An important message about Floppy Disks.

Floppy Disks: It's Too Late

Why am I telling you this?

I am telling you this because I am grabbing you by the fucking collar and shaking very hard because it is obvious you need to be shaken very hard and told that this is it. This is the endgame for floppies. We went over the hump, and the chances of rescue are slim to none now, but there are still chances. It's a chance that needs to be taken now.

If you have an archive or cache or hoard of floppies, you need to get in touch with me. I will help get the data off of them for you, whatever piecemeal amount is still thriving on there. We'll get errors up the wazoo, and some of them will be simply unreasonable, but it has to be done, I have to try.

(Pffffft. I, of course, archived my floppies years ago.)

Whoa: I just noticed that my "floppies" blog posts that I linked to up there are very nearly a decade old. This is like that scene in Why I Hate Saturn where she's lying on her bed drunk and reading her old journals, and she comes to a journal entry about her lying on her bed drunk. Except I'm not lying down or drunk. But wow, I've been sitting in this chair a long-assed time.

Also, it was just about too late a decade ago. For the floppies I mean.

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22 Responses:

  1. tbx says:

    ...and that beeing said... It's time for a revival :)
    I've been recently using floppy discs as party flyers and name badges:
    (For demoparties, the invitation demo beeing, of course, on the disc)

  2. Acheron says:

    In 2011, this applies to a lot of CDR media as well, I have found. I went through a big stack of old CDs and found that many were rife with errors. Most of the damaged ones were written between 1997-2001. I have been able to get most of the text stuff at least after finding some apps that keep trying to read through the errors the drive keeps spitting back.

    • jwz says:

      I'm not sure I've ever had a CD-R last more than 3 years. It's like they were all half-dead before you even wrote to them.

      • Friedel says:

        Yeah, CD-Rs... write and throw away. A friend tells me there are Archive CD-Rs for lots of money that last a whole 5 years! The good part being that I can throw whole boxes of the regular ones away before our next move, since I didn't write a CD-R in over 3 years.

      • Adam A. says:

        I've read that labeling them is an accelerated death sentence. So they last longer, as long as you're OK with not knowing what's on them...

        (or, reportedly, if you use an acid-free archival type pen, you may be safe a little longer)

        But, yeah - my backup strategy is lots of hard drives.

        • Adolf Osborne says:

          Perhaps I'm just lucky, but:

          Generally speaking, my old CD-Rs work just fine. And when I say old, I mean well over a decade. Even my old PSX backups still work fine, and those are all written in Mode 2 (which uses even shittier error correction than the Mode 1 stuff we're all most familiar with).

          Most of these were written on an 8x Plextor (from back when they still made their own hardware, and it was good), and all were on good media (back when that was easily discernible from bad media).

          I do not know how well my more recent stuff will survive, having all been made on the cheapest available DVD-RW drives, but I find myself caring less and less: The only data that I ever write to CD, these days, is when I'm putting together an audio/MP3 disc for the car, or doing a burn it/use it/forget it cycle for an OS install.

          But even those seem to be doing pretty well. I've got audio CDs which have been in the visor-holder in my work truck for five years which still seem to be holding up fine, and they've been exposed to all the varieties of hot, cold, humid, dry, and ambient sunlight that Ohio can provide during that time.

          I've always used Sharpies to label them. *shrug*

    • Piku says:

      I spent the weekend going through my spindles of CD and DVDRs. 90% of them went straight in the bin (being either unlabelled or backups from 10 years ago). The rest I spent a tedious afternoon copying them to a 1Tb USB HDD. I think about four were unreadable due to the silvering coming off them.

      • Matt says:

        I did this a while back and managed to empty one and a half 200+ CaseLogic cases. I figured I'd either be saving stuff over in great relief or be fighting errors and trying to salvage with desperate hopes, but easily 90% of the discs went straight into the bin after seeing what was on it.

        Disc after disc after disc and I kept thinking..."Why the hell did I even burn this out in the first place?"

    • mediapathic says:

      I had this conversation just today:
      me: "...I could make a video file and burn it to a DVD for you"
      her: *blank look*
      me: "sorry, usb drive"
      her: "oh, ok, right."

  3. Friedel says:

    Pff, I have 20+ year old 5 1/4 " floppies that still hold their data nicely, thank you! It's those "modern" crappy 3 1/2 " fading rapidly. Too late for those, indeed.

    • pavel_lishin says:

      I honestly don't even know where I'd go to get a 5.25" floppy drive. I imagine I'd have to meet a guy down by the river, be blindfolded and driven to a basement somewhere in Queens, where I would be shown a table with some merchandise and warned about the curious correlation between talking a lot, and having one's kneecaps broken.

      • Friedel says:

        I still have a couple, PC and 8-Bit Atari and I'm very reluctant to throw them away, even though I don't have a PC-Controller which is able to handle them any more.

        And seriously, ebay is not that dangerous as you make it out to be...

    • The actual trouble is in hooking up one of those 5¼ things to post-2000 hardware.

      A serial port (or an USB to serial) could do it, but then you're in write-your-own-driver-with-no-documentation space with no way back.

      Well... That unless you get to vmware a system capable of driving them...

      • FreonTrip says:

        I've actually got one in an Athlon II X2 250 box at my place, running Windows 7 x64. It's the only drive on the chain, obviously, but it's working fine so far. That said, I'd love a serial interface and drive container so it'd be functionally external, but that would be the very definition of a niche market demanding a homebrew solution.

        • You wrote chain, so I suppose it's a SCSI drive.
          Like one of these?

          If so, Win 7 driver bonanza is even more amazing than I though.

          • FreonTrip says:

            I think I had a cognitive misfiring... I meant that the floppy cable can support multiple drives, but since the onboard controller only supports one drive at a time it's the only one on the cable, and therefore in the system. Never had the pleasure of using a SCSI or IDE floppy drive, and probably never will, alas.

            The support situation isn't utterly grim: most of the motherboards I've bought in the last decade still supported a 5.25" floppy drive, but in the last few years that has understandably started to dwindle. But the article is right. If you have valuable data on floppies that you've dawdled in backing up, don't waste any more time.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I've had 3 1/2"s die of old age in the '90s. They were pretty much the least reliable storage format known to man.

      The problem, as with the 5 1/4"s, is ever getting the hardware to talk some kind of communication channel that you can use to route to our magical modern world of big hard drives and networking. Grabbing all the data off the Atari ST's hard drive, and even the 486, involved a null modem cable, Xmodem/PPP respectively, and several days of an old laptop that still had a serial port churning away next to it.

  4. DFB says:

    We need a collection of stock phrases for every media, which can read the system clock and give a report of its viability, e.g., "this tape self-destructed five decades ago."

    In order to make that, we need functions from media age to bitrate deterioration levels, but ever since we went to error correcting formats, who knows whether those are still being counted.

  5. Well I went thru a trove of 3.5" mac floppies with HFV explorer last week, 80% of them dumped to HD pretty smoothly, and the data was sound. But I suppose that article referred to 5.2".

    You really must dump them straight to disk and THEN read'em.
    That saves a lot of skimming back and forth and that skimming usually leads to disk errors.

  6. (Regarding Whoa...)
    ...or like the scene out the Twilight Zone episode The Library where the woman opens the book describing her own life...