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Tutorials | Troubleshooting Floppy Drives

Publish date: 17:57 Saturday, 3rd September 2005
Written by: Murf
Audience intended for: Windows Users
Category: Computer Hardware

Go up a levelGo up a level

Gone are the 5.25 bulky floppy disks, that held limited information, would bend, break, were bulky, and in came the 1.44MB 3 1/2" floppy drives that are the standard today. They come in Internal and External Models and with the advent of USB you can get both Internal and External USB Floppy Drives. They are versatile and will last a long time and you can get an internal Floppy Drive for under $10 bucks if you shop around. But as CD's take over the computer world, and will eventually put the Floppy Drive on the shelve for collectors, today they are a must for every computer. Lets look at the Floppy Drive:

Troubleshooting Floppy DrivesTroubleshooting Floppy Drives

These are some common problems experienced with Floppy Drives:

  1. Diskette is damaged.
  2. The system's CMOS settings may be incorrect.
  3. The ribbon cable that goes from the back of the floppy drive to the system board or controller may be bad or the connection may be loose.
  4. The power connector to the floppy may be loose or disconnected.
  5. Conflict within the system with some newly added hardware or software.
  6. The drive may be damaged.

Lets try and troubleshoot the problem first before you go out and replace it:

  1. Try to boot system with a known working bootable floppy diskette.
  2. Try to Format a Floppy Diskette.
  3. Start your computer, or if already in Windows, restart your computer.
  4. When you see the "Starting Windows (95,98, ME, 2000 or XP) message, press the F8 key, and then choose Command Prompt Only from the Startup menu. Your computer should then the boot to the command prompt C:>
  5. Place a blank diskette into the A: drive
  6. Type format a: and you will be prompted to insert a blank diskette into the drive and press [ENTER] when ready to proceed. A warning that all data on the diskette will be lost will appear on the screen. Press the Y key and then press [ENTER] to proceed with the format. Once the diskette is done formatting, press the N key in response to formatting another diskette.

If you are able to complete these tests, the problem may be with the diskette that you are trying to read or write to. Another possible cause may be new software that you added to the system.

Check your CMOS settingsTroubleshooting Floppy Drives

If the problem is still there and it does not recognize the floppy, then it could be configured wrong in your CMOS (Setup). If the floppy drive is identified incorrectly in CMOS, you will probably be unable to boot to or format a floppy diskette.

  1. Reboot and when you see the first boot screen called POST, you will see a line telling you what key to hit to get into your SETUP (CMOS) - generally the DELETE key. Once in SETUP you need to check that CMOS is identifying your Floppy Drive and that it is the correct one (i.e., 3.5 in., 1.44MB is the current standard for diskette drive 0 or diskette drive A). Note: If you have a Pentium or PCI system, check the security section of the CMOS and remove the supervisor password if one has been set. The supervisor password causes the floppy drive to display error messages identical to those usually associated with a defective floppy drive or cable.
  2. In CMOS use the arrow key to highlight Standard CMOS Setup and press [ENTER].
  3. Be sure the options for Drive A; and Drive B: You can modify the settings by highlighting them with the arrow key and using the [PAGE UP] or [PAGE DOWN] keys. The current standard setup is:

    Drive A : 1.44, 3.5 in.
    Drive B : None (unless you have two Floppy Drives)

  4. Press [ESCAPE] to exit Standard CMOS setup.
  5. Highlight Save settings and exit and press [ENTER].

Checking the cablesTroubleshooting Floppy Drives

If you have checked the CMOS settings and the settings are correct, the problem may be a poor connection between the floppy drive and the system board or controller. Check Loose or Poorly Connected Cables. To do this:

When performing this test, make sure you pull the connectors, not the cable and disconnect the POWER Cord to the Computer.

  1. Power down the system and remove the system case.
  2. Orient yourself with the back of the floppy drive inside the system.
  3. Find the back of the Floppy drive inside of the case. On the back of the floppy drive you will find a red, yellow, and black cable and a flat, gray ribbon cable. The red, yellow and black cable is the power lead.

    Floppy Drive power lead

    The flat, gray ribbon cable (or Round) is the data cable that needs to be reseated first.

    Floppy Drive data cable Rounded Floppy Drive data cable

    Firmly pull the cable straight off the back of the floppy drive (pull the connector, not the cable) and press it firmly back in place the same way you took it off. If it has become completely disconnected you will need to re-connect it. Make sure the end of the ribbon cable with the red stripe is towards the floppy power connector.
  4. Follow the ribbon cable down to where it connects to the system board. Note how it is oriented and firmly pull the cable straight off and push it back on the same way that you took it off. If it has become completely disconnected you will need to re-connect it. A good general rule to follow is to make sure the end of the ribbon cable with the red stripe is oriented the same way as the other large ribbon cables connecting to the motherboard.
  5. Plug the Power Cord in and Power up the system, try to boot to a floppy diskette and format a floppy diskette as mentioned above in (6). If your problem is solved, power down system and put the system case back on and you are done. If you are still unable to do access your floppy drive then try:
  6. Power down the system again and pull the red, yellow, and black power lead off the back of the drive (pull the connector, not the cable). Replace it with another available power lead that appears similar to the one originally on the drive. Power up the system, and try to boot to a floppy diskette and format a floppy diskette as mentioned on the previously.

Recently added New Hardware?Troubleshooting Floppy Drives

If you have such as a tape backup unit, sound card, scanner, network card, etc. to the system, try removing these items from the system one at a time. Each time you remove an item, try to boot to a floppy diskette and format a diskette. If the floppy works, it is possible the hardware that was added may be conflicting with the floppy drive.

Re-configure the new hardware, and try replacing it to see if the problem persists.

Floppy Drive Light Stays On ContinuouslyTroubleshooting Floppy Drives

If the light on the floppy drive(s) stays on constantly from the time the system is powered up, the data cable on the system board or controller card may be on backwards. Power down the system and locate where the data cable is attached to the system board. Once you have located it, pull the cable off gently (pull the connector, not the cable). Turn the cable around 180 degrees and put it back onto the system board. Power up the system to see if the lights stay on continuously.

If you started experiencing floppy drive problems after adding a tape backup unit, try using the additional floppy cable that came with the tape backup unit kit. Instructions for this operation are usually included with most tape backup unit kits.

Error MessagesTroubleshooting Floppy Drives

You may receive some of the following error messages when trying to access your floppy drive. The error messages can often pinpoint a specific problem.

  • Diskette Drive 0 Failure

    This error is usually seen as the system boots up. Check the CMOS to make sure that the drive(s) are identified correctly. If that does not correct the error, open the system and reseat the floppy drive cable. If that still does not correct the error, try another floppy cable.

  • Not ready reading drive A

    This error may be caused by incorrect drive identification in CMOS. Check to make sure that the drive(s) are identified correctly. This error can be caused by not having a diskette in the floppy drive(s) when you try to access it. If the floppy cable is poorly seated, this error will often occur. If you have a Pentium or PCI system, this error may occur if you have the supervisor password enabled in the CMOS.

  • Invalid drive specification

    This error can be caused by incorrect CMOS settings including the floppy drive not being identified at all.

  • Invalid media type

    This error may occur if you are trying to format a diskette that is defective or of a media type that is incompatible with your floppy drive.

  • Error selecting drive

    This error occurs primarily in Windows when you attempt to access the floppy drive without a diskette inserted. This error can occur with some operating systems such as Norton Desktop or PC Tools; often these programs have updates to correct the problem.

  • Non system disk or disk error

    This error occurs if you have a diskette other than a bootable floppy diskette or the #1 MS-DOS setup diskette in the floppy drive as you boot up the system. If you have a bootable diskette in the drive and still receive this error, the cable to the floppy cable is loose or defective.

  • Drvspace Error: Drive A: (F:DRVSPACE.000). An error occurred while reading or writing the bitfat on this drive. To fix the problem, run ScanDisk and perform a thorough test of drive A and its host drive F.

    When you use a floppy disk that was compressed with DriveSpace 3, you may receive the above error: Look here for the fix:


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