Introduction

Floppy disks were a popular storage media in the 1970s, 80, 90s and early 2000s. Given their popularity it's not uncommon to have disks in storage somewhere holding documents, pictures, spreadsheets and creative works from the past. This data is under threat for the following reasons...

Disk
  1. Floppy disks have a limited life. Even if stored well, the magnetic surfaces deteriorate over time and eventually the media becomes unreadable. Files are lost forever.
  2. Even if the disks are still ok, recovering the files can be problematic as most of us no longer have equipment that can read this antiquated storage media, particularly the older formats.

Point 2 above means that we might not even know what's on these stored disks!

Having a range of vintage computer models and experience with their disk formats means I have the skills and capability to list the directories and/or rescue files from those old stored floppies. I have been offering this service to those who need it since 2012, and have recovered files from well over a thousand floppy disks (of all types). Clients have spanned the spectrum, from large government organisations to private individuals.

If you've got old floppy disks with unreplicated (or unknown!) data stored away, read the frequently-asked-questions below and decide if this service is of interest. Questions addressed are...

Who is this service for?

As indicated above, it's primarily for people who have document, image or data files trapped on floppies that they want to check and/or recover either for preservation or use. That is the primary market. However, the service might also be useful for people who wish to convert their old floppies into disk images they can use on emulators (assuming it's non-protected software).

I'm based in New Zealand but will accept business from anywhere. Some of my clients have been from the U.S.A and U.K.

What type of floppy disks?

The following disk sizes and formats can all be catered for:

Three and a half inch disks (3.5")

  • PC format (double density and high-density)
  • Apple Macintosh (double density and high-density)
  • Commodore Amiga
  • Atari ST Models
  • Acorn Models

Five and a quarter inch disks (5.25")

  • PC format (both double density and high density)
  • TRS 80 Model I, III and IV
  • CP/M (Kaypro, Osborne, etc. - most flavours)
  • BBC (DFS and ADFS)
  • Apple II/IIe (DOS 3.3 and PRODOS)
  • Commodore 64 and Vic-20
  • Atari 400/800 and XL/XE series

Three inch disks (3")

  • Amstrad CPC 464/664/128

Eight inch disks (8")

  • MS-DOS
  • CP/M

Zip disks (Mac or PC)

  • 100Mb
  • 250Mb

If your disks are not in the list above, ask anyway. I might be able to find a workaround.

What are the options and how much do they cost?

Charges vary depending on the disk type, format, number, options selected and other services required. All values are in NZ$ (One NZ dollar = approx. $0.70 US).

Option 1: Directory listing

For each of your disks, a text file showing its directory listing will be emailed to you at the charges below. You can then either leave it at that or ask for any files of interest to be extracted using options 2 or 3.

Disk type
Price: disk directory per disk
  <10 disks 10-20 disks >20 disks
3.5" PC (high density) disks  $3.00 $2.50  $2.00
3.5" Mac disks (high density)  $4.50 $4.00  $3.50
5.25" PC-type (MS-DOS) disks  $6.00 $5.00  $4.25
Other floppy disk formats  $7.50 $6.00 $5.00
Zip disks  $14.50 $13.50 $11.00

Option 2: Named file(s) extracted

Named files can be extacted from each disk for $2/file (3.5" PC), $3.50/file (3.5" Mac), $4.25/file (5.25" PC), or $5.00/file (other formats). Alternatively...If you're sure you might want more that just a few files from each disk, a full file extraction (option 3) is the better choice.

Option 3: All files extracted (or the disk converted to a disk image)

Disk type
Price: file extraction per disk
  <10 disks 10-20 disks >20 disks
3.5" PC (high density) disks  $6.00 $5.00  $4.00
3.5" Mac disks (high density)  $9.00 $8.00  $7.00
5.25" PC-type (MS-DOS) disks  $12.00 $10.00  $8.50
Other floppy disk formats  $15.00 $12.00 $10.00
Zip disks  $29.00 $25.00 $22.00

A $25 administration fee will be applied to all orders. Directory listings are usually emailed, while extracted files or disk images are normally zipped and returned via a Dropbox web-link or a user-supplied pen-drive. Return postage will need to be paid if you want disks returned.

(iii) Pre-treatment (only if required)

If the disks are visibly degraded, they will need pre-treatment before a read is attempted (see below). The charge for this is $15 per disk.

(iv) File conversion (see below) (optional)

Conversion is free for common formats like Microsoft Works or WordPerfect. However some older formats take considerable time and effort to convert and charges will apply. The exact price will depend on the requirements.

Email me for a quote (See below).

How much if disks are unreadable and/or not all files are recovered?

In some cases (especially with degraded disks), a directory might be impossible to read, or some files too damaged to recover. When this is the case, the charges will reflect the degree of success. You won't be charged for data which isn't recovered.

I can see mould and spots on the disks' surface? Are the disks a lost cause?

No. As disks age the media starts to degrade. Eventually it will start to flake off and/or be attacked by mould especially if stored in humid environments. The disk surface looks dull and often shows pale spots. Remarkably, disks can be pre-treated to remove this loose material and a good percentage (and sometimes all) of the data recovered. The charge for pre-treatment is $15/disk. Degraded disks MUST be pre-treated before a read (even a directory read) is attempted. If this is not done they can leave deposits on the drive head which can in turn irrevocably damage what good media there is left as well as damaging the drive. If in doubt I can assess the disks when they arrive and let you know if pre-treatment is needed.

Can I read and edit extracted files on my modern machine?

Just because files can be extracted from an old floppy disk doesn't mean they can be read by modern software. To be usable they may need to be converted to a more modern file format like Microsoft Word or Excel. I can usually do this too. However the time and effort needed for conversion can vary depending on which software produced the files in the first place. Often conversion is easily done and there is no extra charge, but if the files are more exotic I might need to charge separately for this process. I can let you know these charges before starting the work.

For standard 3.5" PC-type disks, couldn't I use a USB floppy reader or resurrect that old PC in the shed?

Sure, but those strategies can be risky and are not without hassle.

Regarding USB floppy drives, if your disks are degraded and media is starting to flake off there is a good chance trying to read the disk will damage both it and your drive. As loose media will now be coating the drive head, any subsequent disks inserted will carve a groove in the disk surface seriously damaging it. This very thing has happened to a few past clients, which is why they contacted me. Also, if you have a lot of disks to process USB disk readers can be rather lightweight and somewhat slow. You'll also have paid for hardware which will be unwanted when you've finished.

Old PCs with 3.5" floppy drives still exist in the wild, although mostly as e-waste now. You need to be careful if you've salvaged one as the condition of the disk drive can vary. It could damage your disks if the drive heads are not clean and the risk of reading "dirty disks" still applies. Even if extraction is successful you have to figure some way to get the extracted files into a modern environment.

Finally, I'll be able to CONVERT your old files if needed, so modern software can view and use them (see above).

How do I use this service?

The first step is to contact me with some details (see below) and I'll send you a no-obligation quote. If you want to fish out and check those floppy disks first, bookmark this page so you can find it later. When ready...

CLICK HERE to email me for a no-obligation quote.

In your email specify the number of disks, their size (3.5", 5.25" etc.), the type of computer they were used on (PC, Mac, etc.) and what you want done with them (directory listing, total file extraction etc). If you know what type of files they contain (documents, images, spreadsheets etc.) add that too.

If you are not sure about what you might need, email anyway and I can advise. Bear in mind I only charge for successful extractions so the financial risk involved is minimal.

Terry Stewart

(This page last changed 27th April, 2017)


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