How to Read a Floppy Disk on a Modern PC or Mac

One 5.25-inch and two 3.5-inch floppy disks.

Remember floppies? Back within the day, they had been crucial. Eventually, they had been changed, and floppy disk drives vanished from new computer systems. Here’s how to get right of entry to a antique 3.5- or 5.25-inch floppy disk on a leading-edge Windows PC or Mac.

There’s a Catch: Copying Data Is the Easy Part

Before we start, you must perceive a massive caveat. What we’re going to quilt right here—copying information from a antique floppy disk onto a leading-edge PC—is most effective part the combat. Once you reproduction the knowledge, you’ve to be in a position to learn it. It could be locked in antique report codecs leading-edge application can’t perceive.

You’ll have to determine how to get right of entry to or convert the knowledge the use of emulators, akin to DOSBox or different utilities, which is past the scope of this newsletter.

RELATED: How To Use DOSBox To Run DOS Games and Old Apps

How to Copy Files From a 3.5-Inch Floppy Drive to a Modern PC

A 3.5-inch floppy disk labeled "Ancient Files."
Benj Edwards

If you’ve 3.5-inch floppy disks formatted for MS-DOS or Windows that you wish to have to reproduction to a leading-edge Windows 10 or Windows 7 PC, you’re in success. This is the very best structure to paintings with. The 3.5-inch floppy drives held on as a legacy product lengthy after their 1.44 MB potential had change into absurdly small in relative phrases. As a consequence, there are lots of semi-modern drives and answers to be had. We’ll quilt the choices from perfect to maximum tough.

Option 1: Use a New USB Floppy Drive

If you browse Amazon, Newegg, or even eBay, you’ll to find many reasonably priced (anyplace from $10 to $30) leading-edge USB 3.5-inch floppy drives. If you’re in a hurry and need a plug-and-play resolution for simply a disk or two, this could be value a shot.

However, in our enjoy, those drives are ceaselessly irritating of their unreliability. So, earlier than you dive in, learn thru one of the evaluations. Make certain you’re ok with risking your antique information on a power that most definitely value most effective a couple of bucks to produce.

Option 2: Use a Vintage USB Floppy Drive

A Sony VAIO USB floppy drive.

In the overdue ’90s and early ’00s, many makers of narrow laptops (like HP, Sony, and Dell) additionally produced exterior USB floppy drives. These antique drives have a lot upper high quality portions than the inexpensive USB drives now on Amazon. They’re additionally nonetheless fresh sufficient to paintings with none restore.

We counsel looking eBay for one thing like “Sony USB floppy power,” and making an attempt your success with a type of. Most are nonetheless supported as plug-and-play gadgets through Windows 10.

Despite the branding, you don’t want a power that fits your PC. For instance, a Sony USB floppy power will paintings when hooked up to a USB port on any Windows PC.

Option 3: Use an Internal Floppy Drive with a Cheap USB Adapter

If you’re searching for extra of a roll-your-own problem, you might want to additionally purchase a antique interior 3.5-inch floppy power. Perhaps you also have one sitting round. You can attach it to a generic floppy-to-USB adapter.

You can rig an exterior energy provide for the floppy power with the correct adapter. Another possibility is to mount the power and adapter internally in a laptop case, after which use a SATA energy adapter there. We haven’t examined the ones forums, although, so continue at your individual possibility.

Option 4: Use a Vintage Computer with a Floppy Drive and Network Connection

If you’ve an older Windows 98, ME, XP, or 2000 PC or pc with Ethernet and a 3.5-inch floppy power, it could be in a position to learn and replica the floppy to the pc’s laborious power. Then, you’ll reproduction the knowledge over your LAN to a leading-edge PC.

The trickiest section is ensuring the LAN networking between your antique and leading-edge machines works correctly. It comes down to making Windows report sharing from other eras play great with one any other.

You too can add information to an FTP web site (most likely, by way of a native NAS server), after which obtain them to your leading-edge PC.

How to Copy PC Files From a 5.25-Inch Floppy Drive to a Modern PC

A 5.25-inch floppy disk labeled "Ancient Files."
Benj Edwards

If you’ve 5.25-inch floppy disks formatted for MS-DOS or Windows you wish to have to reproduction to a leading-edge Windows PC, you’ve a harder job forward of you. This is as a result of 5.25-inch floppies fell out of standard use within the mid-1990s, so discovering a running 5.25-inch floppy power will also be a problem.

Let’s take a look at the choices for copying the knowledge to a leading-edge PC from perfect to maximum tough.

Option 1: Use the FC5025 USB Adapter and an Internal 5.25-Inch Floppy Drive

A small corporate known as Device Side Data manufactures an adapter known as the FC5025. It permits you to use an interior 5.25-inch floppy disk power to reproduction information from 5.25-inch disks in more than a few codecs over a USB cable to a leading-edge PC. The board prices round $55.

However, you’ll additionally want all of the vital cables, a energy provide with a Molex connector for the power, and, in all probability, a antique exterior 5.25-inch power bay enclosure if you wish to have a great unit. Once you get it arrange, the FC5205 is certainly value it, although. It’s particularly useful if you happen to even have 5.25-inch disks for non-IBM PC techniques (akin to Apple II) that you wish to have to again up.

The FC5025 copies the floppy information to disk symbol information, so that you’ll additionally want a disk symbol device, like WinImage, to learn and extract the knowledge.

Option 2: Use a Kryoflux with an Internal 5.25-Inch Floppy Drive

Much just like the FC5025, the  KryoFlux is a floppy-to-USB adapter that calls for a nice deal of setup to get running. Again, you’ll want the KryoFlux board, a antique 5.25-inch floppy power, a energy provide, cables, and, in all probability, an enclosure.

The Kryoflux copies the disk’s information to disk symbol information. You can then use those with emulators or get right of entry to them with a disk symbol device, like WinImage.

The good thing about KryoFlux is it will probably again up copy-protected disks, or disks in lots of different machine codecs (Apple II, C64, and so on), and it does so with a excessive stage of accuracy.

The KryoFlux does have a few drawbacks, although. First, it prices over $100.

Second, it’s meant for the academic-software-preservation marketplace quite than common shoppers. This is why backing up, or even gaining access to the knowledge on the disk, isn’t a very user-friendly operation.

Option 3: Use a Vintage Computer with a Floppy Drive and Network Connection

If you’ve an older PC operating Windows 98 or ME with Ethernet and a 5.25-inch floppy power, it could be in a position to learn the floppy so you’ll reproduction the knowledge over LAN to a leading-edge PC.

The identical as the three.5-inch power possibility, you will have bother getting Windows report sharing to paintings correctly between a antique and leading-edge PC.

There are different choices, although. One is importing the information to an FTP server from the previous device, after which downloading them from that server to the more moderen laptop.

How to Copy Files From a 3.5-Inch Floppy Drive to a Modern Mac

A Mac 3.5-inch floppy disk labeled "Ancient Files."
Benj Edwards

The strategy of studying floppy disks on a Mac is dependent on which form of disk you wish to have it to learn. We’ll cross over each and every sort within the following sections.

1.44 MB Mac Floppies

If you’ve 1.44 MB Mac floppies, a leading-edge Mac operating macOS 10.14 Mojave or previous must be in a position to learn them with a antique, USB floppy power.

Many other people desire the Imation TremendousDisk LS-120 USB power. It’s a ZIP power competitor that reads each its authentic, high-capacity floppies and common, 1.44 MB floppies. You can nonetheless to find those for a cheap worth on eBay. You too can use a antique Sony or HP USB floppy power.

If your device’s operating macOS 10.15 or later, you’re out of success when it comes to local USB floppy strengthen, although. Apple got rid of strengthen for the Hierarchical File System (HFS) on antique Mac floppies beginning with Catalina. There could be some technical work-arounds, together with restoring HFS strengthen, however those are advanced, and choices are nonetheless rising.

IBM PC 3.5-Inch Floppies

If you wish to have your Mac to learn IBM PC structure 3.5-inch floppies, you’ll use a antique PC USB floppy power. (Ironically, Catalina can nonetheless learn the FAT12 report machine utilized by antique MS-DOS floppies, however no longer previous Mac disks.)

We attempted a Sony VAIO floppy power with a 2013 iMac. It didn’t have any bother studying the information on a high-density, 3.5-inch IBM PC structure disk. You can most likely to find a just right Sony or HP USB floppy power on eBay.

400 or 800 Ok Mac Floppies

If you’ve 400 or 800 Ok Mac floppies, issues get a lot more difficult. The disk drives that wrote those used particular encoding known as GCR. This method isn’t bodily supported in maximum USB 3.5-inch floppy drives.

Recently, although, a new possibility known as AppleSauce emerged for archiving 400/800 Ok Mac disks. It’s a USB adapter that permits you to attach antique Apple II and Macintosh floppy drives to a leading-edge Mac and browse antique floppies with fantastic accuracy.

The largest problem is its worth—the Deluxe model you want to learn Mac floppies is $285. This is most commonly as it’s a advanced, very low quantity hobbyist product. With this software and the precise antique power, although, you’ll learn your floppies into disk pictures that can be utilized with emulators or extracted with different gear.

All Mac Floppy Disks

For all Mac Disks, your best possible wager could be to to find a antique Mac desk- or pc with a 3.5-inch TremendousDrive that may learn and write 400/800 Ok, and 1.44 MB disks. Try to find a device from the beige G3 generation that also shipped with floppies. The more moderen the easier, as a result of then you definitely’re much less most likely to have to make maintenance to get it running.

From there you’ll use networking to reproduction the information between the antique and leading-edge Macs, however that’s any other can of worms, fully.

It’s Complicated, But There’s Hope

When backing up previous floppy disks, all of the imaginable mixtures of drives, techniques, and codecs contain a advanced number of methods that we will’t in all probability quilt right here.

Luckily, there are different assets if you happen to require one thing extra advanced, like gaining access to an 8-inch floppy power that comprises CP/M information. Herb Johnson maintains an excellent web site filled with technical information on more than a few floppy disk techniques if you happen to’d like to be informed extra about how they paintings.

LowEndMac additionally has a superb information to Mac floppy disk codecs. Good success!

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