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FYI, in addition to publishing Low End Mac and doing some Mac consulting, I'm working a third shift job 2 to 4 nights a week, so replying to emails and phone calls may take some time.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

From Floppy to CD-R in Seven Steps

I worked on a challenging project over the past week, copying files from a handful of 800K and 1.4M floppies and burning them to CD. Some of these files go back to the late 1980s, and there was always the risk that some disks might be unreadable.

My Mac collection is in a storage room in the basement, and I have a desk set up outside the room for work.

Step 1: Set up the old beige Power Mac G3 (giving it a fresh PRAM battery and installing a working hard drive with Mac OS 9.1). Pop in each floppy. If it mounts, copy it to a folder. If not, set it aside to try on another Mac. None of the 800K disks would mount.

Step 2: Pop the floppy drive module in my WallStreet PowerBook, which I always keep handy. No luck with the 800K disks in Mac OS 9.2.2.

Step 3: Dig out the old Macintosh SE, one of very few Macs I own with a built-in 800K floppy drive. The SE was able to mount and copy the 4 disks that the newer Macs couldn't even mount!

Step 4: Find an ImageWriter II printer cable and connect it between the printer ports on the Power Mac and the SE. Enable AppleTalk networking, turn on file sharing, and copy the files to the folder on the Power Mac.

Step 5: Using the same cable and process, copy the files to the "Work" partition on the PowerBook (booted in Mac OS 9.2.2). I am a firm believer in keeping all of my work on a separate hard drive partition.

Step 6: Bring the WallStreet upstairs, connect it to our Ethernet network, reboot into OS X 10.2.8, enable File Sharing, mount the Work partition from my G4 Power Mac running OS X 10.4 "Tiger", and copy the folder to its Work partition.

Step 7: Pop in a blank CD-R disc, drag the copied folders to it, and burn the disc.

This was a real relearning experience. It's been a long time since I've worked with 800K disks that wouldn't mount on a more modern Mac, and it was great having an old SE that could read the disks - which included the client's Masters thesis. And without an Ethernet network in the basement, the PowerBook was a great machine for moving the files to my office.

All in all, I spent more time setting up old Macs, finding cables, etc. than I did actually copying files from the floppy disks. It was also a good opportunity to reaquaint myself with some of my favorite old Macs.