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My first experience of these disks was when I was at school; we used these disks to load games onto the BBC Micro. In later years I started to use these disks with an Amstrad PC1512.


This page documents my experience of setting up a 5.25" drive on my computer back in 2004, at that time, I was using a machine with a 1ghz processor, and running Windows XP.


If you want to try this yourself, please be aware that you do so entirely at your own risk, this page is for reference only.


Have you ever wondered why the large drive bays on your computer are referred to as 5.25" bays, even though they actually measure 6" (15 cm) across? The drive bays were originally designed to take a 5.25" disk drive, but it is the disks themselves that are 5.25" across, therefore the name has just stuck. The same is of course now true for 3.5" drive bays as well.


The disks themselves are completely flat, and measure 5.25" (13.5 cm) square; they came in paper sleeves. The area of the disk that is read by the drive heads has no cover to protect it, so the disks have to be handled with care.


5.25" Floppy Disk


I have had these two disks in my collection for quite some time; they were disks that I used with the Amstrad PC1512, and had not been used in almost ten years! I decided to see if the data was still readable after all that time.


5.25" Disks from my collection


First of all, I had to acquire a drive that could read them, with this technology being very old, the drives are very hard to find, a brief search through online computer hardware stores came up empty. I managed to find a drive for sale on Ebay, it was in good working condition, so I purchased it.


5.25" Floppy Drive


You might have used software in the past that has instructed you to "Insert the disk and make sure that the drive door is closed" when messages like this one appear, the software is referring to drives like this one, once the disk is inserted, the lever on the front of the drive has to be rotated to the "down" position to hold the disk in place, this action also aligns the heads to the surface of the disk, so the disk can be read. Newer floppy drives do not have this lever, the disk only has to be inserted.


The connector for this drive is different to that of a 3.5" Drive, therefore I was going to have to find some way to connect this drive to my system.


Connectors on the 5.25" Floppy Drive


The power connector is identical to that of a CD-Rom drive, so there is no problem there, the data connection however is a Shugart connector, and is different to that of a standard 3.5" floppy drive. Luckily I had this floppy drive cable in my collection, it has both types of connectors on it, Meaning that I could use both the 5.25" and the 3.5" Drive at the same time.


Floppy Drive Cable


Here you can see the Shugart connector on the end of the cable.


Connector for 5.25" Floppy Drive


I connected the drive to my computer. This was not too difficult using the proper cable, I could connect it to the floppy disk connector on the motherboard.


5.25" Drive connected to my computer


Now that the drive was connected, I had to make sure that my computer would be able to recognise the drive, I switched the machine on, and entered the BIOS set up-menu. The BIOS did indeed support the drive, I set it up as Drive A:


BIOS Set-up menu screen shot.


The label on one of the disks said that it was a booting disk, so I set up the BIOS so that it could boot from this drive, and I inserted this disk.

The machine booted up, booting from the 5.25" Drive, and displayed a DOS Prompt.

Since these disks had not been used in years, I had forgotten which version of DOS this was, so I used the VER command.


Dos Screen-Shot


DOS 3.30! This Disk was created on an Amstrad PC1512 running at 8Mhz, and it was now running on a machine with a 1Ghz processor!


There was very little I could do with this disk, as it only contained the operating system, and it could not read my hard drive, as it uses the NTFS file system, and DOS does not support this.


I tried to read the other disk, and it also worked fine, I was amazed that the data had survived all that time, on these old disks.


I switched off the machine, and re-connected my 3.5" drive to the cable, this time having the 3.5" Drive as drive A: and the 5.25" Drive as drive B: The reason I did this was so that I could boot the machine using my normal DOS booting disk, and then test these disks using scandisk.


The Drive head reading the disk.


Here you can see the head moving, reading the disk during the Scandisk tests. Scandisk did not find a single fault on any of the disks, and it tested them lightning-fast! It is worth noting that the capacity of these disks is 354K, not the full 1.2Mb that the drive supports.


After this, I decided to try booting my machine normally, to see if Windows XP would be able to recognise this drive.


I booted my machine, and used "My Computer" to get a list of the drives that windows had recognised. Windows XP recognised the drive, and gave it the following icon:


Icon for 5.25" Floppy Drive


I decided to see if Windows XP would be able to read my disks. Both disks worked fine under Windows XP, and all the files were displayed correctly.


I tried accessing the properties of the disk (Right click on the drive icon, then select properties) and the following was displayed:


Free Space Display for 5.25" Disk


I was surprised to find that Windows XP recognised this old drive; I decided to try the Windows XP disk checker on these disks, and it did not find any errors.

This was my experience with 5.25" disks, it was quite nostalgic to be using dos 3.30 again! I was surprised to find the data still in good condition, even after the disks had been gathering dust for so long!




Copyright Steven's PC Stuff.
Any information on this site is used entirely at your own risk.
I do not take responsibility for the consequences of any advice given on this site.