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Thread: USB Floppy that can read 720k disks!

  1. #1
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    Default USB Floppy that can read 720k disks!

    Another surprise from my local Microcenter: They had a new, different batch of USB floppy drives on the shelf. On the back of the box they said they support 720k disks! I know that there have been some out there that can do this, but it seems hard to nail down a good source for these.

    So I grabbed one and tested it out. Sure enough, right out of the box it could read and write standard DOS formatted 1.44mb and 720k disks! From DOS, at least on the machine I used without any additional drivers, it ignored the low-level command and only verified the disk when formatting. Windows XP format doesn't know what to do with 720k disks from the GUI, but from the command line it seemed to low-level format a blank 720k disk just fine. I verified that the disk was readable in a normal drive.

    Another surprise was when I fed it a 1.7mb (21 sector) formatted disk. It seemed to read it OK. I verified that it could correctly read a file that filled the entire disk. However... it totally crapped its pants and corrupted the file system when writing to it both in DOS and Windows!

    The box also mentions 360RPM mode operation used by the Japanese 3.5" 1.25mb format, but I didn't test that.

    This is a link to the product on the Microcenter web site: http://www.microcenter.com/product/4..._Drive_-_Black

    But the box they show on the site looks different from what was in the store. In the store it was just a brown cardboard box labeled "USB Portable Diskette Drive". The drive itself is only labeled "USB Floppy Drive" "Made in China E77FCD393L" with no branding. The device manager identifies it as a "Y-E Data USB Floppy". So there is no telling if there will be any consistency as to what is really in the product. Still, might grab another one.

    Interestingly these cost less than the Bytecc USB drives that can't read 720k.

    Didn't see any more normal 1.44mb drives. I may have grabbed the last one from here a few months ago, although their site lists them for other locations. They do have several all-in-one card readers with a floppy that use the normal FDD interface instead of USB. I't crazy how they don't have any USB multi-card reader floppies even though they have other USB devices in them.

  2. #2
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    As far as I am aware, the 720K and NEC 1.25M capability has always been part of standard USB drives. Certainly, it's called out in the old Teac FD005U datasheed, back when USB was new.

    Note that since a drive is addressed in USB in the same manner as a SCSI device (i.e. relative block, rather than CHS), format control is done by the drive, not the host. So you get 512/18/2/80, 512/9/2/80, 512/15/2/80 and 1024/8/2/80 formats only--and the host has no way to tell the drive to do anything differently.

    Does anyone know of the existence of a 2.88M consumer-level USB floppy?

  3. #3

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    Any chance these would read/write a 800k floppy on a power mac ?(considering 720k floppies format as 800k on macs)

    The Teac blue&white usb drive that matches the G3 tower only handles 1.44mb floppies.

  4. #4
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    No, they won't do the Apple 800k disks. Supposedly there was a Macintosh specific model but even that only does 1.44mb/720k. Dug up a FAQ on these drives, and they even mention that: http://www.yedata.com/support/floppydrives_faq.html

    The Mac 800k disks/drives use GCR magnetic encoding instead of MFM encoding and vary their spindle speed.

    Unfortunately that is kind of a complicated thing to implement. But at least a USB drive, if someone chose to make one like that, would not have to worry about a motherboard FDC's lack of support for GCR or motor control.

    And on another note, what *REALLY* ever happened with 2.88mb drives anyway? My vague recollection from back in the day is that the drives and media were insanely overpriced. Was a patent holder charging huge licensing fees or something?

  5. #5
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    The disks were expensive, but then so were DSHDs when they first came out. I never found the DSEDs to be terribly reliable. I have a box of new/old Imation DSEDs and I pulled one at random recently and fomatted it on a Teac FD235J that I have installed on one system here. Couldn't get through the format process without errors.

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    I've got 2 2.88mb floppy drives, one in my PS/2 55SLC and the other is a mitsubishi, and about 30 2.88 DSED to go with them, The drives work flawlessly, the disks aren't too shabby either, i formatted them all in the PS/2, they were all old IBM Ultimedia disks, no errors. I just don't like waiting for the disks to write or format. That takes forever....

    USB 2.88mb? Haven't seen one, But i've seen a 2.4mb 5.25" floppy drive
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/YE-DATA-YD-8...item3cd6ec6f1b
    JOZXYQK[/B][/B]

  7. #7

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    And then combine that 2.4mb 5.25" floppy with this (http://www.deviceside.com/fc5025.html) floppy to USB adapter

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    I've only ever seen the 5.25" 2.4M drive on IBM Comms controllers. Did anyone else ever use it?

  9. #9
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    I've seen one in person, but not in action. Would it even work in a standard PC with the proper drivparm or driver.sys settings? I would think it's the same perpendicular tech the 2.88 uses, i'm in the dark on this one
    JOZXYQK[/B][/B]

  10. #10

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    IBM used 2.88 MB floppy drives on many of their later PS/2 models, as well as some of their laptops. However, I just discovered that although it never came equipped with it, the PS/1 supports 2.88 MB floppy drives as well!

    My PS/1 model 2121 (one of the early models with the power supply in the monitor) came with a dead 1.44 MB floppy drive, so to try to diagnose it, I borrowed the 2.88 MB floppy drive from my PS/2 Model 56-486SLC2 and plugged it in.

    To my surprise, not only did the pinout match up exactly (since both supply power through the drive cable), but the PS/1 instantly recognized it as a 2.88 MB drive and configured as such it in its Hardware Setup program. Now it can format, read, and write 2.88 MB disks perfectly!

    In fact, when formatting a 1.44 MB disk, you have to use the /F:1.44 switch, otherwise it will format it as 2.88 MB... which usually does work, but just like trying to format a 360K disk as 1.2 MB, the data will usually fade away and become unreadable over time, due to the magnetic field of the higher-density format being too strong for what the disk media can handle.

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