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Floppy won't write, even though drive HW is OK

Posted on 2000-05-04
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Last Modified: 2013-11-17
I have a strange problem. My old Mac II vx will no longer write to a floppy, although it reads floppies just fine. For example, when I copy a file to a floppy, it will begin to write, but then it will fail half way through (I assume it fails when it performs the verify and realizes nothing was written). Similarly, if delete files, they appears to go to the trash, but when I eject and re-insert the floppy the files are back in their original location. It is obvious this is not caused by any problem with the write-protect, since the Mac would say "you can't write to a locked disk" or something.

My first thought was the floppy drive had gone bad, so I purchased a replacement, but it has the exact same problem. It may be coincidence, but this appears to have started around when I upgraded to System 7.5.3.

I have two 7.5.3 partitions (one was installed on top of 7.1, one was a clean install), both of which have the same symptoms. Any ideas? Is there a problem with the Mac II vx and 7.5.3? (Seems doubtful.) Any particular hardware problem that might cause this?

Thanks in advance!
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Question by:parkerea
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by:andyring
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Wow. This one's a toughie. My first instinct would have been to replace the floppy drive, as you did. But, since that didn't make a difference, my only other guess would be that either a cable isn't firmly plugged in somewhere, or the floppy drive controller chip is going bad (unlikely as it is). If that's the case, you're done for, unless you wanted to try and find a IIvx logic board somewhere.
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by:weed
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1) Have you booted off of a clean system and tried to write to the floppy?

2) Have you run norton on the hard drive that youre copying FROM?
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by:TheHub
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Does it fail with extensions off?
Does the floppy drive work in another machine?
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by:parkerea
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Thanks for all your input, I am strill trying.

andyring:
Checked the cable connections, but no luck. They are plugged in fine. However, I am going to try another cable.
Your comment about the mother board made me think -- mine is old and very dusty (even had a Coke spilled on it many years ago), so I am going to disassemble & clean it.

weed:
As I mentioned, I did try it booting from  my 2nd 7.5.3 partition. While that is not a truly "clean" system, it is pretty close; very little has been installed on it other that the Mac OS. I would boot from CD, but 1) I don't know where my original CD is, and 2) although recent Macs can, I am not sure the VX can boot from a CD.
The hard disk is not the problem; it read & writes fine. Also, if it were, that would not cause the behavior of being unable to trash floppy files.

The Hub:
Yes, it fails with extensions off also.
I have not tried either drive in another Mac, but the odds that the replacement drive has the same problem are fairly small, so I am assuming the drive is not the cause.
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by:TheHub
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Never underestimate Murphy's Law.
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by:andyring
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Coke spilled on it once? That's not really a good thing. There are chemicals in Coke that can (over time) eat away at various kinds of metals. I don't know that it could do enough damage to eat through a trace on the motherboard, but I guess it's possible. More likely, though, (assuming the cable is OK, try a new one of those first) is that something damaged the chip or one of the tiny traces on the motherboard. Look over the board carefully with a magnifying glass and see if anything unusual shows up. I think the floppy controller will be about 3/4" square with VSLI (or VLSI, something like that) printed rather large on it. If I recall, that one is the floppy controller.

Personally, I seriously doubt a software problem.

Good Luck.
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by:Steven_K
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Coke could definately cause weirdness like this. It's possible the dried material is shorting something as well as chemical action itself eating something. If it is shorting it is slightly possible cleaning it would help.

use distilled water, let it sit a while, poor off, and allow to throughly (!!) dry. Do not run a hair drier on it! Too much heat can cause other problems. Repeat until stuff is gone but again be careful to completely dry the board (more than can simply be seen - could sit under chips etc.!!!)

Some of those chips have very fine connectors close together and cleaning them might take a bit more work. A gentle touch with a soft toothbrush if something is caked on it - otherwise a close shot with a can of air would do.
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by:aezzy
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Parkerea,

There was a virus doing the rounds a while back that indicated that the floppy drive was stuffed. I know people that send back new machines saying the floppy drive was stuff. Because you have put a new floppy drive in the computer with the same result I would say this is your problem. Get some anti-virus software or go to one of the mac sites and down a virus killer. I can't remember the name of the virus.

Hope this works.
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by:parkerea
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Not sure what you mean by "stuffed." I did some viruses database searches for "Macintosh" & "floppy" in Symantec & F-Secure, and all I could find was a reference to an Trojan Horse from back in 93 that was masquerading as "Compact Pro;" it apparently deleted files from floppies.

I sincerely doubt my problem is a virus -- I very, very rarely download executables, don't exchange floppies with others, and my version of Word is so ancient that it does not support macros.

I am still working on this (although I have been distracted for a while), so I will award the points when/if I actually find out the cause.

Thanks for your help.


- Eric
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by:yellow_power
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The problem lies in your harddisk speed, it is probably either full of files that slows down your harddrive or your processor has taken a beating over time. Try and reformat the harddisk with a formatting software, reinstall the system. Then run norton a few times.
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by:Steven_K
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Could be mechanical failure of the floppy drive. The heads do wear down over time. If you had a spare i would suggest trying it out.
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by:parkerea
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Yellow Power:
As I mentioned in my first response (I know this is getting really long...) the hard disk is fine. It reads, writes, copies files, programs run, all without problem; the problem only shows up when writing to the floppy. By the way, IMHO fragmented hard disks issues are greatly exaggerated in their effect: they do not slow a system down that much, and they absolutely do NOT cause system failures. (Swap files are an exception to the performance issue, and then only if you are really working the virtual memory -- do to their high utilization if they are fragmented they will slow the system.) Defraging is the computer equivalent of chicken soup.

Steven K:
As I mentioned in the original note, I have already replaced the floppy drive and the replacement had the exact same symptoms.


Thanks once more,
- Eric
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by:Steven_K
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Hmmm....l your experience and mine on fragmentation differ. I have tracked specific problems to fragmentation. It isn't common but does happen. However one fragment isn't often enough to make any problems. Dozens or hundreds of fragments i have seen causre real problems.

Back to the floppy - sorry i missed that you tried another.

Did you try exchanging the floppy ribbon cable at the same time?
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by:parkerea
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I have not tried another ribbon cable yet, although that is on my list of things to do, along with a cleaning of the mother board. Unfortunately, my priorities are elsewhere for the next few weeks, so this problem is on hiatus.

Re: fragmentation. Yes, our opinions do differ. Feel free to ignore me. Theoretically, the only problems which should come from fragmentation would be delays in the time the CPU requests a block from the disk subsystem, and when that block actually is available. CPUs are far faster than disk drives, so the CPU waiting on the disk drive is normal, but with fragmentation that wait would be longer than usual. While again, in theory there might be an OS bug which shows itself only when the CPU needs to wait longer than usual, I am skeptical.
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dpgohome earned 100 total points
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Yes this is a weird one, but I had a similar thing happen on one of my PC's a few years back (don't say it!). It turned out to be the power supply. The floppy would "claim" to write but when you took the diskette to another machine nothing was there. It read just fine. After six months of f***ing around on and off with cables and and new drives and even controllers, replacing the power supply fixed it. The machine never exhibited any other read/write problems, go figure...maybe it takes more current/voltage to write than to read. Also do not discount the possibility that your second floppy drive simply has the same defect, remember all Apple replacement parts of that vintage are refurbs.  Good luck...dpgohome
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by:forkbeard
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What kind of Coke was it?
Original, New, Classic, Diet, Cherry...etc?
;p
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by:parkerea
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forkbeard:
Perhaps I was hasty in concluding it was a Coke(tm). It was undoubtly one of my kids, and they did not step up and volunteer "hey dad, guess what -- I just dumped several ounces of Classic Coke down the monitor, and some of it dripped into the CPU!" While I suspect it was a Classic Coke, I can not be positive. In fact, it could have been virtually any brown liquid. I think some serious chemical analysis would be required to identify the compound, along with DNA matching to attempt to ID the perpetrator.

dpgohome:
I will consider the power supply also.

BTW, I am amazed this thread is still going on. You people really take your help seriously! As I mentioned above, I am overworked right now, so I can't work on it for a while, although I did rule out the OS -- I booted from a clean floppy (I think it was the DiskTools) but it still would not write.
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