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HI, I have an old 5.25" floppy drive and I'd like to conect it to my computer. Now, I could open the case and install the drive, of course, but I'm seeking a more convenient solution. There are numerous USB Floppy drives for the 3.5" format, so maybe there's something similar for 5.25"?

Also, since there are adapters for PATA(3.5" and 5.25") and SATA all in one device, that connect to USB, so maybe there's something similar for Floppies?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

It appears that most USB floppies use an integrated controller, and don't expose the floppy cable in any way where it could be misused by perhaps connecting a 5.25" drive. That said, it also appears that there is an active ancient data and media community that is building up controllers and tools to deal with lots of ancient stuff.

One such is http://www.deviceside.com/ which makes a controller and matching PC software that can read (but probably not write) DOS and some CP/M format floppies.

There is also http://www.kryoflux.com/ which is taking a different approach. Their controller brings back the analog track content and can potentially decode nearly anything written to a floppy. No clue about price, but if you have a crate of valuable data written by an Apple ][ (or something even more obscure) there may not be very many other choices.....

A quick skim doesn't turn up any complete solutions. I'll be interested to see what other SU users turn up.

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The cable being exposed or not is irrelevant since 5¼" drives use a different connector from 3½" drives: collectibles-articles.com/antique/collectible-image-large/… –  Synetech Mar 3 '11 at 3:20
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@Synetech, different connector true, but it shares (most) of the pins of the same cable. A classic PC AT era cable had connectors for both sizes of floppy on it so that drives A and B could be either size. If the external 3.5" box has a connector between the drive and controller then it would be easy (or easier) to connect to a 5.25" drive instead. –  RBerteig Mar 3 '11 at 6:20
    
True, most of the dual cables had a pin connector for the system-end, so one of those should hopefully be sufficient. If I recall correctly though, there were many ways to connect a drive in a way that it wouldn’t work (for example before or after the flip). (I’m sure that I’ve still got an edge-connector only cable in a box somewhere…) –  Synetech Mar 3 '11 at 15:06
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OK, this is just waht I needed to hear. I will now make my own universal floppy controller. I was just wanting to make sure, that there really is no other around. –  polemon Mar 6 '11 at 10:26

Apparently you can buy a PCI controller that reads disks from a number of formats, but can't write them. http://www.deviceside.com/fc5025.html which RBerteig already mentioned, though they do read from Apple ][, Commodores, and some stuff neophytes like me have never even heard of.

Also, which formats do you need to access? There is a full solution at http://adtpro.sourceforge.net/ for Apple ][ disks, but it requires either a real Apple ][ or an emulator. I was unable to turn up anything for other formats in the quick skim I did. Guess I'll wait for some more super users to do a little better.

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Sadly, as the others have found out, there does not seem to be a simple, ready-to-buy, plug-and-play external USB 5.25" floppy drive (just not enough demand probably).

As mentioned, there are some controllers that can be purchased. There is also a PCI expansion card that is geared primarily towards Amiga users, but is Windows compatible. It can even write disks, but at £90, it’s pretty pricey. There are some discussions by people on kludging something together at home, potentially at significantly less cost than either option.

There is a discussion thread by some Mac users on how to make one out of an existing 3.5" USB drive. Another extended USENET thread has a similar discussion. Unfortunately neither one really and concretely confirmed success. However, the attempts and discussions provide some useful information for anyone who wants to try their own hands at it. Some points of particular note include

  • The need for an adapter to convert from the 5.25" drive’s edge-connector to the pin connector used by 3.5" drives
  • The need for an external power supply since USB cannot provide the 12v needed by the 5.25" drive
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Apparently the KryoFlux adapter will give you a floppy controller to USB. This means that since modern motherboards (e.g. Intel socket 1155) do not have floppy controllers, or older (e.g. Intel socket 775) have it but don't support 5.25" drives or support a single floppy, now we can actually have up to two floppy drives of any kind (PC, MAC, Amiga, Commodore, etc.).

As far as I understand with that adapter you get the needed floppy controller. Then you need an appropriate floppy cable to connect your 5.25" drive (thank God, I have kept one or two, it's nearly impossible to find one today). You will probably also have to connect the drive with a power source (mine takes the standard Molex, so no problem even for a modern power supply). Then if everything goes OK, the drive should appear as A: in My Computer, or at least you can access it using KryoFlux's software.

As they claim, you can read and write to the drive, so not only can you backup all your old floppies, you can use them for (very small) file transfer. Unfortunately, a 5.25" PC disk is only 360 KB (single sided, double density) or at most 1.2 MB (single sided, high density) so there is not much use by today's standards. Needless to say that to access a 1.2 MB disk you need a high density 5.25" drive, while a 360KB disk can be accessed by either a high density or double density 5.25" drive.

So I would look no further, I would go for the Kryoflux solution if I had too many floppies to read. Another solution is to use an older computer that can accept the old drive without any adapters. Backup all your disks to another medium (CD or USB, etc.) and then you shouldn't need the drive anymore, since the disk capacity is TOO small by today's standards and it is useless to use these disks for saving data.

Since we are talking about a 5.25" drive, most data (and games, programs, etc.) in it must probably be from MS-DOS era, so you can use them in DOSBox emulator. It works perfectly even in 64-bit Windows! There is even a way to install Windows 95 in a virtual disk if it happens to have any old Windows game you want to play in 64-bit Windows. Of course the game must play in Windows 95; if you need newer Windows version try Compatibility Mode on your host Windows system or use a better virtual PC application such as VMWare.

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Please don't include your email address in answers. The comments section is provided for this purpose. –  DragonLord Feb 17 '13 at 22:33

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