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I am restoring a couple of Apple II machines. I would like to add an external 3.5" floppy drive, but they are prohibitively expensive. I have tons of older PC floppy drives and I wonder if they could be made to work.

I don't see why they can't be made to work since floppy drive mechanisms (steppers motors, etc) are fundamentally identical with differences on the controller boards located on the drive or on a separate card.

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    I don’t know how Apple added support for 3.5” drives to the Apple II, but if they’re like the Macintosh’s then you’ll be out of luck: those drives either accept a PWM input to set rotation speed (400kb drives) or else select it automatically based on head position (800kb drives). Whereas all industry-standard drives have a fixed rotation speed. – Tommy Feb 9 at 0:57
  • The drive mechanisms are the same, but the API exposed by PC floppies is not what the Apple expects. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Feb 10 at 14:46
  • I wonder if any of the firmwares available for the Gotek-style floppy drive emulators work? (That assumes you're just looking to add some sort of R/W storage, rather than having some specific 3.5" disks you want to use with your machines.) – natevw Feb 10 at 18:26
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I am restoring a couple of Apple II machines. I would like to add an external 3.5" floppy drive, but they are prohibitively expensive.

Well, you're in for an even higher price tag, as you would need either need an

  • Apple II 3.5 SuperDisk Controller (Apple Part number: A0076LL)
  • Blue Disk Controller

While the first gives you compatibility with most Apple drives as well, it may not work with a bare PC drive. The Blue Disk is known to be most PC compatible of all. Both are rather rare. In fact, I never seen a Blue Disk in the field.

Also, at least the Apple 3.5 SuperDisk controller needs an enhanced IIe or a GS to work properly. Not sure about the Blue Disk.

But there is help in form of Reactive Micros clone of the SuperDisk Controller. Not cheap, but most worth the money if you want to use 1.44 MiB floppies. Here's a nice review.

I have tons of older PC floppy drives and I wonder if they could be made to work.

I don't see why they can't be made to work since floppy drive mechanisms (steppers motors, etc) are fundamentally identical with differences on the controller boards located on the drive or on a separate card.

Unless you find one of the above (or spend the money), you may need to design your own controller. No rocket science, but more than a weekend task. All it needs it some PC style floppy controler chip and some micro contoler handling that and communicating with the Apple using a smart drive compatible API. This will make it ProDOS and GS/OS compatible. Quite a nice project :)


And than there's the AE Transporter ...

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    Are there any available technical documentation on the controller? – ATL_DEV Feb 9 at 22:39
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    It's essential a seperate 6502 based system handling the drive(s). I added some links to Reactive micros clone. – Raffzahn Feb 9 at 23:02
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It's the same floppy drive, but you need a different controller card. The Apple 5.25" floppy implemented the controller largely in software---that was the big Woz invention, while the IBM PC 5.25" was implemented largely in hardware. You could probably build your own controller if you can find the schematics. But you're better off trying to find one on eBay, because you will also need the software that's on the Apple controller card.

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    I've never heard about a 3.5" drive for the Apple II family (though later Apple's have one). The 5.25" Disk II family is definitely different from PC drives (where, in turn, the 5.25" and 3.5" variants are very similar). Where did you get the information from that it's "the same" floppy drive? – dirkt Feb 9 at 17:00
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    Whoops., You are right. I have my measurements wrong. Let me edit. – vy32 Feb 9 at 19:44
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    BTW, here is a fun article about visiting a 5.25" floppy disk plant around that time: simson.net/clips/1989/1989.BCS.ABC-FLOPPIES.pdf – vy32 Feb 9 at 19:45

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