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Thread: Best way to test a bunch of floppy drives

  1. #1

    Default Best way to test a bunch of floppy drives

    I have a large cache of 5 1/4" and 3.5" drives that I need to test. I do have a variety of older PCs that I can use, and also a Kyroflux.

    The Kyroflux looks like low hanging fruit to test, but has anyone used it in the manner to test floppy drives? I want to make sure they're reading and writing. What have others done in this type of situation?

  2. #2

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    I use the checkit floppy drive test with a known good disk.

    Should go without saying but clean the heads first on all of them

  3. #3
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    If it were me, I'd use a real PC to test. When something goes wrong, a PC can be more flexible.

    Off the top of my head, the first thing I would do is visually inspect a drive, make sure everything seems to move and latch before hooking it up.

    If these are drives that have not been tested in a long time, or ever, the first thing though should be a cleaning disk.

    Once attached, make sure the drive activates at the right time, the drive spins, and the head moves.

    After attaching and cleaning, I'd use a known good disk filled with data (like some random zip file), and run a disk tester. I like Norton Disk Test 4.5.

    Then I would test formatting and writing. Using a known good blank disk, run a floppy formatter (Ideally something besides the DOS formatter, that gives you more details such as head and sector when there are bad sectors - it is useful to know when one head is bad). If it looks like it formats OK, then sanity test the disk by reading it back on a different known, good drive.

    I've found ImageDisk to be very handy when troubleshooting drives. It bypasses DOS/BIOS, can check rotational speed, allows manual head stepping in alignment mode, and when there are alignment issues alignment mode can show you in real time what track the head is really sitting over.

    There may also be times when you want to exercise a drive. It is easy to make a simple DOS batch file that runs Norton Disk Test 4.5 or a disk formatter in a loop over and over.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by SomeGuy View Post
    If it were me, I'd use a real PC to test. When something goes wrong, a PC can be more flexible.

    Off the top of my head, the first thing I would do is visually inspect a drive, make sure everything seems to move and latch before hooking it up.

    If these are drives that have not been tested in a long time, or ever, the first thing though should be a cleaning disk.

    Once attached, make sure the drive activates at the right time, the drive spins, and the head moves....
    BEFORE the cleaning disk, I recommend cleaning and lubing the head carriage rails. This often requires removing the circuit board. Also, check for proper RPM. If the lube in the spindle and/or drive motor has dried up the RPM will fluctuate and cause errors.

  5. #5

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    If you're seeking to be thorough, I would imagine using something like Kryoflux against a reference capture of reference media would be the most robust approach. What that would look like, however, I cannot tell you It seems unfortunate that in contrast to audio tape where a rich ecosystem of calibration tapes has evolved, there appears to be no calibration media for floppy drives. Seems like an interesting topic to me; I have about 15 drives and it's easy enough to perform the clean/lube->rpm test->capture image test to capture a binary pass/fail on them, but wouldn't it be nice to know which ones perform best!

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