Floppy backup


I am considering the best way to transfer my old floppy disks (720kB and 1.44 MB) to my hard disk. I have access to Windows XP, Windows 7 and Linux machines with floppy disk drives. After searching around I have come up with some candidates. I know some of my disks are boot disks or contain hidden files but no disks have any copy protection. I also own a copy of SpinRite so I guess I could use it on bad disks after I manage to copy as much as possible first. Any suggestions on which program you think is best or feedback on programs you have used are appreciated.

  1. Rawread
    rawread target-file floppy-drive [–image]
    target-file = DOS filename, where to write the contents to.
    floppy-drive = Drive letter ( A or B ).
    –image = optional, if given rawread expects a simple zImage
    starting at track 0 head 0 sector 1
    This floppy usally has been generated via a linux
    command like ‘dd if=zImage of=/dev/fd0’ or via
    ‘rawrite’ under DOS with zimage as input file.

Floppy Disk Copy


This program copies data from and to floppy disks in direct image format.


C:>fdcopy -?

FDCOPY (02.01, 04/01/99) - Floppy Disk Copy

usage: FDCOPY [-S (SIZE)] [-D (SIZE)] [-T] (SOURCE) (DEST)

FDCOPY copies floppy disk images to and from disk files. A floppy disk
image is an exact copy of the floppy disk, sector by sector.

(SOURCE) specifies the source floppy disk drive or disk file.

(DEST) specifies the destination floppy disk drive or disk file.

To specify a floppy drive, use 0 or A: for the first floppy drive,
1 or B: for the second floppy drive. (Yes, I realize that A: and B:
are really DOS drive assignments, but its commonplace to reference
the drives like this.)

When a disk file is specified, the size of the disk file must be one
of the following:

            Corresponds to floppy drive

Filesize Size Geometry Media

1474560     1440K  80.2.18   3-1/2
1228800     1200K  80.2.15   5-1/4
 737280      720K  80.2.9    3-1/2
 368640      360K  40.2.9    5-1/4
 327680      320K  40.2.8    5-1/4
 184320      180K  40.1.9    5-1/4
 163840      160K  40.1.8    5-1/4

-S (SIZE) specifies the drive size of the source.
-D (SIZE) specifies the drive size of the destination.
(SIZE) must be 1440, 1200, 720, 360, 320, 180, or 160.

If the -S and/or -D options are not specified, the size of the source or
destination is determined as follows:
If the source or destination is a physical drive, the drive size reported
by the BIOS will be used.
If the source or destination is a file, the size of the file will be used
to determine the drive size. See the table above.

-T specifies to read/write full tracks.
The default is to read/write one sector at a time. The -T option can
speed up the copying under some circumstances.

FDCOPY is primarily used to manipulate image copies of floppy disks,
but can also be used to convert floppy disks from one format to another
based on the geometry rather than the data stream. When converting,
the (SOURCE) is read and cylinders/heads/sectors are padded or
truncated as necessary to fit the (DEST). For example, copying a 360K
image to a 1440K disk will only use cylinders 0 to 39, heads 0 and 1,
and sectors 1 thru 9 of each track. Copying from a larger size to a
smaller size is not recommended.

When copying to/from a floppy, if the format of the floppy disk does
not match the floppy drive format as reported by the BIOS (i.e. copying
to a 360K floppy in a 1200K drive), the -S or -D option should be used to
indicate the correct format of the floppy disk.

If errors are encountered while reading a floppy disk, the data for the
sector/track is cleared (in the memory buffer), written to the
destination, and the processing continues.

If errors are encountered while writing a floppy disk, the sector/track is
skipped, and the processing continues. FYI: The destination floppy
probably has a bad sector and should not be used.

FDCOPY does NOT format floppy disks. When copying to a floppy, the floppy
disk must be preformatted.

Sample Execution

C:>fdcopy -t disk.img a:


Parse parameters. Open source file if specified. Open destination file if
specified. Copy source file/disk to destination file/disk.


Useful for creating and storing floppy disk images rather than files. Has the
unique ability to resectorize a floppy based on the logical format rather than
the physical format.

  1. ResQFlpy

Step 1:

“Choose floppy type from 360K [1], 720K [2], 1.2M [3], 1.44M [4]:”

  • Select the number corresponding to the size of the floppy disk you
    wish to clone. RESQFLPY will check if there is enough free space for
    the image file on the default drive. If not, the program will abort,
    indicating there is not enough free space left to complete the

Step 2:

“Produce (I)mage of floppy or ®econstruct from image? [I/R]”

  • Select “I” to produce an image file of the SOURCE disk, or “R” to
    copy an image file you have already produced to a new, formatted
    floppy known to be free of defects.

    The image file produced has the filename “RESQ-IMG.FIL”. The image
    file will be placed in the current directory, on the default drive.

Step 3:

“In which drive is the source (or target)? [A/B]”

  • Select either drive “A” or “B” as the drive for RESQFLPY to work
    with. Once this phase of the process has begun, you can hit ESCAPE
    to abort the process, if you wish.

If you have already created an image file, you will be prompted with:

Step 4: Image file exists, overwrite it? [Y/N]

  • Select “Y” to overwrite the existing image file. Selecting “N”
    to aborts the process with the message “Operation completed” to
    indicate the first image file was not overwritten.

When RESQFLPY starts the process of copying sector by sector of the
SOURCE disk into the image file, you can abort by using ESC. The
processs will then terminate with the message “Operation failed.”

The generation of the image file can take several minutes as RESQFLPY
reads and writes each sector of the SOURCE to the image file. Please
be patient. You are kept advised of the success of the read operations
by the dots ( . ) and the read failures by the x’s. Observing this
display is informative. You will be able to visualize the extent of
the damage on the SOURCE disk.

Once you have successfully created an image file, run RESQFLPY again
to copy the image to a CLONE disk. RESQFLPY will look for the file
RESQ-IMG.FIL in the current, or root directory, when you choose to
create a CLONE disk.

Be sure to use a new, unconditionally formatted floppy for your CLONE.
Use DOS unconditional format (DOS 5 or higher) by issuing from the
command line: FORMAT drive_letter: /U. In case there are bad sectors
on the target floppy, then RESQFLPY will detect them with its internal
verification. The program will abort and display a message “Target has
a bad sector or is improperly formatted”. You can then retry with a
reformatted floppy or with a fresh disk.

  1. Roadkil’s Unstoppable Copier
    Recovers files from disks with physical damage. Allows you to copy files from disks with problems such as bad sectors, scratches or that just give errors when reading data. The program will attempt to recover every readable piece of a file and put the pieces together. Using this method most types of files can be made useable even if some parts of the file were not recoverable in the end.

The program can be used as a daily backup system using its batch mode functions. A list of transfers can be saved to a file and then run from the command line to perform the same batch of transfers on a regular basis without having to use the GUI interface. The program supports command line parameters which allow the application to be run from schedulers or scripts so it can be fully integrated into daily server tasks.

  1. dvdisaster
    Maybe this could work since it seems to have a function for not getting stuck on bad sectors?

  2. CDCheck
    CDCheck is utility for prevention, detection and recovery of damaged files with emphasis on error detection. CDCheck supports DVDs.

It supports CRC files and binary compare. CDCheck can be used on all files visible by your OS which means all files that you can see in Windows Explorer (CDs, floppy disks, disk drives, ZIP drives…).

CDCheck reporting features tell you exactly where the problems are. Files on CDs, zip drives, USB keys etc. can get damaged in a number of ways, so the program helps you determine whether your data is safe before it’s too late.

The program also provides extremly fast binary compare for effectively checking that file transfers (burning, copying…) were accomplished successfully and alerts you of differences. Besides that CDCheck supports creation and checking of MD5, CRC-32, SHA… hashes in SFV, MD5 and CRC file formats.

The program has the ability to check files with hash files in order to check them for possible loss of data or to verify if files were damaged during transfer. The program can be used with all local or removable media (CDs, DVDs, disk drives, floppy disks, ZIP drives, USB keys…) visible by the operating system (Windows Explorer) and also with audio CDs.

I don’t quite understand why all of these alternative copy methods instead of a simple

COPY A:*.* C:(DestinationFolderName)

or a simple Drag-N-Drop in Windows Explorer, the file manager?

Do so many floppies have bad sectors? Floppies may have physical damage - surface scratches - and I’m not sure any recovery option can overcome those.

I’m confused because you write you’re trying to transfer files, and then you have products that deal in ‘disk images’. Hmmm… why would I want to save Floppy Images instead of copy those files to my hard drive and let them exist as that - as files?

Thank you for the reply. I would like to have all the information from the disks including the boot sector. Some of the disks are boot disks that has used sys a: command. It also feels like a better idea to get the whole image and then try to work on possible hard to read sectors on the original disk. I am interested in the best theoretical solution and then I will chose which program to use, maybe even just copy the files. Would you say any file manager is as good a choice or are some file managers better at checking if the transfer was okay? Like Windows Explorer versus Midnight Commander?

Is this an academic exercise? Is this why you’d be interested in retrieving or saving SYSTEM and IO files? These have limited uses until they’re located on a certain disk’s boot sector. Re-creating a boot-disk is a matter of REFORMAT with BOOTABLE OPTION set as “Yes”, and then copying files back onto it after the System Format is completed.

I’d also think this is a superior method for diskette re-creation - because those Diskette Surfaces are substantially aged, and one disk’s surface qualities will be different from another, and a Disk Image will need completely perfect and identical disk surfaces.

If I am doing a mere COPY back onto a 2nd diskette and its disk-surface has a failure, the COPY will move to a working sector or abort if none can be found.

I much prefer WinXP’s file-manager than Win7 or 8’s simply because turning on Hidden Options is easier, the displayed file-listings are more complete AND both Cursor and Mouse-Pointers are select-functional.

But to copy diskettes onto C: Drive? Hardly anything is easier than going into a DOS Box and typing

COPY A:*.* C:(some existing folder name)

and pressing ENTER. Then, load in diskette #2, tap my UP cursor key and this same command-line is re-displayed. Press ENTER again, and each subsequent floppy is copied to that same destination.

There’s also an XCOPY A: A: command that will copy Diskette #1 to Diskette #2, by the way.

I was under the impression copy in dos would stall with the Retry, Abort, Ignore message if there are bad sectors. I guess you could call it Zunhs-was-bored-and-started-thinking-too-much-about-old-floppy-disks-he-should-have-done-backups-of-years-ago exercise. I am also curious in what condition the floppy disks are in now.

I’d say that, if a DOS COPY command fails, the reason is probably “physical surface damage” and no Image Copy or other products can correct that. The magnetic quality of those disks lessen over days, week, months, years. It’s the natural state of magnetics on this planet.

MY best alternative to a Disk Failure is to try it in a 2nd and 3rd Floppy Drive. Other than that, “this floppy’s toast” is the likely answer.

Those are amazingly complex devices. Even the drives are so complex, using Read & Write heads that aren’t famous for “high tolerances” yet they have to physically move near surfaces, then back away and ‘dock’ or ‘park’, then start again. So amazingly mechanical, yet they have worked for most of PC history.

If you don’t have a big problem with unreadable sectors, you can use tools such as e.g. UltraISO (Shareware) or WinImage (Shareware) to read and write Floppy disk images, and you can use something like Virtual Floppy Drive (Freeware) if you want to mount the image.

Welcome to the MyCE forums. :slight_smile:

Very good comment about trying different floppy disk drives! That’s one thing I wouldn’t have thought of at once. What I like about SpinRite is that it tries to read the data several times and then statistically decides if it was a zero or a one. I am not sure it can maneuver the reading head like it can on hard disk drives though (more control than the regular operating system). The alternatives in my first post are also better at not getting stuck on bad sectors than a regular copy.

I guess we could think if the scenario as if you are handed a box of floppy disks and asked to do your best to save all the data you can from them. I would think of it like if a hard disk drive was failing. First I want to make an image of the original drive. Then try to work on recovering as much of the data as possible from the original.

Edit: Thank you DrageMester! I was actually thinking of trying Virtual Floppy Drive (VFD) after I have seen you recommend it on the forum.

I have to reload XP (F6 SATA Drivers via Floppy) occasionally, and routinely run into bad diskettes. Reformat them, and they’re good again - that to me says “magnetic quality is failing on existing bits and bytes, but reformat and they work fine.” For a while.

I’d take one of your boxes and run them thru simple DIR A: commands and get Readability. For every failure, I’d try them on PC #2 with a floppy, then maybe #3, if I had one nearby.

Hopefully, some #1 fails might work on subsequent drives but maybe not.

If you have a chance, report back and give us your review of your processes.

Good advice again about just trying a dir a: on them first. It will be interesting to see if certain brands will fail more than others. I will make sure to report interesting results.

After searching some more I add option number seven.

  1. GNU ddrescue
    GNU ddrescue is a data recovery tool. It copies data from one file or block device (hard disk, CD-ROM, etc.) to another, trying hard to rescue data in case of read errors. GNU ddrescuelog is a tool that manipulates ddrescue logfiles, shows logfile contents, converts logfiles to/from other formats, compares logfiles, tests rescue status, and can delete a logfile if the rescue is done.

Hmm, I wonder if it would be better to reboot into Free DOS first. Maybe it works better than the Windows dos shell.

The OS won’t be nearly as important as the surface-quality of the disks, and the FDD. If these are all DOS diskettes, a WinDOS box won’t be any better or worse than my DOS 6 computer would, or any other OS.

Any OS will still be issuing a “READ FDD” command, so it’s still ReadHead vs DiskSurface that’s the most important factors.

I think I will start with cataloging the disks with dir or attrib > c:\disk1_brand.txt

The eighth option.

  1. safecopy
    safecopy is a data recovery tool which tries to extract as much data as possible from a problematic (i.e. damaged sectors) source - like floppy drives, hard disk partitions, CDs, tape devices, …, where other tools like dd would fail due to I/O errors.

Edit: Spelling…