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Running out of time, my floppies are in retirement and waiting to die... how do I rejuvenate them?

Posted on 2004-08-19
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Last Modified: 2010-04-03
I want my floppies to outlive me.  I want my grandkids to be able to play the games (using the ORIGINAL floppies) that I used.  But the average life of a floppy properly stored and cared for is 10-30 years, most of my games are at the 20 year mark.  I won't settle for backing up onto new floppies or CDs, I want to be able to enjoy the originals with their cute labels and the feeling of having an original disk.  My questions are:

1.  Can't I just format the disk and reimage it thus "creating" a new copy?  I realize that this is restoring on the logical level and not actually restoring the physical condition level, but isn't data corruption on floppies a case of the magnetic particles becoming unaligned?  So if I reformat and reimage, doesn't that extend the life?

2.  Can I degauss the disk somehow (and how?) and induce a field onto it (how?) to restore it's original magnetic properties?

3.  Is there a way I can permanently LOCK the particles in place so they will never shift again?

Please be prompt, looking at my huge collection of DOS games and realizing that every one of them is like a grandparent on life support and waiting for a cure for old age is heartbreaking, when some might only have days left....
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Question by:vodka7
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Blue_Rishi earned 500 total points
ID: 11850959
1. by reimaging you mean placing back an image; take it you've already imaged the disks? If your planning to use unformat or similar; bad idea. And yes, this is restotration at the logical level and might buy your disk(s) some time as the data is rewritten. However this doesn't protect you against physical breakdown of the magnetic film (good translation?).

2. I'm not sure about the degaussing, but packing the disks in conductive plastic (e.g. the plastic that is used for computer-hardware) will prevent build-up of static electricity and protect your disks somewhat against damage due to static discharges. Inducing a magnetic field: no, for example holding a magnet over your disks will not only destroy any data on it, but also erease the tracks, thereby rendering the disk useless (unless you rewrite the tracks including mediadescriptor 'track 0'). Only if you could create a field small and specific enough, you might be able to pull this off. But fortunately, you have a device that is accurate enough; the head in the floppydrive ;-) So, the anwser is basicly the same as to question 1...

3. no, if this was possible, you would be able to buy permanent disks with 100% data assurance. This is just basic physics (which I don't know enough about to eloborate); if you magnetize something, it a) doesn't stay that way for ever and 2) random polarity switches of particles do happen and there's nothing you can do about it; remagnetizing works only so many times...like using an audio or video cassette over and over...

The actual disk (seen when pulling the metal clip) basicly consists of plastic and rust (plastic, metal bound with O2)...

you could try two alternatives; 1) scan the labels and print them with a nice, high resolution printer and start using new disks or 2) open the floppies and replace the actual infomationcarrier. No need to say you would need to image all disks before trying these solutions...

Good luck,

Blue Rishi  
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by:crazijoe
ID: 11850998
For the age of the Floppy, I don't think it is a matter of corrupted data. It is the integrity of the media. The media itself will not last as long as you want. Just like tapes and records. They will wear and deteriorate in time.
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by:Blue_Rishi
ID: 11851050
just thought of someting; sealing them airtight will increase their lifespan...so I've you have a kitchenvacuüming machine (ok translation?; I mean a machine for sealing food in plastic, without air), you could try that too. I understand the sentiment of still having the old, original disks, but eventually they will die and be useless...I would back them up anyway. Btw, are these all 3.5" or do you have 5.25" as well? (just out of curiosity).

Blue Rishi
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by:dr00bie
ID: 11851263
Just get over the fact that you want to play your games off a floppy in 50 years... The problem is that we take floppies for granted... but what about 10 years from now, will new computers ship with floppy drives?  Probably not, why would they?  By then (as if it isn't like this now) a floppy can't hold anything, I mean I can take a shot with my digital camera that a floppy can't even hold.  Just image them, burn all of them to cd and you will be done, with one or two cds.  As if cds will be around a whole lot longer... Things are changing too much to have that nostalgia about things, I mean if you really want your grandchildren to be able to play your old DOS games in 25 or 30 years, go ahead and try it... but I think that adapting is a better choice, because if you rely on floppies, they will drop you like a bad habit, and then your grandchildren can't even play them because you were too stubborn to image them and get rid of the old crappy floppies.  I mean, just like 5 1/4 floppies, I haven't seen one of those in years (besides the one I have at home).

Just like humans, there is no cure for old age!

Drew
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by:vodka7
ID: 11851723
Yes I am backing them up, but it would still be really nice to be able to preserve the originals somehow, could I hermetically seal the mylar disk somehow?  or would that block the weak magnetic field of the drive? if not, what would be the best way since it seems pretty difficult to open the disk itself.  In regards to just scanning the labels and simply placing it on an identical floppy, I tried that but the results have been less than spectacular due to the fact that I can't seem to find a proper floppy label maker software and have to rely on MS Word templates :(

Entropy sucks and yes I do know that they will all eventually die, but just like an old man, I wanna cheat death!
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by:vodka7
ID: 11851841
Blue Rishi, I have over 500 (Thank you ebay!) DOS games that are 5  1/4 and 3 1/2 in original boxes which I also wish to preserve, so I'm having the boxes shrinkwrapped and vacuum sealed when I'm done backing up the manuals and cards and disks.  Yes yes I know I sound wierd, but some people collect and preserve stamps, I collect and preserve games :)
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by:dr00bie
ID: 11852024
I understand from the collecting standpoint, but as far as playability, they will not be of much use in 10 or 20 years as they are (3 1/2 and 5 1/4 floppies)...

My view is that you need to throw nostalgia out the windows, seal up your games and put them on a shelf... then your grandkids can see the real game boxes and other stuff, and also play the games off a much more secure source.

Drew
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by:Blue_Rishi
ID: 11852693
< could I hermetically seal the mylar disk somehow?  or would that block the weak magnetic field of the drive? if not, what would be the best way since it seems pretty difficult to open the disk itself. > I'm not sure I understand (English is not my native language). I would try to just vacuum seal the entire disks (one by one, game by game or whole stacks at time). As I'm not sure how much vacuum the disks can take, or to be more precise; I'm not sure they could survive the proces of creating vacuumseals. Absolute vacuum would mean no air or other molecules at all; the suction that would take could damage the disks...So, if you have a vacuumsealer; try a few regular disks first (not from your collection), reopen them and try to read them...

As for the labeling software; I would recommend using graphical software like Paint Shop Pro 8 or the Gimp (freeware, but more complicated/less stable). Just print the scans at 100% (could print them with a fine line around for cutting).

btw, nice collection you have there. I would recommend burning them to a bootable CD; just create a bootfloppy with a few different configs (eg clean, XMS, XMS+EMS, etc.) and include a dos subsection with mouse/cd-drivers, etc...This way you will still be able to play them on any x86 compatible machine in 20-30 years. Also make sure you use quality disks...seen CD-layers comming off after as little as 6 months on cheap cd's...

Blue Rishi  
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