Replacing the floppy drive in an ETC Express

R45glasses

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Joined
Sep 12, 2014
Location
Washington, DC
We had an Express that was having some trouble with its disk drive. My boss purchased this floppy-drive emulator:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00C4PCK9S/?tag=controlbooth-20
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00C4PCK9S/?tag=controlbooth-20

This afternoon he installed it. So far, we've managed to "format" and "write all to disk," but are unable to "read from disk." I've been looking through threads, and I've found people who say it cannot be done. I've also seen a few people post that they're running emulators without an issue. If you have been successful with an emulator: any tips or tricks? Something I've missed? I'd like to give it the old college try before resorting to re-installing a new floppy drive.
 

Mac Hosehead

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Sep 10, 2014
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Shark Tank
I assume you are getting a "Bad Disk" message? Is the USB drive you are using 2GB or less? After the format and write you should have a partition that is 1.36MB in size and you should see the file "EXP2.SHW" on the stick.
 

Joethe5000

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Apr 16, 2017
Location
New Jersey, USA
Perhaps it has to be a small USB stick, similar to older devices having a hard time accepting SD cards that are SDHC (high capacity) not just regular ones, harder to find these days. Try a USB stick 2gb in total size or less.
 

JonCarter

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Apr 18, 2011
Location
Meridian, Idaho, US
Fitst, have you cleaned the floppy drive? There are (or were) "floppies" that had a felt-like disk in the cassette. You put a few drops of cleaner on the disk, load it into the drive and let it run a few minutes. If that doesn't work, why not just replace floppy the disk drive? It's a $20 part & 4 screws.
 

techieman33

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Nov 7, 2004
Location
topeka, ks
Fitst, have you cleaned the floppy drive? There are (or were) "floppies" that had a felt-like disk in the cassette. You put a few drops of cleaner on the disk, load it into the drive and let it run a few minutes. If that doesn't work, why not just replace floppy the disk drive? It's a $20 part & 4 screws.
Floppy discs are getting harder and harder to get your hands on since they haven't been made for at least a couple of years now. And the ones that are available are running over $1 each. So to me the emulator is the more economical option since it's basically the same price as a new drive and a couple of discs. It has the added benefit of being able to back that file up on another computer, and work on it with the offline editor. Because honestly who still has a computer with a floppy drive.
 

Jazzdall

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Apr 25, 2017
Location
SD, USA
Its been a while, but im almost positive you need to format your floppy to 720kb for it to work. 1.44 is a no go. I had a hard time years ago finding a computer that formatted my floppies to 720... I think it was for that desk? It could be your emulator is saving to a 1.44 emulation?
 

RonHebbard

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Premium Member
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Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
Floppy discs are getting harder and harder to get your hands on since they haven't been made for at least a couple of years now. And the ones that are available are running over $1 each. So to me the emulator is the more economical option since it's basically the same price as a new drive and a couple of discs. It has the added benefit of being able to back that file up on another computer, and work on it with the offline editor. Because honestly who still has a computer with a floppy drive.
I do.
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard.
 
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Malabaristo

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Jul 11, 2008
Location
Wisconsin
Its been a while, but im almost positive you need to format your floppy to 720kb for it to work. 1.44 is a no go. I had a hard time years ago finding a computer that formatted my floppies to 720... I think it was for that desk? It could be your emulator is saving to a 1.44 emulation?
Express was happy with 1.44M. You may be thinking of the Microvision or Expression 1 families. Maybe I shouldn't say "was" since very many are still in use, but it's been quite a few years since I last worked with one...
 

TNasty

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Sep 9, 2016
Location
New Jersey
Your best bet is to take a cheap USB drive (one that's 1GB or less that you probably have several of laying around) that you don't care about, and follow these steps.

1. Plug flash drive into computer
2. In the start menu, search for "Computer" (don't click the result yet)
3. Right click on "My Computer" or "[Computer Name]". If you see "Computer Management" just left click, and skip to step five.
4. Click "Manage". A window called "Computer Management" will appear.
5. In this new window, there should be an item called "Storage" in the list in the center panel. Double click that.
6. There should an item called "Disk Management"- Double click that. It may take as little as a couple seconds or up to a minute to load the next screen depending on your computer.
7. The new screen should have a list of all disk volumes currently mounted in the top half, along with a nice chart at the bottom half of all connected drives and their corresponding volumes/partitions.
8. On the bottom chart, right click on the correct partition. IE "KINGSTON (E:)". An easy way to tell is by looking at the partition size or if the drive is marked as "Removable" at the left.
9. Click "Delete Volume". If "Delete Volume" is not available, let me know, and I'll tell you how to do it via Command Prompt.
10. Remove the USB drive from the computer.
11. Plug USB drive into USB port on the Express board.
12. Through your "Disk Functions" screen on the board, select "Format Disk", and follow the instructions.

That should work, as the board's OS will format the drive to the size and format it's capable of working with.

It has the added benefit of being able to back that file up on another computer, and work on it with the offline editor. Because honestly who still has a computer with a floppy drive.
I've got several computers with floppy drives, and floppy drives without computers.
Heck! I even have a USB floppy drive. Who knew floppy would be Plug and Play in Windows 10?
 

EdSavoie

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Joined
Oct 19, 2016
Location
Windsor, ON, Canada
There's enough legacy systems in use in the commercial world (I mean, that is what this thread shows) That it doesn't surprise me there are drivers.

As for "who still has a floppy drive?" Almost all the school desktops we have are Pentium 4 "Prescott" machines in the 3.2 - 3.6 GHz range (don't be fooled by the clock speed, they are painfully slow) Who are all equipped with floppy drives, all of which work while the elastics in half the dvd drives have failed...
 
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TNasty

Active Member
Joined
Sep 9, 2016
Location
New Jersey
There's enough legacy systems in use in the commercial world (I mean, that is what this thread shows) That it doesn't surprise me there are drivers.
I was more or less surprised by the fact that it didn't even do the "searching for drivers" thing. As soon as your hear the device connected sound, it's ready to roll.
 

R45glasses

Member
Joined
Sep 12, 2014
Location
Washington, DC
Update: I found a smaller usb stick (958 MB) and formatted it on my pc. I stuck it in the board, formatted it successfully, saved a couple of bs cues onto it. No problem so far. Cleared the show, read from disk, and everything is peachy. However, when I take the stick out of the board while the console is still running, and then attempt to reinsert and read it, I get the same "bad disk" message. So I repeated the process, but turned the console off before removing the stick. Powered back up, reinserted the usb stick, and it read just fine.
Is there a way to fix this? Some kind of "safe eject" option? This Express is in our light lab, and is primarily used by intro students who are unfamiliar with the console. And during class presentations, there are often a lot of individuals reloading their projects. I expect it will annoy the professor if they have to shut down and start back up in between presentations.

Thanks all!
 

R45glasses

Member
Joined
Sep 12, 2014
Location
Washington, DC
Your best bet is to take a cheap USB drive (one that's 1GB or less that you probably have several of laying around) that you don't care about, and follow these steps.

1. Plug flash drive into computer
2. In the start menu, search for "Computer" (don't click the result yet)
3. Right click on "My Computer" or "[Computer Name]". If you see "Computer Management" just left click, and skip to step five.
4. Click "Manage". A window called "Computer Management" will appear.
5. In this new window, there should be an item called "Storage" in the list in the center panel. Double click that.
6. There should an item called "Disk Management"- Double click that. It may take as little as a couple seconds or up to a minute to load the next screen depending on your computer.
7. The new screen should have a list of all disk volumes currently mounted in the top half, along with a nice chart at the bottom half of all connected drives and their corresponding volumes/partitions.
8. On the bottom chart, right click on the correct partition. IE "KINGSTON (E:)". An easy way to tell is by looking at the partition size or if the drive is marked as "Removable" at the left.
9. Click "Delete Volume". If "Delete Volume" is not available, let me know, and I'll tell you how to do it via Command Prompt.
10. Remove the USB drive from the computer.
11. Plug USB drive into USB port on the Express board.
12. Through your "Disk Functions" screen on the board, select "Format Disk", and follow the instructions.

That should work, as the board's OS will format the drive to the size and format it's capable of working with.


I've got several computers with floppy drives, and floppy drives without computers.
Heck! I even have a USB floppy drive. Who knew floppy would be Plug and Play in Windows 10?
Apparently I don't have permission on this company computer to access "Computer Management," so I can't really get into disk management. I can try it again later, when I'm back with my own personal computer. Thanks!
 

TNasty

Active Member
Joined
Sep 9, 2016
Location
New Jersey
Update: I found a smaller usb stick (958 MB) and formatted it on my pc. I stuck it in the board, formatted it successfully, saved a couple of bs cues onto it. No problem so far. Cleared the show, read from disk, and everything is peachy. However, when I take the stick out of the board while the console is still running, and then attempt to reinsert and read it, I get the same "bad disk" message. So I repeated the process, but turned the console off before removing the stick. Powered back up, reinserted the usb stick, and it read just fine.
Is there a way to fix this? Some kind of "safe eject" option? This Express is in our light lab, and is primarily used by intro students who are unfamiliar with the console. And during class presentations, there are often a lot of individuals reloading their projects. I expect it will annoy the professor if they have to shut down and start back up in between presentations.

Thanks all!
I'd say the reason this is happening is due to how partitions are marked on drives. Once you get onto Disk Management this evening on your personal computer, you'll see how every partition has its own set of labels. I think that due to the way floppy disks work, the board isn't able assign labels, and winds up just using the partition last used (the one which was just formatted in the board), and will reset to the "Active" or "Primary" partition upon finding new media (I forget what the actual one is).
 

Mac Hosehead

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Joined
Sep 10, 2014
Location
Shark Tank
However, when I take the stick out of the board while the console is still running, and then attempt to reinsert and read it, I get the same "bad disk" message.
I was able to reproduce this problem on occasion with my setup. The stick seems to get corrupted and I had to reformat it to get it to work again. I don't see a work-around. It looks like the board should be off to do a swap.