Recovering "lost" treasure-filled floppy discs with an oscilloscope

A look at recovering ‘lost’ data on floppy disks using an oscilloscope.

There are many good, modern solutions for reading data off old floppy discs and drives. Perhaps the best is the Greaseweazle: it’s capable, open source, open hardware, inexpensive and has a vibrant and friendly community behind it. It connects directly to a floppy drive, replacing the floppy disc controller, and reads the disc in great detail. It can handle regular discs or any known copy protection without really breaking a sweat.

But what happens when the Greaseweazle reports data that is heavily corrupted and unreadable? Are we out of luck? What if the unreadable disc contains some historic treasure, such as source code for an iconic game? Do we have to shed a tear and move on?

I recently found myself, along with Phil Pemberton, in this situation. Given the unique nature of source code discs, and the potential for historical interest, we were determined to succeed…

6 Likes