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I have a friend that has a bunch of old 5.25's he'd like to read.

Does a drive exist that works with modern motherboards? Or is there an old drive and an adapter that would work?

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

Most motherboards still have IO controllers that support these drives, you just don't get an appropriate cable supplied with them (you used to get a cable that would fit either a 3.5" drive or a 5.25" one, these days you get cables that are missing the extra adaptor).

You should be able to get a cable from a supplier somewhere, or find on old one hidden away in the back of a draw or in an old machine. If you are in the UK I could drop one in the post for you for nowt - I think I've got a few of the things in my "bits that probably should have been thrown two house moves ago"!.

Of course you are going to need a working drive too, and you have to hope that the content is still readable on the disks after all this time...

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I don't mean to be mean, but this answer was a bit difficult to understand the first time around. The first few words are misspelled. It should read "Most motherboards' I/O controllers..." – eleven81 Sep 30 '09 at 15:46
Not mean at all. Sometimes I'm a bit careless and try type faster than my hand-eye-coordination and dyslexia permit! Duly edited. – David Spillett Sep 30 '09 at 16:25
Only marginally relevant, I suppose, but up until about three years ago, I still kept one machine with a functioning 5.25" drive. Beyond that, +1 here. Finding the cable should be easy; a functioning drive, maybe not. Good luck with it. – Adrien Sep 30 '09 at 16:33

I have hooked up a few old 5.25" drives using old cables to modern Dell Optiplex motherboards without issue.

However, if you need both a drive and a cable, might I suggest shopping around for old PCs at garage sales, at Goodwill or Salvation Army or another secondhand store, or even on the Craigslist nearest you.

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Are they 5.25 disks for PC or Apple? The track alignments were different between the computers so you won't be able to read Apple disks on a PC. But if they were for a PC then you should not have a problem getting a 5.25 drive working (assuming you have one.)

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Good point. Just about every system formatted 5.25" floppies differently, so what machine the disks were originally used with will be quite significant. – David Spillett Sep 30 '09 at 16:50
Even if formatted incorrectly for your reading system, a linux LiveCD's dd command should be able to read whatever data is there and create an image. Even if it takes ages to figure out how the disks were formatted, you'd have data to test with without wearing out your disks. – quack quixote Oct 2 '09 at 17:06
That would be true if the track alignments are the same. But there were different numbers and alignments for different formats. You might even see some data on the disks but it would come out as complete crap. Think if an old tape or record that is played at the wrong speed. You could hear the music but it sure isn’t the song you meant to play. – Matthew Whited Oct 2 '09 at 19:13
Is the issue track alignment or data encoding? Apple DOS 3.2 used a 4:8 encoding to store 3.25K/track; DOS 3.3 used a 4:7 encoding to store 4K/track. Commodore used a 5:4 encoding and variable data rates to store 4.25K to 5.25K/track. The IBM PC uses a faster data rate but a 4:8 encoding to store 4.5K/track. Drive track spacing is based upon the stepper motor used, but stepper motors had two steps per track so it's possible some low-density floppies used "even" tracks and others used "odd". It's also possible calibration standards were different. Do you know anything for sure? – supercat Dec 6 '14 at 16:26
I've tried it. It is a track alignment issue. The drive heads do not read the data. Track spacing and spindle rate to not match. – Matthew Whited Dec 8 '14 at 18:53

Removed my text in favour of @David-Spillet's answer.

But, another consideration is that your friend might find it less trouble to locate a local data recovery service to have them extract the data for him. The other option might be to ask around on local forums (or CraigsList?) for an hour of time on someone's "vintage" PC in exchange for a case of beer.

Then again, the challenge of getting it working just for nostalgia's sake might just be worth the trouble. ;)

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