please also refer to wikipedia article for images of floppies. Unfortunately, I got rid of my 128K and 1MB 8" floppy disks, but I still have some 5.25" disks left, and I still use 3.5" disks.
what? you still use floppies?
yes, I still use 3.5" disks regularly for the purpose of making boot disks and boot images for cd's. having a 3.5" 1.44M or 2.88M floppy drive is still a requirement for making bootable disk images for cd's and dvd's.
Plus, there are some operating systems and utilities that only come on floppies or floppy images. people are still using windows 98 and ME and in the past I have even seen NT 4.0 in Real Estate offices, some of which came on floppies, all of which a replacement disk set should be ordered by now.
according to floppies.com who sells floppies, "Diskettes are often required for embroidery equipment, machine tools and other specialty machines."
the lifespan of a floppy is about 3 years (from what I read on another web site), though it may last longer. I have had originals last quite a long time, such as Borland C++ floppies. but they don't last 10 years.
If you start getting data errors, you have already lost your data.
care and feeding
I have been told this by an accountant/computer builder friend of mine, not to remove the floppy until the light turns off. sometimes you don't have a choice because it never turns off or you don't want the writing to do any more damage.
if you don't intend to write to the floppy, ALWAYS write protect it! These days, with viruses and malware trying to access all drives and infect everything makes your media vulnerable, and that write protect is important. Unfortunately, even the driver floppies that come with some cheap network cards do not come write-protected, you must slide the write-protect tab.
Always a good idea when you are not writing to the disks (to prevent viruses and malware from writing to the disks).
To Write Protect a 3.5" disk, slide the write protect tab on the back of the disk so that you can see through both holes. sometimes this is tough to do and you may ruin a thumbnail. Maybe you can try the tip of a pair of scissors.
To write protect a 5.25" disk, apply a write-protect tab
to the write-protect notch on the right side. If you don't have a write-protect notch, then you are fine. The disk will look like this:
On an 8" disk, it is the exact opposite of the 5.25" disk: they become write-enable tabs. on an 8" disk, the write notch is on the bottom of the disk, of I remember right.
Write-Enabled disks look like this:
- There is a "window" on the disk where the media is inside. On the 5.25" disk, it's the open oval area over the black plastic disc which is inside the floppy disk with the hub ring attached to it (also has hub attached to it on 8" and 3.5" disks too). on 8" and 5.25" disks, it is not protected, so you must be careful to avoid touching that part of the disk, or you will get dirt, sweat, and oil from your fingers on it, you will end up with data errors and dirty drive heads which you must clean, and you will probably end up throwing away the floppy. On a 3.5" disk the window has a spring-loaded sliding door over it to protect it which looks like this:
- avoid magnets. this includes the areas around the sides of your CRT monitor or CRT-tube-based TV set, which happens to have a degaussing coil as part of its design.
- avoid dirt and dust. keep your floppies in a covered floppy box.
- avoid sun - melts the plastic.
If the spring-loaded door on a 3.5" disk has lost its spring and won't automatically close shut, chances are you won't be able to remove it from a floppy drive, so it is a throw-away floppy.