Floppy Drives


The a: (floppy) drive
While the a: drive is being replaced in terms of storage (people prefer burners), it is still used to boot the computer if things go wrong.  It is important to know how to troubleshoot an a: drive.

How to tell if the floppy drive is broken

- You attempt to read data off of a disk, and get an error such as "Cannot read from specified device.  Disk may need to be formatted" or something similar.
-  You have attempted to use at least THREE floppies, and continue to get the error.
-  You try the floppies in another, known good drive, and they work fine.

-  You can not format the disk  

- Win9x you attempt to read of format from DOS and it fails

-  Using a known good boot disk and the bios is set to boot to floppy or removable device 1st and it fails to boot to the media

One of two things may be wrong:  The cable is loose; either at the motherboard or the drive, or the drive itself is bad.
-  Re-connect the cable to the floppy and to the motherboard, and make sure the connections are solid.
-  Make sure to not reverse the orientation of the cable when connecting.  Thus, remember where the red stripe on the cable is. In MOST cases the red line is AWAY from the power. Opposite from the CDROM drive that is towards the power.
-  You cannot orient the cable the wrong way. 
- A missing pin in the row of connecting pins on the drive corresponds with a blocked hole on the end of the cable left, below).
-  On the motherboard, notice the orientation of the red stripe on the cable.  Pin 1 will be labeled next to the floppy controller on the motherboard (below, right).


Test the floppies again.  If you get the same error(s), the cable is not to blame
- Obtain a known good floppy drive (call the helpdesk or myself).  Attach it to the cable and power supply in the computer in question.
-  Test the floppies.  Are the errors coming up?
-  If yes, then there may be a general cable problem, floppy controller issue, or motherboard issue. 
-  If the errors don't come up, the student needs to buy a new floppy drive.  Wal-Mart and Office Max have them for less than twenty dollars.

A case in which the floppy drive acts like its broken but really isn't
In order for the floppy drive to be able to communicate with the computer, the computer has to know it's there, and has to know that it is a 1.4 mb floppy drive.  The responsibility for this function in with the computer's BIOS (Basic Input Output System) which, amongst many other functions, detects all drives in the computer.  If the specs for the drive are improperly configured, the drive will not operate.  In addition, the BIOS data is maintained by a battery on the motherboard.  If that battery weakens, it can affect the operation of the drive.  Here's how to tell if the floppy drive is malfunctioning because of the BIOS.

-  Power the computer on.  Follow the onscreen directions to get to the BIOS.
-  You may have to press the f1, f2, f10,
Del, or some combination of keys to get into the BIOS.
-  Below are two common BIOS versions you may encounter. 

   Screen 1 of 2

Computer Type
System Setup

BIOS Version: A05


Sun May 02, 1999


dotblack.gif (38 bytes)

dotblack.gif (38 bytes)

  Diskette Drive A:

3.5 inch, 720 KB

  Diskette Drive B:

Not Installed


dotblack.gif (38 bytes)
dotblack.gif (38 bytes)











Drive 0:








Drive 1:









dotblack.gif (38 bytes)
dotblack.gif (38 bytes)



Drive 0:








Drive 1:









dotblack.gif (38 bytes)
dotblack.gif (38 bytes)
dotblack.gif (38 bytes)
dotblack.gif (38 bytes)


Base Memory:

640 KB

Extended Memory:

31744 KB

Reserved Memory:


CPU Speed:

200 MHz

Num Lock:


line.gif (42 bytes)

  This category sets the time in 24
  hour format (hours:minutes:
  Seconds) for the internal clock.

  To change the value in a field,
  enter a number or use the left or
  right arrow key.

  Change take effect immediately.



with MMX(tm)

Secondary Cache:

512 KB (PB)

System Memory:

32768 KB (SD)

Service Tag:



Tab,Shift-Tab change fields

<-,-> change values

Alt-P page

Esc exit

Alt-B reboot


Computer Manufacture Setup








BIOS Version


Processor Type

Pentium (R) III

Processor Speed

500 MHz

Cache RAM

512 KB

Service Tag


dotgrey.gif (48 bytes)

dotgrey.gif (48 bytes)

System Memory

128 MB

Memory Bank 0


Memory Bank 1

Not Installed


Diskette Drive A

Not installed

Diskette Drive B

Not Installed



Memory Bank 2

Not Installed

dotgrey.gif (48 bytes)

dotgrey.gif (48 bytes)

Processor Serial Number:


L2 Cache ECC Support


dotgrey.gif (48 bytes)

dotgrey.gif (48 bytes)

System Time


System Date:



Item Specific Help

Enabling this option
enables the processor
Serial Number feature.

Disabling this option
disables the Processor
Serial Number feature


F1   Help
Esc Exit

Select Item
Select Menu

-/+     Change Values
Enter Select Sub-Menu

F9   Setup Defaults
F10 Save and Exit

Both BIOS screens specify an incorrect floppy drive setting.

-  In the AMI BIOS on the left, the Diskette Drive A: is set to 3.5 inch, 720 KB.  It should read 3.5 inch, 1.44 mb
-  If the storage capacity of the drive is set incorrectly, the drive will not operate.

-  In the  Phoenix BIOS on the Diskette Drive A: setting is set to Not Installed
-  Since the default BIOS setting for a floppy drive is 3.5 inch, 1.44 MB, this implies the BIOS is not detecting drives.
-  Set the diskette drive a: setting to 3.5 inch, 1.44 MB, and then restart.  If the setting is once again set to Not Installed, the BIOS battery is dying and needs replacement.
-  A dying BIOS battery will cause the computer to not communicate with the drive, and thus the drive will appear inoperable.