PDB Helpdesk: Floppy Drive Problems|
By Thiravudh Khoman
I have no sure-fire answers to Leslie Barclay's problems (Post
Database, December 29, 1999), but if I were to guess:
- It's possible that the floppy drives of the PCs at Les' school are
the problem: either they're out of alignment or are the ones that need
to be cleaned, not his notebook's. Floppy drives, while pretty sturdy
in my experience, occasionally run into problems especially if one
routinely saves files to floppies as opposed to copying files there.
Checking drive alignment, unfortunately, requires special software and
thus I'm going to have to skip over this. As for cleaning, if the
school PCs are in a dusty environment, it wouldn't hurt to give them a
pass with a cleaning diskette. Personally, though, I've never had the
occasion to clean a floppy drive ever since I started using 3.5"
- It's possible that the problems are due to the floppies used. Are
the problem floppies old? Has reader Les ever reformatted them? Brand
new diskettes which come pre-formatted may eventually need to be
reformatted if they're used a lot as the drive heads rub against the
disk surface; doubly so if the diskettes are written to by many drives.
Reformatting in this case involves a full format, by the way, not a
quick format. Go to DOS and type: format a: /u. This performs an
"unconditional format". If any bad sectors are reported after the
format is completed, I suggest throwing the floppy away - or do what I
do and fold the diskette in half with one hand, Superman-style.
Floppies are so cheap these days that it's not worth keeping diskettes
with bad sectors, which could cause you problems later (at the most
inopportune time, of course). Anyway, try a new diskette and see if the
problem persists. By the way, if reader Les is still using 720kb
floppies, stop immediately and copy the files to 1.44mb diskettes. Then
throw the 720's away. They were a lot of lousy 720kb floppies back
- If reader Les still suspects his floppy drive to be the culprit, he
should send it to the notebook's local rep and have them take a look
inside (this is usually free). A few weeks back, a reader had an
intermittent problem with a CD-ROM drive which was due to a loose cable.
If this were a desktop PC, I'd recommend checking the cables as well.
But with a notebook computer this is much more complicated and is best
done by a manufacturer's rep. If a local rep doesn't exist, one should
probably resist the temptation to have a non-qualified vendor take the
machine apart. It's just too risky.
- As for the 3M SuperDisk (also known as an LS-120 drive), I've had
some experiences with it. Several of our Compaqs at work came with
these instead of regular 1.44mb floppy drives (there was a special at
the time). It should be noted that Compaq no longer bundles these. It
should also be noted that I've since replaced these with regular 1.44mb
drives. Why? First of all, I ran into intermittent problems getting
other 1.44mb drives to read diskettes written by and especially
formatted on the LS-120's. Secondly, Windows 95 requires a special
device driver in order to use the drive (Windows 98 and NT don't though)
which is an added bother. Thirdly, as a backup device, a Zip drive is
probably a better choice (although it holds 20mb less) because the drive
and its media easier to find. This is not to say that the drive is bad
- it's not - but I'd think twice about using it as the sole replacement
for a 1.44mb drive. Consider also, that it may or may not be possible
to get the notebook to boot from the external SuperDisk drive (check