View Full Version : best way to clean 5" floppy drives?

December 1st, 2008, 05:52 PM
I just finished replacing two capacitors in the high voltage circuit on my TRS-80 Model 4 only to have the disk drives stop reading the disks after a few passes. :(

I know that I used to have a disk cleaning disk, but that went the way of the doh-doh (sic?) bird when I quit using floppies in my PCs. When that didn't work, I had some success gently cleaning the heads with a q-tip and methanol. That was what, 20 years ago?

I don't want to do anything that would damage impossible to replace equipment, so before I do that, I would like to know if there are any other ideas?

I tried to read a disk in the secondary (top) drive, and when it wouldn't read it, I placed that same disc in the bottom drive. That is when the bottom drive quit reading. So I figure dirt came off the top head and was transferred to the bottom head...


Terry Yager
December 1st, 2008, 06:09 PM
You're on the right track with the cleaning methods, but while you're at it, you should clean & lube the rails, etc (lightly, preferably with silicon grease).


December 2nd, 2008, 07:05 AM
The oxide might be coming off that floppy disk. As they age, they can absorb moisture and the oxide gets soft and sticky. It happens a lot with old video tapes. If you can read the disc at all, immediately copy it to a new disk, and clean the drive again. Drying the disk in a warm place might make it temporarily usable.

December 2nd, 2008, 09:14 AM
Old disks are deteriorating faster and some brands (e.g. Wabash) can leave the cookie clear with all the oxide firmly plastered to the drive head. I've still got hundreds of the cleaning cookies along with a pretty good supply of freon TF (shhh!) , but even these don't do a good job of removing all of the crud.

That's when I resort to acetone on a cotton swab, followed by a swipe with a clean one. Be very careful with the stuff--it eats plastic. But sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Gentle is the word--don't flex those drive heads any wider than absolutely necessary. You could mess up the alignment.

December 2nd, 2008, 02:48 PM
Just to thank you and let you know that I cleaned the heads and greased the rails (using a multi-purpose lithium-based grease) on both drives and they both see the disks now. Something else I did I think corrected the majority of the problems, though - I had to put a drop or two of Lube Job on both sides of the stepper motor. On one of the drives that motor was tighter than a drum and on the other drive it freed up immensely after adding the drops and working it back and forth a few times.

When I cleaned the head, there wasn't anything that came off on the q-tip like I would expect and the head looked clean to me, so I don't think that was the problem to begin with.

Just out of curiosity, do disk drive heads need to be demagnetized like tape heads?

Any way, thanks for your help guys!

December 2nd, 2008, 04:19 PM
JJust out of curiosity, do disk drive heads need to be demagnetized like tape heads?

No--disk drive heads operate with the throttle pushed full forward in both polarities. There's no analog component to writing. They never really get a chance to retain much permanent magnetism. ISTR that they're also barium-ferrite cored, which has very low remanence.