I can hear you now. A diskette is a diskette is a diskette. What can you say about a diskette that I didn't learn a long time ago? Well, read on and you might be surprised. There are actually two different kinds of diskettes and some things you need to know about each. Let's take a look at each of these.

5 1/4" Diskettes =

The 5 1/4 inch diskette dates back to the early days of personal computers. I can remember my first personal computer having 5 1/4 inch diskettes (two of them) and no hard drive. Back then, diskettes would hold 160KB worth of data. This wasn't much, but without anything more, this was sufficient.

It wasn't too long before technology began to show its stuff. The 160KB diskettes were doubled to 320KB, but at about the same time a change occurred that allowed a little more data to be stored on a diskette giving a capacity of 360KB. This was a big improvement.

The next improvement came several years later and resulted in a capacity of 1.2MB. This is the maximum capacity of the 5 1/4 inch diskette

3 1/2" Diskettes <

You probably already know that 3 1/2 inch diskettes come in two flavors - 720KB and 1.44MB. The difference is very subtle and a lot of people won't even notice it. If you look at a 720KB diskette and a 1.44MB diskette side-by-side, you'll notice that the 720KB diskette has one window with a little tab. This is your write protect window and tab. The 1.44MB diskette has the same thing, but the 1.44MB has another window in the other corner. Hmmm.... Is that the only difference? For the most part, yes. The diskettes are manufactured pretty much the same, but the 720KB diskette doesn't contain this extra window. Well then, suppose you punched a hole in this location on the 720KB diskette - would that make it a 1.44MB diskette? YES! You can buy a single hole punch at the drug store and use it to punch the hole. After you've punched the hold, reformat the diskette and the system will allow you to do so at 1.44MB. You just doubled the amount of space available on the diskette. Neat, eh? Learned anything new yet? J

Okay, try this. When you installed Windows 95, you may have had difficulty finding enough space on your already crowded hard drive. If so, you may have resorted to DriveSpace to make more room so you could install your new operating system. Hey, this is great. You don't really need to buy another hard drive after all. You now have all sorts of space. But.... There's always that word. After you get Windows 95 up and running, you notice that your system is really running slow. Well, that DriveSpace you installed does slow things down primarily because you have to go through an extra level of software before you get to the physical hard drive. Solution? Remove DriveSpace. Yes, I know this means you have to go buy another hard drive, but better that than to have your system running as slow as it is. Sorry about that. And I know the title of this page is Diskettes. So what does this have to do with diskettes? I just wanted to remind you of DriveSpace and what it can and can't do.

Okay, let's apply this to your diskettes. If you take your 720KB diskette and apply DriveSpace to it, you can increase the space available on it to 1.25MB. Wow! That's almost as good a 1.44MB diskette. So what happens if you do this to a 1.44MB diskette? You get 2.6MB. So, how do you accomplish this miraculous thing. Well, in My Computer, right-click on a formatted diskette and go to Properties. Click on the Compression tab and follow the bouncing ball to increase the space on your diskettes.  This doesn't work under Windows XP.  Sorry about that!

Okay, okay. There is a down side to this. Be careful about which diskettes you compress. You don't want to compress diskettes you want to use to take information to a Windows 3.x system as it won't work. I recommend you use this technique on diskettes you want to use to store information from your system that you don't need ready access to. Another problem is when you don't want the diskette compressed any more. You can't simply format it to get it back as Windows 95 recognizes that the diskette is compressed and won't allow you to format it. What you have to do is use the DriveSpace utility to format it. This doesn't do away with the compression though. You then have to tell DriveSpace to uncompress the drive.

If you're willing to live with these problems, go ahead and enjoy the extra space on your diskettes.

The following may be funny, but you might be surprised to know that I've actually seen some of these:

Never leave diskettes in the drive, as the data can leak out of the disk and corrode the inner mechanics of the drive. Diskettes should be rolled up and stored in pencil holders.

Diskettes should be cleaned and waxed once a week. Microscopic metal particles may be removed by waving a powerful magnet over the surface of the disk. Any stubborn metal shavings can be removed with scouring powder and steel wool. When waxing a diskette, make sure the surface is even. This will allow the diskette to spin faster, resulting in better access time.

Do not fold diskettes unless they do not fit into the drive. "Big" Diskettes may be folded and used in "Little" drives.

Never insert a diskette into the drive upside down. The data can fall off the surface of the disk and jam the intricate mechanics of the drive.

Diskettes cannot be backed up by running them through a photo copy machine. If your data is going to need to be backed up, simply insert TWO diskettes into your drive. Whenever you update a document, the data will be written onto both disks. A handy tip for more legible backup copies: Keep a container of iron filings at your desk. When you need to make two copies, sprinkle iron filings liberally between the diskettes before inserting them into the drive.

Diskettes should not be removed or inserted from the drive while the red light is on or flashing. Doing so could result in smeared or possibly unreadable text. Occasionally, the red light remains flashing in what is known as a "hung" or "hooked" state. If your system is hooking, you will probably need to insert a few coins before being allowed to access the slot.

If your diskette is full and needs more storage space, remove the disk from the drive and shake vigorously for two minutes. This will pack the data enough (data compression) to allow for more storage. Be sure to cover all openings with scotch tape to prevent loss of data.

Data access time may be greatly improved by cutting more holes in the diskette jacket. This will provide more simultaneous access points to the disk.

Periodically spray diskettes with insecticide to prevent system bugs from spreading.....


 Hughes Glantzberg

Last Revised: 03/13/2005

Created by
The PC Help Desk
(Hughes Glantzberg)