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Overview

5.25" floppy disks were widely used from the late 1970s through the late 1980s.  In order to create a disk image and extract files, we have to know the correct disk type, as the various manufacturers and computer systems (DOS, Apple, Commodore, etc.) employed different conventions.  The Windows workstations will be unable to connect directly to the floppy disk drive and so BDPL staff will have to use the Device Side Data FC5025 software to view content on them.

Image of 5.25" floppy disk by Jason Scott http://ascii.textfiles.com/page/12?show_nolinks=1

Some floppy disks were double-sided, meaning data could be written to both sides of the magnetic medium.  These can be distinguished by two notches on either side of the disk:

Image of double-sided floppy disk by Jason Scott http://ascii.textfiles.com/page/12?show_nolinks=1 

In such cases, it will be necessary to attempt data recovery from both sides of the disk.

Identifying Disk Types

5.25" floppies may have some information about the disk type on their labels, but this seems to be more the exception than the rule.  While the majority of 5.25" floppy disks transferred to the BDPL from IU University Archives have been MS-DOS 360K (with some additional MS-DOS 1200K), the only way to know the disk type with some certainty is to view the disk in the FC5025 software, WinDIB (Windows Disk Image and Browse). NOTE: disks from the same source tend to have the same disk type, so it may not be necessary to test every disk.

Follow these steps:

  • Make sure the 5.25" floppy disk drive is correctly connected.
  • Write protect the disk (see instructions below) and insert in the drive.
  • Open the FC5025 WinDIB software; and select a Disk Type from the drop down menu. WinDIB is currently able to read 18 varieties:
    • Apple DOS 3.3 (16-sector)
    • Apple DOS 3.2 (13-sector)
    • Apple ProDOS
    • Commodore 1541
    • TI-99/4A 90k
    • TI-99/4A 180k
    • TI-99/4A 360k
    • Atari 810
    • MS-DOS 1200k
    • MS-DOS 360k
    • North Star MDS-A-D 175k
    • North Star MDS-A-D 350k
    • Kaypro 2 CP/M 2.2
    • Kaypro 4 CP/M 2.2
    • CalComp Vistagraphics 4500
    • PMC MicroMate
    • Tandy Color Computer Disk BASIC
    • Motorola VersaDOS
  • Click the 'Browse Disk Contents' button (if it is not grayed out) to see if the software can read the disk's contents:

  • If you have selected the right Disk Type, WinDIB will display the contents:

  • If the Disk Type is incorrect or WinDIB is unable to read the disk, an error message will display:

Try again until you find the correct Disk Type or exhaust all possibilities.  

NOTE: BDPL staff have found that some disks that cannot be read by WinDIB may still be disk imaged and have content recovered. Consult with the BDPL manager as needed.

  • If there are other 5.25" floppy disks in the shipment, you should attempt to image the disk using the most frequently found disk type.
  • Generally speaking, MS-DOS 360K appears to be the most frequent disk type encountered in the BDPL, followed by MS-DOS 1200K,

Handling

  • These are the most fragile of the removable media.
  • Avoid ANY magnetic fields. 
  • Excessive light exposure may damage plastic jackets.
  • Avoid excessive humidity. Not only can humidity ruin a floppy disk, but mold can as well.  If mold is detected on a floppy disk, we will need to contact the collecting unit to determine appropriate steps to clean the disks.
  • These are easily damaged by dust or fingerprints. Never hold a 5.25" floppy anywhere but the label area at the top.

Equipment

As of September 2019, the BDPL is using a Toshiba ND-0802GR 5.25" floppy disk drive, which connects to the Windows workstations via Device Side Data's FC5025 Floppy Controller.  NOTE: the floppy drive will not appear in the Windows File Manager and will only be detected by the FC5025 Floppy Controller software.

For information on connecting the disk drive, ribbon cable, and FC5025 floppy controller, see https://web.archive.org/web/20150403081853/http://mith.umd.edu/vintage-computers/fc5025-operation-instructions.

Write Protection

Add a piece of tape to cover the write-protection notch(es) on the side of the disk enclosure.

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