How does one move data from old floppies to a MacBook Pro?
September 9, 2007 10:03 AM   Subscribe

I have some Macintosh-formatted floppy disks from the 1990s. They contain data I would like to have (old writing, Quicken files, etc.). Leaving aside issues of media integrity, how do I transfer these to a modern Mac. I have no access to Mac floppy drive of any kind. I do have access to PCs with floppy drives. But, of course, under normal circumstances a PC doesn't recognize a Mac-formatted disk. How do I get my data from these floppies to my MacBook Pro?
posted by smithmac_99 to Technology (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You could bring them into Kinko's and ask them to burn a CD for you, or throw them on a USB stick. Unless you've stored the floppies well, however, they're fairly likely to be damaged or corrupted.
posted by tehloki at 10:06 AM on September 9, 2007

Is there a reason you can't buy a USB floppy disk drive and just connect it to your MBP? They're only like $30 or so and I bet cheaper on eBay.
posted by sneakin at 10:08 AM on September 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

You buy a disk drive and do this or you get a piece of software that allows your PC to recognize Mac disks.
posted by jessamyn at 10:10 AM on September 9, 2007

MacDrive will let you read the mac disks in Windows. It costs $49, but they have a free 5-day trial, so if your expeditious, you might be able to get everything you need for free. Then just email yourself the files and download them on your MacBook.
posted by dyslexictraveler at 11:35 AM on September 9, 2007

What era of the 1990s? IIRC, System 8 and later cannot read the very original Macintosh floppy format, which I believe is called MFS. It crashed my old machine several times.

For those cases, you have to find a System 7 machine (yes), copy the files somewhere else somehow, then copy them again to your MacBook.

This would be a good time for Splorp to pop in and nail this down definitively, especially since he actually has all that retro technology.
posted by joeclark at 11:41 AM on September 9, 2007

Download a live linux distribution like ubuntu or knoppix. From the command line:

insmod hfs
mount -t hfs /dev/fd0 /mnt/floppy

Copy the files to the local disk or burn a CD.

Cost: 0 dollars.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:58 AM on September 9, 2007

"System 8 and later cannot read the very original Macintosh floppy format, which I believe is called MFS."

Untrue. OSX can read MFS volumes directly, but since those are probably on GCR floppies you're not going to have any luck actually reading physical media since most modern floppy drives can only read MFM.

Assuming these floppies are 1.44M media, plugging in a USB floppy drive ought to do the job. Otherwise you're going to be scrounging around for someone with a GCR-capable drive.
posted by majick at 12:01 PM on September 9, 2007

Track down a USB floppy drive and move the files over directly. If you have any friends with PC laptops, they might have an external USB floppy drive stashed away.
posted by pmbuko at 2:42 PM on September 9, 2007

This is likely quite difficult. As majick notes, old Mac floppies are physically different in the way their sectors are laid out on the disc from what a PC floppy does, it is likely NOT just a matter of a different filesystem (MFS vs FAT or HFS) on there. You need matching old hardware.
posted by polyglot at 7:30 AM on September 10, 2007

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