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Old Aug 22, 2012, 04:41 PM   #1
Dokk
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USB Floppy Drive?

Hi y'all,

So I'm helping my significant other in putting together a computer system (and peripherals) for her elderly mom. We're getting her an iMac, new printer, etc. One thing she needs is a floppy drive because she has a bunch of 3.5" disks with data on them that she wants to save. So my question for you folks is:

Do you know of a model (still available from Amazon or somewhere else reputable) that will play nice with a new iMac? I'd prefer to keep it at $20 or less, but understand if the only real option costs more than that. I see a lot of drives on Amazon, but can't seem to find one with (positive) feedback from Mac owners.

Any recommendations based on personal experience?
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Old Aug 22, 2012, 05:00 PM   #2
jamesr19
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You could always use bootcamp to copy the files onto the floppydrive. Or even parallels/WMware. You can get these pieces of software (including Windows) as trials so you wont have extra costs there. Just save them onto the harddrive on her new iMac and she won't have any problems
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Old Aug 22, 2012, 05:19 PM   #3
killerrobot
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According to this horribly designed website (hit ctrl+a to read any text), Mac OS8 and above can read Pc floppy disks. http://www.homeroom.net/_board/0000000b.htm
However, the main question is what kind of files are on the floppies? Depending on the file types, they might be worthless on the mac even if you transfer them over without converting them first as there might not be a program that can read them.
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Old Aug 22, 2012, 05:23 PM   #4
Dokk
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jamesr19 View Post
You could always use bootcamp to copy the files onto the floppydrive. Or even parallels/WMware. You can get these pieces of software (including Windows) as trials so you wont have extra costs there. Just save them onto the harddrive on her new iMac and she won't have any problems
Thanks for the idea, but I don't think you're understanding me. She has 3.5" floppy disks, not hard drives. She also has no other computer. So she needs a way to get the data from the floppy disks onto her new iMac. Or maybe I was misunderstanding you....

----------

Quote:
Originally Posted by killerrobot View Post
According to this horribly designed website (hit ctrl+a to read any text), Mac OS8 and above can read Pc floppy disks. http://www.homeroom.net/_board/0000000b.htm
However, the main question is what kind of files are on the floppies? Depending on the file types, they might be worthless on the mac even if you transfer them over without converting them first as there might not be a program that can read them.
Sure. We'll cross that road when we come to it ... and could always bootcamp or VMware into a different OS to read them and convert the data. But the stopping point for me right now is actually getting the 1s and 0s from the floppy media to her hard drive.
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Old Aug 22, 2012, 05:25 PM   #5
skorpien
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If you have a Windows machine (or know of anyone willing to let you borrow theirs for a little while), you can use one of those USB floppy drives and copy all of the files from the floppy disks onto a USB key and transfer them to her machine that way?
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Old Aug 22, 2012, 05:25 PM   #6
killerrobot
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dokk View Post
Thanks for the idea, but I don't think you're understanding me. She has 3.5" floppy disks, not hard drives. She also has no other computer. So she needs a way to get the data from the floppy disks onto her new iMac. Or maybe I was misunderstanding you....

----------



Sure. We'll cross that road when we come to it ... and could always bootcamp or VMware into a different OS to read them and convert the data. But the stopping point for me right now is actually getting the 1s and 0s from the floppy media to her hard drive.
In that case I would buy the cheapest USB floppy drive on Amazon. It should just plug and play even on a mac.
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Old Aug 23, 2012, 04:30 AM   #7
jamesr19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dokk View Post
Thanks for the idea, but I don't think you're understanding me. She has 3.5" floppy disks, not hard drives. She also has no other computer. So she needs a way to get the data from the floppy disks onto her new iMac. Or maybe I was misunderstanding you....
No I understood your problem but perhaps I didn't explain it sufficiently enough. The reason a floppy drive won't work on mac is most likely due to the lack of drivers (Apple never had 3.5" floppy drives - not even in the first iMac). As a result the chances the floppy drives work with Mac OSX is minimal.

My suggestion is you install Bootcamp (Windows) or use Parallels to run a virtual machine of Windows. Windows will support floppy drives. Once you have done that, copy the contents of the floppy disks onto a memory stick or a hard drive. She will now be able to access the files on her iMac (and if the formats are supported, she will be able to use them too). Your floppy disks are now redundant and you can remove Windows.
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Old Aug 23, 2012, 07:23 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by jamesr19 View Post
No I understood your problem but perhaps I didn't explain it sufficiently enough. The reason a floppy drive won't work on mac is most likely due to the lack of drivers (Apple never had 3.5" floppy drives - not even in the first iMac). As a result the chances the floppy drives work with Mac OSX is minimal.

My suggestion is you install Bootcamp (Windows) or use Parallels to run a virtual machine of Windows. Windows will support floppy drives. Once you have done that, copy the contents of the floppy disks onto a memory stick or a hard drive. She will now be able to access the files on her iMac (and if the formats are supported, she will be able to use them too). Your floppy disks are now redundant and you can remove Windows.
What in God's name are you talking about? Every Mac from 1984 to 1998 had 3.5" floppy drives. The first Mac under my control was a Mac SE with two 3.5" floppy drives and no hard drive. The original iMac in 1998 was the first not to have a floppy drive. You must be confusing 5.25" floppy drives with 3.5" floppy drives. Macs never used 5.25" floppy drives but they largely pioneered 3.5" floppy drives.

Following Apple's abandonment of floppy drives in the late 1990s, the peripheral market stepped-in with USB external 3.5" floppy drives. They "just worked" with no additional drivers required. Windows PCs extant all continued to use built-in floppy drives--many of them using dual floppy drives. External 3.5" floppy drives were Mac peripherals because Windows did not need them. We can assume that a USB external floppy drive will still work on your Mac.
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Old Aug 23, 2012, 09:27 AM   #9
Fishrrman
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"Apple never had 3.5" floppy drives - not even in the first iMac.. As a result the chances the floppy drives work with Mac OSX is minimal."

Huh?

From the very beginning, the Mac used floppy disks. My original Mac SE came with TWO of them. Macs started with 400k floppies, then went to 800k, then 1.8gb (the "SuperDrive") of that era, before DVD's).
(Aside: judging from your screen name, the Mac floppy era was from before you were born!)

To the original poster:
You didn't make clear what KIND of floppy disks your mom has -- the answer is VERY important.
Were they PC-created floppies, or were they Mac-created floppies?

If the floppies are from a PC, you might be able to buy a USB floppy drive and connect it that way. The drive should be able to read 720k and 1.4mb floppy drives. Drivers -might- be a question, as I've never connected a USB floppy in OSX (no need to), but I'm wondering if the underlying disk drivers are just "there" buried within the OS.

If the floppies are from the 800k/1.8mb Mac era, you may have problems, as these disks cannot be read by USB floppy drives which are designed to read 720/1.4 formats. This is because the old Macs used a special Mac-specific type of disk encoding which PC-formatted floppies do not use.

Knowing which kind of floppies you have to read is the first step.

There are other ways of transferring the data, as well.

Last edited by Fishrrman; Aug 28, 2012 at 09:31 AM.
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Old Aug 23, 2012, 09:34 AM   #10
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I think you are going to have trouble finding a highly rated floppy drive, it's just the nature of external floppy drives to be pretty bad in general. I have a $40 one from the Apple Store back in the day, and it worked maybe three times before failing. I would buy a cheap one, and copy everything off the floppies as quickly as possible. There may be a terminal command to avoid driver issues?

I still have a bunch of floppies from elementary school, haha!
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Old Aug 23, 2012, 10:24 AM   #11
MisterMe
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fishrrman View Post
...

To the original poster:
You didn't make clear what KIND of floppy disks your mom has -- the answer is VERY important.
Were they PC-created floppies, or were they Mac-created floppies?

If the floppies are from a PC, you might be able to buy a USB floppy drive and connect it that way. The drive should be able to read 720k and 1.4g floppy drives. Drivers -might- be a question, as I've never connected a USB floppy in OSX (no need to), but I'm wondering if the underlying disk drivers are just "there" buried within the OS.

If the floppies are from the 800k/1.8g Mac era, you may have problems, as these disks cannot be read by USB floppy drives which are designed to read 720/1.4 formats. This is because the old Macs used a special Mac-specific type of disk encoding which PC-formatted floppies do not use.

Knowing which kind of floppies you have to read is the first step.

There are other ways of transferring the data, as well.
You are making this way too hard. IIRC, there are some disks that a too old to be read by USB drives, but they are positively ancient. In fact, they were ancient while Macs still featured floppy drives.
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Old Aug 23, 2012, 03:10 PM   #12
Dokk
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I had no idea this was going to turn into such a detailed discussion about Macs and floppy drives.

I'll take the advice from a couple of folks to just buy a cheap one and hope it works ... and get the data off the floppies as quickly as possible so the darned thing doesn't get a chance to break.

Hopefully, we can bring her into the second decade of the 21st century with ease.
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Old Aug 28, 2012, 09:41 AM   #13
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"You are making this way too hard. IIRC, there are some disks that a too old to be read by USB drives, but they are positively ancient. In fact, they were ancient while Macs still featured floppy drives."

I'm not making it "too hard", but simply explaining issues involved.

When PC's introduced 3.5" floppy disks, they used a 720k format with a specific "encoding paradigm" called "MFM".

When Apple introduced their own floppy drive in the 1984 Macintosh, they used an 800k format with a DIFFERENT encoding system called "GCR".

Later on, both the PC world and Apple moved to higher-capacity drives, PC's using 1.4mb and Apple using 1.8mb, respectively, and MFM and GCR, again respectively.

Apple brought out it's "SuperDrive" floppy unit, which could read BOTH GCR and MFM encoding formats. But....

PC floppy drives can still read ONLY the 720/1.4 MFM disks, and CANNOT read GCR-formatted (Mac) disks.

Eventually, USB-based floppy drives came on the market, but Apple never sold them and by the time they arrived Apple had abandoned floppy drives. I believe that ALL USB floppy drives are limited to the 720/1.4 MFM format, and thus CANNOT read old Mac 800/1.8 GCR-formatted floppy disks.

This is why it's important to know exactly what kind of floppies the original poster is referring to. If his mom has a stack of old -Mac- floppies, USB floppy drives probably won't read them (regardless of what kind of software disk driver is used). The only way to read those disks will be on an old Mac with a GCR-capable floppy drive....

See this page for reference:
http://www.vintagemacworld.com/drives.html

To the original poster:
If you think you can just buy any floppy drive and get things working, it may or may not work. Please re-read what I wrote above, and this post as well. The -kind- of floppy disks your mom has will make the difference!
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Old Aug 28, 2012, 10:18 AM   #14
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You are going all around Job's barn to refute a point that I didn't make. If you reread my post, then you will see that I acknowledged the fact that not all floppies can be read by a USB floppy drive. FWIW, I own such a USB drive. The point that I was making is that the floppies that concern you are incredibly old--somewhere around 25 years old, in fact. It is obviously true that if the OP's mom used those ancient floppies, then only a Mac that sports a built-in floppy drive is the best option to read them. Such old floppies are testaments to the durability of Macs, but it is unlikely that the OP's mother's computer is that old. By your choosing to share the bit of information as your contribution to the discussion, you have chosen to unnecessarily discourage the OP.
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