Why Can I Store So Much More Data on a Floppy Disk When I Put It in a Folder?

I store alot of text and word documents on floppy disk now. If there is some information I find that I like, I almost immediately change it into text form and store it on a floppy disk. Of course floppy disks only have a limited amount of space, and I was almost always changing to new disks it seemed. Then I noticed a disk that I seemed to almost have limitless space on. In fact I am still adding stuff to it to this day.

I had to move something from the hard drive of my computer to the floppy disk. So I simply put it in a folder, and dragged it over. For a while I wasn’t sure if that was the reason there seemed such limitless space on it. But then I ran out of room on another floppy disk, and decided to try something. I took the data that was on the floppy, and put it all in a folder on that floppy. Now I seem to have almost limitless space on that floppy disk too!

What gives? Why would putting data in a folder seem to save so much space, and would this work on a CD-ROM too? Please give you answers in simple, plain English:). Thank you.


I think you are mistaken, unless you are inadvertantly using file compression when you make a folder.

You can fit about 1.4 megs of data on a floppy disk, no matter what. The disk doesn’t get bigger or smaller depending on what you put on it.

When you edit files, a lot of editors will keep a working copy in addition to the original copy, which means that the file takes up twice as much space. When you are done it saves the working copy, deletes the original, and then renames the copy to match the original. That takes up more space than the file alone takes up, which is what you get when you copy the file over to the floppy.

I believe the MS-DOS filesystem has a limit on how many files you can put in the root directory. CD-ROM disks usually uses the ISO 9660 filesystem, and IIRC it does not have this limitation.

Before an answer can be formulated, more input is needed. What kind of computer, what operating system, are there any utilities installed that automatically “zip” the contents of files, etc. How do you know when you can’t store anything more on a floppy (what exact error message do you get?) and are you certain you are actually putting all of your files on the floppy (in other words, have you taken your floppys to other computers and found all of the files you believe you stored there)?

My guess is that you’re using an Intel-based computer running some Microsoft operating system (DOS or Windows of some variety). My Wild-Ass Guess is that the problem you are having has more to do with the number of files you are trying to store outside the folder rather than the size of those files. Reaching a bit back in my memory, I believe that the information stored at the top level of the floppy (outside of any folders) has a limited number of slots available for files. However, with the way that folders are represented on disk, they have less of a limitation on the number of files they can store, and so have more slots for files. However, that guess is based on the assumptions which I stated at the beginning of the paragraph and would be invalid if any of the assumptions are incorrect. Additionally, it is simply a guess, one that I could back up with further research if warranted.


I’ll try to answer your questions as best I can. But realize that most of what I learned about our computer was by trial and error.

We got our computer in February of 2002, and it is an Emachine®, if that is any help. I have come across the Zipped Folder option on my computer, and don’t believe I am using it, if that was your question. I assume I have reached the end of the storage on my disk when I get the message that says the computer is unable to create that file. But now that you mention it, I guess I could be misinterpreting the warning. I do know I cannot store any more data after I get the message though. I am sure I am storing the data on the disk. I always press Ctrl+S to save my work. And I have taken word pad documents on my disks to Kinkos® when my printer is running out of ink, and I find all the files I have saved perfectly intact as I saved them.

As I said though, I am still learning as I go along. But you brought up a good point. Could it be that I am having a different problem than simply reaching the storage limit. I would guess I can store about 80 average wordpad documents on an average 1.44MB disk. Does that sound about right?

This is probably a very silly question, but are you sure you’re actually moving the folder to the disk, and not only shortcuts to the folder? You’re probably not, but it’s just an idea.

Yeah, I have noticed the shortcut feature too, and it is misleading at times. I have anwered that question above though.

There is a set limit to the amount of space allocated to the root directory of a floppy disk. Once you reached that limit, no more files could be created in the root directory, no matter how much space is available on the actual disk. By using a folder(directory) you are using a different method that allows much larger listings. This limit was originally designed for very old small capacity floppys, and kept the same for compatability purposes.

Long files names just make things worse, as the longer names take up more of the available directory space.

This also applies to FAT and maybe FAT32 hard drives, though the limits are much larger there and you are very unlikely to reach them. However, I have seen it done.

As to your question about the actual capacity, each page of text uses about 3-4 k of space, depending on how may blank or short lines you have. There is also some overhead for each file, but 80 files on a 144k disk sounds reasonable, depending on the length of file.


The root directory of a 1.44MB floppy can only have [url=http://www.pcguide.com/ref/hdd/file/fatRoot-c.html]up to 224 entries[/url.

To the OP: do you have one of these disks handy? If so, what size does it show when you highlight all the folders on the floppy in Windows Explorer, right click on them, and choose Properties from the resultant menu? And what size does a floppy without the folders show?

It says “size: 573 KB” and “size on disk: 591 KB”. All of the folders highlighted show 573KB. BTW, on the disk with the folder, there are 75 items–mostly text and wordpad documents. As I said, I somehow reached the storage limit, or got the error message in any event, before I put it all in a folder.

Sorry it took me so long to respond:). My computer usually tells me when I get an email, but your response didn’t generate one on the SDMB for some reason.

<digress>Hey, how long can you take to reply to a post on the SDMB? I mean what does the prevailing ettiquette here say? Sometimes I turn off the computer and go to sleep or go out and so it may be several hours before I reply. Although I usually wait first to see how the responses are going.</digress>

Well, the sooner, the better, obviously. I try not to push it out more than a day, but you shouldn’t feel that it’s top priority. You volunteered to ask the question and we volunteered to provide the answers, no one’s feelings get hurt regardless of what time you respond.

Okay, let me make sure I’m understanding. You had 591 KB on the disk and got an error. You put all those files into folders and now you no longer get the error. Right? Or, well, I guess you don’t know exactly how much space you were using on the disk before, but all the same files are back on it now, only they’re in folders and you’re not getting errors.

Has this problem happened more than once? Can you replicate it? If not, it could just be a fluke. Or a bad disk or a bad drive.

Long? That was quick! skateboarder87 is right. Nobody would have batted an eyelash if you had gone to sleep and let the thread rest until tomorrow.

Actually, Dancing Fool sounds like he is describing my problem to a tee. Yes, long file names sometimes seem to be the problem. Because when I shorten the file names, the computer accepts them and I don’t get that error message anymore. But this only happens when I get to the end of the disk storage space as I’ve said.

So from now on I may just put everything in a folder first before I save it on disk. Anyone have any objections to that:)?