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In my organization's archive I just found some 5-1/4" floppies, presumably IBM PC 320/360k. They contain information that we have on paper, but I'd really like to have on electronic media, not least so we can make searchable PDFs of it without a whole bunch of archival work.

What is my most expedient way to read these? I have access to an IBM PC 300PL Type 6862 running Win98SE with a 3-1/2 floppy, a late Power Mac running 10.5, and an early Intel Mac running 10.11.

Any chance a run of the mill 5-1/4 floppy off eBay will plug into the PC300?

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    A few short hints: Not sure about the 300PL but many PCs from about the late 90s onward support only one floppy drive. So you should try disconnecting the 3.5" drive and connect the 5.25" one AFTER the twist in the cable. Also, make sure you don't accidentally try writing to a 320k/360k disk with a 1.2MB drive, so it's better to write protect them by covering the little cutout before inserting. As for Macs, they never really supported 5.25" drives, as even the very fist Mac in 1984 already had a 3.5" drive - so your chances there are rather low. – TeaRex Nov 18 at 8:42
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    In my experience, on the Intel side of things, computers older than Pentium 4 still support two drives at a time; the loss of the second drive came with SuperIO LPC pin “optimisations”, which came about with Pentium 4 chipsets. IIRC Athlons lost support for two drives earlier though. In the 300PL’s case, the later Pentium III models do support two drives simultaneously. – Stephen Kitt Nov 18 at 13:46
  • Related, on superuser: Universal Floppy controller for USB. Also found this: FC5025 USB 5.25" Floppy Controller – Dave Tweed Nov 18 at 14:43
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    A relatively recent blog post: Attaching 5.25″ floppies via USB – Dave Tweed Nov 18 at 14:50
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The answer will depend on the exact model of 300PL you have, but there’s a good chance it will be possible to use a 5.25” drive with your computer.

Many 300PL models, such as type 6592, type 6565, and your type 6862, explicitly support 5.25” drives, and support connecting two drives at once; so with one of those, you should be able to connect the drive, configure the BIOS and go. The 6862 at least is supplied with a very short cable with only two connectors, so you will need to replace the existing floppy cable with one appropriate for 5.25” drives, which normally use an edge connector. Compatible cables looks like the one shown here, with five connectors and a twist.

Given the physical layout of the 6862, you might have trouble routing the floppy cable if you try to connect both the 3.5” drive and the 5.25” drive at once. You will at least need a rather long cable, and in particular one with a decent length in between both sets of drive connectors (where the twist in the cable is found). You’ll probably find it much easier to only connect one drive at a time.

Other types might or might not directly support 5.25” drives; for example, type 6562’s manual claims it doesn’t. However if the BIOS doesn’t support the drive, you may be able to configure Windows to use it anyway, and if that fails, you can buy a cheap ISA floppy controller and plug it into one of the ISA slots.

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Generally, most 1996 mainboards WILL deal with a 5 1/4" floppy just fine IF you use the appropriate cable (which will often NOT have been supplied with a computer or mainboard in 1996). The important thing is BIOS support. Which is likely on any mainboard that still has ISA slots.

IIRC I did use a 5 1/4" drive just fine on a ca. 1998 ASUS P5A based system, with Windows 98SE and various Unices.

  • A 5 1/4" drive worked just fine in my ca. 2010 Gigabyte P55A-UD4P system with Windows 7. – Ross Ridge Nov 27 at 1:43

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