Floppy drive problems

Does anybody know if there is a known problem with new floppy drives reading from older floppies?

I get this issue with floppies that tend to be older but even ones that I know I formatted and created a boot disk with last year. The floppy drive will give a message that the disk is unformatted. I would try to format but would get a write error saying the disk is invalid.

Anyway, this same disk (which is probably 3 years old) wouldn’t read in my newer computer floppy drive. So I tried my older Pentium 3 550 machine. And it read perfectly. I formatted it on the old computer and made it into a system disk.

I put that floppy into my newer computer (AMD 1.3GHZ) and it works perfectly now.

What’s up with that?

I’ve found it reasonably common that floppies formatted on one machine have troubles on another. The usual explanation I hear is that the alignment of tracks may not precisely coincide.

I don’t have any experience to suggest that making a floppy a system disk affects this problem.

Nor does floppy age have much to do with it, provided the disk was stored properly. It is plausible that the age of the drive matters – its alignment could drift with time.

I’ve run into alignment drift with older floppy disk drives, too. We have several PCs of various vintages at any given time in our household, and it’s not at all unusual to run into a floppy disk that’s been generated on the oldest PC which is unreadable on the newer ones.

I remember floppies! Kinda like Zip disks but skinnier and slower and only held like a meg and a half, right?

[old fogie mode] Back in my digital childhood, floppies were dependable. That was before high density took over. Double density, especially on the Mac (800K, GCR, variable speed drive), was a reliable format. Even on the PC (720K, MFM), where the spin rate was constant and the inside track attempted to hold as much data as the outside for any angular slice, the double density diskettes were not known for going sour on you. But the hi-density diskettes required a finer detection and therefore a weaker magnetic signal and a lower tolerance for material defects, as well as a pickier sensitivity to minor diffs in alignment and whatnot between machines. I’ve still got the first floppy disk I ever owned, and it works fine. (800K). But I’ve had hi-density diskettes go bad while the discarded shrinkwrap from the box was still in the trashcan underneath my desk. [/old fogie mode].

Forget floppies. They’re yesterday’s dead meat. Put everything on your hard drive or burn it to CD. A floppy hold a meg and a half. Jeez, email it to yourself as a file attachment, then you’ve got a permanent copy next time you back up your email files.

The other killer is that, since many users don’t bother with floppies anymore, the PC manufacturers aren’t exactly spending the big bucks to provide high-quality floppy drives in new machines (if they provide them at all). I swear the one in my latest PC probably cost at least $2 to manufacture. It has sort of a “Fisher-Price” feel to it.

A lot of my floppy disks, esp. the cheap media ones, just erase themselves in a couple of years. They aren’t useful for long backup use. Sometimes the floppy drive head needs cleaning but as I said, most floppies data just gets corrupted.