Floppy disks can be our friends. They can store small files, boot struggling computers, and back up important tax or checkbook information.
Finagle's Law, however, dictates that anytime you really need a floppy disk, for any important purpose, it will not work.
For example: you keep a boot disk near your computer, for emergencies only. This disk contains the boot files (Command.com, Io.sys, and Msdos.sys if you're a Windows or DOS user), your CD-ROM drivers (and MSCDEX.exe) and all of your other important bootup TSR"s and programs.
You have been happily computing for months on the same Windows installation. You come to a point (after several months, in my case) where the installation no longer wants to play nice with you, and you decide that it's in your best interests to re-install Windows. You decide to rename your Windows directory so you can have it as a backup, and grab the Emergency Boot Disk from beside your computer. You shove the disk into the A: drive with a satisfying Ching.
You restart your computer, and hear the hum of your floppy drive. You hear the read/write head moving around, reading the boot sector of the disk, and happily humming away.
Starting Microsoft Windows...
As the drive hums away at your Config.sys, and Autoexec.bat file, you begin to hear a scratching, repetitive knocking inside the drive. Your ears perk up, you lean over to parallel your ear to the drive, and listen intently.
Another repetitive noise begins, a hum, and a knocking noise. Over and over, in rhythm. You quickly look at your monitor, and just as the drive stops spinning altogether, you see a message:
Data Error Reading drive A:
Abort, Retry, Fail
Your head hits the desk in despair. You have two options for the disk at this point:
Blow into the read window of the disk to dislodge any dirt
Throw the disk into the garbage, and seek other options
Do not, however, give up, as you have solutions for recovering your data!
If you can manage to boot into Windows, you may be able to recover your disk with Scandisk, or in the case of Windows 2000/XP, chkdsk. These little programs may save your ass in the event of a finicky disk that just happens to hold an essay or project.
Norton Disk Doctor, about the only redeeming factor in the Symantec application suite, is very useful in coaxing naughty floppies into giving up their data, before giving up the ghost. Hard drives that refuse to read may also be resurrected, but only if you manage to find the right version that will play nice with your version of DOS.
In some cases, however, a floppy disk will simply refuse to read, no matter how short a period of time they've been stored, or if they've been in a cool, dry place away from magnetic fields. That's just the evil of Floppy Disks.