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A dummies guide to WHDLoad on the Amiga

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By MrSid
The ‘dummy’ is me by the way. I have no clue when it comes to anything remotely technical with computers. So when I decided that I wanted to install a compact flash hard-drive into my Amiga, the guide I’m about to write is what I was looking for online (but couldn’t find). I won’t use jargon or technical terms. Ill try and keep this really simple so even a dummy like me can play games via WHDLoad on their Amiga.

Back in September 2012 I packed in smoking and promised myself 2 things; I would lose some weight and treat myself to some retro gaming stuff. Well 1 out of 2 isn’t bad is it…?! I wasn’t interested in having lots and lots of different systems and racks and racks of games so I decided that the jewel in the crown would be an Amiga 1200. The machine that I could never afford back in the the day. I started by collecting actual boxed games which is great as they are a thing of beauty but recently I have been experiencing problems with faulty floppy discs. I had heard Matt Denaris talking about a compact flash hard-drive that can be connected to your Amiga and then be used to boot games from. So I set out to get one, and boy, it’s certainly not as simple as it sounds…

WHAT IS WHDLOAD?
So, WHDLoad is a way of booting game roms from a compact flash card. This flash card connects to the inside of your Amiga as is essentially acts as an internal hard-drive, something the Amiga 500/600/1200 did not come with. Now, as this is an idiots guide, I would highly suggest that you buy this hard-drive pre-prepared. That means that someone has installed WHDLoad, Workbench and the game images. Note, these game images are not the same used with normal Amiga emulators (adf files), they are specially prepared for WHDLoad and can be found online with a simple search.

These WHDLoad game files are very clever because a multi-disc game is combined just one file, not various adf files. It’s just cleaner and more reliable.

Disclaimer. The Retro Asylum in no way condones piracy and if you use game rom files, you do so at your own risk and by law, you must own the original game so the rom file acts as a back up 🙂

STEP 1 – GET AN AMIGA
The simple bit. To do this properly, you should get an Amiga 1200 as it has more power. I got mine for £50 which seems to be the going rate for a clean one. For a really good condition machine though, you can pay up to £100. I would suggest Amibay for this as it is a great community of people who love the Amiga and the chances are that it would have been looked after. One that has limited/no plastic yellowing will be more desirable. Make sure it comes with a decent mouse and of course get yourself a joystick/gamepad. The Zipstik and Competition Pro are highly recommended.

STEP 2 – GET YOUR COMPACT FLASH HARD-DRIVE
There are lot’s of ebay/web shops that sell these hard-drives that are fully prepared. As previously said, I would suggest getting a pre-prepared one as if you are not tech minded (like me), you will struggle. Some are set up to boot from workbench and some will have their own boot software. The one I have boots from a clever piece of boot software and I prefer this as the games are easier to scroll through as as a list rather than a series of icons in Workbench.

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STEP 3 – INSTALL THE FLASH HARD-DRIVE
This is so simple that even I did it with no problems. Ensure that when you buy it comes with instructions but you essentially just have to undo a few screws on the Amiga’s case, open it up and plug the hard drive into the correct port. That’s it, it’s that simple. Now you can close up your Amiga.

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STEP 4 – GET AN ACCELERATOR CARD
Now, to play the majority of these WHDLoad games (especially the ones that require more memory i.e. CD32), your Amiga 1200 is going to need a little help and a boost in speed. The best way of doing this is to get yourself an accelerator card. I would suggest you get this from Amigakit as you get the after sales support and the peace of mind that it what it says it is. I got the ACA1220 128MB card which is the one Amigakit suggested when I called. If you are unsure, just call them and they will point you in the direction of what you need. When you call, them them what version of Kickstart you have (it says this on the purple boot screen when you turn Amiga on) as this will influence which card they suggest. Be warned, they are not cheap, mine cost £80. Avoid the temptation to get cheap ones from ebay.

STEP 5 – INSTALL THE ACCELERATOR CARD
Again very simple to install. It will go into the trapdoor expansion port on the bottom of the computer. It will come with instructions and simply pushes and clicks into place. Just be careful when handling that you don’t touch the components. You are now ready to play some WHDLoad Amiga games!

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Now, I’m not for one minute suggesting that this is really really easy. There are still some bits that will require some online research. Places like English Amiga Board and Amibay are great for decent advice but essentially if you follow these steps, you will have everything you need to do it.

Now you will be able to play all standard Amiga games, AGA games, CD32 games and CDTV games on your Amiga 1200. They load quickly, there’s no drive noise, no crack screens, no disk swapping, its fantastic.

At the click of a mouse you can play any one of these Amiga games on the original hardware. I have never found a decent Amiga Emulator that doesn’t require a degree in phyisics so this is a perfect solution, if you are a dummy like me.

Any q’s, I’m at sam@retroasylum.com

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2 thoughts on “A dummies guide to WHDLoad on the Amiga

  1. uniforix says:

    Glad you got it working Sam 🙂 I can run lots without the ACA card on mine but when I can afford to I will get an accelerator, although it will never be as good as your system as I have an A600 so the accelerator doesn’t support as much RAM and just brings it up to 020 processor.

    I may invest in a an A1200 some time.

    • mrsid says:

      Yeah I forgot to mention that you CAN run some without the accelerator. Seems to be the older games that work. The more recent ones (my era) mostly didn’t work for me without the accelerator. Just need the time to play it now!!!

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