19.7. Creating and Using Floppy Disks

Original work by Julio Merino.
Rewritten by Martin Karlsson.

Storing data on floppy disks is sometimes useful, for example when one does not have any other removable storage media or when one needs to transfer small amounts of data to another computer.

This section explains how to use floppy disks in FreeBSD. It covers formatting and usage of 3.5inch DOS floppies, but the concepts are similar for other floppy disk formats.

19.7.1. Formatting Floppies

19.7.1.1. The Device

Floppy disks are accessed through entries in /dev, just like other devices. To access the raw floppy disk, simply use /dev/fdN.

19.7.1.2. Formatting

A floppy disk needs to be low-level formatted before it can be used. This is usually done by the vendor, but formatting is a good way to check media integrity. Although it is possible to force other disk sizes, 1440kB is what most floppy disks are designed for.

To low-level format the floppy disk, use fdformat(1). This utility expects the device name as an argument.

Make note of any error messages, as these can help determine if the disk is good or bad.

19.7.1.2.1. Formatting Floppy Disks

To format the floppy, insert a new 3.5inch floppy disk into the first floppy drive and issue:

# /usr/sbin/fdformat -f 1440 /dev/fd0

19.7.2. The Disk Label

After low-level formatting the disk, a disk label needs to placed on it. This disk label will be destroyed later, but it is needed by the system to determine the size of the disk and its geometry.

The new disk label will take over the whole disk and will contain all the proper information about the geometry of the floppy. The geometry values for the disk label are listed in /etc/disktab.

To write the disk label, use bsdlabel(8):

# /sbin/bsdlabel -B -w /dev/fd0 fd1440

19.7.3. The File System

The floppy is now ready to be high-level formatted. This will place a new file system on it so that FreeBSD can read and write to the disk. Since creating the new file system destroys the disk label, the disk label needs to be recreated whenever the disk is reformatted.

The floppy's file system can be either UFS or FAT. FAT is generally a better choice for floppies.

To put a new file system on the floppy, issue:

# /sbin/newfs_msdos /dev/fd0

The disk is now ready for use.

19.7.4. Using the Floppy

To use the floppy, mount it with mount_msdosfs(8). One can also use emulators/mtools from the Ports Collection.

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