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Can I Get Data From 5 1/4″ Floppy Disks?

Posted By cynthia On March 16, 2014 @ 3:52 PM In File & Disk Management | 3 Comments

Dan from Winchester, VA writes:

What about 5 1/4″ disks? I have boxes of them I’d like to retrieve (usable) data from including programs and/or jpg’s etc., for current or future use? Thank you for your help.

Unfortunately, Dan you may be a decade or so too late to retrieve that data.  For those of you who don’t remember the good old  5.25 inch disk, below is a photo of it sandwiched between the larger 8 inch floppy disk it replaced and the smaller 3 1/2 floppy disk. I can remember  using the 8 inch disk back in high school when we were learning the amazing new skill of Word Processing on a CRT monitor with glowing green letters.

There’s a good chance that your data may not even be salvageable even if you could locate a drive. I explained in this article about the limited lifespan of magnetic storage [1], which includes tapes and disks.

But even if the data is still good, finding a drive to retrieve it will be a challenge. You can still purchase external drives for 3 1/2 inch floppy discs at a fairly reasonable price.

As far as my research shows, there are no 5.25″ external floppy drives that connect via USB to a modern computer, the way the external drives for the 3.5″ drives will.  You may be able to find a used 5.25″ external drive that connects with a parallel port to an older computer. Or if you could find a functioning older computer that has a functioning 5.25 drive and a CD burner, you might be able to copy  your data that way.

I would check with local computer stores as well, there might be some tech-savvy person with an old computer that still functions who is willing to copy your data for the right price. There are also file transfer companies that will transfer the data to flash drive for you. A quick Internet search turned up at least three, so with a little research, you should be able to find one.

But ask yourself one question: is this data worth the effort? If it’s still on a 5.25 floppy, it’s probably pretty old. While jpegs and txt documents might copy all right, most of the data is going to be unusable because you don’t have the programs to open it in. And the programs themselves are likely to be of no uses at all. And you’ve probably gotten along all right for many years without the data on those files, so is it really worth the expense and effort?

This is also a good reminder to everyone that data storage mediums change with the times and it’s important to make sure that your data and your photos and your videos are updated to more current storage mediums as times change.

~ Cynthia


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[1] I explained in this article about the limited lifespan of magnetic storage: http://www.worldstart.com/vhs-cassettes-floppy-disks-how-long-will-they-last/