Floppy disks also known as diskettes are the old type of magnetic storage devices that were used in earlier computers. The initial floppy disk was just a disk without a cover. It was later covered to secure it in a floppy casing. Today’s computers don’t come with floppy drives but we have external drives connected via USB that can be used to read and write data.
The main advantage of floppy disks was that they were cheap and portable. However, they had a small storage capacity compared to today’s storage devices. The 3 types of diskette were 8, 5.25, and the most common 3.5 inches disk. A floppy is made up of the components such as flexible magnetic material, a hub, write protect tab, a spring, a shutter, and an outer plastic casing.
Types of floppy disks with their storage capacity
Floppy disks were categorized depending on the size and the period that they were used. There are 3 main types of floppy disks that were in use although there were some others that were not common.
8 inches floppy disk
These were the initial type of diskettes that were used in computers. They were in use around the late 1960s and early 1970s. The floppy was 8 inches in diameter and was initially meant for read-only.
Later they were improved to cater to both reading and writing. 8 inches disk had a capacity of approximately 1MB of data.
5.25 inches disk
The disk was later reduced in size to 5.25 inches in diameter. They were common floppy disks in the 1980s. 5.25 inches had an approximate storage capacity of 1.22MB. These disks were able to store data on both sides of the disk which increase the capacity.
3.5 inches disk drive
They are also known as the micro floppy disk. The disks were reduced further in size to 3.5 inches which was the latest type of floppy diskette. If you have used floppy from 1990 moving forward this is the type of disk that you may have interacted with. The capacity was increased to around 2MB but the standard micro floppy had 1.44MB of storage.
Advantages and disadvantages of floppy disk storage
Floppy disks have their benefits and disavantages when it comes to their use.
Advantages of floppy disk
- Floppy drives were portable which means they were simple to move to a different location
- They were compatible with the most computer. Even today if you have an external USB floppy drive you can read data in those drives from any operating system.
- When they started they were expensive those days but today they are cheap to use.
- Since they were the first type of storage device used in computers, they are given preference in the booting order by the operating system by using drive letter a and b.
- The write protection function can help to avoid accidental deletion of change of data.
Disadvantages of floppy disk
- Floppy disks have the smallest storage capacity with a maximum capacity of 2MB. In today’s data perspective of using icons, 2MB is negligible storage.
- They have low data access speed compared to other storage devices such as CDs and hard disks.
- The diskette casing was easy to break compared to other storage media. The magnetic coated part was also flexible hence simple to damage
- They were more vulnerable to malware attacks and data corruption.
- They could be affected by external factors such as light, dust, and magnetic material.
Floppy disk uses
When floppies were in use they were used for many computer functions since no other major storage devices were available. They were later replaced by Optical disks such as CDs and DVDs then hard disks and solid state devices which may replace the hard disk. Floppies were used for the following functions.
- To distribute commercial software to the user
- Transfer of data from one computer to another.
- They were also used to store Disk operating systems (DOS) used to boot computers.
- Store personal data backup
What are the parts of a floppy disk drive (FDD)?
The floppy disk drive was made up of different parts each with its own function the main features of a floppy disk are:
- Plastic casing: this is the outer rectangle casing that covers the disk inside.
- Thin flexible magnetic disk: this is the part that stores the data. For security and protection, it is encased.
- Hub with a hole at the center for the spindle: this is the part that enters the drive spindle to help it rotate the disk. A floppy disk has a rotational speed of 360 revolutions/minute.
- Shutter: it is a rectangular slide slot made of a metallic part that opens when inside the drive for read-write to happen. The side with the shutter goes first when you insert the disk into the computer.
- Spring: this moves when the disk is inserted into the disk to open the shutter and when you remove the disk it moves back to close the opening for disk protection.
- Write protect tab: this is a small plastic rectangle part located in the upper right corner of the disk. Depending on which side you slide it can determine if the disk is read-only or read-write.
- Drive read-write head: this is the part of the disk drive that used to read and write data on the magnetic material