Help recovering data from floppy disk...

I have one file out of a bunch on a floppy disk that is unreadable. If I try to open or copy it, the drive makes a harsh grinding sort of noise several times (for say, 2 to 3 minutes) and then tells me that the coputer is unable to read the file from the disk.

I tried using checkdisk and asking it to fix bad sectors, etc, but it did not manage to fix this file. I need other possible sugestions for geting the fiel back, because it has the bulk of my wife’s freelance contacts and invoices on it.

Oh, and yes, I’ve already told her that she should be keeping a backup copy of the file somewhere. It’s a day late and a dollar short in this case, however.

Any advice is appreciated.

Whether you’re on a PC or a Mac, the best utilities for recovering files from floppy disk all belong to yesteryear. Utility program companies don’t focus much attention on the lowly floppy these days.

Probably the best of the bunch were put out by Central Point, a company that got bought out by Norton. The DOS version was called PC Tools and the Mac version was (of course) MacTools.

The routines for rescuing files from a floppy would, if unable to simply copy the file at the file level, attempt a sector-by-sector copy, and quite often the result would be openable. Best chances are if the file is a text-based file such as a word-processing file, or a simple graphic file such as a JPEG. Least likely recovery is if file is an application or is a type of file that intrinsically relies on CRC checks when you try to load it.

First, don’t use anymore file retrieval applications like chkdsk that write to the floppy drive. The more you write to the floppy disk the more diffilcult it will be to retrieve remaining information.

Try another floppy drive or two and see if they can see retrieve the damaged file.
If they can’t try a retrieval app that will copy the floppy disk contents and write them out to the hard drive.

Here are some freeware file recovery programs

Download Software: File Recovery Programs

If that fails there are file recovery services you can use but they can be somewhat expensive.

Per AHunter3’s note an old version of Norton Utilities might work best, but I don’t know if anything past the Win95/98 verisions would have the full suite of floppy recovery tools.

Just as one data point, I contacted one because I had a hard drive failure (different animal than floppy, I’ll grant you). They said it would be $100 for an estimate and recovery generally starts at $750 and goes up. They have a clean room, are prepared to disassemble the disk, etc., etc. Such heroic measures would probably not be necessary for a floppy since they’re not sealed.

If there is physical damage and this is critical business data I would hesitate to recommend a do-it-yourself solution unless you really really know what you’re doing. This is not just a routine undelete issue. I will admit myself that I thought I was very knowledgable until I read the post above that chkdsk writes to the disk!! Never knew that.

Don’t ever run chkdsk to fix a file. It’s guaranteed to “fix” the allocation table so the drive is ok, but I have never, ever, seen it actually fix a file. Chkdsk may have hosed your file beyond repair. However, if it didn’t, you might try putting the disk in a different computer. Sometimes a slight difference in the alignment of the disk heads is enough to make a disk readable on one computer and unreadable on another.

I don’t have much hope at this point but you never know.

Try the floppy in a different drive - i.e. on another machine, or several. I’ve had floppy read failures that only occurred on some machines and not others.

It’s an Excel file.

I have tried it in several different drives, and used a couple different recovery tools on it without a lot of luck. It appears to be a CRC check issue on the disk (one recovery program kept listing CRC errors) .

Where do ya think I could find the Norton Utilities?

I have two sets of floppies for Norton Utilities Ver 2.0 (Win 95) and Ver 4.0 (Win 95/98) but I haven’t used them in years so I can’t testify as to the inegrity fo the floppies (sometimes they go wonky over time). You can also get them on Ebay for next to nothing

You do need to be running 95 or 98. These will not work with 2000 or XP. They may/should work with ME but I’m not sure about that. If you want the floppies I’ve got let me know. You can have them for free.

Maybe I should initiate a new thread, but it’s somewhat relevant here. What exactly is CRC? I know it stands for Cyclical Redundancy Check and is some sort of error check, but what exactly is it doing and why do only some files use it? I don’t know how many Winzip files I’ve lost on poor quality floppies because of that @#$% CRC error!

This probably won’t help, but does the application that she uses the file with write a back up recovery file (in case of a crash)? I’ve been saved by that before, but it’s important that you don’t use the application for anything else otherwise that recovery file would be overwritten.

To oversimplify, (the overall concepts will be right but the details aren’t quite right):

Imagine you’ve got 8 pieces of a file, because the file sprawl across 8 allocated blocks. When the data in each of the 16 is treated as numbers, you could think of them as:

01: 15
02: 5
03: 4
04: 1
05: 10
06: 25
07: 2
08: 12

Then there’s a stored value for the file in its entirety, that contains the value 74. The cyclic redundancy check adds together those 8 values to see if they add up to the stored value of 74. If they don’t, something got corrupted.


That’s encouraging. Excel files can be opened in raw text editors (you would lose formulas and macros and fancy formatting but the data would be intact), and text editors can be pretty unflinching about the condition of the files they are told to open.

A good floppy-disk scavenger program will copy whateve it can read to your hard drive and not complain about unreadable sectors or CRC errors. If you can do that and then sic a text editor on the results, you’ll probably get your data back.

Hey Astro, thanks for the offer, I think I will take you up on it. the auction on e-bay is for 3.0 and it does not mention any floppy utilities on there at all.

I’ll e-mail you with my info.

Hope by now you may have found Norton Utilities. The program in that which I used to use with great results was Disk Doctor. You might google for that to see if you can find it. It worked miracles on both HDD and floppies.

Just wanted to update this thread…


Astro sent me an old copy of some file recovery software he had. I used to to recover the files of fthe floppy disk. The excel files were still corrupted, but…

I found a freebie excel recovery program on the net. most of them are pretty effing useless, as they replace all of your text with “THIS IS A DEMO, IF YOU WANT TO SEE WHAT’S REALLY IN YOUR FILE, SELL YOUR CHILDREN AND PAY US”

But one out there would show me the contents of the recovered doc, but not let me save it. That was fine, since it was only 100 or so rows, my wife spent about an hour manually re-typing the info she needed. Cool. So now, we’re back in business. We didn’t recover 100% of the data, but we got enough so my wife is happy.

So thanks to everyone who helped.

Try Spin Rite. It isn’t free, but it retrieves a lot of corrupted data. Do a Google on Spin Rite.

I’ve sometimes had success with recovering data from floppies by removing them from their sleeve/case and cleaning them with alcohol. It removes any dirt and contamination.

Any chance you could link to the recovery program that worked for you?

I’ll try to remember to look it up tonight on my computer and post the link here.

You almost certainly have not lost any zip files due to CRC errors. You lost the files due to other problems; the CRC error is just the way you know you lost the file. Don’t kill the messenger.

In fact, if you get fancy with your checksums, you can even create a file in which errors (again, from other sources, the checksums are not to blame) can be corrected. I believe that zip files do, in fact, include a small amount of error-correcting code, so it’s even possible that those checksums have rescued files for you, without you even knowing it.