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3.5" Floppy Drive On SATA Computer

Posted: Fri Jun 24, 2016 2:49 am
by rkleaman
Firstly, let me apologize for a rather long post, however it seems necessary to include all relevant information. I hope that this post may assist with a 3.5-inch floppy drive installation in a computer with a mother board that has no floppy controller. My computer uses a Gigabyte MBO with high speed SATA connectors but has neither an IDE (PATA) connector nor a floppy controller. OS is Windows 7 Professional, Intel Quad I7, 32MB memory, and is overclocked to 4.6 GHz. I am a retired electrical engineer and hope to recover some lost papers on 5-inch disks.

I use a Matsushita LS-120 SuperDisk (Ver: 5) floppy drive connected to an ELEGIANT 40-Pin IDE Female To SATA 7+15 Pin 22-Pin Male adapter PATA TO SATA Card (on Amazon for $6.00). The LS-120 has a standard 40-pin IDE connector that is identical to those used on IDE (PATA) hard drives. Also, LS-120 drives have jumper shunts identical to those used on IDE hard drives. For a LS-120 drive, there are four (4) shunt positions. A shunt must be placed on the first position (master mode) immediately to the right when veiwing the rear of the drive so as to operate with the Elegiant adaptor. Also, Startech makes a SATA to IDE adaptor (P/N: SC-SA0112 Red) that works very well but these are difficult to find. I suggest a LS-120 Instruction Manual download since there are some operating precautions:
( ... 02e5e1.pdf)

There are other means to connect a SuperDisk drive. If there is an IDE (PATA) connector on the MBO, the drive can be connected directly with a 40-pin cable. If the SATA to IDE adaptor is not acceptable, Syba makes a PCI-e card that adds an IDE interface connection and and two SATA slots (Syba Part No. SD-VIA-1A2S).

Under Windows, a SuperDisk drive appears as a 3.5" floppy disk drive, it receives the drive letter A:. The Win driver is sfloppy.sys. This enables use by software that expects a floppy drive when 1.44 MB or 720 KB disks are inserted. SuperDisk drives have been sold in parallel port, USB, ATAPI and SCSI variants. SuperDisk drives read and write 1.44 MB and 720 KB MFM floppies as well as special 120MB SuperDisk floppies as used on PCs, Apple Macintoshes (High Density format only), and many workstations. The SuperDisk LS-120 is a high-speed, high-capacity alternative to the 90 mm (3.5 in), 1.44 MB floppy disk. The SuperDisk hardware was created by 3M's storage products group Imation in 1997, with manufacturing chiefly by Matsushita and Mitsubishi. SuperDisk drives are not to be confused with SuperDrive, a trademark used by Apple Computer for various disk drive products or the Super Disc CD addon for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The design of the SuperDisk system came from an early 1990s project at Iomega. It is one of the last examples of floptical technology, where lasers are used to guide a magnetic head which is much smaller than those used in traditional floppy disk drives. Iomega orphaned the project about the time they decided to release the Zip drive in 1994. The idea eventually ended up at 3M, where the concept was refined and the design was licensed to established floppy drive makers Matsushita and Mitsubishi. LS-120 drives fit in a 4-inch bay and if only 6-inch bays are available, there are adaptors that mount the small drives in a tray that installs in a standard 6-inch slot.

I have a pristine USB floppy drive that I purchased in the late 90's. Information is: Teac Model FD-05PU, Part No. 19308262-62, S/N: 0180235. This is one the VST USB floppy drives that were originally made to use with MAC computers. VST Information is Model: FDUSBT & S/N: 124567. It has a translucent bottom case with a translucent green bottom case. The drive operates with both PC & Mac systems. It reads, writes, and formats without any problem. It needs no power supply since it gets it power via the USB bus. I found this after going through some of my old boxes. I have no idea whether this is USB 1.0 or later. If someone is interested, send me an email. I seldom are on the forum so email is best. I tested it with Win 7 64bit.

Re: 3.5" Floppy Drive On SATA Computer

Posted: Fri Jun 24, 2016 6:06 pm
by BarryB
I suspect this will suffer the same problem as other 3.5" drives connected to systems that don't have a proper floppy controller in that the 'controller' does not have enough logic to process custom formats, just plain DOS!

I have a DELL USB 3.5" drive pulled from a DELL laptop, the ones that fit in the CD/DVD slot, it has a Mini-USB connector so it can connect externally to a PC and can read/write/format 720kb/1.44MB disks just fine! BUT, mine will not install or play correctly any floppy disk game that checks the disk for copy protection when installing, like TFX and Lemmings 2. I use DOSBox to attach the drive as drive A: in DOSBox and the drive will not install TFX and Lemmings 2 won't play correctly as the protection isn't read when installing from the USB 3.5" drive!!

You need to try installing copy protected disks to see if the drive can cope, but if you only want if for plain DOS disks then it will be fine.

Re: 3.5" Floppy Drive On SATA Computer

Posted: Sat Jun 25, 2016 4:59 am
by rkleaman
I never made any claim that the drive will read anything but DOS disks. I posted to make available a method to easily attach a floppy drive to computer that has no floppy controller. Incidentally, I found that since my OS reports the LS-120 as Drive A:, when a second floppy drive attached, it is reported as Drive B:. This is with Win 7 SP1. If all this information is of no use, please have the administrator delete it.

There is one very important fact that seems to be misunderstood. The LS-120 drive in my computer is NOT operating on a USB connection. It connects to the MBO with a SATA cable. It reads, writes, and formats standard floppies and it reads, writes, and formats 120MB floppies.

Re: 3.5" Floppy Drive On SATA Computer

Posted: Sat Jun 25, 2016 3:39 pm
by SomeGuy
I'm glad to hear this works! I didn't think that would work with an ide-sata converter. I had tried an IDE Iomega Zip drive on SATA with zero luck, but never investigated further since I prefer the SCSI Zips anyway :) .

It would be interesting to more closely probe the low-level compatibly, but I would not expect more than a USB drive. Most "modern" bioses, if they even have BIOS compatibility at all, are extremely lobotomized.

From my own experience these kinds of drives are usually not limited to a specific file system, but they are limited to standard 1.44mb and sometimes 720k sector geometry. For example, you should be able to image a 1.44mb Macintosh formatted disk with ImageDisk. But Microsoft DMF (1.7mb) formats will make USB drives barf. (Can the LS-120 deal with DMF? These were in use back when DMF was still somewhat common. Although they may be additionally limited by a driver or BIOS)