DISK RECOVERY – 1541 & 1571 (5.25” Floppy Disks)

Written by “THE VORTEX” July 2004.

This section of my web site was created to help C64 & C128 Users who have Disks that were Damaged by FOOD, OIL, or FLOOD/WATER.

 

My skills at Recovery were learnt First hand, in a real life situation when we had the worst storm we have ever had in the past 100 Years !!, in Melbourne, Australia.

The storm hit Melbourne’s Suburbs around 1st December 2003 at about 12:00 Midnight. (in the middle of Summer, so it was never expected)

At the time, I kept my entire Disks collection in my shed, and it consisted of Disks for all Commodore computers : VIC20, C16, C+4, C64, C128 & AMIGA500.

With at least 3000 Commodore 64 Disks, alone.

 

(The Picture Above shows my neighbours garden shed which was smashed to bits along with 7 other garden sheds. The water pushed all of them along until they collected up against a tree.)

My shed is bolted to a concrete base so it did not fall over or move at all, instead it filled with water like a giant fish tank. It filled up with water to the height of 1 meter deep at the maximum level.

When I entered the shed, it was right at the start of the storm but I never expected the water to get up this high, and I never expected it to reach 1 Meter Deep within only 15 minutes. So I did not have enough time to evacuate any of the disks, I was mainly worried about getting my Commodore & CMD hardware to safety first.

I will never forget walking through the deep water, and hundreds of C64 1541 disks were floating everywhere, many without jackets. They were kept under tables in 100 capacity Boxes, and the lids on these boxes had floated open and let fly all the disks.

 

The water was simply caused by rain water running down hill, it was not a Flooding river, but simply a massive rain water flood, which Created a River in my backyard and about 30 other people’s back yards. The water flowing was so powerful it knocked over my back fence and Brand New side fence.

 

The next day I spoke to my neighbors and all of them said that their Insurance companies had agreed to pay for the damages caused by the Storm & Flooding.

I rang my Insurance company Allianz , and they said they do not cover Flooding but they do cover Storms, so I put in a claim and then they rejected it, saying that they don’t really cover Storms either. I rang them again and they changed their mind again and told me something different again. I then rang their manager and he lied to me and said my claim will now go through.  In the end , about a week later, I got a letter from them saying they will not be allowing my claim and they will not cover me at all. All I was claiming was the New Side fence costs, which I fixed myself with help from 3 of my neighbors, so the labor was free, and all I was claiming was the cost of 4 bags of quick-set concrete, but Allianz are so greedy that they were the only Insurance company that would not cover any of the damages, which incidentally would have only cost them $60.

 

I was on long service leave at the time, so for the next 2 Months I spent almost 5 days per week, 6 hours per day, trying to collect all the wet Floppy disks & Jackets.

I eventually found all the disks, from the floor in my shed and many in my backyard half buried in mud. I put them back in Numerical order in boxes of 100 and then started working on a box at a time. And as you might guess, I sold a lot of my hardware in fear of this happening again and the rest of my gear is now in my house, High & Dry.

 

HOW TO RECOVER  5.25”FLOPPY DISKS  FROM FLOOD/WATER

(1) First of all I emptied about 25 disks at a time, into a large stainless steel trough pre- filled with very warm water. I then removed all the paper & plastic disk Jackets from the disks. I placed the 25 Disk Jackets on a large table covered with COTTON table cloths, and left them to dry.

 

(2) Secondly, I picked up each disk one by one and shook them for a few seconds each under the water, to ensure all the dirt, dust, mud and other debris was removed.

I then placed the disks on the same table covered in COTTON table cloths.

The table was in a warm, sunny spot but not in Direct sunlight !!

 

(Note: COTTON does not generate static. The stainless steel trough was “earthed”, so it also prevented static from damaging the disks magnetic surface.)

My only enemy now was OXYGEN & WATER, which can cause RUST when they react with METAL or the Magnetic surface of a disk !!

 

(3) After 2 days left drying, I examined the Disks to see if they would SPIN. I did this by holding the Floppy Disk case and then grabbing the central HUB ring, and trying to spin the disk by hand.

If the disk will not spin or does not spin easily, you will need to wait a few more days.

Eventually the disk will dry and they will spin.

 

(Note: I had already backed up 2000 disks out of my collection of  3000, so I concentrated on drying the 1000 that were not yet backed up !!)

 

(4) At this point the Disks were copied to PC using a D64 CABLE. If a read error occurred, I would simply copy the disks again but this time I had the 1541 Disk Drive lid open and I pressed a cotton swab stick , drenched in head cleaning fluid, up against the disk while it was spinning. I moved the cotton swab along the disks recording surface from track 1 to track 40 , to make sure that all the dirt was wiped off the disk and onto the swab. I then repeated this operation for the other side of the disk, If needed.

 

(5) For 95% of the disks I did not need to use the Cotton swab. Only 5% were covered with some oily muddy substance.

After this major operation , I found that I was able to read 99% of the disks, both sides. And all of these 1000 disks are now backed up as D64 images.. Thank God…

 

I tried using the water damaged disks about 1 month after the drying and all of them seem to be working 100% ok.

It is now 7 months since the flood and so I tested 10 of these disks again, at random, and all 10 worked. Also note that some of these disks are 20+ years old.

I am simply amazed that these disks work after all the water & hot weather that they have lived through over the past 20+ years. Some of the Brands I had were :

VERBATIM, MEMRON, MEOREX, POLAROID, COMPUTEC, GCS, 3M, etc..

 

(Another method for drying disks is to put them in their jackets and place them into an oven on very low heat for 5 minutes and them remove them, and leave them sit to dry. I also tried leaving some Disks, (in their jackets), on the floor in my hot car, and also in the boot of my hot car. The temperature outside the car was 33 degrees C. Inside the car it was around 35-40 degrees C. but several disks started to Warp and bend.

I hope this advise helps other 5.25” Floppy Disks users to recover disk they may have that get Oil, Water or Dust damage.

AMIGA 3.5” FLOPPY DISKS

I tried the same methods as above to dry the Amiga disks but this was much harder as they are not removable from their case. So this is what I tried:-

 

(1) Firstly I tipped all the Amiga 3.5” Floppy disks upside down in their box because there are more holes in the bottom of the disk casing than in the top. So when the water gets hot, it evaporates out of these holes in the disk.

(2) I then placed all of these disks onto the floor of my hot car in lots of 200. I waited about 4 days and then tried to spin the disks by rotating the Metal hub using my car key. Eventually all the disks dried out and would spin easily. At this point I brought them to my Amiga to try to read one of them.

 

(3) Sadly none of them would read, they had too much dirt still on the surface and I had no way of removing the dirt. I am sure you could hold the protective metal gate/ cover open and then dip the disks into warm water, one- by - one, as I did with the C64 disks.

I was just too sick of cleaning disks to spend time on the Amiga disks, after doing 1000 5.25” Disks. I also did not think that the water would be able to get in and clean these disks thoroughly enough. The main aim is firstly to get them dry as quickly as possible to prevent the magnetic media rusting. So this is what I did.  I just dried the Amiga disks as fast as I could. Also Amiga disks are 3.5” and so their recording surface TRACKS are about 75% smaller than 5.25” Floppy disks, so a small spec of dirt on a C64-1541 disk is no big deal in some cases but a small spec of dirt on an Amiga disk is enough to cover 4 tracks, and that is serious.

 

Overall from this experience, I learnt that C64-1541 Disks are very good technology that actually last for 20+ Years and can easily be recovered from water damage if you act fast to clean & dry them. I also learnt that 3.5” Disk are total and utter Rubbish and they do not survive problems because their tracks are so small that they are too sensitive to water & static damage.

 

THE VORTEX…   12-7-2004