Legacy Storage: Floppy Drives

Floppy disksNewer floppy drives come with ribbon cables with a connector only at each end. Older drives have ribbons with three connectors, including one in the middle used to attach a second drive. If you are using such a cable, the end connector must be used for the primary drive. Unless you are working with fairly old hardware, this shouldn’t be a common issue. Also, with older drives and power supplies, it was possible to connect the power cable to the floppy drive upside down. This resulted in the floppy’s activity light being on constantly once power was restored to the computer. Modern floppy power connectors can be attached only one way.

Installing a floppy drive is not much different that installing a hard drive or CD drive except that the connectors are a bit different and no jumpers need to be set. Also, floppy drives typically slide into their bay from the front rather than being installed from inside. Occasionally you’ll need to configure the BIOS but this isn’t common.

The day of the floppy drive seems to be coming to an end. Once it is common for computers to boot from USB, there won’t be much use for floppies. Floppy disks can hold only a limited amount of data and are reliable for only short term storage. Their current primary purpose is as boot disks, but as was just mentioned, time is running out even for that role. Some PC’s and laptops are no longer manufactured with floppy drives.

That said, there are still plenty of people who use and are comfortable with floppy drives and disks, and most production environments haven’t provided 100% of their employees with ultra current, state of the art hardware. If you work in an average company, you’ll probably be living with computers with floppy drives for years to come.

Working with Floppy Drives
Much old material was saved to floppy drive and many companies and people have old archived data that they wrote to floppy disk. The disks are usually stored away for many years until curiosity or necessity means the data on them needs to be accessed. At this point, many users will get a nasty shock as they no longer that the hardware that can read the data from a floppy disk. Also, sometimes it is no longer possible to read the information from the floppy disk because over the years, the data has degraded to a point where it can no longer be ready. The answer is to use a data recovery company – these organisations keep a stock of legacy hardware and retain the knowledge of how to use it, sending them floppy disks to recover the data from is quite common. Take a look at blogs such as http://datareplayservices.com/, http://janschon.edublogs.org/ and http://frankcanon.blogbaker.com/ to find the names and locations of such organisations.