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...

  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.

Having a range of vintage computer models and experience with their disk formats means I have the skills and capability to 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 two 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 recover either for checking, 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 Australia, Canada, Italy, 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.

How much does it cost?

(i) File extraction and/or disk imaging

Charges vary depending on the disk type, format, number, options selected and other services required. All values are in NZ$ (One NZ dollar = approx. $0.62 US).

Disk type
  <10 disks 10-20 disks >20 disks
3.5" PC (high density) disks  $10.00 $8.00  $6.00
3.5" Mac disks (high density)  $15.00 $12.00  $9.00
5.25" PC-type (MS-DOS) disks  $22.00 $18.00  $13.00
3.5" Mac disks (double density) $29.00 $23.00 $18.00
Other floppy disk formats  $32.00 $26.00 $19.00
Zip disks  $32.00 $24.00 $19.00

Older disks associated with Apple II, BBC, early Ataris and Commodore machines can sometimes be "flippy" disks. These have a directory each side. These sides need to be processed separately. In a practical sense they require almost as much work as two standard disks. Charges for these flippy disks are 1.5x the prices listed above for "Other floppy disk formats".

Even one disk extraction involves some setting up and activity so a $35 administration fee will be applied to all orders. 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.

(ii) Directory listing

If you have many disks and you don't know what's on them, I can provide directory listings for 1/2 the price of file extraction. You can then decide which disks (if any) require files to be copied off. Extraction charges are as listed above.

(iii) Pre-treatment (if required)

If the disks are shedding media or have fungal growth, they will need pre-treatment before a read is attempted (see below). The charge for this is normally $15 per disk, although a bulk discount may apply if there are many disks.

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

Conversion is free for common formats like Microsoft Works or Word Perfect. 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), the entire disk may be unreadable 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. The worst case scenario is that you'll only need to pay the $35 administration fee (and postage if you want the disks returned).

What if some disks are blank? Will I still be charged?

If the disk can be read successfully but is found to be blank (i.e. no files), you'll be charged 1/2 price for that disk.

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 standard charge for pre-treatment is $15/disk. Degraded disks MUST be pre-treated before an extraction (or even a 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 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 just 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. Plus you'll 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).

Can you repair/extract files from known damaged/unreadable disks?

Sometimes. It depends entirely on the damage and the disk type. Even if I can't obtain individual files, I can often extract any text which may be on the disk. This text may be fragmented, but often whole blocks of readable material can be recovered which can be stitched together (by the client) to recreate lost documents. This work is more involved than simple file extraction, so let me know the details of the problem and I can provide a specific quote.

How do I use this service?

CLICK HERE to email me some details and obtain a no-obligation quote.

In your email give me as much information as you can e.g. the number of disks, their size (3.5", 5.25" etc.), their density (high, double, etc.), the type of computer they were used on (PC, Mac, etc.), if they are "flippys" (sometimes used in older 8-bit computers) and what you want done with them (file extraction, disk imaging etc.). If you know what type of files they contain (documents, images, spreadsheets etc.) add that too.

It would be a good idea to visually check the disks for possible issues and report those in the email too.

If you are not sure about what you've got or what you might need, no worries. Email anyway and I can advise. It won't cost you anything and you'll be under no obligation to use the service.

Bear in mind I only charge for successful extractions so the financial risk involved is minimal.

Terry Stewart

(This page last changed 6th July, 2022)

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