How do I retrieve data from 5.25" floppy disks?

This is a two part question:
1) What do I need to do read the data off of old 5.25" floppies? DIY or outsource?
2) Once I have the data from the floppies on my hard drive, how do I read the files?

I have twenty-two 5.25" floppy disks. Most of them are Verbatim Valulife 2S/2D MD 550-01 Soft-Sectored With Hub Ring disks. The contents of the disks were created between 1986 and 1989. They appear to have been well cared for and are in great condition. Each disk has been labeled with the name of the program, and there is sheet with each disk listing the files on the disk. The list below shows the disk label and the file extensions from several disks:
Excel--.LOB, .OTC, .PLP, .PE, .WC, .WBS
PCOutline--.PCO
WordPerfect--.HT, .ADV, .HT2, .WI, .NT
Some of the extensions look like they may have been created by the user, as they appear to be abbreviations for some of the subjects covered in the contents of the disks. I don't know much more about the disks or the contents, but if you have specific questions I can ask the owner.

Three or four years ago I bought an old floppy drive which I installed into a Win2K (probably) machine. It did not read the disks. I am willing to purchase some gear and set up a system dedicated to getting this data. I need to get the data as files that can be edited and not simply printed. Thank You.
TUMIhqAsked:
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Britt ThompsonConnect With a Mentor Sr. Systems EngineerCommented:
In this case, if you can find a mom and pop computer repair shop you may find that they'll have 1 or more laying around for data recovery. Our store has several laying around believe it or not and any of our guys would be glad to pop one of your disks in and read it for free to verify the disks work. Then, would either recover the data for you cheaply or sell you the drive if you wanted.
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Britt ThompsonSr. Systems EngineerCommented:
You just need a working 5.25" floppy drive...once you have that you should be good to go as long as you have the applications to view the files. MS Word will convert most of the text files. Not sure what PCOutline is.
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TUMIhqAuthor Commented:
Will any 5.25" floppy drive read any 5.25" floppy disk? If so, where can I buy one?
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ovpritCommented:
PCOutline: An old DOS shareware outline program marketed by Brown Bag Software who are now out of business. You can still find copies of older DOS software at the Garbo archives. Look for the file PCO334.ZIP. http://www.sharewareconnection.com/pc-outline-for-windows.htm
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ovpritCommented:
google is your friend! and yes any drive will read the disks, assuming they are in readable condition!

http://www.google.com/products?q=5.25+floppy+drive&hl=en
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Britt ThompsonSr. Systems EngineerCommented:
Ebay is probably your best bet or some old dumpy computer repair shop down the street.. here's a list from google

As long as the drive is a PC 5.25" and not an Apple it'll work. If your disks are apple you'll need an old mac to get the data.

http://www.google.com/products?hl=en&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&hs=6L3&ei=3WsASsGVMoKjtgfig-iOBw&resnum=0&q=5.25%22+floppy+drive&um=1&ie=UTF-8&ei=4msAStDnDuGMtgfAoP2HBw&sa=X&oi=product_result_group&resnum=1&ct=title
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TUMIhqAuthor Commented:
I appreciate your responses. I do know Google is my friend and I use it extensively. Google is not helpful, however, in determining the quality of a used drive. If I do this myself (as opposed to sending the disks off for recover) I want to know that i have a working drive before I spend a whole day trying to figure out what is wrong with Windows and why it won't recognize the drive. Plus, if the drive is not working and I don't know that, I could falsely determine that the disks are unreadable. Google is my friend but experience is my adviser.
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ovpritConnect With a Mentor Commented:
well, if you have the money and are looking for 100% accuracy, then as you suggested sending off for recovery is the "best way" to go... however time and expense are higher with that method. Unfortunately, since this technology has been deprecated a while back now, you are not really going to find an accurate measure of capability.

The choice is yours :)
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TUMIhqAuthor Commented:
"Google is your friend" is a derogatory statement. I always use Google before I post here. Sometimes I spend hours researching on Google first. I pay for this membership because I want to receive expert, first-hand solutions.
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rindiCommented:
Not every 5.25" drive will be able to read all disks. There used to be different drive formats, for example some really old drives were only able to read single sided, or low density disks. There probably also were differences in the interfaces used, depending on the computer hardware the drives were used in. There can also be issues reading disks that were written to using non m$ OS's, as they will have used a different format. If those disks came from an M$ (DOS) PC, then you would be best off to get a drive that can read Double-Sided High-Density disks, as with that you are backward compatible hardware-wise.

Even though you say the disks are in good shape, 20+ years is a long time for magnetic media which isn't sealed. Trying to read those disks using your own hardware will very likely be fruitless, and in trying you might do more damage. Like has been mentioned above, you are on the safer side if you send them to a recovery agency, as such an agency will be able to recover data even if the magnetic info on the disk has deteriorated.
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