Floppy Disk Drive

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What Does Floppy Disk Drive Mean?

A floppy disk drive (FDD), or floppy drive, is a hardware device that reads data storage information. It was invented in 1967 by a team at IBM and was one of the first types of hardware storage that could read/write a portable device. FDDs are used for reading and writing on removable floppy discs. Floppy disks are now outdated, and have been replaced by other storage devices such as USB and network file transfer.


Techopedia Explains Floppy Disk Drive

A floppy disk commonly came in three sizes, 8 inches, 5.5 inches and 3.5 inches, becoming smaller as the technology advanced. The newer, 3.5-inch version used more cutting-edge technology and held more data than previous models, while the original 8-inch floppy drive was developed to load hardware-level instructions and/or data structures called microcode into the IBM System/370 mainframe. The 8-inch flexible diskette was read-only, held 80 kilobytes of memory and was referred to as a memory disk. Eight-inch floppy drives did not connect to the motherboard, but rotated on a turntable that was run by an idler wheel.

As the floppy disk advanced to a smaller 5.5- and 3.5-inch designs, the FDD changed as well. To accommodate a smaller floppy disk, an FDD had to make aggressive changes by matching the size of the floppy disk drive opening to the size of the floppy disk for compatibility. For many years, the majority of PCs and notebooks had a floppy drive. Using a floppy disk to exchange data between PCs was a standard method for many computer technicians. The floppy disk was one of the most common ways to store adequate amounts of data outside of a computer’s hard drive for personal use because they were inexpensive and easy to carry.

As technology advanced, floppy disks were finally able to read and write. By this point, FDDs had four basic components:

  1. Magnetic read/write heads (one or two)
  2. A spindle clamping device that held the disk in place as it was spinning 300 to 360 rotations per minute
  3. A frame with levers that opened and closed the device
  4. A circuit board that contained all of the electronics.

The read/write heads could read both sides of a disk, and the same head was used for reading and writing. A separate, wider head was used for erasing data to ensure that all data was erased without having to interfere with the data already on the adjacent track.

A floppy drive cable could house two drives. In a computer system, the drive at the end of the cable was drive A. When another drive was added, it was connected to the middle of the cable and was called drive B.

Floppy drives are mostly a hardware device of the past. Newer hardware devices have been introduced, including ZIP drives, CDs and USB. Today, floppy drives are usually not included on a PC, notebook or laptop.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.