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Generating Amiga Hard Disk Images

A590 Hard Disk Controller for the Amiga 500, photo by mkdevil666 at forums.atariage.com

This article is a tutorial on generating a .HDF hard disk image for Amiga emulation, e.g. WinUAE or MiSTer FPGA.

WinUAE is the most common Amiga software emulator. It is the Windows version of Amiga emulator UAE, a project started in 1995. The MiSTer FPGA is an open source multi-system hardware emulation system from 2017, based on the Terasic DE-10 Nano FPGA board. Both emulation platforms support HDF files.


The rest of the tutorial can be skipped given enough knowledge about WinUAE and Amiga OS. In this case, the following pointers should be enough:

If you need more detail, the following guide goes through every step.


In the following, I will use the following terms:


Prepared directory

Let's go through the creation of a bootable .HDF in detail. We start out with a few preparations:

We should now be ready to create the HDF file.

Creating HDF

When generating an HDF file, we just create a blank image of a fixed size. Think about how much space you will need for your virtual harddisk, bearing in mind that an Amiga floppy disk will maximum hold 880 KB, and the harddisk also needs to hold a Workbench installation.

Creating HDF
HDF image in WinUAE

We now have an unformatted hard disk image file. Store a copy of 'empty.hdf' so we can roll back to this point if anything goes wrong.

In the next step, we will start the Amiga Workbench and install Amiga OS on the virtual hard disk.

Setup WinUAE

Now, let's boot up Workbench 1.3 and install it onto the virtual hard drive. During this process, keep the WinUAE settings to their most compatible. Adjusting CPU speed or disk speed can result in errors.

Kickstart 1.3 ROM
Workbench 1.3 ADF

When the Amiga Workbench is fully booted, we first format the virtual harddisk DH0.

Amiga OS, just booted

Installing Amiga OS

Formatting virtual hard disk drive
Yep, we're sure
Open Workbench floppy disk contents
Copy Workbench contents to HDF
printer.device read error
Rename 'Empty'

Rename 'empty.hdf' to 'boot.hdf' and store a copy of it, so we can roll back or reuse for another project.

Now, we can eject the Workbench 1.3 ADF from DF0 in 'Settings/Hardware/Floppy drives', and select 'Reset' to reboot the Amiga from the virtual hard drive.

At this point, the HDF should boot by itself, and have it's own Shell for doing further installations from. The Workbench ADF should no longer be needed.

Example Usage: Install SimCity


Having a booting HDF, we can use it as a template to create new booting HDFs from. The original impetus for this guide was to make a bootable SimCity HDF for the MiSTer FPGA MiniMig core, where save data could be stored on the HDF itself.

Here is how this was accomplished, based on 'boot.hdf':

This new 'simcity.hdf' can be used in WinUAE or MiSTer FPGA, allowing saved cities to be transferred between systems.