not selling anything here just charging shipping and handling and labor for making a disk formated as a 360K disk witch is not (c)ed to make a disk is formated as a 360K thats a floppy drive type and Compaq is not the only company to use 360K floppy drives and you can use a non 360K 5¼ drive unit as a 360K but not a not a 360K wont format a 1.2M disk cause its only 360K but you can format a 360K floppy format using a 1.2M drive but you have to tell c-mos its a 360K drive then it works as a 360K drive and format a: /F:360k makes it format as 360k thats what the c-mos expects when it boots from floppy . you could boot to c as WD caviar drive w slave jumper and use drive c as miniscribe but that would be easyer to just boot to drive c as wd drive and figure out how to switch miniscribe to d or just copy miniscribe to xp and copy it to wd drive and start over w new fresh format on new drive cause the minis scribe drives are susseptable to shock and things getting stuck in stepper motor its amazing they even worked..

Monday 27th September 2010
Adam Weisbrod (USA St Lois Park Mn )


NAME  Portable II
TYPE  Professional Computer
YEAR  1986
KEYBOARD  Full stroke 84-key with numeric keypad and 10 function keys
CPU  80286
SPEED  6 ou 8 MHz
CO-PROCESSOR  Socket for 80287 math coprocessor
RAM  640 KB on board, up to 2.1 MB
VRAM  Unknown
TEXT MODES  40 or 80 chars. x 25 lines (IBM CGA or monochrome modes)
GRAPHIC MODES  640 x 200 dots
COLOrsc  16 (Grey shades on built-in monitor)
SOUND  Built-in loudspeaker
SIZE / WEIGHT  17.7 (W) x 13.9 (D) x 7.5 (H) in. / 26 lbs
I/O PORTS  Serial, Parallel, external CGA monitor, Composite video
BUILT IN MEDIA  1/2 5.25'' 360 KB floppy disc drives, or 1 x FDD + 10 MB Hard disk
OS  MS-DOS 3.1
POWER SUPPLY  Built-in 130 Watt switching power supply unit
PERIPHERALS  3 x AT slots available among 5
PRICE  From $3199 (Single FDD) to $4799 (HDD)



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