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Basic Floppy Question


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#1 dkerfoot OFFLINE  

dkerfoot

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Posted Thu Apr 27, 2017 2:01 PM

I bought a bunch of Atari stuff from an estate.  I'm primarily an 8-bit guy, but the lot included an 520 STFM, two 520 ST and three SF354s.  I'm thinking I'll probably sell them to support my other habit, but may end up keeping one.  Regardless, I need to test them.

 

There was also a language disk and a utility disk from a magazine, but I can't get either disk to read in any of the four drives.  I figure it is much more likely that the two floppies are bad rather than all four drives.   So, I'm ebay shopping for some double density floppies.

 

My question: Does it matter if I get double-sided?  Will they work or do I need to stick with single-sided?

 

Also, how loud should the drives be?  The built-in one on the STFM isn't bad, but the three SF354s are really loud!

 

 

Thanks!

 

 



#2 juansolo OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Apr 27, 2017 3:44 PM

As someone who also inherited a couple of ST's recently. Things to bear in mind:

 

Most of the floppies from back in the day, especially the bulk-pack ones we all used to use here in Europe, have degraded to the point of failure. I think I had 300+ of them come with the two ST's and an A1200, I've kept about 20 that I've verified as ok. Most went straight in the bin. The branded stuff I checked and those 20 were all that work out of all I checked! I had more success with the original software. But there were still a fair few that ended up in the trash. Running some of these dodgy disks through the drives will gunk them up. It's best to pop the tops off the drives anyhow and clean the heads, and make sure all the moving parts are doing so freely. Clean and re-grease if required. These things are 25+ years old...

 

The next problem is the electronics. One of the ST's wouldn't read disks but it was actually down to the PSU not supplying enough power. Even re-capping it didn't fix that and a new PSU was needed. I suppose I could have investigated further but the thing was putting out a disproportionate amount of heat also, so it was easier to swap it out. After all this that machine was then working fine. Indeed if you've got a multimeter it's worth checking the output of the PSU as they are a bit crap in the STs.

Also it's worth popping the lid's off the machines and giving them a quick visual inspection of the electrolytic caps. look for bulging or leaking mainly (corrosion around the base of the cap).

ST drives are a bit variable in noise terms. One of mine was incredibly loud the other was less so. Again, a bit of a service might help this out.

I'm also not sure, but it's entirely possible that the early external drives are single sided... The STFM will definitely be double sided.


Edited by juansolo, Thu Apr 27, 2017 3:45 PM.


#3 leech OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Apr 27, 2017 4:08 PM

They are single sided; http://www.nightfall...second-release/



#4 Zogging Hell OFFLINE  

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Posted Thu Apr 27, 2017 4:21 PM

If the SF354 are the drive belt models (which if they are single sided is highly likely),the belt has probably long since disintergrated. Would probably be worth opening them up and seeing if it has (you may find nothing but black gunk). In which case you may well have three faulty drives. If so they can be repaired easily with a new drive belt. As they have their own power supply they are unlikely to be effected if your STs is a bit weak, unless theirs is also on the way out. The internal drive on the STFM is more difficult to diagnose. On some models some capacitors fail stopping the drive from spinning, or if it is a real early drive (the very early STFMs did ship with single sided drives) then you may well have the same issue as the 354s. Or it might well be, as juansolo suggested, gunk on the floppy drive head. You can buy a floppy disk cleaning kit (or clean it yourself with a q-tip and some isopropyl. Another thing to note is that if the language disk is on a double sided disk, the 354s won't be able to read them as they are single sided only. Which may mean that only the STFM drive is caput.

 

With the floppy disks, I have actually found them to be a lot tougher than most people say.. provided they have been kept dry. A lot of so called 'dead' disks can be brought back to life if you gently clean them with isopropyl  and a q-tip. Most of my floppies are still going strong in a 800 plus game collection and I still have a lot of random software disks that are also fine. They are all now stored in sealable plastic bags now to add to the protection. In my experience a properly cared for floppy disk will retain data for longer than a CD-R, which seem to spotaneously self destruct after about 10 years, regardless of how they are stored. I had one CDR turn to what appeared to be liquid inside itself, you could tip the CD and watch it run about.

 

In answer to your actual question though.. no it will not matter if you use a DSDD floppy, or even a DSHD one if you cover the HD select slot on the disk, though you won't be able to use HD disks at full capacity without more hardware mods, and they are allegedly less reliable formatted this way (not done this myself). I know there were 'single sided' floppies when the ST first came out, but they died out pretty quick. You can just format the DSDD disk as single sided if necessary. The best way to test the drives is to try and format a floppy. If it completes a format of both sides you are probably fine. If it only manages one side and none of the other then it is probably single sided. If it only partially formats either one, the heads need cleaning.



#5 dkerfoot OFFLINE  

dkerfoot

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Posted Sun Apr 30, 2017 3:45 PM

Thanks, I've ordered some DSDD floppies.

 

In the meantime, I opened two of the four drives and found two bad belts.  A purple one that is hard and brittle and a black one that is gooey and nearly liquid.  Both broken.

From another post I found a UK seller, but he is on Holiday.  Best Electronics wants $10 each!  Do you know of a reasonable US seller?

 

Thanks!



#6 tjlazer OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Apr 30, 2017 7:41 PM

$10 is too much?  How is that?



#7 zzip OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon May 1, 2017 8:31 AM

I bought a bunch of Atari stuff from an estate.  I'm primarily an 8-bit guy, but the lot included an 520 STFM, two 520 ST and three SF354s.  I'm thinking I'll probably sell them to support my other habit, but may end up keeping one.  Regardless, I need to test them.
 
There was also a language disk and a utility disk from a magazine, but I can't get either disk to read in any of the four drives.  I figure it is much more likely that the two floppies are bad rather than all four drives.   So, I'm ebay shopping for some double density floppies.
 
My question: Does it matter if I get double-sided?  Will they work or do I need to stick with single-sided?
 
Also, how loud should the drives be?  The built-in one on the STFM isn't bad, but the three SF354s are really loud!
 
 
Thanks!


You can use single-sided or double-sided.

Every floppy seems to have its own "personality" in how it sounds, some quite some loud.

Off topic: on youtube, you can find videos of an array of (loud) floppy drives being used to play music! pretty cool




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