Getting valuable files from an ancient Mac to a PC
August 5, 2008 4:50 PM   Subscribe

How can we transfer valuable files from an ancient Macintosh to our Windows PC?

Just before he passed away of Parkinson's, my father-in-law entered a large part of his autobiography into his Macintosh Classic (Microsoft Works, System 7). We'd like to somehow get these several dozen files from the Mac's hard drive onto our PC (they're in RTF format), combine them into a single document using Word 2003, print it, and bind it as a gift for my wife's aging mother and the rest of the family. The Mac has a floppy drive but I don't know its capacity. Any and all suggestions are appreciated.
posted by davcoo to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
if it's system 7.5 or later, it should come with PC Exchange, which let you format PC-compatible floppy discs. this would be pretty much mandatory, but there are programs that may help:

lucky for you, the classic used the 'modern' 1.44 mb floppy disks, which you can still find at office supply stores and the like. not only are the old 800k discs impossible to find, they are unreadable in 'modern' drives. if you don't have a floppy disc drive on your PC you can purchase a USB one for little money.

that's about it.
posted by tremspeed at 5:02 PM on August 5, 2008

Oh wow. Interesting undertaking.

The most straight forward way would be to remove the 40gb SCSI drive (assuming that's what's in there) and install it in a pc with a SCSI adapter card. Then it would be a matter of locating some Windows software that can mount the Mac file system so Windows can see it. Then you'd just copy your files over.

Actually, no... that's not straight forward at all. The Mac has a 3.5" floppy drive and the RTF files should fit on one more disk(s). You'd still have to mount them in windows with a third party app, but this might be easier than removing the hard drive.
posted by wfrgms at 5:03 PM on August 5, 2008

I had to do this at one point with all of our old floppies. In the end, I managed to find a Kinko's (FedEx Office, whatever it's called now) and move them over one at a time, then I just included them as attachments to a series of emails. The short answer though is that you just need to move the file(s) onto floppies and then find a place that still has a 3.5" floppy drive. I doubt that most Kinko's still do. Your local public library might be a good place to try, as they are generally a little slow on the tech curve.

Craigslist and eBay are also perfectly good places to find old hardware and a new floppy drive cost less than $100 a few years ago, so I would imagine all but the most hardened geeks would hand it over for free. "Floppy drive" on eBay gives me several pages of results for less than $20 and free shipping.
posted by el_lupino at 5:05 PM on August 5, 2008

Please don't waste your time with hal_c_on's suggestion. (Did you even look at what type of machine this is?)

If your Windows PC lacks a floppy drive you can buy a new USB floppy drive for $20 or less. Try Newegg.
posted by wfrgms at 5:44 PM on August 5, 2008

FWIW, the long way around, is to just print everything up from the Mac and then scan the documents into your PC with OCR software which will allow you to create word documents that you can edit.

Years ago, I had to get a bunch of old writings from a mac to a pc and this worked for me. I didn't have a ton of stuff mind you, but it also gave me a great excuse to buy the scanner. The OCR software came free with it and I've used it several times when I want to get something from paper into my PC in a format that I can edit.

Sounds like a great way to honor your father-in-law and his memory. Good luck with it!
posted by NoraCharles at 5:52 PM on August 5, 2008

Floppies are the easiest way to go. Serial Appletalk looks doable, just very difficult. Also Modem to Modem should be doable. You could dial up your PC directly do transfers using hyperterminal and xmodem.
posted by damn dirty ape at 6:47 PM on August 5, 2008

If the Mac does have a System 7.x version of PC Exchange installed, be aware that it only supports the old MS-DOS eight character plus three char extension file names on DOS formatted disks. Later versions supported long Windows file names, but that wasn't until System 8.1.
posted by D.C. at 5:34 AM on August 6, 2008

Possible workaround for file issues: If you format some Mac floppy disks and copy the files over to them, you should be able to easily open all of the files on a new Mac running OS X with a USB floppy drive. You needn't buy one, if you have a friend with a floppy (heck, I have one, I'm sure you can find someone that has one you can borrow).

Once the files are on a new Mac burn them to a CD. Instantly readable on any PC. No issues with file name messiness. System 7 may not be able to write files onto a DOS disk without some limitations, but it can definitely write them to a Mac System 7 floppy, and a new Mac should have no difficulty opening files saved in this format. You will of course ensure prior to burning that all files have the appropriate .rtf file extension, and also check that you are creating a Mac + Windows CD when you burn.

If you don't have a friend with a newer Mac, your local library or school might have one you can use, or heck head to the nearest Apple store / certified repair center and ask if they can help - if you provide the media they may be more than willing to do the work. There's even a chance that such a place may have a USB floppy on hand for people upgrading from ancient Macs to new ones.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:08 AM on August 6, 2008

This may be a longshot, but if you don't want to buy new hardware to use once, or if you don't want to sweat the tech stuff, call the local Apple Store and see if they can help.
posted by PlusDistance at 11:19 AM on August 6, 2008

Ack. Reading comprehension failing. Sorry, everyone, didn't read to the end of CLF's response.
posted by PlusDistance at 11:20 AM on August 6, 2008

Response by poster: I don't know if anyone will read this, since by now this question has been buried under dozens of new questions, but I wanted to summarize how, with the help of these responses, I was able to get this done.

After finding out that the diskette drive on the Mac was a 1.44MB model, I located some 1.44MB floppies, and copied the files onto them.

Then a Google search turned up Gemulator Explorer, a free utility which allows a Windows PC to read Macintosh-formatted floppy diskettes. Transferring the files turned out to be a tedious process because the utility doesn't allow you to simply drag the Mac files onto the PC's hard disk. I had to select each Mac file in Gemulator Explorer, select Edit > Copy as Text, open a new PC text file, paste the RTF contents into it, and save the PC text file.

But the whole process was completed with very little pain and no expense (!). Thanks again to everyone.
posted by davcoo at 2:24 PM on August 8, 2008

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