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Can't read 3.5 inch floppy


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23-Jun-2011, 07:45 PM #1
Can't read 3.5 inch floppy
I'm having trouble reading a floppy disk that I created earlier today on another older computer. The other computer is one running Windows 95. I simply copied some files from a 5.25 inch floppy over to a 3.5 inch floppy; there were no problems doing this on the Win95 machine.

When I try to read the 3.5 inch disk on the newer PC, XP simply gives me an "Insert disk" message, even though the disk is already in the drive and properly seated. For some reason, it seems unable to see the disk.

I made a second copy of the disk on the Win95 machine, starting with a reformatted disk that reported no errors whatever when I checked it but this one isn't seen by the XP machine either; I get exactly the same "Insert disk" message. I've checked the BIOS on the XP machine and it shows an A: drive with a 1.44 MB capacity.

I'm baffled by why these disks aren't seen in the XP machine but are completely error free on the Win95 machine. Can anyone suggest steps that I can take to get past this problem?
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23-Jun-2011, 10:25 PM #2
Welcome to TSG.
Is the floppy drive built into your XP computer?
Or is it an external USB connected drive? Maybe it needs a driver, my external (Targus) came with a disk.
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23-Jun-2011, 10:50 PM #3
The 3.5 inch floppy drives on both the XP and Win95 machines are both built-in drives that have never given me a minute's trouble.
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24-Jun-2011, 01:40 AM #4
Hah! I had almost forgotten about such a problem! Brings back memories.

XP needs a media descriptor byte written onto the floppy in order to read it. Windows 95 doesn't write it. Instead, format the disks using your XP machine, then copy the files with the 95 machine.

This Microsoft page includes a very advanced workaround that my be of help. http://support.microsoft.com/kb/140060
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24-Jun-2011, 11:45 AM #5
I haven't had much to do with floppy disks in several years myself so I'm glad you remember that media descriptor byte issue. Seriously, I don't remember ever hearing about it before.

Unfortunately, I'm running into problems in trying to follow your suggestion. When I tried to format the floppy in the XP machine, I just kept getting hourglassing and couldn't even get to a Format option until after several tries. Then, when I finally got to the Format option and tried it, XP complained that there was no disk there. I took the disk back to the Win95 machine and formatted it there without any difficulty. I hoped that this would enable the XP machine to at least read the disk so it could be formatted again, this time with the media descriptor byte, but the XP machine simply won't read the 95-formatted (and otherwise empty) floppy disk.

I read the knowledgebase article about DiskProbe and was keen to try it. I've edited lots of files in my day - although never a floppy disk - so I wasn't intimidated by the idea of changing a bit on a file. I eventually found a copy of the toolkit that contains DiskProbe and installed it. Then the problems with that approach began.

First, I can't figure out where the GUI for those tools is. I only have options for Command Prompt, Help and Release Notes. I'm not finding anywhere to launch D(i)skProbe and nothing in the Release Notes on how to do that. So I just started the command prompt and did a 'dir' and found dskprobe.exe that way.

When I do a "dskprobe a:", it pauses a while and says "Disk Probe: Error opening the file. Operation canceled. OK". Then it opens an editor screen that shows all the existing values in every position are 00. My best guess is that this is a template that I could write on but I'm darned if I can see how that's going to help. It looks like XP is absolutely refusing to read that floppy no matter what I do, even with DiskProbe. I'm really not sure how to proceed now.

I looked through my collection of floppies and tried several others but the XP floppy drive won't read any of them. Then again, that would be consistent with the media byte descriptor problem if none of those old floppies were formatted on the XP machine.

Frankly, I don't remember if I've ever successfully used the XP machine's floppy drive. It's been so long since I worked with floppies that I just don't know. The XP machine is going on 10 years old (my current computer is a much newer machine also running XP but it has no floppy drives) and I may have transferred all the files from the Win95 machine to the XP machine via CD. It's possible I never actually tried to read a floppy with the XP machine. Perhaps the drive itself is defective?

I'm beginning to think that I am going to have to go out and buy a new 3.5 inch floppy disk somewhere - if you can still get them! - format it on the XP machine and then try writing the data from the Win95 machine again on the new XP-formatted disk. And if that doesn't work, I may have to move the CD burner from the XP machine back to its original home on the Win95 machine and simply burn the files to CD on the Win95 machine.

Do you have any other ideas?
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24-Jun-2011, 11:51 AM #6
The problem is likely a faulty floppy drive on the Windows XP machine. New(er) floppy drives are very unreliable. I would strongly suggest getting all important data off those disks as quickly as possible.
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24-Jun-2011, 12:34 PM #7
Believe me, that's what I'm trying to do. There is little if anything on the floppy disks that I desperately need. All I'm really trying to do is get the information from three old 5.25 inch floppies onto my current computer. I hooked up my old 5.25 inch floppy drive to the Win95 machine and transferred the data to both a 3.5 inch floppy disk and to the hard drive. But my current computer has NO floppy drives at all and the Win95 machine has only a CD-ROM so I'm trying to get my older XP machine to read the 3.5 inch floppy and then burn its contents onto a CD with its DVD burner so that I can use it on the newer XP machine. I didn't expect the floppy drive on the XP machine to be a bottleneck but it clearly is....

If you think the floppy drive itself is the issue, then there's not much point in buying newer floppy disks in the hopes that I'll be able to format them with the media descriptor byte. I think I need to either move the CD burner to the Win95 machine or perhaps redo the network in the house so that I can see the Win95 machine from the newer XP machine and transfer the files via the network. I had hoped to avoid that but it looks like I'm out of simpler options....
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24-Jun-2011, 12:56 PM #8
will they not transfer over using a USB pen drive,(if you have one)
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24-Jun-2011, 01:16 PM #9
Good idea but the Win95 machine doesn't have USB ports.
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24-Jun-2011, 01:24 PM #10
A USB flash drive is not likely to work on the Windows 95 system.

Does the Windows 95 system have a standard IDE hard drive? Can you connect it to a an available IDE channel on the XP system?
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24-Jun-2011, 03:33 PM #11
I don't think that's going to work. I have two hard drives already in the Win95 machine and one of them is SCSI. Trying to shoehorn another drive in there is going to be a pain....

I decided to try a totally different approach: networking. I moved a bunch of equipment around and rewired the network so that all three computers (my newer XP system, the old XP system, and the Win95 system) are on the same hub. I thought I'd just set up file sharing and copy directly from the Win95 to the newer XP system where I really wanted to work with those old floppy files. (I've turned off the older XP machine since it is now irrelevant, thus eliminating the middleman.)

I have not done much in the way of networking or file sharing so I was surprised that I got the XP machine to see the Win95 machine so easily. I was sure I'd be back to ask you how to make _that_ work ;-)

On the Win95 machine, I found the directory that contains all the files that I wanted to copy to the (newer) XP machine and right-clicked, then set up file sharing for that directory so that it would be read-only; I set the read-only password on the directory and confirmed it. The file sharing icon is on beside the folder in Windows Explorer.

On the XP machine, I went to My Network Places, clicked on Add a Network Place, clicked on Choose Another Network Place and filled in \\P2\foo where P2 is the Win95 machine and foo is the name of the directory I wanted. Then I clicked Next a couple of times and was suddenly looking at a directory containing all the files I've been trying to get at for the last couple of days!

I copied the files over to the hard drive on my (newer) XP machine, then got the an additional bonus. The files were from some ancient word processor from the mid-80s and I don't even know what program that authors used but, to my great surprise, Open Office Writer opened them just fine and they are perfectly readable. I was sure I was going to have to spend hours trying to track down copies of long dead word processors!

So, long story short, I got what I originally wanted. I just had to do it a much different way than I originally planned.

Thanks VERY much to all of you for helping!
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