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Ask Slashdot: Recovering Data From 20-Year-Old Diskettes?

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the all-your-priceless-ascii-art dept.

Data Storage 375

First time accepted submitter Zilog writes "The end of the 3.5-inch floppy and the disappearance of associated drives showed to me the need to backup the tens of diskettes that accompanied my youth. Carefully preserved, these diskettes have proved readable for the most part — while some are approaching 20 years old. However, some diskettes have shown surface defects in areas with compressed archives (zip). Any ideas on how to recover (as much as possible) these bad sectors?"

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recover eight kilobits? (1)

alphatel (1450715) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457634)

OR you could just download new porn.

Re:recover eight kilobits? (0)

Almandine (1594857) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457974)

I was doing what the submitter was doing during the last holiday weekend as part of clearing out junk. I certainly found some "interesting" media files, old software/games that I will never run again, and other items that are obsolete / replaceable. After spending all that time transferring and recovering data, I haven't looked at it again since. Thinking on it now, I should've just destroyed (not dumped) it all, and looked forward to getting new data.

Re:recover eight kilobits? (1)

Hsien-Ko (1090623) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458050)

Maybe I want my SIRTIS.GIF back you insensitive lcod!

Re:recover eight kilobits? (1)

Hsien-Ko (1090623) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458066)

And my Knights of Xentar picture viewer!

Re:recover eight kilobits? (1)

ae1294 (1547521) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458156)

And my Knights of Xentar picture viewer!

O that's lame... Some of us played the game to see the porn...

Re:recover eight kilobits? (1)

Tsingi (870990) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458142)

7OF9.GIF pls.

Iomega (1)

craftycoder (1851452) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457650)

Didn't Iomega have a utility that came with the JAZZ drive?

spinrite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37457656)

It's expensive, but you could consider giving spinrite a try.
Grc.com

Re:spinrite (2)

courteaudotbiz (1191083) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458000)

Or just a good old oscilloscope?

Norton Disk Doctor (5, Informative)

metiscus (1270822) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457660)

Find an old copy of norton disk doctor and use it to do bad sector recovery on those disks. I remember it working pretty well back in the day.

Re:Norton Disk Doctor (5, Informative)

pegr (46683) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457798)

Somewhat better than Norton is Spinrite. Remember Steve Gibson's hard disk utility? The one that could recover "unrecoverable" errors? Works on floppies too.

Re:Norton Disk Doctor (1)

BobPaul (710574) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457876)

And it's not a non-destructive method, so when it doesn't work, you've altered the media such that future recovery is more difficult. Also, the way it's described as operating is technically impossible, so the whole thing is voodoo magic.

I'd try other options first.

Re:Norton Disk Doctor (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457920)

How is it described as operating?

Re:Norton Disk Doctor (1)

wo1verin3 (473094) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457964)

Thank you for purchasing Spinrite, powered by Voodoo Magic®

Re:Norton Disk Doctor (1)

tibit (1762298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458044)

I think to get it to do a good job on floppies, you need version 4 or 5. Those still talk directly to the floppy controller. The recovery is definitely non-destructive. It simply keeps reading the same sector after approaching it by seeking from different sides IIRC. The data that's read is passed through a statistical model that tries to predict the original values of bytes. It does work sometimes, and would be worth a try. Versions 6 and onwards don't talk directly to hardware and are pretty useless methinks.

Re:Norton Disk Doctor (2)

washu_k (1628007) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458108)

The recovery in Spinrite is destructive. After "successfully" reading a sector, it writes the recovered data to *THE SAME DISK*. That's a big data recovery fail.

Re:Norton Disk Doctor (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458136)

Yeah other options first sounds good.

Also he should use dd or something similar to take a raw image of the disk as a first step. You've got a gazillion times as much space now, so store an image in case the disk gets damaged in the recovery process - plus you can keep that image if you want to try the destructive recovery process.

Re:Norton Disk Doctor (1)

larppaxyz (1333319) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458146)

Well, we did have Voodoo GFX card's and some of them were named Blackmagic 3D.

Re:Norton Disk Doctor (1)

Chatterton (228704) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457820)

NDD was the best tool for that. It saved my ass multiple times then. But finding a machine to make it run again could be a pita now.

Re:Norton Disk Doctor (1)

Hodapp (1175021) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458010)

I second this.

Norton Disk Doctor recovered things more times than I could count, back when I'd use already-used diskettes over and over and over again and not make backups...

Re:Norton Disk Doctor (1)

SuperTechnoNerd (964528) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458144)

Yes, but if a sector is bad.. Re-reading it 1000 times wont help. It's bad.. The earth's magnetic field is slowly erasing thees disks as we speak..

The wisdom of using compression in archives (1)

Al Kossow (460144) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457668)

don't

Re:The wisdom of using compression in archives (5, Insightful)

msauve (701917) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457704)

Now, be useful and go back 20 years to give him that advice.

Re:The wisdom of using compression in archives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37458150)

While the advice isn't any use for his problem, it's still a point worth making for the rest of us who hadn't considered it until now...

Re:The wisdom of using compression in archives (4, Insightful)

dougmc (70836) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457960)

don't

Clever, but ...

1) an error inside a zip file (or any compressed archive format) means that any file inside the archive that is stored on the corrupted part of the disk is corrupted. Compare this to the situation without a zip file -- any file stored on the corrupted part of the disk is corrupted.

The rest of of the files in the zip file, the ones stored on parts of the disk that aren't corrupted, are recoverable.

Now, if the table of contents of the zip file is corrupted but the data itself is OK, then you can still recover the data, but it becomes more difficult -- and you'll lose the names of the files. Compare this to the situation where the directory data for the diskette is corrupted but the rest of the disk is fine -- same thing.

The only important difference between files stored in a zip file that are corrupted and files just on the disk that are corrupted here is that if there's an error in the middle of the compressed data in the zip file, that means the file is corrupt from that point on for a file compressed in a zip archive, but that only those blocks are corrupt in the case of a file just on the disk. Does it make a difference how much of the file is corrupt? Maybe. If it's a text file that can't be recovered, yes. But if it's an executable or some data file that just can't be loaded either way -- not really.

2) the zip archive means that the data probably requires less space on the disk. It may not have even fit on the floppy at all without compression. That alone is a pretty important reason to use compression in archives. If you can cram twice as much data on a single floppy -- you could possibly store it on two floppies instead, giving you a backup in case one floppy fails.

3) being compressed means that the file took less space on the disk -- therefore the odds of one of it's blocks becoming corrupt goes down similarly. (Assuming that just a handful of blocks have become corrupt. If the whole disk goes bad, you're screwed either way. Of course, with compression, losing an entire disk means you've lost even more data. But I'm not sure using 360 KB floppies rather than 1.4 MB floppies is really an appropriate data saving measure either.)

4) compressed archives almost always have checksums of some sort which will tell you if their data is corrupted. Of course, some archive formats that don't involve compression have checksums too -- but many don't.

It's very good to be able to tell quickly and programatically if your data has been corrupted.

Re:The wisdom of using compression in archives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37457962)

Yes we have infinite amount of space and bandwidth. Try again.

I will bet 1 billion dollars cash you use used some sort of compression today.

Also with zip it is probably 1 or 2 files corrupted not the whole zip file. What does not using zip gain him? Oh pretty much nothing. Other than some file is still corrupt.

Re:The wisdom of using compression in archives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37458172)

I find slightly (or just stored) compressed files with parity files is a great way to avoid data loss. I burn CD's this way. To recover the data one could use Unix's DD to copy the raw data then use the parity files to correct the missing file in the compressed file. Then decompress the file for data extraction.

Of course this is for non-critical data only. Archiving critical data only on a removable data disk for 20 years is insane.

Same problem, different format... (0)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457696)

I've uncovered a TON of old VHS's...super VHS's...many with some content and a couple with videos of parties and gatherings with old friends towards the end of the 80's and beginning of the 90's....that I'd really like to get off onto digital.

I got these and a couple of formerly high end VHS machines out of storage (finally) that's been there since Katrina. The storage was climate controlled.

Anyway, the players seemed borked right now...so, so much for my plan to try to play them through these boxes into a video capture card. I really want to mostly capture all of the whole tapes of many of these...some 6-8 hour tapes.

I'd like the raw footage...then try to edit it down for DVD's to send out to old friends for maybe new years this year.

Any suggestions on this? Are there any pro-places that don't charge an arm and a leg to copy off VHS to DVD or bluray?

Re:Same problem, different format... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37457794)

buy an svhs, record thru a capture card. $150 should buy you an old svhs box on ebay.
e.g.
http://www.ebay.ca/itm/Nice-Panasonic-PV-VS4820-Super-VHS-S-VHS-SVHS-VCR-Deck-/110724142187?pt=VCRs&hash=item19c7ac546b

copy em all to blu ray so no editing down required. a single bdr hold 50gb which should be enough for the whole collection on mpeg4 format.

Re:Same problem, different format... (1)

DirkDaring (91233) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457842)

Cheap way to do it: I bought a Capit MyGica USB Video Capture device. $40. Plug it in, hit play, hit record and let it go.

More expensive way, you can buy a combo deck that burns it straight to DVD for you. $150

http://www.amazon.com/Toshiba-DVR620-DVD-Recorder-Black/dp/B001T6K7G6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1316539612&sr=8-1

If you're looking at a service to do it, I'd guess $50-75 or so per VHS if you could even find one.

Re:Same problem, different format... (1)

msauve (701917) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457866)

You can still buy VHS machines. (Typically sold as combo DVD/VHS). Under $100 at Best Buy.

Re:Same problem, different format... (1)

Amouth (879122) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458096)

or go to the local thrift store and pick up an old but working one for ~10$

Re:Same problem, different format... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37457916)

Is it the players or the tapes that are borked?

Re:Same problem, different format... (1)

Jmc23 (2353706) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457954)

Check out garage sales or swapmeets to pick up a vhs. That or repair your machines, even hi end ones are pretty simple to repair. I was poor growing up so every single vcr I had was someone else's trash, if a 10 year old can repair one I'm sure you can figure it out once you pop it open. Craigslist even has machines as low as $10.

Re:Same problem, different format... (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457992)

Are there any pro-places that don't charge an arm and a leg to copy off VHS to DVD or bluray?

No. At least, not if they actually do it well. Recording the VHS output is the easy part, cleaning up the combing, noise, chroma nonsense, warping from tape distortion, etc takes a fair bit of skill to not muck up royally.

Any suggestions on this?

Download AviSynth and browse doom9/doom10 for tips.

Re:Same problem, different format... (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458064)

Anyway, the players seemed borked right now...

Figure out why they're borked. Sometimes happens because the old tapes shed/spray oxide all over the inside of the VCR. In that case, there are voodoo solutions to "fix" shedding oxide, but pretty much your best bet is heave all the stuff in the trash and forget about it, unless you have an incredibly high tolerance for frustration and lots of spare time and money. Another popular failure mode is the grease in the convoluted tape path sticks / dries out / gets covered in dust, in which case an ex-vcr repair tech (who would probably be about 60 now, I'd guess) might be able to fix it for very cheap, or you could buy a new VCR from walmart (still sold!) and the tapes would probably be viewable.

Are there any pro-places that don't charge an arm and a leg to copy off VHS to DVD or bluray?

No, no there are not. Even in the cheap olden days when that wasn't an exotic "data recovery service" but just a guy amortizing the cost of a VCR, a stand alone DVD recorder, and a cable between them, they still asked for too much money. The financially ideal time to roll the data from tape to DVD was probably "about a decade ago" not tomorrow. Of course the copier guys were legendary for using the worlds cheapest burnable disks to maximize profits, so the DVDs would probably already be failing / failed now...

This guy did it with a 35-year-old disk pack . . . (3, Interesting)

Brietech (668850) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457740)

He hooked his own analog-to-digital converter up to the read-head and post-processed the heck out of it to recover the data.

http://chrisfenton.com/cray-1-digital-archeology/ [chrisfenton.com]

Re:This guy did it with a 35-year-old disk pack . (1)

Al Kossow (460144) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457836)

This is a COMPLETELY different problem. There was no basic difficulty in recovering the flux transistions on the Cray disk pack,
which is the problem that this guy has.
If you can't get good sector data, you have no hope of recovering something that has been compressed without
error correction built in.
I'd be happy to hear about an error recovery process for corrupted ZIP archives.

Hands down (5, Informative)

eclectro (227083) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457748)

If you can find one use a Superdisk [wikipedia.org] to read a floppy. The heads are much more sensitive and narrow and can read ordinary floppies better than a regular floppy drive. I have used this to recover data from floppy disks that were old/worn.

Not a general solution, but... (1)

PickyH3D (680158) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457750)

About a year ago a friend gave me a floppy disk and asked if I could get the data off of it with a floppy drive I had laying around. I tried the obvious approach: drag the files off using whatever file browser I was using. This failed because of at least one bad sector, and so I lost one file of about seven.

I attempted to work around this by writing my own file copier that attempted to read the file in question in byte segments. This was not effective (though it narrowed down the bad bytes), nor was it acceptable for the file format, and there were too many missing to guess the pattern, so I tried to read in smaller and smaller segments until one night I just let it read it byte by byte, which was an incredibly slow process. Unfortunately, that did not work either, and it really did not work much better than just reading in small-ish segments of bytes.

While it did not work for me, as I was working with an old, proprietary binary file, it may work pretty well if it only mashes up some of your words in a word document or even a flat text file.

Re:Not a general solution, but... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37457818)

He's working with zip files, numbnuts, so that won't work. Are you too dumb to have read the entire summary? It's only 4 sentences long.

Re:Not a general solution, but... (2)

PickyH3D (680158) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457844)

Let me quote the part of the sentence that lead me to reply:

some

Are you too dumb to actually parse what you're reading, or are you too stupid to provide any solution at all while jumping on others simply trying to provide ideas?

Re:Not a general solution, but... (1)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457930)

There's no point in reading a disk byte by byte, as the disk is read by sectors, and the read errors you're getting are from the CRC mismatch in the sector you've read. Floppy sectors are usually 512 bytes, but could be something else for weird formats like 2M (why do I still remember this stuff?)

Sometimes it helps to intercalate reads of sectors other than the one you're trying to read, in order to make the head move. That can help with reading bad sectors as disk heads have some positioning imprecision, so starting from different points may help get the head into a position that works better.

Is this a real question? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37457754)

Disappearance of associated drives? 3.5 floppy drives are not hard to find. Your problem is you neglected your backups. So sad. Serves you right.

3.5? What about 5.25? (1)

aeroelastic (840614) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457756)

I'm still holding on to my C64 disks. I don't know if the data is any good, but there's no way I'm getting rid of them.

Re:3.5? What about 5.25? (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457826)

5.25" disks are almost certainly still good if they've been stored properly. HD 3.5" disks have their magnetic domains packed really close together, over the years there's crosstalk and data loss. Most 3.5" disks I've tried from that era are bad. I don't think I've come across one 5.25" disk that wouldn't read.

Re:3.5? What about 5.25? (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458008)

Agreed, I have a pile of Apple // disks that have out survived any 3.5 inch disk I have ever owned, things were just better quality back then and they had to be as it was your primary storage and not just a means to transfer data from one hard disk to another

Re:3.5? What about 5.25? (1)

Beetjebrak (545819) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458196)

Better quality as in lower capacity and lower density. If you chisel the bits in stone by hand it'll be readable thousands of years from now. From the 100 5.25 disks I still own from the '80s there were around 10 that had developed some sort of defect. That's when I soldered a cable to hook my CBM 1541 disk drive up to a DOS box and transfer all the remaining disks to image files. For all intents and purposes they take up no space at all on my multi-terabyte NAS today and my personal computing history is very conveniently part of my regular backup regime now. Running my stuff through an emulator just doesn't bring back the original sensation though, but neither does hooking my actual C64 up to a 42" flat panel TV (where I used to have a small CRT as a "monitor" back in the day).

Re:3.5? What about 5.25? (1)

bloosh (649755) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458098)

I have a good number of 5.25" Apple DOS 3.3 & ProDOS disks (143K) from 1982 - 1988 that still work. There are some with errors, but the majority of them work fine. My Apple 3.5" disks (800K) haven't survived nearly as well.

I gave up on my collection of DOS (as in FAT) floppy disks of any variety years ago. They never seemed all that reliable even when newish.

It can read past bad spots. (1)

Stumbles (602007) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457762)

dd_rescue /dev/fd0 /$SOME_WHERE/$fILE_NAME

Don't worry (0)

aglider (2435074) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457776)

They won't ever work again. Too floppy.

What? (0)

Jmc23 (2353706) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457782)

Why didn't you just backup those disks to cd's when that became feasible years ago?

Image the disk and use a zip repair tool. seriously wha's on/these that are so important? Abandonware sites for software that old.

This seems more of a yahoo question, how does stuff get accepted nowadays?

Now if somebody can tell me how to modify an appleII drive to connect to a pc ... that's a slashdot question.

Re:What? (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457938)

You think you've got data recovery problems [slashdot.org] ?!! At least your disks weren't hidden away under a chicken coop for 20 years!!!

Media longevity (1)

C3ntaur (642283) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457786)

I know this has been discussed before, but it really begs the question of how to preserve digital data for long periods of time. Stone tablets last for thousands of years; paper for hundreds (or more, if in climate-controlled storage). What have we got for (large amounts of) digital data?

Rosetta Disk (1, Interesting)

roguegramma (982660) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457874)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosetta_Project [wikipedia.org]

The technology is also available to the public, I believe, but I would guess it isn't cheap.

Also the amounts of data aren't as large as traditional media.

Re:Media longevity (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457894)

I know this has been discussed before, but it really begs the question of how to preserve digital data for long periods of time. Stone tablets last for thousands of years; paper for hundreds (or more, if in climate-controlled storage). What have we got for (large amounts of) digital data?

Don't think you have any idea what "begging the question" means other than improperly using it as verbal filling material. Sorry, nothing personal, just had to be said.

Boring monthly / weekly /. topic. Short answer is to copy it to new media yearly and keep all the old copies in storage as "backups of backups", and at that annual copy time, verify the contents of the backups if you can.

Stone tablets do NOT last thousands of years... its just the tiny fraction that survived happen to be that old. Ditto the paper, the 99.99% of acid bleached paperbacks have already decayed to dust, so the only old books left are the archival material, archival ink, archival binding, archival storage books... I'm sure in 1000 years people will be using floppy disks as an example of technology that is readable forever, because the 5 remaining disks in the world will still be readable, so...

Re:Media longevity (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457908)

Engrave them on stone tablets. :)

Re:Media longevity (1)

cream wobbly (1102689) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457982)

It depends on how long you think the data needs to be preserved. Archival DVDs are pretty robust, but you might have other ideas about the best optical storage medium. And if you want it to survive natural and man-made disasters, you should make several copies in different physical locations, preferably on different continents and in different climates. If it's really important, build a few pyramids, drill some very deep holes, and get a couple of copies up on the Moon. Aside from that, periodic integrity checks are sensible, as is archiving the means to read the data.

Clean and align (4, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457790)

Clean and align the drive first, before you screw up any (more) disks.

To give an analogy that kids now a days can easily understand, its like trying to insert an old fashioned flash drive into a USB port full of peanut butter. It might work, it might even work most of the time, but it'll work better if its clean.

Due to the digital capture effect or whatever, you might only need one dB more signal or one dB less noise to go from a sector having a read error somewhere every time you read it, to having an errorless read.

If you have way more time and/or money than you know what to do with, you break out the oscilloscope and align the drive to that individual disk/track. Yes this takes a lot of time and gear, but if you really gotta do it... Basically you align to best SNR on that individual disk rather than to an alignment disk. If the drive that wrote the disk was technically out of alignment, this will save you. If the drive that originally wrote the disk was in perfect alignment, then this is a waste of time.

At the very least, clean the freaking drive. Using kimwipes and undenatured pure ethanol on the heads. You drink some ethanol as a toast to the computing gods after success or failure, doesn't matter which, either way you're doing a shot or its bad luck and the next disk will shed its oxide for sure. Everclear is supposedly pure enough to clean drive heads, and supposedly its drinkable. All I remember from my only experience with everclear was yelling some lines from a cartoon and throwing up, and there are disks I have not been able to recover, so take my cleaning solvent suggestion with a grain of salt. Kimwipes are hard to explain and may no longer be manufactured, but they used to be like a dustless, lintless fabric q-tip, at least in concept, sorta. I don't mean they were like a q-tip in that they were of a certain dia, length, and color, but more the general idea of a perfect cleaning fabric at the end of a non-conductive stick.

Re:Clean and align (2)

Nerdos (1960936) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458032)

Kimwipes are still very much in use in labs to clean stuff without leaving paper residue. Example : mass spec cuvettes.

Should be easy (1)

Bardwick (696376) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457802)

just grab a cotton ball and some rubbing alcohol and (lightly and gently) rub all that brown stuff off.

ddrescue. (5, Informative)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457810)

GNU ddrescue.

Norton Disk Doctor (2)

Larry_Dillon (20347) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457822)

If you can find an old (pre-Symantec) copy of Norton Utilities, it's Disk Doctor (NDD) program was very good at recovering floppies.

Re:Norton Disk Doctor (1)

RogerWilco (99615) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457970)

I think I have it on a floppy somewhere...

Re:Norton Disk Doctor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37458114)

I second this. It has saved me lots of disks and made me lots money fixing floppies back in the day.

Data Recovery (1)

fish_in_the_c (577259) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457830)

There are various data recover apps out there for this purpose. The problem is complicated by files being zipped. it is possible to dump the files as binary images then manually edit the binaries of the individual files in a hex editor etc. so that the can be read by software that works with a given format. However, I'm not sure if or how well that will worked with compressed files. Are they encrypted as well?
The problems are not 'unsolvable' but can very quickly move into the realm of needing a supercomputer and a other specialized equipment.

There are of coarse companies that do this professionally and charge $$ for it , how much are the files worth.

following are few things that might help out. Good luck.

http://content.dell.com/us/en/slgov/slg-solutions-digital-forensics.aspx?ST=forensics%20recovery%20software&dgc=ST&cid=69093&lid=1744642&acd=snYi17OBJ,7688660482,901rb36697 [dell.com]

http://www.x-ways.net/ [x-ways.net]

http://www.winhex.com/winhex/ [winhex.com]

How come they were still readable? (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457834)

My (short) experience with floppies has been that being near even a mobile phone or speaker kills the data on them.

The floppies mentioned are 20yrs old, how come they havent gone bad yet?

Re:How come they were still readable? (1)

BobPaul (710574) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457890)

Modern floppies were made much more cheaply. I have a 20yr old computer that still boots from 5.25" floppies, and it works fine. I also had 3.5" floppies in the 2003-2005 range that lost all their data if you looked at them funny.

Re:How come they were still readable? (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457978)

The only time I worked with floppies was 2004-2005, so I guess I never experienced the good ones.

Re:How come they were still readable? (1)

ArcadeNut (85398) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457950)

I have C64 Floppies that are 30+ years old that are still good. Modern floppies suck. I remember copying files onto a 3.5" disk, turning to another computer and the disk was bad. The old 5.25" disks seem to last forever.

I know the OP is talking PC, but I know many /. users grew up on the C64, so on a similar note, I converted all mine with a product called ZoomFloppy.

Works great!

Re:How come they were still readable? (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458074)

Similar experience with 3.5" floppies here, often I would write to a floppy, I was unable to read it anywhere
Put it back into the same PC and it was readable

Re:How come they were still readable? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457952)

One of the reasons we don't use floppies anymore is that they're inconsistent. It could be that the disks have gone bad, or sections of them have, or it could just be an alignment issue. Unfortunately the easiest way to fix that would be to use the original drive that wrote the disks in the first place.

I've got the X-Wing disks that I borrowed from a friend in an attempt to dump them to HDD. And I think 3 out of 5 of them have unreadable files on them.

Re:How come they were still readable? (1)

Medievalist (16032) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458038)

Floppies last at least as long as cheap writable CDs, in my experience, as long as you store them in a nice metal box with a tight-fitting lid. Don't leave them in the sun, on top of a speaker magnet, or in the baby's diaper bag - treat 'em just like 1600 bpi 9-track streamers.

Commercial music CDs, though, those things seem to last forever. Or at least, I've never had one wear out unless it was physically damaged. I've got CDs from the 1980s and early 90s that play fine.

"Call me precious I don't mind
78s are hard to find
You just can't get the shellac since the war"

--"Don't Sit on My Jimmy Shands", Richard Thompson

Re:How come they were still readable? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37458090)

treat 'em just like 1600 bpi 9-track streamers

Do you mean "stare at them cluelessly" or "Google them"? ;)

Re:How come they were still readable? (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458148)

Floppies last at least as long as cheap writable CDs, in my experience, as long as you store them in a nice metal box with a tight-fitting lid. Don't leave them in the sun, on top of a speaker magnet, or in the baby's diaper bag - treat 'em just like 1600 bpi 9-track streamers.

Commercial music CDs, though, those things seem to last forever. Or at least, I've never had one wear out unless it was physically damaged. I've got CDs from the 1980s and early 90s that play fine.

"Call me precious I don't mind
78s are hard to find
You just can't get the shellac since the war"

--"Don't Sit on My Jimmy Shands", Richard Thompson

??

Re:How come they were still readable? (1)

mehrotra.akash (1539473) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458180)

Floppies last at least as long as cheap writable CDs, in my experience, as long as you store them in a nice metal box with a tight-fitting lid. Don't leave them in the sun, on top of a speaker magnet, or in the baby's diaper bag - treat 'em just like 1600 bpi 9-track streamers.

Commercial music CDs, though, those things seem to last forever . Or at least, I've never had one wear out unless it was physically damaged. I've got CDs from the 1980s and early 90s that play fine.

"Call me precious I don't mind
78s are hard to find
You just can't get the shellac since the war"

--"Don't Sit on My Jimmy Shands", Richard Thompson

I have lost commercial game CD's to corrosion though.

A game CD from around 2002 or 2003 is almost black on the outer half, and unreadable

Brute Force? (3, Funny)

BobPaul (710574) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457846)

Write a copy tool that fills in all possible bit combinations for the bad sectors and spits out 100s of zip files instead of just 1. At a max of 1.44MB/zip file, it still shouldn't be much space in modern terms. Then just try to decompress them all and see what the results are.

Re:Brute Force? (1)

RogerWilco (99615) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457994)

This is actually an awesome idea.

Re:Brute Force? (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458006)

Sectors are 512 bytes long and tend to just flat out not read rather than giving one byte errors, so you get 2^4096 possible combinations, or a one with a gigabyte of zeros in front...

Re:Brute Force? (3, Insightful)

mrnobo1024 (464702) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458016)

all possible bit combinations for the bad sectors

A floppy disk sector is 512 bytes, so even with just a single unreadable sector there are 256^512 possible combinations, more than there are atoms in the universe.

Re:Brute Force? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37458068)

100s? How big do you think a sector is?

Even if there were only 8 bytes missing, he would still need to generate 2**64 combinations. That's about 2E19.

Jeff

Use Catweasel/Kryoflux (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37457864)

These are custom disk readers that support a wide variety of formats and have advanced recovery options.

They've been used to read data off all kinds of ancient and obscure home computer formats, some of it decades old.

Watch out for binder problems (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37457884)

Some diskettes were made with an oxide binder that softens with time (basically, it absorbs moisture). I've seen old diskettes where the oxides came off on the first try leaving the head coated and at least one track of the disk destroyed.

Anyway, I've heard of people actually capturing head output so they can rebuild missing data by analyzing the output better than the average floppy controller can.

NDD is the way to go (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37457892)

Load a version 6.2 of DOS in a VMware window, run ndd a: /complete.

Viola!

Or Scandisk a: /autofix /all

Re:NDD is the way to go (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37458168)

Load a version 6.2 of DOS in a VMware window, run ndd a: /complete.

Viola!

Or Scandisk a: /autofix /all

How long is he supposed to viola for?

KryoFlux - High Definition Flux Sampler for USB (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37457924)

http://www.kryoflux.com/ from amiga community

8 inch Dysans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37457932)

Believe it or not, I still have 8 inch Dysan media here. I'm sure there's data still on them, but since I haven't needed them since the early 80's, I'm sure I don't need the data anymore.

And they were for my CP/M machine.

I miss those days.

Data recovery. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37457942)

Scandisk works on floppies as well as hard drives.

Well for zip files .. (1)

roguegramma (982660) | more than 2 years ago | (#37457966)

What I found was:
Zip Repair
ZipSnap21(Don't remember whether I actually used this)

For creating recoverable archives, i found
MultiParchive

But using it didn't really stick with me.

Recovering Floppies (1)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458018)

The good news is that as I recall, floppy disk records have a CRC appended. The bad news is that my sometimes faulty memory tells me that MSDOS floppy disk drivers used the CRC to correct reads and didn't tell the user that the record did not read properly. I think that means that any record reported as being in error has at least two errors. But maybe I'm wrong.

Sometimes using a different drive helps.

I do seem to recall that it was sometimes possible to read a faulty record multiple times and patch the record back together using DEBUG. There's probably software somewhere that automates that process.

My method (1)

Hsien-Ko (1090623) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458020)

VGAcopy, blow, repeat

Use an old computer with an actual floppy drive controller, don't USB it - and make sure it's not TEAC

You can even still recover 20 year old disks that have NO DISK PROTECTORS. You can even still recover 30 year old floppies. I did that just a month ago.

For apriciate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37458048)

This history is very wonderful for me.
www.creativetemplate.net

What you need (2)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458054)

what you need is an electron microscope and a few bottles of Tequila. In reality you don't need the microscope of-course, Tequila is enough.

Hardware? (1)

adolf (21054) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458060)

Are you using new/clean hardware, or a 3.5" Toshiba drive that was manufactured in 1990 and which has spent at least a decade actively playing the role of dust collector?

Myself, I've have had far better luck with old floppies than old floppy drives.

So as a first step, I'd try different hardware and see what that accomplishes. And any old hardware really should be at least partially disassembled, cleaned thoroughly, and oiled appropriately.

The second step would be calibration. There are two very different ways to do this: Calibrate the drive to what it should be (there are kits+software for this), or calibrate it to what produces the best signal with a particular disk (requires an oscilloscope and a bit of a clue).

Done this way, you might well find that your data can be perfectly restored, which will eliminate the need to guess at what the missing bits might be.

Specialized controller devices... (1)

CoderJoe (97563) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458080)

What method are you using to read them? If just a USB drive or an internal drive on a normal floppy controller, you might get better luck with a device such as the KryoFlux [kryoflux.com] (if you are really determined to get that data back). It is a specialized floppy controller that records the timing of the flux reversals on the media, with the ability to sample a single track about 35 times in one pass, and retry many many times in an attempt to get everything. then software converts that to a usable disk image file.

If you are not interested on spending money on such a device, perhaps you could send the media to someone that has one. (Such as myself.)

Re:Specialized controller devices... (1)

CoderJoe (97563) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458128)

BTW, I have also checked and adjusted the calibration on a few different 3.5" drives. I don't have test media to check the alignment of a 5.25" drive, currently.

Try the disks in a different drive (1)

linebackn (131821) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458102)

You might have some luck if you try the disks in one or more different drives. The head alignment and other small factors like that are unique to each drive. Usually they are close enough that a freshly formatted disk will work in most other drives. But when there is a small defect in how it was recorded to the disk (power surge, controller glitch, etc) or a small media defect, then a different drive may have better (or worse) luck. I've seen my fair share of disks that will read fine in one drive but not another.

Be sure to clean any dust out of the drive and use a head cleaning disk before using it if it is old.

Also keep any partial initial copies you retrieve from a damaged disk - it is completely possible that it's condition may worsen as you continue to try and retrieved data from it.

And despite what others may say, keeping the archives in a zip file is a good thing. You know for sure if you files are intact or not. Floppy disks can often "successfully" read a sector only to have it contain gibberish. You can try running a zip recovery utility to like pkzipfix to recover any undamaged files inside a corrupt archive.

I would also recommend copying the files off using DOS (Win 9x DOS 7.1 can copy to FAT32 hard drives). From my experience most protected mode drivers are less forgiving on errors than real mode DOS.

Hah! you think you've got problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37458104)

I still have an ST-225 hard drive (20 megs) sitting in a box somewhere in the house. It's from the early 90s. I have a few letters from college on there that might be interesting to read again. I always said I'd find time or money to do recovery; but one or the other is always in short supply.

'Bake' the disks in a dehydrator first (1)

Burz (138833) | more than 2 years ago | (#37458124)

See this howto [wendycarlos.com] at Wendy Carlos' blog. She recovered the original Tron soundtrack this way.

Magnetic media like tapes and floppies use a binder (glue) that becomes corrupted with moisture over time, allowing the metal-oxide particles to flake off. Dehydrating the media can reverse the condition if you haven't already tried to access it.

What for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37458192)

Hmmm, what could possibly be interesting on 20 year old floppies (that cant be found on some abandonware site) ?

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