DD/SD floppy drive?


I have old floppy disks, over the time I did not realize I would need to read them on a modern computer

I bought an usb floppy disk but it can only read HD floppies

I have a floppy disk lying around somewhere but since I cannot plug it on my actual motherboard

  • how can I find a hw solution for this ? could not find any (pci-express?) card to use as a floppy controller
  • I live in europe so I cannot really find retro hw like in U.S.

thanks for your help

Welcome! The low-tech approach is to find someone locally - a makerspace or a museum or a retrocomputing meetup. There are possibilities for example in UK and NL at least.

If you’re OK with the risk, you could possibly post the disk to a suitable person or organisation.

The higher-tech approach might be to use something like

Beware, though: if a floppy is in bad condition or a drive is dirty then trying to read the disk can irreversibly damage it. You need to read up on how to check and how to clean, both drives and disks.

1 Like

I was hoping for something to purchase

of course I wont send my floppy disk in the mail :slight_smile:

yet thanks for spending time to answer me dude

There’s a device called a “Greaseweazle” that is very good at getting data off old floppy drives (assuming you have a compatible floppy drive). Note an 80 track drive usually manages to read 40 track floppies (but not vice versa).
Edit. Sorry - I see EdS has already mentioned it.
btw it turns out that head cleaning an old drive is a lot easier than you might think. And very likely to be needed, so start reading up on how to do it (cotton bud and alcohol).

1 Like

I dont even have a controller on my mb, so head cleaning will not do, lol

that greenweazel seems like about reading raw sectors
I want something that can read SD/DD out of the box and recognize good old msdos 5.0 FAT format

is it possible to buy an old 386 in europe ? without being scammed ?

Can I clarify - do you have 5¼ inch floppies or 3½ inch? Or something else maybe - perhaps you could share a photo.

I don’t know that you need to go back to 386 - if you plan to buy an old computer you might as well get one with a floppy drive. But you do need the right size, obviously.

I havent use these floppies for years, probably last time I used them it was on a 486.
386 for sure

I think you should be fine with pretty much any old PC with a floppy - I had a Pentium with a floppy like that. A lot of older laptops would have a floppy too.

yeah but I dont trust ebay
I believe it’s easier in the US to find retro hw

Are there charity shops (aka thrift stores) which have old PCs, near you? Ideally you buy an old PC from some place which regards them as very low value.

I’ve an Imation SuperDisk drive with USB, which I can confirm does read and write single density disks. However, I don’t know about the current situation regarding driver and format support.
I’ve connected this to an old MacPro (late 2008 / MacOS 10.9.5). Be aware that running something via USB also requires support by the OS. In my case, the OS and the drivers included provide support for HD, but not SD. However, running Win XP from a partition or from Parallels (under MacOS) or the like, provides support for single density disks, as this is still supported by Win XP. (So, even, if the host OS doesn’t support this, this may be helped by running an appropriate guest OS in emulation.)

It may be well that a drive does support SD, but the OS doesn’t so out of the box, and this may be resolved by running an older version in emulation or adding some drivers. As you already have a USB drive, this may be worth an investigation. I.e., looking up, whether your OS does support single density disks or not, and, of course, any data sheets for the disk drive.

(BTW, Imation SuperDisk drives are availabe at the usual auction sites. This came quite late in the evolution of disk drives and can read about any format, there is, up to Imation’s own 120MB format.)

I dont even have a controller on my mb, so head cleaning will not do, lol

Then the first time you read a disk and it has lots of errors, stop reading any disks as the heads may be dirty and will trash any floppy that is subsequently inserted. You will need to clean the heads of any old floppy drive at some point. It’s not hard and you might as well do it from the start just in case you trash disks the first time you use it. Indeed the first time you use any old floppy drive, test it out on something you know for sure is worthless. so many old floppy drives will trash your floppies unless cleaned first. And so many old floppies have a surface that falls apart at the slightest excuse due to having been stored in attics, cellars, sheds etc, where they’ve suffered the extremes of temperature and humidity.

who said anything about dirty floppies
why are you obsessed by that?

Wide experience is that both dirty drive heads and fragile and dirty floppies can cause irrecoverable damage. It seems like a good idea to share that practical knowledge. Otherwise someone somewhere will lose their irreplaceable data because they didn’t know.

Some people are doing this for the first time, and other have experience.

1 Like

I remember having trouble reading 5.25 disks on a Pentium from a PCTOOLS backup I did with a 386DX. I think HD disks. I only managed to read them on a 286 I got for free (several years ago). I think I needed 16 bit architecture. It’s not just HD/DD.

You don’t trust ebay, or the sellers there? And why not? Buyers have protections. Especially when buying from a commercial seller.

I think Europe is not that small, so it should be not that difficult getting a cheap 386, 486 or a disk drive. Or find someone who can read.

Main problem with old PC is empty or leaked batteries to save the hardware setup.

ok I ll give a try on ebay

local retro shops sell computers but not that old as 386/486/pentium

also hard to check online since they dont maintain any catalog. I ll pass by. never knows

Real floppy controllers persisted on workstation class machines until about the Xeon 5400/5600 era. Those machines are not only usually extremely well built but they often take registered DDR-2 memory which is increcibly cheap. I’ve had no trouble in the UK picking up old Xeon workstation and server boxes with floppy controllers. Unlike some of the desktop stuff the controllers are Intel ones in the chipset so usually still handle 360K floppies. That said you could just make yourself one of the many software floppy controllers using the more modern microcontrollers. Things like the fluxengine.

The bigger problem will be finding a suitable drive

The USB controllers will generally read 3.5" DS/DD (720K) and SS/DD (360KB) disks - for 360K you’ll need to raw read just the one side carefully. For 5.25" stuff in older formats I normally use old BBC micro drives as they are reasonably easy to obtain in the UK and most of them are a generic drive mechanism and a built like a brick PSU in a metal box so easy to work with.

3" is more fun, but just requires some magic cabling to hook up to a PC or I did an rcbus controller with the connector for them as I’ve got so many.

One thing I don’t see mentioned here is mould. If there is mould on a disk you are probably going to need fairly serious tools to recover anything.

no I cannot read SD/DD floppies with USB drive from amazon
cannot find the order anymore

I checked the local store, they don’t have retro hw

trying to find anything in belgium is ultimate sufferance

Are you sure it’s the drive not the disks. I’ve yet to meet one that cannot read 360K or 720K 3.5" disks. They switch media type based on the hole in the corner of the disk (1.44 v 720). They will only read PC format disks though generally - so 512 byte per sector, 9 sectors per track MFM with sector and tracks encoded 1-9 or 1-18 and tracks 0-79.