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Recover Deleted files from a FAT12 Floppy Disk

While cleaning and re-arranging a storage closet, I came across several boxes of ancient 1.44MB floppy disks, some of which were labeled indicating they contained pictures I had taken using a now-ancient Sony Mavica digital camera (which I still have). I also have a Mitsumi D353FUE USB floppy drive I purchased years ago when floppy drives became old-fashioned.

I wanted to save all the images to my hard drive, but what a labor-intensive task that started to be. The Mitsumi drive was showing as /dev/sdk (there are no partitions on a FAT12-formatted floppy disk), so I wrote a simple script that uses a directory named ~/floppy.

# mkdir ~/floppy
# mkdir ~/OLD_PICTURES
# copy jpeg files from floppy disks from ~/floppy

sudo mount /dev/sdk ~/floppy

ls ~/floppy && echo "NOW COPYING FILES"

sudo cp -p ~/floppy/* 

sudo chmod +rw ~/OLD_PICTURES/*

sudo umount /dev/sdk

rm -f ~/OLD_PICTURES/*.411 && rm -f ~/OLD_PICTURES/*.HTM


One feature of the Mavica camera was that the disk contained not only the original images, but thumbnails of them (named as *.411) and an INDEX.HTM file for your browsing pleasure.  Those files were not needed by me and are deleted by the script.

At the end of the day, I had just over 600 images made more useful.

There were a few floppies that might have had images, but could not be read. These, it turned out, held images that had been deleted. To undelete them, I used testdisk, an application that can recover deleted files and more. There's a nice HOWTO here.

There are, of course, many disk, file and partition recovery and forensic tools available.

In case you are curious, it is easy to make an image file of a floppy disk using dd.

# dd -if=/dev/XXX -of=floppy.img

There are several alternate formats for the 3.5" floppy disk that seemed like black magic back in the halcyon days of 8086 processors and 256k RAM when adding a few bits of capacity to a floppy disk was useful.

There's an interesting site that discusses various disk formats and sizes and controllers. Back in the day, every manufacturer built different and non-compatible controllers and drives because there was no incentive to help the user migrate to a different computer. Notice that there used to be 8" floppy drives.

Of course, with Linux it's possible to create a FAT12 floppy image from scratch, without the need for a physical device. These can be useful perhaps in booting some odd-ball virtual machine or just to amuse yourself.

For creating disk images from scratch, you can always consult my book.


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