Amigas and 5 1/4″ drives

So, all Amigas came with 3 1/2″ floppy drives back in the 1980s/90s. Initially when the Amiga 1000 came out 3 1/2″ diskettes were quite expensive compared to the then older 5 1/4″ diskettes. I had two older brothers with Amiga 1000’s, and I later bought my A500 in 1988. Given that we were all relatively ‘cheap’, one of my brothers worked out the mods to a 80 track 5 1/4″ drive to make it work on a Amiga. So we all bought one of these drives and hooked it up as our external drive. Then we did the simple mods to add in a toggle switch to let us boot off the external 5 1/4″ drive.

Being the era that it was, we ended up with a lot of stuff on 5 1/4″ floppies.

Most of these floppies have sat in my parents house in a warmer (but not that damp) part of the East Coast of Australia for the past 25 years. Always the one to want to rescue old stuff, on a recent trip to my parents I decided to rescue some of the old floppy diskettes and also found one of these modified 80 track 5 1/4″ drives.

So 1) the old Mitsubishi 80 track drive chugged away just fine but 2) as expected it couldnt read much. My general approach with the 3 1/2″ drives I have is to pick a diskette that you are willing to lose and just shove isopropyl onto the floppy medium (both sides), and do repeated track by track checks and disk spinning (there are a few Amiga utils that ‘spin disks’). In theory the ‘spinning’ helps clean the gunk off the surface of the diskette as there is a fibrous cleaning material inside the diskette jacket. Get the track by track check to read all tracks 100% then carefully try other floppy disks … and if you end up with unreadable disks again, repeat the whole isopropyl procedure.

So I used a crappy ‘Computec’ brand floppy disk as my donor disk .. that after repeated isopropyling I got it down to no errors, then started to try the other diskettes I had , and to my surprise most of them read perfectly straight off.

It is strange that the disks that have been left in the hot insides of my parents Australian house for 20 something years are generally quite readable, yet most of theĀ  2nd hand 3 1/2″ diskettes I have acquired in NZ are unreadable to the point that I end up throwing them out.