Failing Floppies – An Update

Something of a breakthrough occurred yesterday in my quest to understand what was causing pretty much all of my vintage Macs to behave erratically with respect to mounting, reading and writing floppies.

Floppy Disk

In my last post on this topic, I had more or less concluded that the age of the media itself was the likely culprit, and that after all this time, it simply could no longer hold its bits. Yesterday I conclusively proved that this was not the case, thus pointing the finger squarely back at the drives themselves (or at least the combination of the older media and the older drives).

I was reorganizing the Happy Macs lab, tying to simultaneously tidy it up and make room for more equipment. I was successful in this endeavor and was able to bring back to life the very first vintage Mac I had acquired, a Power Macintosh 7500/100 (upgraded with a NewerTech 400 MHz G3 accelerator).

20170526_132034-1024x652

I was lucky enough to have purchased this Mac from its original owner, who had used it to manage a printing business for some time, and then retired it to the back of a closet for the next 20 years or so before deciding to list it on eBay. I thus had the beginners luck to acquire a lightly used and carefully preserved vintage Mac, and one that didn’t even have to endure the rigors of shipping! The owner’s location was only 10 miles or so away from my work and so I simply drove over and picked it up.

The thought occurred to me – lightly used, well cared for original Macintosh hardware, including the floppy drive; would it be more successful with my “failing floppies” than all the others? I had to try it out and was very pleased that I did.

As you can probably guess from the above, my 7500/100 mounted, read and wrote every floppy I threw at it with no issues whatsoever. It even formatted floppies successfully, something I had only ever managed successfully once before.

SO, the verdict is in. It is NOT the media. It is the drives. The same media that fails miserably on the rest of my vintage Macs works like a champ on my 7500/100. I can only assume that age, less than optimal care, and prolonged original usage have de-rated the floppy drives on the rest of my Macs. The 7500/100, gently used during its original service lifetime, and then carefully stored until I purchased it, it closer to its original state than the rest, and thus more successful with floppy media.

As I reported earlier, I have purchased another floppy drive on eBay, and will try this out on my G3 AIO. There is no reason to believe that this hardware will have been any more gently used, or any better cared for, than the rest of the floppy drives in my other Macs, but now that I KNOW that it is the drive and not the media, and I have this “new” drive in hand, I simply have to try. I will report the results here!

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