Reading Amiga Floppy Disks on PC
How to access data on Amiga floppy disks from a PC.
Amiga floppy disks cannot be read on PCs without installing additional hardware such as a special floppy disk controller or a second floppy drive. As Amiga users know, this hardware incompatibility has limited Amiga-PC data sharing since the the Amiga was released in the mid-80s, and, although newer software and hardware have helped overcome this limitation, there is no way that software emulation alone can solve it: a PC cannot read Amiga disks using only the default PC floppy disk controller logic attached to a single disk drive.
The opposite is true, i.e. the Amiga, which has a more "flexible" hardware than most PCs, can read and write floppy disks in the MS-DOS format. The Amiga Forever CD-ROM includes the MSH file system, which allows users of all Amiga operating systems from version 1.2 upwards to read and write MS-DOS floppy disks, which can then be used to share data with PC systems.
We recommend Amiga Explorer as the easiest choice to transfer data between the Amiga and Windows systems. With Amiga Explorer, an Amiga computer can be connected to the PC via a null-modem serial cable or TCP/IP (e.g. Ethernet), and then be accessed as a "virtual floppy disk" from the Windows Desktop. The Amiga computer itself does not even require a monitor, if it is booted from a floppy disk which also launches the Amiga Explorer server software, which easily fits on a bootable disk. Amiga Explorer is included with Amiga Forever.
These solutions are known to be able to connect Amiga drives to the PC:
- Jim Drew's SuperCard Pro floppy controller, which is connected to the PC via USB. The SuperCard Pro has a higher flux resolution than other devices, and may be used for both commercial and non-commercial purposes.
- The adfread software by Toni Wilen and Simon Owen, combined with a second floppy drive. This software works with the most common floppy disk controllers used in industry-standard PCs, requiring no custom hardware other than an inexpensive additional PC floppy drive, connected to the same cable as the first drive. This is a read-only solution, and only supports Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, Windows 8, Windows Server 2012 and Windows 10 (not Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows Me or Windows NT).
- The "Catweasel" floppy controller, by Individual Computers, which is available both as a PCI and as an ISA board (to be mounted inside the PC) to which the disk drive can be connected. The Catweasel is also available for the Amiga, but the one needed here is the PC version. This is a read/write solution which supports all versions of Windows except for Windows NT 4.0 (Windows 95 is supported via DOS software, newer versions of Windows are supported via WDM drivers).
- The KryoFlux floppy controller, by the Software Preservation Society, which is connected to the PC via USB. The consumer version of this product is sold under a strict "no commercial use" license.
- The Disk2FDI software by Vincent Joguin, combined with a second floppy drive. This is the original software which inspired adfread, but it only supports Windows 95, 98 and Me (not NT, 2000, XP, Server 2003 or newer).
- The "Amiga Floppy Reader" (AFR), designed by Marco Veneri, is an interface which can connect an external Amiga floppy disk to the PC's parallel port. This is a read-only solution with DOS-only software.
- While not able to read disks, the ADTwin software, by M. Rode, makes it possible to write ADF disk image files to floppy disks using a floppy disk drive attached to a PC's parallel port. This is a write-only solution that requires Windows XP (SP2 or SP3).
Cloanto also offers a data conversion service, which may be of special interest to convert a few floppy disks without installing special hardware.
When trying to access old disks it is important to minimize the number of read attempts. Ideally a disk (or tape) should be read a first time with the best possible sampling hardware. If the data is already hardly readable, each additional step may bring with it a risk of further reducing the quality of the signal.
Amiga emulation programs like UAE and Fellow use "disk images" of Amiga floppy disks. The most used file format used for these images is called "ADF" (from "Amiga Disk File"). Each Amiga floppy disk can be stored in an ADF file (or split in more than one ADF file). ADF files can be created on an Amiga with a tool like "transdisk", or they can be created on the fly by Amiga Explorer. Both are included on Amiga Forever. Both the Catweasel and the AFR hardware come with software to create an ADF file from an Amiga floppy disk.
Please note that ADF files and the other disk connectivity tools described here currently only support standard Amiga floppy disks, and not certain non-standard "copy protection" schemes, which in part also fail on different types of original Amiga floppy drives. If the Amiga DiskCopy command cannot copy a disk, it is likely that the creation of the ADF disk image file will also fail to produce a working result. For archival purposes, you may want to create a disk image in DMS format (DMS supports a few simple copy protection schemes), if possible. It is also likely that a future version of the emulation software will include extended direct support for hardware such as the Catweasel so as to also support copy protection.
The Amiga Forever Game Downloads page includes a variety of sites hosting disk images of famous Amiga game disks, as well as other software. These games have been released for online distribution by the original publishers. It is very likely that any Amiga games you may have on floppy disk are now available for download in this format, with copy protection removed, if so required.
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