Antique floppy disks can harm your computer


Hello this is Dale Mahalko. I have
discovered a problem with old computer systems that people should be aware of,
that may be causing you to experience errors that are mysterious and aren’t
actually being caused in the way that you would normally expect. I’ve
discovered that disks are developing a problem where the magnetic media is
flaking off of the disk and sticking to the drive mechanism. And then when you
insert a disk that’s good, you can’t read the disk because your
drive mechanism has been fouled by the bad disk. I want to make a demonstration
of this here. This is an Apple IIgs with the two 5.25 inch drives. The
circuit boards have been removed from the drives, and then reconnected in
a way so that we can see the internal mechanisms, and access the internal
mechanisms, even with the system powered on. This is a blank disk that I’m using
as a demonstration, and I’m going to do what’s called a certification scan with
a copy program. What this does is it writes a magnetic pattern to each track
of the disk and then it tries to read it back and make sure it’s okay. So we’ll
start the certification, and up here when it’s successful it shows a period on the
screen. This is also doing writing to the half-tracks, which is a halfway point
between the two normal disk tracks. Half-tracks and quarter-tracks are not
normally used on Apple II disks, but they were used by some special copy-protected
programs years ago. So what this shows here is that as we get through here
there’s no problems. Everything is fine. I’m going to take this disk
out, and now I’m going to put in a special disk that I discovered. This
is a Memorex disk. It’s a single sided flexible disk. I don’t recall what this was, but it’s not really important anymore.
We’re going to certify this disk which will erase it, and there’s nothing
on it.. I don’t care. We start the certification. Now you see, when this one
is doing it, it’s failing! It’s printing an X on the screen for every track of
the disk. Basically this disk is bad. There’s something wrong… the entire media is unreadable. Now let’s take that out, go back to our
original test disk again, and let’s do a certify of that disk. But, what.. what?! The
entire disk is failing again! It can’t read any track! So, a disc that was previously good only
a few seconds ago, is now completely unreadable! Every track is a complete
failure. And in fact, now ANY disc that I put in this drive is unreadable, because
this bad disk here… the magnetic media is coming apart and rubbing off on
the drive mechanism. It fouled the drive head. And taking apart Apple II
drives is REALLY challenging. it’s quite difficult to get inside of an Apple II
drive, and that’s specifically why this is disassembled here, so that I can
examine this problem. What I’ve got here are little “alcohol prep pads” that
are used for people that have to do insulin injections… tear open a pack …
pull out one of the pre-moistened wipes, and now we’re gonna go over to our
drive #2 .. lift up the little drive pressure pad and wipe the drive head
with the alcohol prep pad. When we look at this and we pick it
up.. there’s nothing on here. Can’t see anything on here. We’ll just wait a few
seconds for that to dry… That should be long enough.
Let’s put our test disk back in, that we originally started with. It was good, failed
completely, and let’s check it again. Oh! Now it’s working again! So where we just
previously could not access it at all, every track was unreadable,
now it’s passing with no problems whatsoever. I’ve discovered that some disks
which I’ve actually had trouble reading in the past… if I wipe down the drive
head like this, suddenly all the errors go away on the disk, and it’s just fine. So
you may have disks lurking in your floppy collection, that are degrading and basically poisoning the drive mechanism. It’s funny, years ago companies used to sell these little
cleaning disks that had… Rather than a disk inside, it
would actually have a spinning pad material and at the time it didn’t
really seem all that important. It didn’t seem like it really did anything. But now..
now, that might actually be useful. But there is a problem where
potentially that cleaning disk might become saturated, because it’s always
rubbing the same area on the drive head. Eventually that pad may become
contaminated to the point where you’re not really effectively cleaning the
drive anymore. Really your only option is to just get a box of these
alcohol swabs and periodically clean your drives. But with these Apple 2 drives… these are really hard to tear apart. There is a lot of screws, and
it’s generally not easy to work on these with them apart. There is a risk here of
shorting out the circuit board. What I’ve done, I took some
other disks that I don’t need , and I’m using those disks taped underneath here
as an insulator to entirely cover the bottom of the circuit board and tape it
with electrical tape so that none of the bottom of the circuit board traces can
touch the metal across the back of these drives. So, this is a problem that you
need to be aware of when you’re working with old technology like this. Also
there’s one other problem I’d like to demonstrate to you. Not only is
the magnetic media failing, but also the disk sleeve itself is starting to fail.
When you put a disc in a computer, it generally should not make
any noise when it’s spinning. Here’s what it sounds like with no disk.
It’s fairly quiet and this is the disk that I have been using.. I’ll put that
in. The sound that comes from the drive is very quiet and even sound. Really all
you’re hearing is the drive motor spinning and the little stepper motor
moving the head back and forth in little steps. However there are disks that are
starting to develop a problem. Let me put in this one as an example.
(Let’s see if I can remember this command.. yeah there we go. I put in the
assembly language command that tells the drive to start spinning.) If you
listen quietly (I’ll be quiet here) the disk is not making just a steady
quiet sound, but it’s actually making like a repeating SSH-SSH-SSH-SSH sound. What this sound is, is the sound of the disk rubbing against the inside envelope of
the floppy disk. The reason this is happening is because if we take apart
this disk and look inside… This is rather mysterious! What’s with these
colors, these patterns on here? Well the insides of this were originally white
when this was new. But it looks like it’s probably made out of paper (the inside
lining) and it’s basically oxidizing where oxygen is getting inside here. It is
slowly turning this brown and I’ve seen some disks where the entire
inside of this has turned brown and there’s really nothing that you can do
about that when it happens. Here is one, it’s much more severe. The reason that it’s changing color like this is that the air easily gets in around these
openings but not so easily where the disc material is covering up the lining inside. This one is pretty far gone. You don’t want your
floppy disc to make any noise. This material… it’s turning rough like sandpaper, and it may potentially cause damage to the disk. If
you can find some old disks that are quiet and if you can peek inside and
look through the hole and you see that the inner lining is still good.. I would
recommend cutting the edge off and using that as a sleeve for your good disks so
that you don’t damage your good disks that still have stuff you want, inside a
sleeve that is going to heck on you. I hope this might be helpful to
someone using their old antique computer

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