Archival of Amiga Floppy Disks
Q: I have a collection of data and software on floppy disks, how can I use it in Amiga Forever?
As Amiga users since 1986 and publishers of Amiga Forever we understand how important it is for you to preserve your digital past. Even if your Amiga computer is still working, your floppy disks are aging and may soon become unreadable. We recommend the following strategies and procedures for archiving floppy disk data and keeping it accessible for future use.
Better Safe than Sorry
First of all, you need to decide what you wish to archive. As always, keep in mind "Murphy's Laws Applied to Amiga Floppy Disks":
- Sooner or later (usually sooner) your aging floppy disks will become unreadable.
- If you have a lot of disks and opt for a partial archive of your disks (rather than archiving all of your disks), you will never again find the time and will to archive the remaining disks.
- By the time you realize that you need something which you originally decided not to archive, it will have become unreadable.
- If you did not backup your archive, not only will all of your original disks have become unreadable, but you will also lose all your archived disks.
- If you are hoping that some future technology will be able to read your unreadable Amiga floppy disks, you will lose your disks (and patience) before such technology is ready.
- If you are hoping that your old Amiga computer will still be there in the near future to transfer your Amiga disks to the PC via Amiga Explorer, the Amiga will cease to function the next time you switch it on.
Once you have put together all your disks you need to decide how to store the data in a format which can be accessed on the system where the emulation is running. Whatever work you will decide to do, this will also be a good opportunity to both reorganize and back up your data.
If you decide to maintain the original floppy disk-based organization you may want to mark each floppy disk with a unique number or other short reference ID, so that you can quickly match each physical disk to the corresponding disk image file or directory after the transfer.
If you only need to convert a few Amiga disks, you may want to consider Cloanto's data conversion service instead of doing the work yourself.
As you probably know, Amiga floppy disks cannot be read on the PC without additional hardware. For this reason, we recommend the following procedures to archive your floppy disk data, in order of preference:
- For disks containing games, check first if the game is already available in a downloadable format (see the the Amiga Forever Game Downloads page, or do a Google or other search engine search with keywords like "Game Name ADF").
- If you can burn a CD-ROM on your Amiga, or if you can access your Amiga hard disk from the PC (e.g. with Amiga Explorer or another networking option), reorganize as much of the floppy disk-based data to a directory structure on the hard disk or CD-ROM, and use that to copy the data to the PC.
- If your PC is equipped with special hardware to read amiga disks, such as a Catweasel PCI board, then use that to archive your remaining Amiga floppy disks.
- If you have an Amiga (with a Workbench disk to boot from), or can borrow one, connect it to the PC by using a null-modem serial cable, and use Amiga Explorer to drag-and-drop the ADF images of your remaining floppy disks from the Amiga to the PC.
Speed vs. Cost
Archiving all your Amiga disks can be a lot of work, and may take hours if not days. Unfortunately, due to the deteriorating condition of aging floppy disks, and because the Amiga floppy disk format is not supported by today's standard hardware (and is likely to be even less supported in the future), it is better to do this sooner than later.
If your Amiga has a hard disk it is in general faster to first transfer the Amiga floppy disk data to the Amiga itself, copying either the files and directories or the disk images to the hard disk, than transferring each disk individually to the PC. Once you have all the data on the hard disk, it only takes a single drag-and-drop with Amiga Explorer (even if the actual transfer takes an entire night), or burning a CD-ROM, to copy the data to the PC in one step.
Reading an Amiga floppy disk by using the Catweasel board from inside the emulation is in general faster than copying the same disk via Amiga Explorer over a serial link (which is the bottleneck). Amiga Explorer over TCP/IP (e.g. over Ethernet) is several times faster than a serial connection (in this case the bottleneck is the Amiga floppy hardware).
In spite of its relatively low speed, an Amiga Explorer Amiga-PC connection over a standard null-modem serial cable remains the simplest, least expensive and most effective way to transfer the content of a limited number of floppy disks to the PC.
Do not underestimate the usefulness of downloadable game disk images which are available from legal Amiga emulation sites. These games usually have copy protection removed (with permission from the publishers), are in a format tested to be run in the emulation, and they often come with configuration instructions. The Amiga Forever Game Downloads page includes a variety of sites hosting disk images of famous Amiga games, as well as other software.
Whenever you copy data from one medium or computer to another, verify the integrity of the copy. For example, you can use a tool like DirDiff (switch off the Quick option) to double-check the data. DirDiff is included in Amiga Forever.
You can create ADF disk image files of your Amiga floppy disks on the Amiga itself, by using the Transdisk tool, which is included with Amiga Forever. The command line syntax is:
transdisk >RAM:001.adf -h
where "RAM:001.adf" is a sample destination file name.
If you are using optical media (CD-ROMs or DVDs) for long term storage, consider that the declared shelf life does not take into account daily temperature fluctuations, which may result in small cracks which can significantly shorten the life expectancy of the medium. Rather than storing your media in a room with heating or other day/night temperature fluctuations, keep them in a cellar or similar environment having a more stable temperature. For long-term storage we recommend using DVDs (rather than CDs) with no label attached.
The Data Sharing and Migration Tips tutorials include additional information and links covering the transfer of non-floppy disk data (e.g. from a hard disk, a ZIP disk, etc.) from the Amiga to the PC.
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