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I have a floppy boot disk and I would like to copy it to preserve it, as a backup. If I have two floppy drives, A and B, how can I copy the disk?

Assuming one has two floppy drives

Can I simply insert the floppy disk in one of the drives and then an empty floppy disk in the other and issue a simple command like this one.

A:\>copy . b:

Will this only copy the contents of the current directory and none of the files in subdirectories? Do I have to explicitly specify the option to copy everything?

Also, what about the boot information? That won't get copied, right?

If one has only one floppy drive...

How do you copy a floppy disk if you only have one floppy drive? Do you in fact have to copy its contents to the local hard drive C and then copy that to an empty floppy disk using the same floppy drive?

A:\>copy . c:\floppydisk
A:\>
A:\>c:
C:\>
C:\>copy floppydisk a:
C:\>

I'm guessing I will need some type of disk image tool to really copy everything on a bootable floppy disk. Something like the dd command on Linux perhaps? Am I right?

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Bootable disks

Bootable floppy disk needs to retain the code in the boot sector. This content cannot be transferred by ordinary file copy utilities. As you already wrote the easiest (and in most cases most reliable) solution is to copy the raw content (all sectors) of the floppy. Besides the boot sector certain system files need to be retained too. The details depends on the operating system which has to be booted from the disk.

Solution with disk images

On Linux and other Unix-like OS you can simply use cat or dd.

Example:

cat /dev/floppy > image.img
cat image.img > /dev/floppy

On Windows it is more complicated. You have to use a third-party tool for reading a floppy to an image and writing the image back to a floppy.

Example with the first set of utilities:

rawread c:\windows\temp\floppy.img A:
rawrite -f c:\windows\temp\floppy.img -d A:

Here are some free command-line utilities: Raw Read/Write Utilities / Utilities to read and write raw diskette images

Here is a shareware with GUI and much more options: WinImage It can be used for 30 -days trial.

The advantages of the "disk image" solution are that it is simple and does not depend on the OS which has to be booted.

The disadvantages are that the disk image could be unnecessarily large, copying could be slower and completely new bootable disk (without an existing disk or image) cannot be created.

Other solutions

Other solution could be to copy all the files and to re-create the boot sector on the destination medium (for example by using command sys on older systems).

Just file copying (without "bootability")

In Windows / MS-DOS there are commands xcopy or robocopy which allow recursive copy of files (including directories and their content).

The File Explorer in Windows performs recursive copy too.

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  • Floppy images also have the advantage that they can be used with virtual machines. – pabouk Oct 23 '13 at 22:24
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Well, get out the Trumpet Winsock, Edlin and attrib commands, we are going back in history...

DISKCOPY is still in Windows, all the way up to 7.

2 Drive situation:

diskcopy a: b: /v

1 Drive situation:

diskcopy a:

(diskcopy will copy floppy to RAM, then prompt you to swap floppys till disk is created)

Help: http://www.computerhope.com/diskcopy.htm

There is also a "dd" for windows. http://www.chrysocome.net/dd, or use cygwin's dd

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  • +1 for DISKCOPY A: B: /V /V for verify. Didn't expect that one to still be in Windows 7 ;) – Rik Oct 23 '13 at 21:55
  • Good that this command is included in Windows / MS-DOS but on the other hand this command is limited only to floppies. – pabouk Oct 23 '13 at 22:19
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Heard of WinImage? Shareware with free 30days trial. It makes cloning/backing/restoring Floppy disks to/from an image File with a nice GUI.

Or free command line tools from NU2 BootableCD, you should be going for the Build Floppy Image (BFI) to create FD images, and Build Floppy Disk (BFD) to create FD.

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I was able to successfully copy raw data from both old Mac and old PC floppy disks using a program called Altap Salamander. It has a plugin called "Disk Copy" which has a "Read Disk..." command you can use to create a raw dump of the disk data into a file.

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