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Problems with Floppy Disks

Written By: Stephen Bucaro

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Problems with Floppy Disks

By Stephen Bucaro

With the advent of the rewritable CD (CD-RW) many people
are predicting the demise of the venerable floppy disk.
Today’s computers can even boot from the CD drive. But if
your computer is not connected to a network, there is no
quicker way to back-up or share a file.

Problems with the floppy drive are rare, but that is not
the case with floppy disks themselves. Floppy disks are
made super cheap and are very unreliable. Also, floppy
disks are sensitive to magnetic fields. If you place a
floppy disk on top of your monitor, your computer case, or
any metal object, you risk corrupting the disk. If you
have a problem reading a floppy disk, it is almost always
a bad disk.

Use the following troubleshooting guide:

- Can’t read a floppy disk

If you have another system, check to see if the drive in
that system is able to read the disk. If the disk works in
a different drive, begin by checking for obvious problems.
It is not unknown to find an object like a Post-It note or
the metal slide protector from a previous disk stuck
inside a drive.

- Can’t write to a floppy disk

Again, begin by checking for obvious problems. Make sure
the floppy disk is not write protected. On a 3.5″ disk you
should be able to see through the hole in the upper-right
corner of the disk (looking at the labeled side of the
disk). If there are no files already on the disk, try to
re-format it.

- Can’t boot from a floppy drive

If your operating system is Windows 2000, or Windows XP
Professional, you can’t boot from a floppy disk with these
systems. Otherwise, make sure the disk you have is a
bootable disk. It needs to have been created as a “startup
disk” or formatted with the “copy system files” option
button selected.

- More complex problems

In order to start faster, today’s systems are usually set
in the BIOS to boot from the hard disk drive first. Check
the boot sequence in the BIOS setup. If the boot sequence
starts with the letter of a hard disk drive (like C:), and
that drive is having a problem, the system will never even
attempt to boot from the floppy disk drive. Go to BIOS
setup, and set the boot sequence to start with A.

In some companies, the floppy drives are disabled for
security reasons. This is done by either disabling the
onboard FDD controller in the BIOS setup, or by removing
the power cable or data cable from the drive inside the
computer.

- Weird problems

Sometimes when a technician is working inside a computer,
they will temporarily remove the data cable from the
floppy drive in order to get easier access to another
component. They may fail to replace the cable properly,
or put the cable on backwards. If the floppy drive’s LED
is always on, the data cable may be reversed.

Sometimes a floppy disk can be read on the system that it
was originally formatted on, but cannot be read on another
system and vice versa. This is usually caused by the fact
that the head of the floppy drive on one system is out of
alignment.

=> As with all Windows(tm) systems, sometimes the
operating system gets confused. If your system can’t
recognize the floppy drive or can’t read any floppy disks,
try rebooting the system.

If you are having a problem with a floppy disk, remember
they are made super cheap and are not meant to be reliable,
but they can still serve a very utilitarian purpose.
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