Cleaning an Apple Platinum 5.25″ Floppy Drive (A9M0107)

I was about two dozen disks into my archiving efforts when my 5.25” floppy drives stopped reading disks. Both of them. At almost the same time. I was afraid that I may have broken something permanently, because I had made the mistake of hot-plugging them one time. But a little bit of Googling suggested that the solution might be far simpler – the timing was a coincidence, and they might just need a bit of cleaning.

Neither of the drives had been cleaned since they have come into my possession, and I was doing some fairly heavy use on questionable media, so I figured that it was worth a shot. A little further Googling showed that while there were plenty of guides on doing this on an older disk ][ unit, there was nothing for the Platinum 5.25” floppy drive (A9M0107). So, I figured that I would write one up myself.

2015-08-10 16.00.43Very first, the usual disclaimer for these sorts of things applies. You follow this guide at your own risk. I cannot guarantee anything about any of the procedures depicted here. Anything that you do to your hardware is your own responsibility. With that out of the way, lets get started!

Tools: Not much, just a standard #2 Phillips, a little flathead for prying off a metal plate that we’ll find inside, and some rubbing alcohol and a Q-tip for cleaning the drive head.

A9M0107 ToolsStep 1: Remove the Phillips screws on either side of the rear of the case.

2015-08-10 16.01.24Step 2: Remove the top case. The easiest way to do this is to put your thumb under the lock slot and push up at an angle. It should just pop off.

2015-08-10 16.02.24Step 3: Remove the screw holding the top plate and grounding wire to the chassis.2015-08-10 16.02.42Step 4: Using the little flathead screwdriver, carefully pry off the top cover. Note that it hooks over the front of the frame, so will need to be lifted at an angle.

2015-08-10 16.03.28Step 5: Disconnect the 4 connectors on the analog board, making sure to note which way they are attached so that you can plug them in again correctly later.

2015-08-10 16.05.37Step 6: Remove the two screws holding the analog board to the frame, and carefully remove the board, making sure to pull the cables out of the way. Set the board on a static-free surface.

2015-08-10 16.07.45Step 7: Remove the spacer and the metal plate that sit under the analog board and put them off to the side.

2015-08-10 16.09.07Step 8: Lift up the top part of the read-write mechanism (it’s spring-loaded) and use a  Q-tip soaked in rubbing alcohol to clean the read-write head (the white square in the center). Note that since these drives are single-sided, there is only one head, as opposed to the two that you’d find on a double-sided or high-density floppy drive.2015-08-10 16.09.38Step 9: Follow the instructions in reverse, and put the drive back together.

I wound up clearing a bunch of gunk out of my floppy drives. After putting them back together and hooking them up again (with the power turned off this time), they were happily back to copying disks.

2015-08-10 16.10.46Next time, I’m going to start looking at some of the disks that I’ve been copying – see if I can’t find something interesting for show and tell.

Fun with Floppy Disks

I received the part that I ordered and have begun imaging disks, but more on that later. (I also need to figure out why none of my 3.5″ Floppy drives are working). Today, I want to talk about floppy disks. 5.25″ ones specifically.

A standard disk sleeve is very boring, corporate, and to the point, like the example below.

Generic Disk ReverseAs I’ve gone through the pile of disks, I came across one company – Elephant Memory Systems – who decided to have a bit of fun with it. As a nice bonus, the disk must have been stored well, so it was still readable too!

Elephant Disk Reverse It’s always nice to see companies having fun with this sort of thing. If we were still using floppies in 2015, this sort of sleeve would be right in line with modern design sensibilities.

For Want of a Nail

Short post this week – I had intended do get started on disk copying using ADTPro. While the easiest way to do this is using a Uthernet card, the Uthernet I is out of production (and I don’t have one), and the Uthernet II hasn’t been released yet.

So, that means that I need to fall back to a serial null modem. To hook that up to a modern Mac, I also need a USB to serial adapter. I was sure that I had both of those, as I had used ADTPro to copy disk images to my Apple IIGS before. But, after searching through several boxes and drawers, I was only able to find the null modem cable, so I had to order the adapter. Fortunately, RetroFloppy offers one that is guaranteed to be compatible with ADTPro (you can get null modem cables there too).

USBMacI have one on order, and will be able to get back to this project when it arrives, which will hopefully be within the next couple of days.

Christmas in July

I have been neglecting this blog for far too long – it’s been the better part of a year since I posted last. So, I’m going to make a point of trying to get a post up at least once a week – if nothing else, just to get myself back into the habit of it. Fortunately, I have some ideas for content. Thanks to some choice eBay finds, I’ve been bitten by the retrocomputing bug again!

Here’s what I picked up:

Item 1: A lot of 5.25” disks. On a quick review, it looks like there are a bunch of disk magazines, and various disks from user groups, as well as a few other odds an ends.

5.25floppiesItem 2: A lot of 3.5” disks. A lot of shareware from the Christella Enterprise Catalog, as well as a bunch of fonts and graphics software, as well as a few games and other odds and ends.

3.5floppiesItem 3: An Apple IIGS ROM 00 with a Transwarp GS card. What’s exciting about this one is that I was able to acquire the whole setup for US$710 + shipping. The Transwarp usually sells for about that much on its own. But, for that price, I got a ROM 00 IIGS with Transwarp GS and RAM cards, a monitor, keyboard and mouse, and two 3.5” 800K disk drives (which is good, because it looks like my old 3.5” drive has died). So, I consider that a pretty good deal!

IIGSAll of this came in a couple of days ago, so when I get a chance to play with it, my plan is to sort through and image the surviving disks and make them available, as well as to write about anything interesting that I find. It looks like the disks were stored relatively well, so I’m hoping to get a recent recovery rate from them. But, that’s a topic for another post…

Adventures In Retrocomputing: IIGS Project Update

It seems like with any sort of popular product, there is a certain cycle regarding it’s availability. At first, you can buy it new at retail fairly easily, then the next new thing comes out and it gets harder to find at retail, but is marked down significantly. Then the secondary market opens up (ie. eBay, Craigslist, Garage Sales, Flea Markets, etc.) and you can get whatever you were looking for for dirt cheap because everybody wants to blow it off. Then, finally, as things get more rare or collectable, they begin to fetch higher prices. I’ve noticed classic video game consoles start to trend this way within the past few years – still highly available, but people are beginning to ask more for them (more about that in another blog post), and the Apple II seems to be heading toward the tail end of this cycle.

Looking at various info sources, it looks like even as recently as 5 years ago, old IIGS hardware and accessories were cheaply and readily available through eBay. Nowadays, basic systems are still plentiful (for example, I could have picked up a full Limited Edition “Woz” last week for $150 plus shipping) but they typically don’t come with much in the way of upgrades, and it is becoming more and more difficult to find the upgrades on their own. For example, a Transwarp GS card was listed a couple of weeks ago, and sold for $425. One of those might pop up once every few weeks to a month.

That being said, as long as you are patient and keep an eye on the auctions, you can find the occasional gem. While the Apple 1MB RAM cards are still relatively plentiful (even if most of them are only fitted with 256kb) 4 and 8MB RAM cards are almost impossible to come by on eBay nowadays (although you can still purchase Sirius cards from They’re a bit pricy though.) – fortunately for me, I managed to find a 4MB Sequential Systems RAM GS card for a decent price, and it works! So, with 5MB of RAM total, I’m now able to take better advantage of the hardware and run GS/OS software and games that I couldn’t before. Another item off the checklist!

Adventures in Retrocomputing: The Apple IIGS

When I was a kid, the Apple IIGS was the computer to have. It was the cream of the Apple ][ line, with a great library of games and software. Unfortunately, I didn’t get one as a kid. Instead, I got a Macintosh LCII, which was definitely the right decision in 1992. The Apple ][ line was just about dead, and the Macintosh was the future. I got many good years out of that computer, and last time that I checked, it still works.

However, one of the nice things about growing up, (and the invention of eBay), is that you can now afford to get the “toys” that you really wanted as kid, usually for a reasonable price. The same principle applies to those who collect classic cars.

So, starting last February, I did a bit of research, then took to eBay and started collecting parts. By consulting various sources, I came up with the following list of must haves to assemble a capable “modern” IIGS system:

  • A IIGS CPU (ROM 01 or ROM 03)
  • A color monitor (either an AppleColor Composite Monitor or the preferred AppleColor RGB monitor)
  • A monitor cable (harder to come by than you’d think)
  • A Keyboard, Mouse and Joystick
  • A printer (Probably an Imagewriter II – a Laserwriter if I’m really lucky)
  • Disk drives (At 1, preferably 2 each of the 5.25” and 3.5” floppys)
  • A Memory Expansion card (Min 4MB, 8MB preferred)
  • A SCSI card (Apple Fast SCSI preferred)
  • A hard drive
  • A CD-ROM drive
  • An uthernet Ethernet card (
  • An accelerator card (a Transwarp GS or ZipGS)

Long list, eh? I also needed media, and a way to get software from a modern computer to the IIGS. The community has long had a solution for in the form of ADTPro.

I’ve been making good progress down the list, acquiring a ROM 03 IIGS, an AppleColor RGB monitor, (although it took me another 6 months to get the cable for it) and a disk drive. I even wound up acquiring a complete ROM 01 IIGS system with composite monitor, keyboard, mouse, joystick, 2 disk drives, and printer (and bonus Kensington SystemSaver IIGS) because it was cheaper to buy the whole system and only use what I needed, rather than to buy individual parts. Unfortunately, the printer got destroyed in shipping, but insurance covered it.

By the beginning of the summer I had all of the components together, but the ROM 03 system that I had was fairly barebones – I think that it may have originally come from a school – so it had no expansion cards, and even with the ADTPro software, it was rather tedious to copy floppy images over. Pickings were slim on eBay, so I put the project on hold. I was not too keen on investing in a 30 year old hard drive anyways, especially when much more modern technology was available.

Back in February, I had put myself on the waiting list for the next run of CFFA3000 cards. These let you plug in a CF Card or USB flash drive and load disk images (both hard drive and floppy images) from it, allowing you to use modern solid-state technology to replace old magnetic media entirely. In September, Rich Dreher announced that he would be starting the new run of cards, so I put in my order, and received it early in November.  This let me put the system properly through its paces, installing GS/OS 6.0.1 and trying out a few games. Everything worked great!

Now I just need to source some more software, and a Memory upgrade, SCSI card, and a CD-ROM drive to bring the system to it’s full potential. An accelerator would be nice, but not necessary, and I have some good news on the uthernet front – a new production run should see the light of day before too long. No hard dates of course, but the project is still alive.

It’s nice to see that the community is still alive and active, and I look forward to getting deeper into this project, as soon as I can scrape up the last few parts that I need.