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Bunch of dead floppy drives -- can they be salvaged?


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I wasn't sure where to post this as this spans Mac categories (these drives came from a II-series, Portable, and SE/30).

 

I have 3 drives that are dead and am wondering if any of them are likely to be fixable, or if I should just toss them and not spend hours on a futile effort.

 

Two of them exhibit the same symptoms -- they seem to work (but need a head cleaning), but will not eject.  I would suspect the infamous eject gear, but I don't hear any indication that the eject motor is even spinning.  Is this some simple fix, like a capacitor that needs replacement or something?

 

The third is a drive that is very dirty and needs serious cleaning and lubrication, but also makes a constant hum when the Mac is powered on, with or without a disk.  The drive motor does spin, however.  Any ideas?

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There are some microswitches at the front of the floppy drives which can get dirty/fail and cause some strange issues with ejecting. There are also leaky capacitors that can be replaced on the floppy drives too. It is probably possible to fix at least some of the drives, not to mention that parts from several drives could be combined to make a good drive.

 

Even if they are dead, these drives would be valuable sources of spare parts, so I definitely would not throw them out.

 

If you haven't seen it already, I would highly reccomend taking a look at the video below. It goes over how to clean and repair these old floppy drives in detail. The information for 800k applies to 1.4MB drives for the most part too.

 

 

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Update:  

 

I opened one of the first two's eject mechanism gear box, removed the gears, and found that it was just stuck, even though the grease wasn't that bad.  I re-greased it and put it back together and now it's good as new.

 

I also lubricated the third one's drive tray, and cleaned it with IPA, so now it's able to accept a disk properly, but any disk I insert immediately results in an unreadable disk message within a second (so too fast for it to actually have read the disk).  It also couldn't eject similar to the other two.  I opened up the gear box and found that it was in severe need of new grease, but when I went to take it apart to clean out the old grease, the infamous yellow gear just fell apart the second I touched it with my tweezers.  So now I need to get a new gear.  I have been meaning to buy a 3D printer, so maybe this is the time...

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  • 2 weeks later...

The new gear has arrived, I installed it and lubricated the gearbox, and put it all back together.  But the eject mechanism is still not able to fully engage -- the motor spins and pushes the cage up halfway, but not enough to actually eject the disk.  I've already also lubricated the mechanism, and it doesn't feel any harder to do it manually than other drives.  Any ideas?

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Chances are something is not running smoothly. There is very little effort required to transition the mechanism between inserted and ejected if everything is clean and lubricated well. Did you get the four press-fit washers off and remove the floppy tray completely? When old grease dries out around the parts that slide it can be very sticky and prevent free motion. Even more likely if it has been lubricated with the wrong thing at some point in its life. JDWs video is really good for disassembly/assembly.

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On 10/16/2020 at 9:58 AM, tattar8 said:

 I have been meaning to buy a 3D printer, so maybe this is the time...

 

Filament 3D Printers are not able to print anything as small as these gears. You would need a Resin style printer with a high output in its resolution. Good thing it their price is dropping and are becoming affordable.

 

Check the frames, rails and cages and compare with the others to see if they are bent. You can gently straighten out a bent frame by hand if you are careful with it. Also check if the tiny bearing on the pins roll freely. Use some spray oil that attacks and cleans out rust to clean out the bearings.  One I used is called "Blaster (since 1957) Penetrating Catalyst" It comes in a red, yellow, and white spray can with a yellow cap. It's not cheap but it is well worth its weight in gold. Assemble it without the springs and see if the pieces can move freely by hand.

 

Good luck.

Edited by Elfen
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4 hours ago, aeberbach said:

Chances are something is not running smoothly. There is very little effort required to transition the mechanism between inserted and ejected if everything is clean and lubricated well. Did you get the four press-fit washers off and remove the floppy tray completely? When old grease dries out around the parts that slide it can be very sticky and prevent free motion. Even more likely if it has been lubricated with the wrong thing at some point in its life. JDWs video is really good for disassembly/assembly.

I did the initial lubrication before seeing that video, and did it the same way as I've done others, following the guide here: https://wiki.68kmla.org/Floppy_drive_lubrication, where the instructions are to use white lithium grease, which is what I used.  It seems like it slides easily.  The four press-fit washers you're talking about are the ones closer to the center of the floppy tray, right?  How do you get them out?

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2 hours ago, tattar8 said:

I did the initial lubrication before seeing that video, and did it the same way as I've done others, following the guide here: https://wiki.68kmla.org/Floppy_drive_lubrication, where the instructions are to use white lithium grease, which is what I used.  It seems like it slides easily.  The four press-fit washers you're talking about are the ones closer to the center of the floppy tray, right?  How do you get them out?

They distort somewhat when coming off, and go back on the same way. As JDW says in the video putting them back on involves pressing them down until the pin comes through the hole suddenly and stabs you!

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One of the most common issues I had when I first started working on these drives is that I used too much lithium grease, and it seems to make the mechanism stick when assembled rather than work smoothly. I eventually discovered that EM-30L grease is a direct replacement for what used to be used on the drives (EM-10L). I have had better success using this. That being said, there is always the possibility that part of the actual steel hardware is distorted from being knocked around at some point.

 

Perhaps you could post some photos of your drives?

Edited by LaPorta
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By the way @LaPorta I have been meaning to ask you, thanks for discovering the EM-10L grease which I’ve been using happily since you recommended it - however as a replacement for the original grease (which eventually turned to glue) do we expect this to also turn to glue?  

 

I mean, I guess I can just re-grease my floppies in 10 years if that happens so it’s not a big deal ... :)

 

Edited by Crutch
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It is possible, but one trend I have found is that when I have worked on drives, those with more original grease freeze easier than those that had a thin, smooth coating. I have a few that I’ve never re-greased because they still function perfectly. It may also be storage conditions (if they were subjected to a hot attic for years, perhaps), but it seems that the amount also matters.

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