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Disk Drive Cleaning


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I've had several people now tell me to clean the heads on my Atari 810 drives as they might be dirty. My question is Exactly where is the 'head'? Also, what's the best way to do this? I took a q-tip dripped in alcohol and rubbed it on the white plastic circular object that clamps down on top of the disk, and also on the black circular object on the bottom that the other side of the disk sits on. I assume these are the two things that you have to clean since those are the only things that seem to touch the disk? I didn't see any dirt come off so I'm not sure if they're just not dirty or I'm just not doing this right.


Interestingly I read something from Atari that said NOT to use cleaning disks. Why would this be?



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The big round thing that spins the disk is the hub. The head assembly is the part behind it that slides on rails. There is a felt-based pressure pad on top, and the head is the shiny white-ish part beneath it (the disk is read from the underside in a single-sided configuration).


You cannot use cleaning disks unless they are single-sided, meaning the top hole is blocked. Double-sided cleaning disks will tear up the felt pad.

Edited by Bryan
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The older these drives get the more frequently I find it important to keep them clean. I tend to just leave the cases unscrewed these days for quick access to the heads.



Ok so I lightly rub the head with a Q-Tip and I should be good? I'll try that tonight. Thanks for the explanation, I really never poked around inside a disk drive.



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Dude.. Theres no need to take your drive apart.. 810s are a bitch too work on..


Just get a normal 5.25" cleaning disk and cut a small piece of index-card or other thin card stock (Or if you really wanna do it right, sacrifice an old floppy disk and cut a piece of the black plastic instead of using the paper card-stock).. Place it over the long oval shaped access hole on the TOP SIDE of the cleaning disk, and secure it in place with a wide piece of cellutape.. make sure the piece of material that you cut and the piece of tape is larger than the oval access hole, but small enough not to interfere with any of the other holes.. Make sure you can still spin the center hub of the cleaning disk by hand.. You now have a SINGLE SIDED Cleaning disk!


Now.. instead of pouring alchohol (cleaning fluid) onto the cleaning disk, use an eye dropper and only apply just enough cleaning fluid to saturate the white material.. You would of course, apply this to the oval access window on the BOTTOM (uncovered) side of the cleaning disk ONLY...


Now stick the disk in the drive, with the side you just covered facing up, and let her rip.. Won't tear up your felt, and will clean the lower head (single sided drives read/write to the bottom side of the disk).


Oh yeah.. When you're done, put this cleaning disk aside and be sure to only use it for single sided (eg. 810 & 1050) disk drives.. Keep another DOUBLE SIDED cleaning disk for your XF551s and PC floppy mechs..

Edited by MEtalGuy66
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  • 8 years later...
Q. How do I clean the head on my ATARI 810? Also, how often should I lo it?

A. The head on your disk drive is a very sensitive piece of equipment and should be treated with great care. First of all, you should not use a cleaning disk; it can possibly ruin your head. The proper way to clean your head is with cleaning sticks (Radio Shack Cat. #44-1093A). Do not use Q-Tips because they have glue on them, and it's possible that afilm would be left on the head. Do not take the top off your drive; work through the open door. Take a cleaning stick, dip it in rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol (do not saturate, just moisten lightly), and rub the cleaning stick across the head. Do not re-use the cleaning stick; throw it away. Let the head dry completely I (about two or three minutes) before using drive.

Under normal usage the head should only have to be cleaned every four to six months, or every 200 hours.

Edited by scitari
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I advocate Qtip and alcohol too. Cleaning discs only move in one direction and probably run too long.....not sure...never used one. But for me it lacks control. You can watch the Qtip after your cleaning job, when very dirty, use the other side of the tip and clean again. Repeat with new Qtips as long as they look dirty. I must add that I never found the head of my 1050 to be really dirty. Even back in the day when my only source was the 1050 and it got used heavily, I never saw that much dirt built up, it was more a preventive thing I did.

I always moved the tips in line with the head so not angled across it. Not sure if that was necessary but I was VERY careful with my expensive 1050 BITD :)


The other maintenance I did was lightly greasing the metal rods along where the head moves. This was much more needed as it made the drive SO much quieter when moving the head. Still do it now....I used a Vaseline like stuff....but not the kind that has acid in it... and only lightly. When "replacing" it I first cleaned of any old residues before applying new.


Come to think of it......I never cleaned any 3.5" floppy drives. I think the ST was the machine I used 3.5" floppies the most and I can't remember ever cleaning any drive heads on those mechanisms ......and never had any trouble.

Edited by Level42
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