I need to handle bulks of floppy disks where I have to archive their contents and then recycle them by formatting them for use on old Amiga/Atari/MS-DOS computers.

I currently have a 3.5" floppy disk drive mounted in my current computer thanks to a 34 pin to USB converter. But the converter can only handle 1.44MB floppy disks, which makes it impossible to read/write 720KB floppy disks.

I also have an old Acer computer with a floppy disk interface embed in the motherboard, but it sadly can handle only one floppy disk drive, which is unpractical to handle bulks. I could modify the floppy disk drive cable to switch between two drives but this seems highly unpractical and I could still handle only one drive at a time.

I'd like to know how I could build a computer that could handle reading/writing bulks of floppy disks at the same time (with more than two drives).

  • 1
    Why recycle them? You can almost certainly get more reliable disks as "New Old Stock", for most formats that are sensibly readable on PC anyway, and for eg disks with exotic copy protection (assuming you want to do it with commercial titles instead of just old data disks), your archiving might not work very well. – Muzer Jan 5 '17 at 17:51
  • surely someone has found a way to simulate such a floppy drive with sd cards? would emulators of your system work too or do you really need the old atari? just questions, not enough reputation to comment .. – pete Jan 5 '17 at 22:26
  • other than that, if you need a lot of them, get a kid from your neighborhood and let them build a small robot to do the work .. or let them switch the disks, whatever is cheaper :p – pete Jan 5 '17 at 22:34

As suggested by Muzer, I'd recommend obtaining new-old-stock floppies to use instead of recycling existing ones, if they have content you care about (or are commercial floppies).

To actually answer your question, there are two things to consider.

The first is that formatting floppies is always best done on the system they'll be used with, so that really solves your problem on that end of things: format your Amiga floppies in an actual Amiga, your Atari floppies in an actual Atari, your DOS floppies in an actual DOS PC.

The second is that archiving floppies properly is relatively difficult, and is hard to do properly in parallel on standard systems. If you want to stick to modern PCs, your best bet is probably something like a KryoFlux; you can run several in parallel but it starts getting expensive fast. Alternatively, you could use an older PC: there are old ISA floppy controller boards that have jumpers allowing them to be reconfigured so that you can run two controllers in a single system, with up to four floppy drives. Then all you need to do is find floppy-reading software that will allow you to use several floppy drives in parallel! You could use ImageDisk for archival-grade copying on a DOS system, but I think it only reads one floppy at a time. HD-Copy for DOS works well too for more basic floppy reading requirements (DOS format only), but I can't remember if it can read from multiple drives simultaneously...

Even if your floppy controller is capable of running 2 drives with the proper cable (and many floppy controllers on newer systems are not), it may not be possible to read or write from both drives simultaneously because they will both try to use the same DMA channel.

If you can find a PCI floppy controller this should be less of an issue, but for old-style ISA-bus floppy controllers I don't see a lot of options. Probably better to stick with USB floppy drives (or SCSI floppies if you can find any) if simultaneous access is really important to you.

If you want to get really extreme you could build a machine that while only doing one disk at a time, does so automatically:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5lkxSY7QsI

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