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reading/cleaning old floppy disks

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8 replies to this topic

#1
Asp

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I've got some software on floppy disks, from the early 1990s.
It came on both 3.5 and 5.25 disks.

So far I've only tried the 3.5", not having a 5.25" drive.

When inserting the disk, I can get a file listing, but then a few seconds later the disk is unreadable. And if I put another disk in the drive, that is too.
I use a drive cleaning disk and the drive works again.

I guess that the data is there but the surface of the floppy is dirty, though it looks okay to my eyes.

Next thing to try is cleaning the disk surface.
Wiping with alcohol?

The software is Adobe Font Foundry, a utility that came with Adobe fonts back in the DOS era. If any kind soul has a copy, please let me know.
Not a mention of it on their site now, they retired it in 1995.


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#2
jaclaz

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When inserting the disk, I can get a file listing, but then a few seconds later the disk is unreadable. And if I put another disk in the drive, that is too.
I use a drive cleaning disk and the drive works again.

I guess that the data is there but the surface of the floppy is dirty, though it looks okay to my eyes.

A floppy cleaning disk should clean the heads.
I doubt that the surface of a 3.5" disk is dirty.
The innovation (at the time) was the automatic shutter to prevent dirt to enter it.
It is more likely that the floppy drive is clogged with dirt/dust and everytime you insert a disk in it some of this is carried to the heads.
My advise would be to clean the inside of the floppy disk drive first thing, then get a (new or anyway "disposable") floppy disk and format it, write some files to it, re-read them etc..
There are serious risks that by putting the "good" floppy with software in a dirty or defective floppy disk it will be ruined for good.
It is also possible that the original floppy lost some of it's magnetic "strength", but the steps above won' t make any harm anyway, whilst attempts to clean the actual floppy surface have good chances to make it unreadable.

jaclaz

#3
Asp

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A floppy cleaning disk should clean the heads.
I doubt that the surface of a 3.5" disk is dirty.


The drive could read other, newer, disks, I tried that first. But not the old ones I need.
Also tried two different drives, including one USB one which came with a laptop, old but probably never used.

The climate here is very humid. We get mould on everything.
All metal corrodes quickly.
I was packing up some junk when moving recently, I found a few 10+ year-old VHS tapes, still sealed. They had mould on the tape.
So the shutter may keep dust off but I'd bet the surface has a film of gunk.

If no better suggestions I'll find a fine cloth and clean the disks with alcohol. At this point, nothing to lose.

If that doesn't work, I'll see if I can dig up a 5" drive. Those disks are lower density, maybe more durable?

Back in the day, a guy in our office had a CPM PC, no hard disk, everything ran off a floppy. Just used the same one every day for years.

Edited by Asp, 25 June 2013 - 01:59 AM.


#4
GrofLuigi

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I think alcohol would destroy it (wipe off all magnetic particles, the whole magnetic layer). I know I wouldn't wipe a VHS tape with alcohol and expect to read it later at that spot.

And, there IS a soft cloth inside a 3.5'' floppy. :)

So what would I do? Keep trying to read it. Find another drive. Align the head?

GL

#5
jaclaz

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Back in the day, a guy in our office had a CPM PC, no hard disk, everything ran off a floppy. Just used the same one every day for years.

Yeah, sure, do you remember how much that floppy drive did cost at the time (and how much the floppy disc was)? :unsure:



(and no, mass production has little to do with costs in this case)

In those floppy disks you could actually align the heads (last ones I disassembled had not any provisions for that), they weighted, they were "sturdy", etc., etc.

jaclaz

Edited by jaclaz, 25 June 2013 - 06:53 AM.


#6
Asp

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Back in the day, a guy in our office had a CPM PC, no hard disk, everything ran off a floppy. Just used the same one every day for years.

Yeah, sure, do you remember how much that floppy drive did cost at the time (and how much the floppy disc was)? :unsure:


The floppy in question is from about that era, distributed by Adobe, so I'd assume it wasn't crap quality.
I used to make a floppy backup of my work every day, had a drawer full of them.
Just threw a few boxes away. But this one disk has stuff on it I can't find anywhere else....

The software is still useful on new hardware, it just goes hundreds of times faster.
(IBM XT 4.77 MHz, new PC 2.9 GHz).

Anyway, I'll look for a forum where vintage tech is is more on topic.

#7
bphlpt

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We'll be interested if you come up with a solution that works for you.

Cheers and Regards

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#8
Falco

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I've never had luck with floppy cleaning disks. Floppy drives that I find aren't reaidng disks properly usually have grimed up heads from oils/oxidation. I usually just disassemble the drive and use Q-tips soaked in alcohol and swab the heads gently a few times to remove the grime/oxidation and things usually start working again.

 

Though the disk could have damaged spots on it. There's a tool called "Spinrite" that's made for data recovery on hard disks, but it also works on floppy disks too, you should try it. It helped me save a cusomers data they were storing on a floppy disk, but I had to ask why they were using a floppy disk in 2013 when they had alternatives like USB flash drives.



#9
Asp

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Floppy drives that I find aren't reaidng disks properly

 

Though the disk could have damaged spots on it. There's a tool called "Spinrite" that's made for data recovery on hard disks, but it also works on floppy disks too, you should try it. It helped me save a cusomers data they were storing on a floppy disk, but I had to ask why they were using a floppy disk in 2013 when they had alternatives like USB flash drives.

 

It's not the drive, it's the disk.

I tried seveal different drives.

 

I'll give Spinrite a try, but I seriously doubt it will work.

Your customers were presumably using relatively new disks, not almost 20-year-old ones.

 

I think that the data is there, magnetically, but the surface is gummed up and screwing up any attempts to read it.

This from the fact that I got a file listing momentarily before it became unreadable.

I don't think any software can fix this. I need to physically clean the disk.


Edited by Asp, 28 July 2013 - 08:21 AM.





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