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Glaice

Maes talks about his three-and-a-half-inch floppy

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Mr. Chris said:

Who has 3.5" disk drives nowadays?

**cough**

My older PC's all have them built in and I'm currently on the lookout for a 5.25" high density drive.

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Mr. Chris said:

Who has 3.5" disk drives nowadays?


Pretty ubiquitous with new assembled PCs, and immensely popular on anything older than 2 years (unless you're a macfag). And still required, unless mobo manufacturers and the such stop depending on bootable floppies for their BIOS and fimware upgrades.

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Mr. Chris said:

Who has 3.5" disk drives nowadays?


A lot of people actually keep them around. Mainly for BIOS flashing

Maes said:

Pretty ubiquitous with new assembled PCs, and immensely popular on anything older than 2 years (unless you're a macfag).


Haha, no. The last time I remember seeing a new PC with an FDD was circa ~2004.

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Yeah, new off-the-shelf PCs haven't had floppy drives for a good 8 years or so. And even at that time, they were just hanging around being useless with CD burners around and USB drives just starting to penetrate the market (Hell, CD/DVD burners aren't too useful anymore either with the advent of cheap 16+GB USB sticks).

Also many BIOS vendors do prefer to ship WinFlash or similar rather than a DOS program, though you can usually find a DOS flasher in a alternate download somewhere. Last time I had to flash a BIOS I actually used the DOS program, by making a bootable USB stick with FreeDOS on it.

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Try working in tech support even for a few months and you'll be surprised at how many hardware variations and concepts there are, and what tools you may have to use to carry out low-level support.

Simply put, you can't rule out using anything. If you can boot a mobo with USB, fine. If you can't (or the tool you need is on bootable CDs only), you have to use a CD-ROM drive. If that doesn't work for whatever reason, you may have to revert to floppies (the very least to use Smart Boot Manager to try forcing a boot from USB/SCSI/CD, if the BIOS can't do it).

Gotta loooove those floppy-initiated XP installations, too ;-) (it's true, there's a set of 4 floppies that get some basic drivers going and then proceed from CD, for those systems that cannot boot from the optical drives for whatever reason).

2004 was not exactly a year where every new PC and mobo was made super-fancy and used EFI BIOS and OpenFirmware, especially if we're talking about bog-standard, non-brand, garage assembled PCs (I'm not talking about overpriced crap from IBM, Dell, HP etc. or God Forbid, Apple, just your standard working-class average beige box IBM-PC compatible that a poor-ass clown such as me and you can afford).

It's incredibly short-sighted to spew-out umbrella statements such as "NO PC made after 2004 has floppy drives" and "CD-Rs are no longer useful". Right, try repeating that to yourself when for whatever reason you stumble upon a BIOS that doesn't like YOUR particular USB drive, or you happen upon some cheap Socket 754 mobo made in 2007 which has none of the Mac-like bells and whistles ;-)

Then again, if someone hasn't bought anything but laptops and macs or at most some Dell pre-assembled slim-case PC ever since, I can understand why he'd have that impression.

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To be fair I did say that people still keep them around for the specific purposes you mentioned (and yes CDRs were helpful to flash my Mac's graphics card when it wouldn't recognize the USB ports in freedos ;-))

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Mr. T said:

Mac


Is there ANYTHING I don't know? ;-)

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Maes said:
Try working in tech support even for a few months and you'll be surprised at how many hardware variations and concepts there are, and what tools you may have to use to carry out low-level support.

Actually, working in tech support is precisely the reason I'm always mystified at the claims you make.

2004 was not exactly a year where every new PC and mobo was made super-fancy and used EFI BIOS and OpenFirmware, especially if we're talking about bog-standard, non-brand, garage assembled PCs (I'm not talking about overpriced crap from IBM, Dell, HP etc. or God Forbid, Apple, just your standard working-class average beige box IBM-PC compatible that a poor-ass clown such as me and you can afford).

No one mentioned EFI or OpenFirmware. Hell, who ever said that those are required for PCs without floppy drives anyway?

It's incredibly short-sighted to spew-out umbrella statements such as "NO PC made after 2004 has floppy drives" and "CD-Rs are no longer useful".

I wouldn't say no PC, but they seldem ever came with floppy drives for the masses after that point. I also didn't say CD-Rs aren't useful at all, but their use as a general-purpose storage medium has largely been replaced by USB drives.

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chungy said:

Actually, working in tech support is precisely the reason I'm always mystified at the claims you make.


Well, answer this straight then: what's the oldest machine (technology wise) you had to service in the last 2 years?

chungy said:

I wouldn't say no PC, but they seldem ever came with floppy drives for the masses after that point.


TQBH, I've only seen PC builders omit them in the last year. In 2004 it would be just foolish to omit them, since Windows XP had no means other than floppies (or a-priori slipstreaming) to load SATA drivers and the such. And before saying that you never needed them...one word: VIA, nForce 4 and JMicron chipsets (some Intel ones worked out of the box, but that changed later on too with AHCI interfaces).

chungy said:

I also didn't say CD-Rs aren't useful at all, but their use as a general-purpose storage medium has largely been replaced by USB drives.


Well for read-write media USB was indeed a breath of fresh air. CDs simply weren't cut for daily RW use (and don't even mention CD-RWs and packet writing schemes), and the size and reliability discrepancy between RW media of the time sucked (ZIP drives? Gimme a break...) At least people stopped burning a single CD for a 1 MB file, without even multisession -_-

Heh come to think of it, there was indeed a "blank period" between 2000-2003 where there was no low-cost, efficient RW storage medium that could effectively replace floppies. USB drives were still ridiculously overpriced (hell, I remember paying Eur 70 for a 128 MB SD Card in 2004), while Jaz drives, Zip, floptical, LS-120 etc. never really caught on.

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Maes said:

Well, answer this straight then: what's the oldest machine (technology wise) you had to service in the last 2 years?

to entertain you, that would be a Pentium 4 built in ~2002, I "worked on" about a year ago. And by "worked on", I salvaged the hard disks and transferred the Windows XP OS into a virtual machine on hardware that's actually not dying. This is an exceptionally old computer compared to most, it's rare to see anything older than about 2007.

Also you seem to forget that most people get Windows XP pre-installed. They don't need a floppy drive to install on their SATA systems (indeed, many seem mystified at how the system was installed by the OEM in the first place, if they attempt to install it from scratch themselves and it can't find the hard disks).

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chungy said:

to entertain you, that would be a Pentium 4 built in ~2002, I "worked on" about a year ago.


Pentium I and III machines, and early Pentium IVs (under 2 GHz) still in service ;-) You are simply FUCKED if you don't have a floppy around (or if their optical drives don't behave, even on newer machines).

chungy said:

Also you seem to forget that most people get Windows XP pre-installed.


AFAIK, this happens only with laptops and big-name PCs (Dell, HP etc.) here (and you can't avoid it). Store-built, home-built and garage-built ones, which are the majority here, get the OS installed by the builder manually and thus need full service autonomy.

And when you are servicing stuff, often this entails doing a reinstall anyway, for a mobo whose manuals and manufacturer have been lost to the mists of time. You have to be as generic and open as possible in these cases (and there are not one-size-fits-all disk images that will work on anything from a Pentium I to a Core 2, not for Windows at least). I recall I had over 4 DVDs of drivers and pdf manuals, possibly sorted by specific MOBO models, along with specific instructions for each ;-)

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Mr. Chris said:

Who has 3.5" disk drives nowadays?

Me. When I built a new computer (I think a year or so ago now) I made sure that it had a 3.5 drive. I don't use it often but I have enough things on floppy that I might need to get access to at some point that I thought it was worth sticking a drive in the case and, sure enough, I have used it.

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Forget that - I need a 5.25" drive to access my old DOS and C64 disks. Combo floppy drives are awfully expensive.

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I made sure I got one (just in case) when I ordered the bits for this PC back in '05, but I don't recall having used it yet.

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Got one in my XP machine that I've recently used to format and install the OS on an old hard drive.

I have a portable that's been plugged into my Vista two or three times in the last year or so.

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The last time I built a computer for myself (in 2009), it included a floppy drive. It immediately became useful when installing the SATA drivers for XP and updating my SSD's firmware.

My next system probably won't have one -- not internal, at least -- as it's getting harder to find motherboards with integrated floppy controllers. I have a USB floppy drive, just in case...

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The last comp I built a few years ago I included a floppy. I think I used it like once and that was to look at some discs I found in my various collection of unused computer crud and that was just to see wtf was on those things.

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My "current" computer, a Dell Dimension from 2005, didn't come with a floppy drive. I still keep floppy drives in my Pentium 133 MHz and Athlon 900 MHz, which I use now and then just when I need a shot of nostalgia.

But I admit some clients I visited on the last couple of years still used it, so I always used to keep one of those USB floppy drives with me.

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I have an external yes... flash drives work better.

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Heh - I did a double-take when reading the thread title.

Bucket said:

Forget that - I need a 5.25" drive to access my old DOS and C64 disks. Combo floppy drives are awfully expensive.

A 1571 and Star Commander might do the job for you if the DOS disks aren't high density.

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geo said:

I have an external yes... flash drives work better.


I read that as "flesh drives."

Anyway, the last time I used a floppy was probably while working on somebody else's computer. The last time I used one for myself was in 2007. I wanted to flash the BIOS on my machine to see if it would correct the hardware-related, but then mysterious bsod I was getting. I grabbed drive and realized I'd left the floppy power cable at dad's house (modular PSUs are a double-edged sword). Ended up hauling the carcass of an olde Pentium-II box from the basement and plugging the floppy power into that. Great success!

My olde lappy from 2002 was the last computer I owned that had an FDD of its own. It's one of those modular jobbies that never got any use because the CD drive or a battery was always in there. The drive is now dead. I tested recently when I wanted to see if my 90s disks had any pr0n or maps on them.

Working at Dell (2006-2008) I noticed very few people using floppies for anything. Turns out you can still install XP on those things if you screw around with the BIOS settings. No idea what that does to the drive performance.

I think a big difference with Maes is he isn't in North America where we treat computers like yesterday's beer cans. Some stupid people here throw out their PCs when they get a virus (this gets us techies some nice hardware for free or cheap on occasion).

Contrast Japan where nobody I met even owned a PC. Obviously, lots of people here have them, but a huge portion of them just use their phones for everything.

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