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Problems with Floppy Disks

With the advent of the rewritable CD (CD-RW) many people are predicting the demise of the venerable floppy disk. Today's computers can even boot from the CD drive. But if your computer is not connected to a network, there is no quicker way to back-up or share a file.

Problems with the floppy drive are rare, but that is not the case with floppy disks themselves. Floppy disks are made super cheap and are very unreliable. Also, floppy disks are sensitive to magnetic fields. If you place a floppy disk on top of your monitor, your computer case, or any metal object, you risk corrupting the disk. If you have a problem reading a floppy disk, it is almost always a bad disk.

Use the following troubleshooting guide:

&bull Can't read a floppy disk

If you have another system, check to see if the drive in that system is able to read the disk. If the disk works in a different drive, begin by checking for obvious problems. It is not unknown to find an object like a Post-It note or the metal slide protector from a previous disk stuck inside a drive.

&bull Can't write to a floppy disk

Again, begin by checking for obvious problems. Make sure the floppy disk is not write protected. On a 3.5" disk you should be able to see through the hole in the upper-right corner of the disk (looking at the labeled side of the disk). If there are no files already on the disk, try to re-format it.

&bull Can't boot from a floppy drive

If your operating system is Windows 2000, or Windows XP Professional, you can't boot from a floppy disk with these systems. Otherwise, make sure the disk you have is a bootable disk. It needs to have been created as a "startup disk" or formatted with the "copy system files" option button selected.

&bull More complex problems

In order to start faster, today's systems are usually set in the BIOS to boot from the hard disk drive first. Check the boot sequence in the BIOS setup. If the boot sequence starts with the letter of a hard disk drive (like C:), and that drive is having a problem, the system will never even attempt to boot from the floppy disk drive. Go to BIOS setup, and set the boot sequence to start with A.

In some companies, the floppy drives are disabled for security reasons. This is done by either disabling the onboard FDD controller in the BIOS setup, or by removing the power cable or data cable from the drive inside the computer.

&bull Weird problems

Sometimes when a technician is working inside a computer, they will temporarily remove the data cable from the floppy drive in order to get easier access to another component. They may fail to replace the cable properly, or put the cable on backwards. If the floppy drive's LED is always on, the data cable may be reversed.

Sometimes a floppy disk can be read on the system that it was originally formatted on, but cannot be read on another system and vice versa. This is usually caused by the fact that the head of the floppy drive on one system is out of alignment.

As with all Windows(tm) systems, sometimes the operating system gets confused. If your system can't recognize the floppy drive or can't read any floppy disks, try rebooting the system.

If you are having a problem with a floppy disk, remember they are made super cheap and are not meant to be reliable, but they can still serve a very utilitarian purpose.

More Windows Troubleshooting Articles:
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• How To Fix The Windows 1301 Error

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