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Floppy Disc Controller Card

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February 1, 2010 5:46:57 PM

Hello
I want to install a floppy disc on a new computer I am building that doesn't support floppys. ASUS says to install a PCI or PCI E card with a floppy controller on it. I can't find one or anyone that has even heard of one. The closest I can come is an ISA card with an ISA/PCI adapter card. Could this work?

More about : floppy disc controller card

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a b G Storage
February 2, 2010 1:34:42 AM

If your board doesn't support a floppy, it certainly doesn't have any ISA slots. You might be better off getting an external USB floppy drive - here are some and here are some more..
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February 3, 2010 2:39:29 AM

I already have an external floppy drive. It's noisy and even slower than the internal. Does thew Iomega dual drive use a floppy interface?
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a b G Storage
February 3, 2010 2:59:19 AM

All the ones I listed earlier are USB; I couldn't find any PCI cards with a floppy controller/socket.
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a c 415 G Storage
February 3, 2010 6:38:35 AM

You're on the trailing edge of very old technology. I think it might be time to use the drive on your old system to migrate that data to something current like a USB flash drive.
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a b G Storage
February 3, 2010 12:56:39 PM

^ Amen. This is like asking "Does anyone know who makes a kit to mount an 8-track tape player in my new BMW?" It is time to get your storage up to date my friend. :) 

Besides that, transferring it to a modern device will be much more secure and dependable than using the old floppy disks, and holy cow at least 100 times faster!
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February 3, 2010 3:48:29 PM

My good camera is a Sony Mavica FD-74 that uses floppys for memory storage. As long as it works, I need a floppy drive. It looks like it's going to be an external USB drive no matter what I want. I HATE planned obsolescence.
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a b G Storage
February 3, 2010 3:56:36 PM

I generally agree with you, but we've been using 3.5" floppies since when? 1984 - 26 years! And if you remember the 5.25" floppies they replaced- well they were true "floppy" disks with no hard-shell enclosures.

You know, you could keep an older system on hand just to service your camera.

jitpublisher: I was thinking about getting a BMW, where can I find that kit?
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February 3, 2010 5:09:29 PM

I do have an old laptop with a floppy installed. The battery is shot and its not worth replacing, if I could even find one. I would have to do a clean reload of 98SE and photo processing software just to service the camera.
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a c 415 G Storage
February 3, 2010 6:53:41 PM

Your good camera is a Mavica?

I had a Mavica FD-81, and it was terrific for it's time. But that time has long gone, and I don't use it any more. For the cost of a USB floppy drive you could pick up a much nicer SD-based point-and-shoot camera from Craigslist.
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February 3, 2010 7:02:37 PM

If old technology does what I want to do, why should I replace it. It's perfect for the kind of work I do. That would be a waste of money.
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a c 415 G Storage
February 3, 2010 8:36:50 PM

I hear you. I was rightly p*ssed off when I could no longer get functional batteries for my old cell phone and was forced to get a new one. It didn't end up costing me any money, but it still bugged me on principle.

But I've used Mavicas. They're big, the floppy has very limited capacity, and the images really don't hold a candle to what even a cheap modern camera can do.

It just seems to me like you're in a position where you're going to have to spend some money so that you can continue to use the old technology. IMHO you'd be better off spending the same money on slightly newer technology
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February 3, 2010 11:23:42 PM

I posted pics on Ebay that were far superior to the bulk of the pics I have seen.
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a b G Storage
February 4, 2010 1:52:51 AM

Just out of curiosity: Why are you building a new computer with a motherboard that does not have a floppy connection? There are many modern and new boards that still have the floppy.
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a c 415 G Storage
February 4, 2010 3:33:51 AM

Garf said:
I posted pics on Ebay that were far superior to the bulk of the pics I have seen.
That probably speaks more about the skill of photographers of those pictures than the cameras used to take them... ;) 
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a b G Storage
February 6, 2010 3:56:43 PM

Garf said:
I posted pics on Ebay that were far superior to the bulk of the pics I have seen.


:lol: 
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February 6, 2010 4:51:17 PM

treefrog07 said:
Just out of curiosity: Why are you building a new computer with a motherboard that does not have a floppy connection? There are many modern and new boards that still have the floppy.

I wasn't paying enough attention to what I was doing. I assumed they all supported floppys. Wrong again.
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a b G Storage
February 6, 2010 6:32:30 PM

Maybe you could RMA your board for another that has native floppy support. That sounds like your best option, since we've pretty much exhausted other alternatives.
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September 20, 2010 5:28:30 AM

I have diligently be looking for the same thing as Garf... and forum after forum I read the same answers. No matter how "old" the 1.44 Floppy is... it will remain relevant until the function of the "F6" key is removed! Besides, it is only adventitious to have system that is able to access the greatest diversity of media possible.

If there is a way of adding an 'internal' Floppy to an USB3 / SATA 6Mb/s motherboad I for one, would appreciate knowing about it.

Thank you to anyone that is able to shed any light on this problem.

n newbie [ˈnjubiː]
(1)
(2) Users of "contemporary" technology Only.
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a c 415 G Storage
September 20, 2010 6:13:59 AM

pjdc3 said:
...it is only adventitious to have system that is able to access the greatest diversity of media possible.
What about a 5.25" floppy drive - do you need one of those too? How about an 8" floppy drive?




Where do you draw the line?
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September 22, 2010 2:03:40 AM

No, I don't have an 8in; but the 5¼, 3½, ZIP, etc., I have in a PC I'm networked with. As far as Needing them... no, the're for "Just-in-Case", which has only happened a time, or two to convert media (and nostalgia, of course).

The 3½ FDD is different... it is Needed to load (some) drivers when doing a Windows install. The're also like using a PS2 keyboard instead of USB... when there are Boot Up problems, only the old stuff gives you access fix it.

If you're gaming, or doing office work you don't need the Floppy, but if you're doing repairs, it's handy as hell at times.
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a c 415 G Storage
September 22, 2010 5:07:52 AM

Well, this is just my opinion, but....

Modern systems can boot and load drivers from a USB key or CD/DVD. Keep your old system with the old drives around if you need to do conversions, but a new system with software less than 5 years old really doesn't need a floppy for anything.

If you've got old software, just hang on to old hardware for it. You don't need a USB 3.0 / SATA 6Mbit/sec motherboard to run DOS or Windows 98. If you want to consolidate your hardware, then run the old stuff in a virtual machine that supports virtual floppy drives.
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September 23, 2010 6:34:47 PM

I was also looking for a PCI floppy controller for a 5 1/4 drive. Not a lot of luck.
My problem is that I didn't pay close enough attention to the mb specs and didn't realize that a lot of them now
come with no floppy interface at all. My old system died suddenly and I hadn't transferred all the big disks over to
the hard drive or cd. And didn't realize the loss of the connections until I had spent too much time without a
working system to return the mb & start over. I added a 3 1/2 external usb drive but had to add it to a powered
hup as the mb/powersupply/whatever wouldn't reliably recognize it at startup. The bios has options to recognize
it as a floppy and XP doesn't seem to have much problem using it ( just slower than a mb-connected drive ).

However, I did find Device Side Data has a FC5025 interface at
http://www.deviceside.com/fc5025.html

It's not cheap at $55 and $5 shipping but looks like it could work. But at the moment I can't afford it.
It connects the drive to an internal USB connection.

Has anyone else seen this? My other option may be to rip apart a 3 1/2 usb drive & hook that up somehow.
The only problem might be that it needs to be on the inside for power & outside to usb connection.

Any thoughts? Other than the obvious about outdated equipment.
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a c 415 G Storage
September 23, 2010 7:36:30 PM

The USB-to-floppy device is interesting, but since it requires it's own software I'd be a little concerned about compatibility issues.

If I desperately needed to transfer stuff from an old floppy then I'd go looking at Craigslist or a computer swap meet for an older system with a floppy controller integrated on the motherboard. You should be able to get something pretty cheap and it ought to work just fine with whatever OS is on it.
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September 27, 2010 3:44:05 PM

Ok. I was hoping that it would work like the 3 1/2 usb drives but just got an email
back stating that it uses a different protocol and you need to use their software.

Guess I'll start looking for an old small system that can handle both size floppies.
Won't need much to run dos.
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October 4, 2010 4:19:25 AM

I found an item on Ebay, A half size floppy drive that plugs into the motherboards USB connector. It was cheap enough. I hope it will work.
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October 4, 2010 12:52:47 PM

Can you give us manufacturer and model?
I take it that it is a 5 1/4 drive?
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October 11, 2010 12:14:15 AM

Case measures 3.75 W. X 5" L. X 1/2" H. No brand name. A lot of #'s.
D33253 m7
YD-8U10 FD LM
03400151 2008-51
SS26DA
144N49-01
C2J8Y 18A
Y-E DATA
Made In China
DC5V
PM-A
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October 11, 2010 1:33:26 PM

That's a 3 1/2 floppy drive. Not a 5 1/4 drive.

I've got one hooked to my system and it only cost $20. My only real problem with
it is when plugged directly into a USB port. The MB won't reliably see it on a cold
boot. maybe some sort of power problem with the MB or power supply.
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February 22, 2012 9:35:06 PM

The half height internal floppy drive never did work. I still don't know why.
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February 22, 2012 10:20:08 PM

From what you said, the motherboard has no on-board floppy controller and has no floppy connector so there is
no way you can connect the floppy cable ( the cable is about 1 to 2 inches wide and has a connector that fits
the floppy drive ).

The easiest thing to do is connect that external floppy to your USB port and enable Legacy support in your
BIOS/CMOS setup. You may have to look thru the setup screens until you find it. After enabling it and
rebooting the system should detect the floppy.

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November 20, 2012 10:13:10 PM

I need to recover data with a zip drive and would not care to shell out the bucks for an external when there is a perfectly good unit in my spare part pile. simple pcie contoler card shouldn't be so hard to find , should it? A lot of history has been laid down on floppys, zips and ,yes ,even on 8 tracks. Neghther of my last two motherboards have supported that format, but now i've got the urge to browse those old vacation photos to make sure I got them all in the freshest format.
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April 18, 2013 10:24:57 AM

Hi Garf, I don't have an answer and was also looking for a PCI floppy controller. I normally keep my thoughts to myself but I can't stand it anymore. You more ons (spelled incorrectly on purpose) are just that. I see your irrelevent replies everywhere. Keep your comments to yourself. Don't ask why someone wants to do something. It's irrelevent. Don't make irrelevent suggestions or criticize someone's decisions because it's not your business. Stop pretending you're God and judging others. All you do is waste valuable Internet space (bandwidth, etc.) with your useless innuendo. If you don't know the answer just SHUTUP! Don't try to create a forum for your useless self because you're a loser and will always be that way since all you're able to do is use 2% of your brain capacity. You complain about how the world is screwing you over .. yet YOU are the ones that have made it this way!!! All of you who don't know the answer to something and want to chime in needlessly .. well, you know where you can go MORE ONS!
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April 23, 2013 5:23:20 AM

My answer was to get a internal LS120 Drive which reads and writes 3.5's and uses a EIDE cable which newer mother boards still have. Atlantic Semiconductor has them for sale on the web both in black and beige...
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February 1, 2014 1:15:49 PM

It's an old thread, but I wanted to chime in also. I am interested in knowing if there is a PCI card that is a floppy controller. Why? Because I make NEW disks for OLD music production keyboards from the 80s. Still valid. USB does not work for these. I was cheesed off by the "get with it" comments too. Leave people alone if you are just going to placate ignorance.
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May 23, 2014 7:59:17 AM

I've been searching for either the PCI controller card or a floppy to USB adapter for a friend. I saw a PCI Card that accommodates a hard drive, and floppy socket at Ebay. also saw one at a web site called recycled parts.com.also there is a critter called a Catweasel made in Germany and England. Just google it and see what websites are available. Caution there are some limitations to the Catweasel.
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May 23, 2014 1:06:52 PM

Hey, what was the model #/brand of the pci card you saw on ebay?

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May 24, 2014 7:13:29 AM

frankothemountain: it was Advansys ABP-5142 hard disk/floppy controller Card and was selling for $39.99.
I think it is for the PCIx16 slot.
what and where on the motherboard is the EIDE Cable?
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May 24, 2014 7:25:17 AM

smindal; As I understand Microsoft's info on the virtual machine and virtual PC,you can only run software programs on these.you can't use the USB ports.
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July 23, 2014 3:08:07 AM

JimH866 said:
Hi Garf, I don't have an answer and was also looking for a PCI floppy controller. I normally keep my thoughts to myself but I can't stand it anymore. You more ons (spelled incorrectly on purpose) are just that. I see your irrelevent replies everywhere. Keep your comments to yourself. Don't ask why someone wants to do something. It's irrelevent. Don't make irrelevent suggestions or criticize someone's decisions because it's not your business. Stop pretending you're God and judging others. All you do is waste valuable Internet space (bandwidth, etc.) with your useless innuendo. If you don't know the answer just SHUTUP! Don't try to create a forum for your useless self because you're a loser and will always be that way since all you're able to do is use 2% of your brain capacity. You complain about how the world is screwing you over .. yet YOU are the ones that have made it this way!!! All of you who don't know the answer to something and want to chime in needlessly .. well, you know where you can go MORE ONS!



This thread is a bit old but it is still active so I wanted to chime in since I just finally registered recently after being a random spectator every now and then on the forums looking for answers. In fact, I might have read this thread a long time ago and had this been a year ago I probably wouldn't have as much detailed information to provide until now.

I have to agree with JimH866 partially. I don't see anything wrong with asking why Garf needs a PCI based Floppy controller. Perhaps they wanted to know what his purpose was for it and he responded in case he needed to access those floppies one day. On the other hand telling Garf to abandon finding one is where JimH866 makes a good point about that being a waste of a comment. However giving Garf an alternate solution is more helpful. I sure as hell would like to know why they never made one or why they stopped producing them and I can only guess it wasn't profitable anymore. The last time I saw these Floppy and IDE controller cards were on ISA cards or they were built into the motherboard which are getting harder to find. This might have started the trend of eliminating a need for a PCI based controller card version.

Unfortunately, when optical drives and flash drives took over I think that started the decline of the good old floppy drives and floppy controllers. I miss them from a nostalgic standpoint but I also have possibly a few thousand floppies of various vintage software that I stockpile. One method would be to transfer all the floppies to the hard drive or optical discs if it is just data.

IDE controllers probably faded because SATA controllers had more bandwidth, decreased cable clutter, and the connectors used less space on the motherboard. SATA drives were more compact, faster, reached higher capacities, generated less heat, and were much quieter. I remember my old 40GB Maxtor was bulky, slow, hot to the touch, and extremely loud. It took me awhile before I finally gave in and got my first SATA hard drive.

Here's the problem or should I say the limitation of USB floppy drives. Some floppies back in the day contained copy-protection which can't be broken but can only be duplicated onto another floppy. The problem with USB floppy drives is you can't use copy protection duplication software with those types of drives. It must be accessed at the DOS level and not via a USB port. There are some functions it cannot perform via a USB interface and requires a real floppy controller.

Another thing I noticed is the new BIOSs on motherboards restrict hooking up or recognizing more than 1 floppy drive. So duplication is more of a pain because you have to keep swapping the floppy drive source and backup disks constantly.

Another limitation of USB floppy drives is there isn't a self-contained 5 1/4 1.2MB nor 5 1/4 360KB version. Only the 1.44MB high density USB external floppy drive exists. I don't know if this is due to the power requirements of a 5 1/4 floppy drive, that no one has the technical knowledge to produce them, or there simply isn't enough demand. As a result people who want to access those older 5 1/4" floppies are left out of the loop.

One user pointed out a link to a USB 5 1/4" drive but I don't have the money to invest and test that out to see how compatible it is compared to a real floppy controller and a real 5 1/4" drive but it is great something like that even exists as a niche item.

Again the compatibility of using USB based floppy drives is very limited. You probably can only copy files off of it and save files on them at a basic level. I doubt you could use this in DOS and run the software to duplicate copy protected disks.

This leads us to the only other option which is to find an old 486 system with floppy drives still in it.

Personally, this would provide more compatibility for the reasons I described above regarding copy protection and 5 1/4" floppy drives.

Back to a modern day solution.

If Garf's disks are only 720KB or 1.44MB then only an external USB 1.44MB floppy drive is his only option at this point or to buy a modern motherboard equipped with a floppy controller. Copy protection did not exist on 720KB and 1.44MB disks, so if you just want to backup theses floppies you are in luck. AsRock is the only company I can think of that kept producing Floppy and IDE controllers on their various consumer motherboards and they can be expensive. This is probably the best modern hardware solution since no PCI based Floppy and IDE controller exists in production. And even if did exist, I think unless the company provided DOS drivers you couldn't use it in DOS and if you used it in Windows it might require Windows drivers to detect the controller board. If they could somehow make the PCI controller board use default Windows drivers that might be way around needing to install drivers before you could use it. A floppy and IDE controller built into the motherboard also removes this headache since it is detected at the BIOS level the devices are accessible by any operating system that supports them including DOS.

If Garf needs to copy 1.2MB 5 1/4" floppy drives then he can do this with a floppy controller built into the motherboard. I believe most 1.2MB diskettes never used copy protection as far as I can recall.

If Garf needs to duplicate 5 1/4" 360KB copy protected disks than he has to buy a 486 computer to do it. I've tried Pentiums before and they are way too fast and duplication software causes a divide overflow or just hangs.

Even a software emulator like DOSBOX can't run the copy protection duplication software.

Sometimes you need the real hardware to do the job.


Garf may or may not read this but I thought I would shed some light on possible solutions to resolve his floppy drive and IDE dilemma or anyone else is in the same predicament.

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July 23, 2014 4:51:29 AM

simonchipmunk said:
frankothemountain: it was Advansys ABP-5142 hard disk/floppy controller Card and was selling for $39.99.
I think it is for the PCIx16 slot.
what and where on the motherboard is the EIDE Cable?


I just wanted to let you know that is NOT a PCI card nor a PCIe card. That is a 16-bit ISA card you linked.

The EIDE cable is something you use to connect from the IDE device such as an IDE hard drive or IDE CD-rom drive to the IDE controller. It is a 40 or 80 pin ribbon cable.

Here is an example of what an IDE cable looks like.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIA30R...

Usually the IDE controller slots are found on the motherboard near the edge for easy access. It should look like a colored rectangular block with 39 male pins + 1 pin purposely removed for the orientation notch so you don't plug it in the wrong direction.

Here is an example photo.
http://www.dansdata.com/images/133aboards/conns400.jpg

This photo shows a legacy motherboard with (2) blue and (2) yellow rectangular shaped IDE controller slots. The (1) white colored one is 34 pins and happens to be for the Floppy Disk Controller slot.


Upon further research I believe I found a possible PCI based IDE and SATA 1 controller. It doesn't have the floppy controller but for those trying to find a PCI based IDE controller you are in luck. So if you are lucky to find a motherboard with only a floppy controller this might solve your problem.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/VIA-VT6421-3-Port-SATA-Serial-A...

$8.50

Includes a driver CD and Sata cable with it.

It says it supports Windows 98SE/ME/NT4.0/2000/XP.


Another option is this one:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/PCIE-3-5-IDE-SATA-e-SATA-HDD-Ha...

It claims to have driver support up to Windows 8 and Linux.


I have not tried either of these cards so buy at your own risk.
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July 23, 2014 5:28:59 AM

smithbear said:
My answer was to get a internal LS120 Drive which reads and writes 3.5's and uses a EIDE cable which newer mother boards still have. Atlantic Semiconductor has them for sale on the web both in black and beige...


I also have several of these Imation LS-120 SuperDisk drives from 1999-2000. They went on clearance because Iomega Zip drives and CD-rom drives were getting too cheap for mass storage. It's a shame because I thought these would survive and rejuvenate the floppy disk drive technology. For awhile we were hanging at 2.88MB EHD floppy drives but those bombed and we never saw anything until the LS-120. Its main selling point was it was backward compatible with 1.44MB and 720KB diskettes. I bought 3 of these for $50 each when they normally went for either $100 or was it $150. I accidentally incorrectly plugged the connector the wrong way on one of them and fried it. So be careful with these.

I have NOT tested to see if these can be used for duplicating copy protected disks since I had a real floppy controller and floppy drive to use. However, they can read and write to regular floppy diskettes if that's your goal. They only read 720KB, 1.44MB, and LS-120 120MB floppy disks.

And again there was never an IDE 5 1/4" 360KB or 5 1/4" 1.2MB replacement drive.

I can't recall if they booted as the A: drive or not. I remember booting off of them before but only if your BIOS allows you the option to BOOT off of the LS-120. They BIOS may have given it an A: letter on that system. If your BIOS didn't support the LS-120 I think it used the C: drive if no other hard drive was installed.

Since it didn't use the floppy controller I felt it was somewhat of a fake floppy drive and not the real deal. I only got it hoping it would catch on. They did create the LS-240, but I never saw these and assumed once the LS-120 went on clearance it was a dead technology.

I still recommend you get an external USB powered 1.44MB floppy drive instead of an LS-120. It's probably cheaper to deal with as well and safer to use with its plug and pray technology.

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July 23, 2014 6:13:22 AM

Paul Elliott said:

I've been searching for either the PCI controller card or a floppy to USB adapter for a friend. I saw a PCI Card that accommodates a hard drive, and floppy socket at Ebay. also saw one at a web site called recycled parts.com.also there is a critter called a Catweasel made in Germany and England. Just google it and see what websites are available. Caution there are some limitations to the Catweasel.



The Catweasel is probably your best bet at finding a PCI card based Floppy controller. They are also very expensive and probably overkill and require drivers to be installed to get it to function. I would only suggest someone get this if they deal in mainly 5 1/4" 360KB or 5 1/4" 1.2MB floppy disks.

Getting an AsRock motherboard with built in IDE and floppy controller is a better solution since the floppy drive is detected in the BIOS so you can boot off the A: drive if you should desire. You can hook up a single 5 1/4" 360KB or 1.2MB drive to this motherboard. Some older models allow dual floppy drive support. If you're dealing with just 720KB and 1.44MB floppy disks, just use a USB external 1.44MB floppy drive. It's easier and cheaper and around $20 at most.


The Catweasel is meant for people who want to read and write to floppies from other computer systems onto their PC that are no longer in use like the old Commodore 64, Atari 400, Amiga 500+, TRS-80, Apple II, Mac, Atari ST, et cetera.


CATWEASEL MK4 PLUS (PCI)

http://amigakit.leamancomputing.com/catalog/product_inf...

£89.99 about $153 USD


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July 23, 2014 6:57:28 AM

Garf said:
My good camera is a Sony Mavica FD-74 that uses floppys for memory storage. As long as it works, I need a floppy drive. It looks like it's going to be an external USB drive no matter what I want. I HATE planned obsolescence.



I had two of these Mavicas. The first one was a FD-100 and it worked great till someone dropped it and I had barely had it for 2 months! It was great taking photos onto a floppy disk which I had plenty of lying around then then pop it into the floppy drive and copy. Sneakernet is an awesome technology. Then I decided to get the FD-200 and it used a Mini-CDRW instead of a floppy disk. I felt that the optical rewriteability and the extra storage capacity was a better idea since you can only write and rewrite so many times before the floppy starts getting data errors and also I read stories of the floppy drive in the camera could die and early death from usage. The FD-200 took some great shots for eBay and then one day the camera just had issues focusing and I stopped using it as much. Nowadays it's a digital camera and a USB cable or a cell phone. I still prefer the floppy or Mini CD cause it was a bit more convenient than having to find a cable to hook up to the computer.

And 2TB USB powered external hard drives are the best thing ever invented... Just saying! :D 
I don't think these are going away any time soon. I hope to see 10TB USB powered hard drives in the next 5 years.
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July 23, 2014 10:29:17 AM

tiger technician: I beg to differ re. the external USb Floppy drive. it reads and also copies.
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July 23, 2014 5:24:13 PM

simonchipmunk said:
tiger technician: I beg to differ re. the external USb Floppy drive. it reads and also copies.


Hello simonchipmunk,

LOL. I just realized what your username meant.

I recently watched the Blu-rays of Alvin and the Chipmunks 1 and 2 about week ago.

I don't think you understand what I meant by duplicating copy-protected disks.

You can read and write "DATA" files from "NON" copy protected disks.

I think this is a bit before your time.

Copy protection on diskettes existed back in the early 1980s to about 1987-1988 when they fell out of favor.
This was a method used to prevent software piracy back in the day so that you couldn't just use diskcopy a: b: to duplicate software and hand it to someone. Software companies used unique strategies to make their disks unreadable by basic disk copying tools. If you tried to duplicate a copy protected disk you would get data errors and the copy did not work. Later this migrated to CD copy protections for games on consoles. Today they just implement some 3rd party DRM program that you have to install that verifies your optical disc is an original before it will allow the program to run or force you to login to some internet site to verify you are the legitimate owner.

Later floppy disk copy protection duplication software came out from various companies that could create an exact copy. It did not crack the protection but merely duplicated the disk bit for bit so it appeared to be an exact copy of the original.

Then software companies got smart and started converting to manual based copy protection to make it harder for people to simply copy the software. This meant in order to run the software it asked you to answer a question by looking up a word, number, or picture inside the manual or map they provided. Back then a scanner was not cheap nor was it something everyone had in their possession like today. Also scanning a manual created large picture files and the only way to transfer files was through the analog modem. If a game was 1MB in size and a scan of a full manual might be several Megabytes in size. Transferring 1MB back then took about 1 hour on a 2400 baud modem. That meant you were tying up a phone line for a whole hour.

Here is link that is more in depth with pictures.

http://www.vintagecomputing.com/index.php/archives/174

With external USB 3 1/2" 1.44MB floppy drives it does not matter because copy protection schemes stopped at the 5 1/4" 360KB stage so most disk formats above this are free from any disk based copy protection and that's why I recommended the external USB 1.44MB as the cheapest and easiest solution for transferring old 3.5" diskettes.

Anyhow, I don't want to get too technical but I think I explained the gist of it.
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