Hey, I have an old server at the police dept that they want to pull some data off of. Unfortunately, anybody who might have known anything about it is long since resigned / retired / passed away. No documentation / records. It was, at our best guess, taken out of service ~10 - 11 years ago, but it does manage to boot.

1) I get a prompt of the form SERVER_NAME:, but I have no idea what it expects from me here. I've tried any number of commands, passwords, login names, etc., but it just pops up an error something like ??? Unknown Command ???. Any idea what I need to do to log in / start it up? I think I have a few good guesses as to what the admin password will be, but if those fail, are there any handy tricks / tools to reset or bypass that on NetWare?

2) It continually pops up errors about no connection, check cable, etc. Going off the connectors on the back of the machine and what I know about the network that was in place at the time, it's a safe bet it was coax at the time. I certainly don't have any of that gear, and if I did, no machines that could act as a client, so I'm hoping this isn't necessary. Anybody have any insight here?

3) At boot, I get warnings about inconsistency between mirrors, so this thing may be on it's last legs. Anybody have any advice on a way I could grab an image and run it as a VM or something?

Between NetWare and simply the age of the machine, I'm well out of my depth here, so any advice would be appreciated.


version = 3.12


  • ahh, any tape drives or tapes around from this thing? Doubt it, but what the heck. Don't even know what I'd do at that point but it may be an alternative method to recover data.
    – tony roth
    Jun 25, 2010 at 15:18
  • also runtime.org/captain-nemo.htm
    – tony roth
    Jun 25, 2010 at 21:29

4 Answers 4


Puts on dusty, well-used NetWare cap

Hooray legacy skills.

First of all, the command line you see is mostly useless for what you're trying to do. It isn't a command interpreter like bash or cmd.

The next step is seriously dependent upon what version it is. 10-11 years old could be anything from Netware 3.1x to NetWare 5.0. You can find this out by typing "version" at the command line.

The 'mirror' message is usually a good sign that one of the hard-drives is actually bad.

Edit I had a brain-wave. You may not be as screwed as you could be. You'll need to do the floppy-drive tango for this, but it can be done. If it isn't a NetWare 3.x server, you can use a command called 'toolbox', which allows copy operations. Once you've found where in the file-system the files are located, you can then copy them to the floppy drive. Obviously this is more suitable to a few files than a complete filesystem recovery.

You'll need something DOS formatted of course, and you'll probably need to download the TOOLBOX.NLM from the Novell site (Alt, or elsewhere on the Internet if you'd rather). Copy it to the floppy. Then...

SERVER: load a:\toolbox.nlm

Which should either load, or complain about not having a library loaded (very probably CLIBAUX). Try loading the specified module, then retry loading TOOLBOX.

Once you have that loaded, you can copy toolbox to the system.

SERVER: copy a:\toolbox.nlm SYS:\SYSTEM\

That'll put it local so you don't need to keep loading it from floppy. Then you can use the DIR and COPY commands to move data to the floppy disk. You can find the local volumes with the 'volumes' command. (may look different than this)

SERVER: volumes
Local FAT Volumes Mounted:
C: -> New VOlume

Mounted Volumes              Name Spaces
SYS:                         DOS, MAC, LONG, NFS
DATA1:                       DOS, MAC, LONG, NFS

Those are your mount-points, so start delving for the needed data there.

If it asks you to log in to DIR the volume, unload TOOLBOX, and reload it with the "/NL" option. You'll be limited to 8.3 names, but you may already be limited to that anyway so no loss.

  • 1
    +1 - I swore off giving any Netware-related advice years ago. I won't give you any competition in scoring the "Netware" tag badge... >smile< Jun 24, 2010 at 22:22
  • snork Oh look, a NetWare tag! Didn't know we had one. No one admits they know this stuff anymore. I rarely do.
    – sysadmin1138
    Jun 24, 2010 at 22:42
  • instead of TOOLBOX, you can use CNW Commander, novell.com/coolsolutions/tools/13540.html , which is a Norton Commander for NetWare
    – dmityugov
    Jun 25, 2010 at 13:02
  • version 3.12 :( Looks like I'm a bit boned then, short of sending it to a pro recovery guru.
    – jmassey
    Jun 25, 2010 at 15:13
  • I know for a fact I used an old version of TOOLBOX.NLM to migrate files from 3.11 to 4.11 back in 1997. I just didn't know those upgrades notes would be useful in 2010. It's a long-shot, but it just might save bacon.
    – sysadmin1138
    Jun 25, 2010 at 15:50

What kind of hard drive(s) are in the server? you may be better off removing them and attempting to access the data by putting them into another system as secondary drives.

  • 3
    Not likely to work, since Netware's native filesystem (especially it is as old as it sounds) isn't read by anything. If he is really lucky and it is a NetWare 5 box running NSS, he could conceivably gain access to the filesystem by loading the drives in a server running Open Enterprise Server. The Linux-replacement for NetWare.
    – sysadmin1138
    Jun 24, 2010 at 21:32
  • Yeah, there's also the mirroring issue, which would indicate RAID (and I wouldn't be surprised if it's SCSI as well, which isn't supported by any machine / external connector that I currently have), which in turn makes a simple 'swap-the-drive-to-a-modern-box' type solution pretty much impossible even if it did have a more common filesystem.
    – jmassey
    Jun 24, 2010 at 21:50

Most likely they\you will need a drive recover process, but you can start by doing the basics!

type modules at the server_name: prompt.

what modules are listed?

  • Question updated with answer to this.
    – jmassey
    Jun 25, 2010 at 15:12
  • holy crap isa disks... just touching the insides of this thing could kill it... what happens when you do VOLUMES at the prompt.
    – tony roth
    Jun 25, 2010 at 15:21
  • also hopefully you see a data volume and since you have a c: drive thats fat you can copy between the data vol and the c: drive. Ok I was on a roll for second then I remembered its an ISA disk,dang... Please hold you call is important to somebody, click....
    – tony roth
    Jun 25, 2010 at 16:34

Even when it breaks, you can try to use PhotoRec to recover files from it, booting from a Linux Live CD for example

  • That's a pretty large assumption that a Netware box that's 10+ years old has a CD drive, or that it can boot a modern Live CD.
    – Chris S
    Jun 25, 2010 at 13:25
  • Also, the list of filesystems that it says it works with, does not include Netware's filesystem.
    – mfinni
    Jun 25, 2010 at 13:33
  • mfinni, from cgsecurity.org/wiki/PhotoRec : "Photorec ignores the file system"
    – dmityugov
    Jun 25, 2010 at 14:12
  • I'd really want one that says "reads netware partitions"!
    – tony roth
    Jun 25, 2010 at 15:05
  • dmityugov - and immediately after, it says : "It can recover lost files at least from * FAT, * NTFS, * EXT2/EXT3 filesystem * HFS+ " How can a tool that needs to read files ignore the filesystem? Think it through. The only way software could actually "ignore the filesystem" would be to do a copy of all the blocks and move it to a system that can read the filesystem.
    – mfinni
    Jun 25, 2010 at 15:40

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