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Floppy Disk Tips
By Thiravudh Khoman

Re: Boonserm Asavapisit's floppy disk queries (Post Database, 29-Nov-2000), here's what I do to minimize the chances of getting caught with a bad diskette:

  • First and foremost, I try to reformat my floppy disks frequently, especially after I've WRITTEN to them or DELETED files from any computer OTHER than my own. I suspect that differences in floppy drives on various computers (alignment, speed, dust, etc.) are a major cause of floppy reading/writing problems.

    Also, I always do my reformatting on a single computer, and when reformatting, I always do an "unconditional" format (i.e. FORMAT A: /U) as opposed to a "quick" format (i.e. FORMAT A: /Q). Or if you're reformatting under Windows, do a "Full" as opposed to a "Quick" format.

  • If I come across ANY bad sectors when reformatting a diskette, I always throw the diskette away (or fold it in half Superman style and then throw it away). While this may seem like a waste of money, in actual fact, I haven't bought any new diskettes in almost 10 years. All of my diskettes are either freebies or recycled stuff. Given that most of these tend to be of the generic variety, this sort of suggests that it might not always be necessary to buy expensive name brand diskettes.

    By the way, if you encounter a read or write error, that doesn't necessarily mean a diskette is bad. Try reformatting it first. ONLY if it shows bad sectors during reformatting should you consider throwing it away. Also, if you get bad sectors on many consecutive diskettes while reformatting, you could be experiencing a Windows glitch (i.e. the diskettes aren't necessarily bad). This happens to me every now and then. Just shut down your computer for a few minutes and then try again. Unless you have extraordinarily bad diskettes, statistically, you shouldn't get more than 3-4 bad diskettes in a row.

  • After copying files over to the diskette, I usually make sure the files can be re-read. Immediately copying the files back from A: to C: doesn't do the trick though, since the files tend to be cached in memory. Try it. From DOS, copy about a half megabyte of files to A:. Now copy them back to C:. See how quick that took? The files were actually copied from memory and NOT re-read from drive A:, which obviously doesn't test the diskette's readability.

    What I do is to eject the diskette from the floppy drive first and then from DOS type: COPY A:*.* NUL:. With no diskette in the drive, DOS will give a "Not ready reading drive A:/Abort, Retry, Fail" error message. Don't worry - in fact, this does us the favour of purging the floppy cache. Now, simply push the diskette back in, press "R" to retry, and DOS will now read (i.e. REALLY read) the files from A: and copy them to good old NUL:. (Note: NUL: is a "device" that has a name but doesn't physically exist in your computer. Copying files there essentially throws the copies away.)

Copyright © 2000, Thiravudh Khoman