User Help : Using Floppy Drives

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Copyright © 2005-2015 Userful Corporation. All rights reserved.
(Updated 2015.09.28)

Impending Extinction

Floppy disks are a dying breed some environments, and are quickly becoming rare. There is less and less support for them in your local neighborhood computer supplies store, since there are much better, more reliable technologies available. As this technology has aged, the quality of the drives and disks has plummeted. CD/DVD burners are very common in computers now, and so are USB memory keys or flash drives. These other options have a much greater capacity than floppies and are very fast, reliable, and convenient to use.

Because of the foregoing, we strongly recommend that you begin migrating to these newer storage formats, and copy your data to one of them. Hardware support for floppy disks will definitely become scarce in the coming year or so, so now is the time to look for better options.

In the meantime, Userful Desktop still supports the use of these disks. Keep reading to find out how to use floppies in the Userful Desktop environment.

Accessing the Floppy Drive

There are a few simple steps to keep in mind when using floppy disks with Userful Desktop. Below we will outline some key concepts.

Mounting and Unmounting

Since Userful Desktop is based on Linux, the concept of "mounting" and "unmounting" a storage device is used. It's kind of like riding a horse: You mount the horse, and stay on until you arrive at your destination, then you unmount the horse. You can't put the horse out to pasture or leave it in its stall unless you unmount it first. Trying to do so without nicely unmounting will result in either you or the horse being injured or, at least, unhappy.

Your storage device is the horse. And you can't use it without mounting and unmounting. Below we will show you the steps involved in mounting and unmounting. Below we will show you the steps involved in mounting and unmounting.

Accessing the Drive

Finding floppy drive icon.
  1. Double-click on the Computer icon on the desktop. The File Browser should appear.
  2. Mount reminder message.
    Find the Floppy Drive icon in the File Browser and double-click on it to mount the drive.
    • If you are using a USB floppy drive (external to the computer system unit), then the name of the drive should be External Floppy Drive.
    • You should see the Mount Storage Device message pop up, reminding you not to forget to unmount when you are finished.
  3. Extra opening message (just click Cancel).
    Click OK.
    • If you do not click OK soon enough in the Mount Storage Device window, you may see the "Opening 'Floppy Drive'" message appear. Just click Cancel to make it go away.
  4. Seeing the files on the disk.
    Now, double-click on the Internal-Floppy-fd0 name in the list of Places in the left-hand panel of the File Browser.
    • If you are using an external USB floppy drive, the name should be something like 1.4 MB Removable Volume, or it will be the volume name on the disk.
    • You should see a list of the files on the floppy appear in the right-hand panel.
  5. A file's popup menu.
    Do what you need to to the files on the floppy.
    • Just as with any other file, a double-clicking on the icon will open it.
    • If you need to delete the file or perform some other task with it, right-click on the file icon to get its popup menu.

Unmounting the Drive

Unmount in the drive popup menu.

Once you are done with the floppy disk, remember to unmount it. This is an important step for preventing data loss on your floppy.

  1. If the File Browser isn't already open, double-click on the Computer icon on the desktop.
  2. Find the floppy drive icon in the Places list in the File Browser (usually called Internal-floppy-fd0 for internal drives and 1.4 MB Removable Volume -- or the volume name -- for external drives).
  3. Right-click on the floppy drive icon.
  4. Select Unmount from the popup menu.

What if I can't access my disk?

Please see "Troubleshooting... Floppy Drives".

Formatting a Floppy Disk

"Formatting" refers to getting a disk ready to accept files. The disk needs to have a standard "format" applied to its magnetic surface so that the computer knows where to put things or get things in the future.

Typically, when you buy a disk, it will already be formatted and ready to use. The FAT format is the most common, and this is the kind that Userful Desktops use. Floppy disks labelled "IBM PC Compatible", or something similar, will have the FAT format on it. So the only time you usually need to format a disk is if you don't want the files on it anymore or the disk has some "bad sectors" (flaws in its formatting or physical surface).

Please remember that formatting a disk means all data on it will be erased.

Here are the basic steps to formatting a floppy disk:

The floppy drive's popup menu.
  1. Make sure the disk is not write-protected and insert it in the drive.
  2. If the File Browser isn't already open, double-click on the Computer icon on the desktop.
  3. Find the floppy drive icon in the Places list in the File Browser and right-click on the icon to get its popup menu.
  4. Click on Format in the menu.
  5. The format dialog.
    In the Floppy Formatter window that pops up, you can generally accept all the settings, and should not change them unless you know what you are doing. However, here are a couple settings you might need to change:
    • Volume name -- the name you want to give the disk. This is usually limited to 11 characters.
    • Formatting Mode -- if you are in a hurry, choose Quick. However, Standard will give you a more reliable format. Thorough is the one to use if your disk has some bad sectors (flaws) on it.
  6. Click on Format to start the process.
  7. Error message from bad disk.
    If your disk has some bad sectors on it you may get an error message. If this occurs:
    1. Click on OK to return to the Floppy Formatter window.
    2. Select Thorough for the Formatting Mode.
    3. Click on Format.
  8. Formatting progress bar.
    If the disk is relatively happy, you should see the progress bar appear. It may take a few minutes to complete the formatting, depending on the Formatting Mode you selected.
  9. Once the disk is finished formatting, you can pop it out of the drive or access it as described above.

Troubleshooting Problems

Please see "Troubleshooting... Floppy Drives".