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A USB floppy drive is a simple answer to getting your data off old disks.

I lost all of the information on my computer because of a storm strike. I've backed those important things on floppy discs, however, my new computer does not have floppy devices. How can I get this loaded? I really appreciate any suggestions. I'm not too good at computers yet. Thanks.

In this excerpt from Answercast #50, I look at an easy problem: reading data off of old floppy disks.

Floppy disk drive

Actually, this has a surprisingly easy answer. There are in fact USB floppy drives available.

Go out to any of the major computer stores or Amazon. You'll be able to get a USB floppy drive that you would then be able to use as the drive to copy off whatever it is you have backed up.

You may even be able to get those drives to appear as their original drive A: or B:. But nonetheless, you'll be able to at least read the data off of those drives and get them on to your PC.

And good on you for backing up!

Obsolete hardware

What you're experiencing is one of the ongoing problems with backups. Backups that are a bit on the old side often are left in the dust by the advances of technology.

I'm assuming you're talking 3 1/4-inch floppy disks (or 3 1/2, I forget now exactly what size they were). 5 1/4 would be a much more difficult problem. Even then! The 8-inch drives that I used to use many years ago are probably a lost cause.

Keep new copies of backups

So while you're at it or while you've got that floppy drive attached, you might want to consider copying off all of the data you have backed up on to those floppies and write it on to something new:

  • Maybe an external hard drive;

  • Maybe some CDs or DVDs;

  • Something that's going to last at least a little bit longer.

Then, potentially, revisit this issue every few years.

Article C5781 - September 6, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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1 Comment
September 10, 2012 7:26 AM

I hope this works for him (her?). I've had a number of my floppies go bad. They've been properly protected and stored, but I guess magnetic media just goes bad with time.

I only lost one critical disk, and even that is not catastrophic. I immediately went and burned all of the floppies to CD.

Any idea on the shelf life of CDs?

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