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Repairing floppy disks

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I have two disks left from when I had an Atari in the 80s that I cannot read. Both these disks have visable creases and marks on them. Is there any way that these can be temporarily repaired to get the data off or even just see the directory to see what data was on it?


I did pull out the media and put it in a new floppy disk envelope but no luck.


The disk that has a visable bend in it won't read anything. However, the disk with what looks like a hole was tried to be punched in it, starts to read the directory and stops.


I know there is a way to fix warped vinyl records by warning them up and flattening them out but is there a trick like that for floppy disk media?


Yes I used gloves when handling these disks.


The bend and punch is more visible on the second pics.


Any thoughts?





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First, use Isopropyl Alcohol and a Q-Tip and make sure your read head in the drive is crystal clean (Should reflect like glass when shining a light)


Second, with the drive cover off, try applying a little pressure on the pressure pad with your finger when trying to read the disk, sometimes this helps the drive catch the sector. Especially since you have that physical indentation on the disk, this may help 'flatten it out' as the affected parts pass over the read head.


If there are any blemishes or 'gunk' on the surface of the floppy, you can try using isopropyl alcohol/qtip GENTLY directly on the disk surface to clean those off. It will evaporate quickly, especially if you blow on it as well. Use dry end of QTip to take care of any remaining drops.I had some disks that the dirt was basically blocking the signal from reaching the read head. Be super careful though, too much pressure while wiping/swabbing of one spot will take the magnetic coating right off, down to the plastic- then your data is definitely gone.


Couple strategies for recovery... First use a sector copier such as MYCopyR or Happy Sector copier that will Copy all the GOOD sectors and continue when it encounters bad sectors. This way you can quickly get all of the 'good' sectors to a new disk or ATR. You can quickly restart MyCopier from the beginning with the Option/Start keys.


Then, you can try working on recovering the bad sectors one at a time using a program that allows retries, and entering specific sector ranges. I've found the Happy Sector copier is good for this, it will work with non-happy drives as well. You can specify sector ranges to copy, and set the destination NOT to format, so once you get a good read, you can write just those updated sectors to your destination copy.


If the problem sectors are not on the directory (Sectors 360-368) (sounds like yours is though) It might only corrupt one file... DOS 2 disk files use sector links in the last 3 bytes of each sector, so the remainder of the file after a bad sector will be lost unless you re-insert the sequence bytes with a sector editor, etc..


Anyhow - Hopefully you can get make some progress with the cleaning/pressure ideas.

Edited by Nezgar
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You might want to try a couple of drops of Dawn in a cup of water to clean dirt off the disk. Rinse with clean water. You only need to do this if you wipe the disk and dirt shows up on your cloth - use the soft wipers that are for optical cleaning, if you have them.


It is more likely that your disks are off-track or damaged, Cleaning won't help, there. Try a sector editor. Read the directory as best you can and then map out the usable files.


Creases and dents cannot be fixed. Do NOT 'warm up the disk'.


It is a lot of work - good luck.



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I would try to train a bent floppy back by clamping it with the opposite bend to what it has for a few hours. If it's got a fold then that might be problematic, I'd try an opposite fold but it'd need to be precise.


For the punched hole, make the decision whether to attempt to clamp it and flatten it out or <other>

I suspect that punched hole might have stretched the surrouding plastic such that flattening it becomes impossible due to excess material. The solution there might be to just drill the hole a bit bigger such that when it's clamped it can flatten out properly. By the looks, the hole is just under a quarter into the disk and would probably affect 3 or more tracks.


On a standard drive I'd just use a read strategy where you simply read the entire disk sequentially and log errors. Then go back sequentially and attempt a few retries on each sector in error.

Also a good idea to try directory recovery early on if it is a file disk - that way you could map out what's in use so you don't waste time trying to recover errant sectors that aren't even part of a file.



And whatever you do... keep the alcohol well away from the floppy, it will remove the oxide coating.

Edited by Rybags
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  • 2 weeks later...

I was able to rescue the data off the "hole punched" floppy. I used the pro-system. Best $50 I have spent. The disk contained one of my old message bases and my password (user) file!


The other disk is totally unreadable. Like I said I do remember there being an issue with that disk so I doubt there is anything of any substance on that disk.


Thanks again for all the suggestions and help on this!!

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I once got 10 floppies from Poland that were folded by the local postman. I recovered all software.


Tip: If you drive doesnt load the floppy, try a 2nd or 3rd 1050.

sometimes changing the RPM speed of the drive motor can do wonders.


I had some old software that was written by an 1050 that I sold in 1994. Nowadays, my new old 1050 drives that I bought some years ago had a bit of difficulties reading them. It was the RPM speed.


Cleaning 5.25 flopppies can also be done with dishwasher water.

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