Perhaps you’ve just brought a floppy disk with a long document on it to your workplace, or need to get the driver for your old printer from the disk it came with, but the computer refuses to read it. Don’t panic (yet), there are some steps you can take which might make restoring use of your unreadable floppy disk possible…
1. The computer’s floppy drive may be broken or need cleaning. Try a different disk in the drive to see if it is also unreadable. If no disks will work, you will need to either try a floppy drive cleaning kit, replace the floppy drive, or use a different computer. If you are trying to read a fairly recent disk in an old (pre-1993) computer, it may have a floppy drive which only reads low-capacity disks.
2. For some reason, floppy disks written to by some computers are unreadable in others. For example, my Dell computer can read documents saved on my old Compaq laptop, but the laptop often can’t read files put on a disk by the Dell. A generic computer I own can read files on disks from either computer, and both can read files it writes. If you can, try the unreadable floppy disk in a different computer.
3. If you can’t get any computer to read the disk, and the floppy drive is functioning properly, it is necessary to take measures aimed at restoring file(s) from the disk. The “recover” command is sometimes useful for this; it can be used in DOS or the Windows command prompt, and may be able to restore part or most of each file. I once had an unreadable document on a floppy disk and “recover” was successful at restoring about 2/3 of it, although I had to re-type the rest. Here is an example of how to use this command:
However, this is only useful for restoring unreadable files in which having part of the file is beneficial; half of a mouse driver or 3/4 of an application are of little use. I recommend only running “recover” for the specific unreadable file(s), not the entire disk, unless it has a number of files on it and restoring all of them is necessary.
4. Try using the “chkdsk” command in DOS or the Windows command prompt; sometimes this can fix problems with disks. Use the /F option to repair any problems it finds, rather than just identifying them. If any .CHK files are created by “chkdsk”, view them with the TYPE command or a text editor to see if they contain any information you are in need of restoring. The following is an example of the command being used:
CHKDSK A: /F
After restoring (or trying to restore) the unreadable files, it is a good idea to mark the disk label as having had problems and avoid using it for important data in the future, or at least re-format it as soon as possible. In the future, consider saving two copies of an important file on a floppy disk to reduce the chance that it will become unreadable, and be sure not to put disks on top of devices containing magnets or expose them to very hot/cold temperatures.