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Working with Floppy Disks

Floppy disks can be used for a variety of reasons: to move data from one computer to another, to back up small amounts of data, or to pass a file or two to another person. Here you'll learn the ins and outs of floppy disks. Zip disks are similar to floppies, although they hold 70 times more data and require a separate Zip drive. Zip disks are a bulk option for backup and file storage because of the amount of storage space they offer.

Figure 3.10

Your Disks Are Protected

You don't need to worry about accidentally touching or scratching the surface of 3 1/2-inch disks, because the disk remains protected until it is actually inserted into the drive. When you insert a 3 1/2-inch disk into a drive, the metal shutter is pushed to the side, exposing the disk's surface so the read/write heads can read and record information.

Figure 3.11

Protect Your Disks from Magnets

With all floppy disks, you do need to be wary of magnets. Any exposure to magnets can scramble or erase the information recorded on the disk. Protecting your disk from magnets may take more vigilance than you realize. Magnets lurk in many un-suspected places, including many paper clip holders, some document holders, and various other office accessories. Because the coil for your telephone becomes magnetized every time your phone rings, it's wise to keep disks at least a few inches away from the phone.

Figure 3.12

Protect Your Disks from Heat

You should also avoid storing floppy disks in extreme heat. (Do not, for example, leave a disk on your dashboard on a hot summer day.)

Write-protecting Floppy Disks

Occasionally, you may want to guard the files on a disk against accidental erasure or overwriting. You can do this by write-protecting the disk—making it impossible for anyone to copy new files onto the disk or erase files already on it. To write-protect a high-density 3 1/2-inch disk, you slide the tiny latch in the upper-right corner of the disk downward so a small window appears in the corner of the disk.

Figure 3.13

Preformatted Disks

Most disks are preformatted for a particular type of computer and disk drive. (A number of years ago, you typically had to format all your floppy disks after you bought them—a rather rote and time-consuming process.) The only real reason to buy unformatted disks is if you have both a Mac and a PC and want to be able to use the disks in either machine.

Figure 3.14

Formatting Disks

If you need to format a floppy disk—either because you bought unformatted disks or because you decide to reformat a floppy—the process is quite simple, but it may take a minute or two. In Windows, whenever you insert an unformatted disk, you're asked whether you'd like to format it. It's also simple to reformat a disk that's already formatted; you'll learn how to do this in the topic "Dealing with Disks in Windows" in Chapter 5.

Watch the Drive Light

When the read/write head is reading or writing to a disk, a small light on the front of the drive lights up. Do not remove the disk from the drive until this light goes off, indicating that the process is complete.

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