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I have a stack of about 30 floppy disks (3.5" type) that have some old childhood memories on them. However, I'm putting them into my random "cheapo" USB floppy drive and every single one is coming back blank.

I know that floppies do go bad after a while, and it has been about 15-20 years, but all 30? These disks are from various manufacturers and batches, so I suspect my drive just has a higher tolerance for the magnetic domains on the disks.

Does anyone know which drive is best for reading old floppies? I just need to get the data once, and then I'll copy them onto my hard drive. The drive doesn't have to be USB -- I'll even take a regular floppy bus drive and then get some sort of adapter if needed.

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I forgot to ask an obvious question - The disks were created on a PC, right? –  Chris Feb 7 '11 at 0:01
    
@Chris Yep! Good thought though. –  David Pfeffer Nov 8 '12 at 1:44
    
LOL, thanks for the follow up, I'd been worrying about that. :) –  Chris Nov 8 '12 at 15:03
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4 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I would say if the disks are good, any drive should work. I would find a second drive and test them, kind of like a "2nd opinion". If they're still not reading, then it's probably the disks.

As well, if the disks were stored near a magnet (speaker, etc), it's possible something like that could have corrupted the data.

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I would try a second USB floppy drive; you can get one for less than $20.

Another option might be to buy or borrow an old PC that has a floppy drive in it and try that.

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Are you absolutely sure your USB drive can read your disks? If disks are for example 2.88MB, not every drive can read those.

It is also possible your floppy drive (original one) had reading head that was shifted a little bit. If that happens, you can't read floppies with any other drive (except if it do have same bug).

If that is the case, you are almost out of the luck, if you don't want to hire data rescue company or just open your floppy drive and randomly adjust reading head until it matches (good luck with that, can't recommend).

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Check if the power cable is properly connected. I had the same situation a short time ago. The LED on the drive worked just with the data cable. This may mislead the user. USB drives are usually just a converter with a usual floppy in one housing. If there is a problem with the powersupply you can often see the LED blinking, but hear no reading noise.

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as mentioned, I was using a USB floppy drive (i.e. no power cable, just the USB wire) –  David Pfeffer Nov 8 '12 at 1:43
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