Section 9.8. Floppy Drives: An Introduction

9.8. Floppy Drives : An Introduction

Floppy drives have gone the way of punch cards. Many PC makers no longer include floppy drives on new computers, and few people miss them. Before writing them off as horse-and- buggy relics, though, think about these reasons to keep a floppy drive in your PC.

Hosing Down a Hard Drive

I'm donating my old PC to charity. How can I wipe off all my old data, including any credit card numbers , tax information, and household budgets ?

Deleting everything on your hard drive, or reformatting your hard drive, doesn't truly eliminate your information. Many data recovery specialists can still recover the files (which is a handy fact to know if you've just wiped out your entire hard drive by accident ).

To really erase your information, you need to save some new data on top of it. In today's world of exponentially increasing identify theft, many free programs on the Internet offer to overwrite your data with zeroes or random numbers.

Some even overwrite it several times, truly smashing it into the dirt. The Department of Defense 5220.22-M specifications call for data to be overwritten three times with different characters each time. The best data killers write over your data seven times, but that's probably overkill unless you work in the spy biz.

Darik's Boot and Nuke (DBAN) (http://dban. sourceforge .net) does a fantastic job of detecting hard drives from a wide variety of manufacturers and scrubbing them completely clean of data. DBAN works by having you create either a floppy or CD that you place in your PC's drive. When you restart your PC, the machine starts up from the disk, not the hard drive, letting DBAN render your data useless, both to you and the vast majority of data recovery specialists.

Once you wipe the drive clean, reinstall your copy of Windows, place your original Windows CD into the box with your PC, and ship them both to a charity, knowing your TurboTax files won't fall into the hands of strangers.

  • Boot disk . When Windows XP acts up and doesn't kick in when you turn on your PC, you may need another operating system to take over for troubleshooting. For years , floppy disks provided that operating system on what's called a boot disk . Insert the floppy, turn on your PC, and the PC loads the operating system from the floppy. Today most people boot directly from their Windows XP CD when their PC won't load, but floppies still come in handy for older PCs that don't know how to boot from a CD.

    Tip: The Web site BootDisk ( offers a wide variety of boot disks for troubleshooting PCs from DOS, an older operating system that rarely fails to load, as well as for loading older versions of Windows for troubleshooting purposes. When a PC won't load, a boot disk's skeletal frame provides enough structure for you to navigate to your My Documents folder and retrieve important files.
  • Password Recovery Disk . Windows XP turns a floppy disk into a key that lets you back into your User Account, should you forget your password. To create a Password Recovery Disk, choose Start Control Panel User Accounts. Click your User Account, and then click "Prevent forgotten password in the upper left-hand corner. Windows XP guides you through creating your own Password Recovery Disk. (This procedure works only for your User Account.) Keep the floppy in a safe but handy place should a forgotten password ever lock you out of your own computer.

  • Flashing firmware . Your PC's motherboard and other parts come with tiny morsels of software written directly onto their circuits. Known as firmware rather than software, this data occasionally needs updating, usually by booting from a floppy that contains an automatic firmware installation program.

  • Utilities . Some utility programs need to boot from a floppy, which lets them control your PC before Windows XP gets its hands on your machine. That lets the programs do things like wipe the hard drive clean before you sell it or give it to a friend.

  • Backup . Microsoft's built-in Backup program won't save data to CDs, but it does work with floppies. Sure, you need a stack taller than a stalagmite to back up your hard drive, but for small jobs, they'll do the trick.

Floppy drives offer one other peculiarity compared to hard drives: when you delete files from a floppy disk, Windows XP deletes them; it doesn't send them to the Recycle Bin for possible retrieval. If you really need to recover the deleted files, use an undelete program provided by many security programs or download Brian Kato's Restoration (

PCs: The Missing Manual
ISBN: 0596100930
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2005
Pages: 206
Authors: Andy Rathbone

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