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Table Of Contents  CertiGuide to A+ (Core Hardware)
 9  Chapter 0110:  Removable Media

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II  Removable Media
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Floppy Disk Form Factors
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III  Floppy Drives

Before the advent of hard disk drives, floppy drives were the sole means of saving data created using a PC. It's scary to think about, but floppy drives were considered advanced technology and cost significant amounts of money. With modern hard drives storing huge amounts of data for very little cost per byte, floppy drives have been relegated to the lowest needs of data storage.

It's frightening to think about, but many PC users still rely on floppy disks for data transfer from one PC to another and backing up small files. The most common and understandable use of floppy disks today is for the storage of driver files that come with hardware components. Because it has been surpassed by so many other faster and higher capacity media technologies, floppy disk technology has remained unchanged for well over a decade.

[spacer]“Floppy” Disks

The original floppy disk was developed for use as a read-only media for IBM mainframes in the early 1970’s. They used very thin 8” disks that held less than 100 KB. Because of their flimsy media and large size, the term “floppy” caught on.


At the component level, floppy drives are very similar in construction of hard drives except on a much more primitive scale. Like hard drives, and they use read-write heads and convert binary data into electromagnetic pulses and vice versa. Instead of using floating head technology like hard drives, the read-write heads on a floppy drive actually come in contact with the storage media, known as a cookie.

These read-write heads are also much larger than the ones used in hard drives, therefore floppy disks have a much lower track density than hard drives. Where hard drives have a track density of many thousands of tracks per inch, floppy drives have track density of about 135 tracks per inch.

Another factor in the very low performance of floppy disks is the fact that the spindle motor that spins the platter rotates at about 360 rpm, where as in hard drives the spindle motor achieves speeds of 5400 rpm or better. Because of this very low speed, there's no need for concern over the fact that the read-write heads come in contact with the platter. Over time wear can occur because of the removable nature of the floppy disks.

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