I saw this floppy drive sound emulator and this floppy disk sound video and wondered if the sound of a floppy drive or more specifically a the sound of a floppy disk spinning in the drive, could tell anything about the quality, performance or lifespan of the disk.

If for example sound or vibrations of a floppy disk spinning would be recorded, what could that tell? I imagine several abnormalities could be noticeable such as certain floppies making a louder sound, a scratching or ticking sound. What where common abnormal sounds and what do they tell about the floppy disk or floppy drive?

I even found some sound waves and specific recordings of floppy sounds here.

  • Some copy-protection techniques can be identified by the sound that the drive makes as they are loading content. I doubt that the quality of the disk could be determined similarly, though. Jan 31, 2022 at 0:37

2 Answers 2


Noise from floppy drives is dominated by seek noises (as demonstrated in the video you linked to), to the extent that in normal operation you don’t really notice the spinning noise.

In practice, regular floppy use tends to be mostly short bursts of this kind of noise (three seconds’ worth starting at 1:07). Formatting a floppy or reading/writing it in its entirety sound different, and are also immediately recognisable. You’d learn the noises your drives made, and quickly notice when something was wrong; but most of the time, “when something was wrong” was when a sector could no longer be read or written, and the drive would repeatedly try, resulting in this sort of noise or this sort.

Unusual spinning sounds were rather unusual and would indicate something badly wrong, either with the drive itself, or more commonly with the floppy — in my experience the most common “wrong” spinning sounds came from slightly bent casings, so the disk would rub.

Spinning sounds involving the head tended to be bad news. A scratching sound would mean the floppy was toast, and if you were unlucky the drive as well; or if you weren’t paying attention, the next floppy you put in the drive. (Dirty floppies leave deposits on the head, which then damages the next floppy if it isn’t cleaned.)

When floppy drives were still common, this was all true of hard drives as well. You would know the noise patterns your computer would make when booting for example, or when loading programs you used often, and you’d quickly notice any change.

  • Also if something was supposed to be reading/writing from disk but you didn't hear any seeks for a long time, or worse, the drive motor stopped entirely, your app probably locked up :)
    – hobbs
    Feb 2, 2022 at 21:28

The data on floppy disk is laid out on the magnetic surface of the disk in concentric circles, called tracks.

In order for the magnetic read/write head in the drive to be able to read the data on each of these tracks it's positioned on an armature that can move it backwards and forwards. This armature is controlled with a stepper motor to position the head over the appropriate track to be read from or written to. This is in addition to the motor that spins the disk itself.

The louder clicks and buzzes you hear are the noise of the arm's stepper motor changing which track is being used, and the constant hiss in the background from the motor that's spinning the disk.

In addition, the button mechanism of the drive will also makes noises when a disk is inserted or removed.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .