Can you clean a 5.25 floppy disk?

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Last seen: 4 years 7 months ago
Joined: Jun 28 2007 - 12:59
Posts: 80
Can you clean a 5.25 floppy disk?

I recently picked up a couple old Apple II programs the local library was discarding. When I booted one of the program disk it loaded the first screen then failed. A second boot got me a "check startup device" message. I then booted a known working 5.25 disk program and got the check startup device message again. I cleaned the drive head and that solved the startup problem.

I figured the library floppy I have, that started the problem, must be very dirty. Is there a way to clean the floppy itself beyond the self cleaning felt inside the plastic exterior or is the disk a total loss?


Last seen: 4 years 9 months ago
Joined: Apr 10 2006 - 20:01
Posts: 1013

You might consider putting the round part in a new jacket. The fabric inside the jacket is supposed to clean the disk as it spins, so maybe the old one is just too gunky. If too much of the oxide coating itself is coming off, all is lost. Smile

Last seen: 11 years 7 months ago
Joined: Oct 9 2004 - 08:26
Posts: 92
howabout a quick trip through

howabout a quick trip through the dishwasher?? i know for a fact that the 1.44 floppies can withstand a trip through the washing machine Smile

themike's picture
Last seen: 8 years 8 months ago
Joined: Jul 21 2004 - 19:33
Posts: 455
Joking, right?

I can't tell if you're serious or not....but I think putting *any* floppy through either the laundry or a dishwasher would be a bad idea.

Last seen: 11 years 7 months ago
Joined: Oct 9 2004 - 08:26
Posts: 92

yes i was definitally joking about the trip through the dishwwasher.

however, i was not joking that they can survive the washer. i had a 3.5" floppy that i used for drafting in high school. it did successfully make a trip through the washing machine with no loss of data. i did, however, catch it before the dreyer, that most've likely would've melted/warped it.

i guess my point is that those floppy disks are ALOT more durable then most people give them credit for. at least in my experience.

Last seen: 11 years 7 months ago
Joined: Oct 9 2004 - 08:26
Posts: 92

oops, double post

Last seen: 4 years 7 months ago
Joined: Jun 28 2007 - 12:59
Posts: 80
No luck with the 5.25 disk cleaning

I tried swapping jackets...the areas of the original jacket felt had a gray hue to it and looked like mold to me. Also found a nice fat finger print on the disk media. Disks may be durable, but this one looks like it suffered a little to much abuse. I found a disk image of the program on the net so the box and documentation are not wasted.

Don't worry I did not take the dishwasher idea seriously Smile

Last seen: 12 years 3 weeks ago
Joined: Oct 24 2007 - 04:54
Posts: 1
I have had some similar probl

I have had some similar problems when I needed to backup/image over 300 TRS80 disks.

The following information will likely ruin your disks so if you do this, then be prepared to accept that the disk jacket will be modified and to write them off!

For the disks that wouldn't read at all, or had multiple sector problems, I would run a sharp craft knife (or scalpel) at the top edge of the disk which is the end you hold onto when inserting the disk. Have a lint free cloth that is 3 or 4 times the size of the disk laid out on a flat steady surface, I actually used a microfibre cloth, and carefully remove the disk from the jacket taking extra special care not to place your fingers on the surface. When removed from the jacket, place the side that you want to clean face up on the cloth. Carefully add some Isopropyl alcohol to a corner of the cloth and gently wipe the surface of the disk from the center to the outside of the disk. When done, carefully put the disk back into the jacket and copy/image the disk immediately.

This technique will NOT work for disks were the oxide has been physically removed for obvious reasons, however this worked for me for ALL of the disks I tried it on. I haven't since tried to read the disks so I don't know what the long term effects are however the most important thing was to recover the data off the disks.

Something to be aware of is that with single sided disks, the read surface is the OPPOSITE side to the label on the jacket!

Again, don't do this if you want to keep the disk original and have access to the data that was on the disk in some other form. This is a last resort only.

woogie's picture
Last seen: 3 years 6 months ago
Joined: Dec 20 2003 - 10:38
Posts: 267
Excellent method!

Excellent method of cleaning an old disk! I've
done this several times with no ill-effects to
the original disk! Yes, ALWAYS make and use a
backup to whatever original you get (this old
software is irreplaceable).

Those old 5 1/4 disks seemed almost indestructable.
I've used disks that were exposed to heat, smoke
and other contaminants and they STILL performed.

Biggest enemy, next to magnetic fields, is heat
and sunlight. Store in a clean, dry, cool place.

Another item you might want to invest in is a disk
'notcher' that will turn a single-sided disk into
a useable double sided disk for Apples. (You must
physically remove and flip the disk to read the
other side.) By 'notching' the other side you can
write and read to the opposite side of the same
disk. AppleWorks copies can be found set up this
way with the 'boot' side on one side and the 'program'
side on the other side. All on one physical disk.

Computer stores and Radio Shacks used to stock this
item. They were made by a few different companies.
Mine came from SunCom. Check the Buy/Sell/Trade here
and also check on "A2Web Classifieds". They show up
from time to time. Also Radio Shack stores sometimes
have NOS 5 1/4 disks for sale. You have to ask.

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