Basic floppy disk drive troubleshooting

Updated: 01/05/2018 by Computer Hope

Note: This document is for floppy disk drive issues and not issues with not being able to read one or two floppy disks.

Bad floppy diskette

3.5-inch floppy disketteVerify that the floppy diskette that you are attempting to read from is not write protected or bad. Verify that the diskette is not write protected by sliding the tab into the position not allowing light to shine through it. If you do not have a tab place tape over this hole.

Because of the technology of floppy diskette drives, it is likely for a floppy diskettes to become bad. Verify that other floppy diskettes are not exhibiting the same issue.

If other floppies work it is likely that you may have a bad floppy diskette.

Not setup in CMOS

Verify that the floppy drive is properly setup in CMOS Setup. If the floppy drive is not setup properly you may experience read/write errors or the floppy may not work at all. Most computers need to have the floppy setup as a 3.5, 1.44 MB.

Eliminating possible conflicts with other hardware

If you have recently installed any new hardware, you should consider disconnecting it temporarily it to ensure that it is not the cause of your floppy drive not working.

Not connected properly

  • Power down, unplug, and open computer, being aware of ESD and its potential dangers.
  • Verify that the floppy connection is connected to the motherboard FDD connector. If it appears to be connected, disconnect, and then reconnect cable to verify cable is seated properly.
  • Verify that the floppy cable coming from the motherboard is connected to the back of the floppy drive. If connected, disconnect, and then connect the floppy drive cable to verify seated properly.

Floppy cable

  • Verify that a power connection is also connected to the back of the floppy drive.
  • If your floppy cable has more than one connection, verify that you have connected the floppy to the appropriate connection. The above picture illustrates what drive should be connected where.

Bad drivers

If you are not able to read or write to a floppy diskette from Windows, verify that the computer is not exhibiting floppy drivers issues by testing the floppy drive from MS-DOS.

If you are running Windows 3.x click File and click Exit Windows to get to an MS-DOS prompt.

If you are running Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows NT, Windows 2000, or Windows 2000 click Start, Shutdown, and Restart the computer to an MS-DOS prompt.

Once at the prompt, place a diskette into the floppy disk drive and type format a: if you get:

Invalid media or Track 0 Bad - Try formatting another floppy disk.
Write Protect Error - Ensure that the disk is not write protected by removing the floppy disk and insuring that you cannot see through both holes; if you can, move the tab in the left hand side down (looking from the back of the floppy) and try again. If the disk is not write protected try another floppy disk.
Invalid drive specification - Verify that you floppy drive is setup properly in CMOS Setup.

If the floppy disk drive formats properly in MS-DOS but does not format in Windows, it is likely that Windows or a program within Windows is preventing the floppy drive from working. End task all running TSRs and background programs. If you continue to experience the same issues we recommend that Windows be reinstalled.

Bad hardware

If you continue to experience issues after following the above steps it is likely that hardware within the computer is bad. Replace the following hardware in the computer in the below order.

  1. Replace the floppy data cable that connects the computer floppy drive to the motherboard \ I/O board.
  2. Replace the floppy if the floppy data cable did not resolve your issues.
  3. Replace or request that the motherboard \ I/O board be replaced.