View Full Version : External USB FDD on MacBook Pro

25th May 2010, 12:42 PM

Does any one know of a way that will allow a MacBook Pro to read 3.5" floppies via a USB floppy disk drive. The files on the disks were created and saved using an SE/30 or Power Mac 5300CD and as best I can recall, are all Apple formatted disks.


25th May 2010, 01:09 PM
I asked this question a little while ago here: http://forums.mactalk.com.au/28/74291-usb-floppy-drive.html

In short, you need to find an old Mac to read old Mac disks.

Quoted from that thread:

(Re-written to be more informative...)

Sony produced the first 3.5" floppy drive mechanisms, and Apple started including them (400K single-sided) with the Mac 128K and 512K units. They later switched to 800K double-sided drives, which they then also rolled out as external units which could be used on both Macs and Apple //, //e, //c, and ][gs systems. While I cannot speak with authority to the Apple // format, on a Mac they ended up with 779K of available space.

At some point in the later 80s, 3.5" drives started popping up in PC systems as well. They were also double-sided drive units. However, after formatting, they had a total free space of 720K.

Now, the cause for this (and why you or anyone else should care) is that the floppy drives used by Apple were multi-speed, and the ones used in the PC world were mono-speed.

Eventually when we went to high-density floppies, the HD format was a mono-speed one. Consequentially, Macs could now fully read and write PC floppy disks, and PCs mechanically could only read Mac high-density floppies (putting drivers and filesystem support aside for the time being).

Finally, floppy drives were starting to be phased out of computers, starting chiefly with Apple. And by this point in time, the majority of people were using high density floppies across the board.

As a consequence, makers of so-called "USB floppy drives" (that is, floppy drives connected to a USB interface, not unlike external hard drives and optical drives) use, for ease of conversation, "standard PC floppy drive" mechanisms which can only handle mono-speed formats of floppies.

There is no amount of adaptation or circumvention you can do to get around this, sadly. There are no -- and there will never be any -- USB floppy drives which can read the disks you are trying to access.

The ONLY solution is for you to find someone with a vintage Mac with a floppy drive (that is to say, something 1997 vintage or older). The internal drives will be perfectly able to read 800K and 1440K Apple II or Mac floppies.

You need to make sure, however, that there is a ProDOS driver installed on the Mac in question so it can handle the filesystem on the floppies.

And that is the whole, entire story.

Good luck!

25th May 2010, 01:31 PM
Thanks Hawk

I actually found your posts a short time after posting my question.

Looks like it's off to the Mac museum (if there is such a place) to get the job done


25th May 2010, 03:10 PM
I'm sure someone up in Newcastle or the central coast has an old Mac that could read these.
Or if you get caught mail them to me or drop by the Northern Beaches and I could plug 'em into one of my old Macs and save the files to a CD.


25th May 2010, 04:21 PM
If the floppies are 1.4MB (HD) diskettes, then you can read them with any old USB floppy disk drive.

If they were formatted and used in a 5300 then it is like that they are normal 1.4MB HD.

26th May 2010, 07:33 AM
They are all 1.44 floppies, but I don't recall if Mac or DOS formatting. I think I have a mixture as some disks had Excel files I used between Mac and early Windows. Although, I did try reading them running Windows under Bootcamp, obviously with no success............