Reading Double Density Floppies

Compaq/5304 (old)
July 30, 2006 at 19:58:47
Specs: Windows 2000/XP, Cyrix MII / 256MB of RAM
Hey guys, I have some old 3.5" double density floppy disks that contain documents that I had typed several years ago on one of those old Brother Word Processors. I wonder if it's possible to access the information on the disks using my standard floppy drive? Inserting one of those disks and going to Start>Run>"A:">enter yields a message asking me if I want to format the disk. But I want to read the disk's contents if possible, even if all I can get from it is raw binary data. I would appreciate any help.

See More: Reading Double Density Floppies

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#1
July 30, 2006 at 21:05:54
Go into the BIOS and change the Floppy Disk type from 1.4 Mbs to 720Kbs. That should do it.

However, I wouldn't be surprised if that doesn't work. Floppy disks where never very good for long term storage. Unless the disk has been stored in a controlled conditions then the data may well be beyond redemption.

Stuart


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#2
July 30, 2006 at 21:15:25
Also, I wonder if the old Brother system used the same floppy format (FAT12) as windows. I kinda doubt it.

Do yourself a favor BACKUP!


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#3
July 30, 2006 at 22:03:47
Yeah, they may be structured differently. Or since you're trying to read them in an XP/2000 system the media descriptor byte may be a factor. There's some info in this previous thread:

http://computing.net/windows95/wwwboard/forum/168023.html

Also it's probably not a good idea to change the drive type in cmos/bios setup. The drive type describes the drive and not the disk. A 1.44 drive should read a 720 disk with no problem.


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Related Solutions

#4
July 30, 2006 at 22:15:38
another alternative is if you find anyone with a win98 or older PC you should be able to get the info off the floppies.

Hopefully my advice will help you...Please post back with your results....thanks


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#5
July 30, 2006 at 22:20:04
Wow, I never expected so many replies so fast, thanks a lot!

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#6
July 30, 2006 at 23:37:25
DAVEINCAPS is right, as usual.

I'd give odds that the FD is not a standard 720K. But I didn't want to be the bearer of bad news.

Probably the only hope would be one of those controllers sold by Central Point way back when that would read non-standard sectored [copy proof] FDs.

First you'd need to FIND one. LOL


=====================================
If at first you don't succeed, you're about average.

M2



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#7
July 31, 2006 at 06:02:30
Hi, 720Kb would have only one square hole and that in the upper left corner. 1.44 Mb will have another hole in the upper right corner to tell the floppy drive what size disk is inserted. Any modern floppy drive will automatically adjust for the 720 and read/write it. I doubt there is any 3 1/2" hard case floppy that can't be read with no changes to the system. I used up all my 720s sending files home with friends that don't bring disks with them.

Good Luck, Jim


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#8
July 31, 2006 at 07:32:53
I`m sitting here in my computer room looking at my Smith Corona Personal Word Processor made in 1991 which reads, and writes using 3.5" double density double sided diskettes. If there is anything I can do to help you out, give me a shout.

Regards
IKE


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#9
July 31, 2006 at 09:10:06
Ike Peters seems to have the best solution, it's great when people help eachother out in computing.net

Hopefully my advice will help you...Please post back with your results....thanks


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#10
July 31, 2006 at 10:34:51
I just tried a formatted 720kb floppy in my 1.44mb drive - it is recognized fine, without having to do anything special. As JimPM says, all 1.44mb drives I know of will automatically recognize a 720 floppy properly. I suspect that either Brother used formatting and/or partitioning that is not compatible with Microsoft's, or the floppies you have tried have deteriorated to the point they can no longer be read properly.
I think the former is more likely - I have found old floppies are a lot more reliable than more recent ones over the long term.

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#11
July 31, 2006 at 13:25:02
Thanks, guys. Although it wasn't suggested as a good idea, I did change the BIOS to treat my standard floppy drive as a 720KB floppy drive. As Stuart said, this made no difference when reading the disks, I still got the "Do you want to format this disk now?" message. I went to My Computer (under W2K) and the 3 1/2 floppy drive changed to a 5 1/4 floppy drive. I right clicked it and clicked Properties and beside File System it said Unknown.

So since these disks are formatted using a file system unknown to Windows, I wonder if there is any freeware application that would read binary data from the floppy disk regardless of the file system format? I'm thinking of something like the Disk Reader found in the HexSource/Frhed hex editor but would be for floppy drives. Any more help would be much appreciated.

You may wonder why I'm wanting to do this, but I don't have the word processor any more, and I wanted to see if reading the old disks that I have is possible to do on a desktop pc.



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#12
July 31, 2006 at 16:56:26
I really think the Media Descriptor Byte may be the reason. You can check the link to the previous thread I mentioned above or try to read the disk with an earlier OS as XpUser4Real said.

Even then, as already mentioned, the disk may be formatted in a way that windows doesn't recognize. Or it may see the disk OK but be unable to open its files because windows doesn't recognize the file types.


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#13
July 31, 2006 at 21:06:31
A few years ago when I was still using Windows 98, I had tried to read the disks but still got the same message about it asking if I would like to format or not.

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#14
August 1, 2006 at 11:41:51
I would have thought 98 would have seen the disks. Assuming they're OK, this place:

http://www.luxsoft.demon.co.uk/lux/bconv.html

will convert disks for a price. Even if you're not interested in doing that, the link contains info on the file types and compatibility.

Someone who's already tried.

And some Google search results

You may be able to find the conversion software cheaper on ebay. Or add the word freeware or shareware to the google search.


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#15
August 1, 2006 at 18:17:33
Oh, I get it("finally"), it`s not about you have important info on these disks, and you need to get the info off these disks for an important reason, which is what I had interpreted. It`s just something to try, like an exercise for the gray matter/ to see if it can be done.

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#16
August 11, 2006 at 02:19:22
It is possible that they are 1.44 disks formatted to 720k by the word processor, I had this some time back and had to cover the hole n the 1.44 disk and then windows recognised it as 720k, its worth a try!!

HTH

Woof

Always proof-read carefully to see if you any words out.


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#17
August 11, 2006 at 09:15:24
Woof, I do that all the time to format 720 floppies as they are real hard to come by and I still need 720's on an old Atari that I use for editing midi files..
You gave a great answer!

Hopefully my advice will help you...Please post back with your results....thanks


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#18
August 11, 2006 at 14:17:12
Comes from having an Amiga 1200 :)

I bought a box of 100 brand new Inmac disks a while back, must have 50 left still.

Woof

Always proof-read carefully to see if you any words out.


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#19
August 11, 2006 at 14:39:45
If you're only using a 720 drive there's no need to cover the disk sensor hole since the drive has no 720/1.44 sensor.

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#20
August 11, 2006 at 14:49:56
That`s correct, I only have to cover the hole when i try and read them on the PC. The Amiga formats them to 720k with no worries.

I did once go to teach someone that phoned the company where I worked to use her computer, Got there and it was a Canon (I think) dedicated word processor!! I thought bugger! then she asked me if I would like a cup of tea, I said yes and while she was making it had a quick flip thru the manual, discovered it used ms dos file system on its floppies and so just brushed up on the dedicted commands used by the system, she was happy she could at last actually use it :)

Woof

Always proof-read carefully to see if you any words out.


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#21
August 12, 2006 at 14:21:34
Woof, thanks a lot for the response! However, the disk is labeled as 720KB.

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#22
August 12, 2006 at 14:33:46
Then it is either fubared or not in msdos format

Woof

Always proof-read carefully to see if you any words out.


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#23
August 12, 2006 at 22:26:04
Is there any program that can read hex data from a floppy disk (like the file system of the disk)?

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#24
August 13, 2006 at 00:07:44
You can use debug to read/write absolute sectors via BIOS.

Problem is, the BIOS won't know how a "non-PC / non 720~144" FD is sectored.


=====================================
If at first you don't succeed, you're about average.

M2



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#25
August 13, 2006 at 14:10:35
Old norton utilities for dos had diskedit that would read and write hex but as M2 says it may be meaningless if it's a non-dos disk.

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#26
August 14, 2006 at 12:17:28
Oh well. Thanks for all of the replies though. I may give up on it. I tried a program called "mirkes.de tiny hexer" that supposedly allowed you to edit hard disks, and floppy disks. When I inserted the disk and selected "A:" an error appeared that said "Divide by Zero". I guess all hope is lost. I may decide to keep trying, and if I discover something I'll post back. Thanks again!

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#27
August 16, 2006 at 09:10:32
Try using Omnidisk (OmniFlop for the user friendly version). I used it to read 13(?) year old 2DD disks (well kept/preserved). Format was also non-standard 76/1/15x256. The program is VERY powerful and can even read beyond the 80th cylinder if you want. Won't work if you're using external drive though, but anything supporting the UPD765 (pretty much all internal floppy drives) will work.

Best of luck.


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#28
August 16, 2006 at 13:07:42
Thanks alot! I'll give it a try.

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