Retrieving data from a diskette

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A SearchStorage.com reader recently asked: Is there anyway to retrieve saved info from a diskette that tells you the disk is not formatted when you know it has been due to having lots of saved info on it?
ASKED: December 8, 2005  2:47 PM
UPDATED: December 9, 2005  1:35 PM

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This may sound dumb but when was the last time you cleaned the diskette drive

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  • Raferjl
    If you have cleaned the drive recently, the problem may be due to dirty media. Depending on how ambitious you are, you can crack open the plastic case, remove the media, and clean on both sides with a cotton puff soaked in isopropyl alcohol. Put the media back in the case, making sure that the same side is facing the label as before. Close the case with super glue. Immediately copy any data that you can read to a new diskette. I have used this method several times to recover data from ancient, well used floppies. -Jim-
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  • Raferjl
    Another reason why you might not be able to retrieve information from is diskette is head alignment. If you have access to the computer that originally wrote the diskette, try reading it on that machine. Whatever you do, don't write anything to that diskette, or you can destroy data on adjacent tracks, if the heads are differently aligned than the machine that wrote the disk. Similarly, if the diskette drive that wrote the diskette supported a different storage density than the machine you are trying to read it from, the track width may be different. This is not normally a problem when reading a diskette with a higher density drive than the writing drive, but reading with a lower density (bigger head) can cause the head to average in the magnetic state of areas to the right and/or left of the track, lowering the signal/noise ration of the recorded track. Of course, if the diskette was written on a machine with a different operating system than the one you are attempting to read it on, you have an even lower chance of recovering the information due to differences in basic file system structure between operating systems. If you are trying to retrieve information from another operating system, it may be that you can read the diskette with Linux(tm). Linux is able to read diskette file systems from many different operating systems. You may need a real Linux geek to do it, though. Good luck, -Jim-
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  • Dataphile
    As the previous replies have mentioned, the problem could be either the physical diskette media, the diskette drive being used to read the diskette, or a mismatch between the recording format (OS/platform) under which the diskette was created and that currently being used to read the diskette. You mention AS/400 -- assume you are aware that the 5-1/4-inch diskettes created by that platform are not directly readable by MS/DOS/Windows. A similar problem occurs when trying to read a Macintosh-HFS formatted 3-1/2 diskette under MS/DOS/Windows. Such diskettes can be read by using a software utility such as MacDrive but only if they are HD (high-density) 3-1/2". Double-density (single rectangar hole in diskette) Mac 3-1/2" diskettes require an older native Mac diskette drive on a Mac (many newer Mac diskette drives will not read them either). All the problems mentioned above (plus other similar proprietary formatting for diskette backup-up programs, word processors, UNIX, etc. can produce the "not formatted" response so it is important to correctly diagnose the problem.
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