How to recover data from old MFM hard drives

10 Jul 2010
I have some MFM hard drives with their controller cards, both from when I developed an interest in computers. My problem is that the controller cards are 8-bit ISA and I will probably need a 486 system or under to access the drives. In fact an 8086/8088 system would be preferred, but it's rare to find a complete system to either use or buy for a reasonable amount of money.

The drives don't have anything of great value on them, but some of the files and documents could be sentimental to me. That's why I'm reluctant to spend any money on a system, just to plug the cards and drives in, transfer the files to a floppy disk or some 8-bit ISA card with SD card or USB support. Assuming the drives even still work at all, the task wouldn't take very long.

I know that this is a bit out there, but I'm hoping somebody out there (@almoststew1990 ?) can throw some ideas to accessing the drives, preferably on a modern system. Ideally, I'd like to plug the controller cards into a USB device that can access 8-bit ISA devices - all I'd then need to do is power the drives up and configure the jumpers if needed.
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