Still Using Floppy Disks To Backup Your Data? Are You Nuts?

Floppy disks are one of the oldest forms of data storage they are not however THE oldest data storage device. For the purpose of this article we're only going to look at relatively modern backup storage.

The floppy disk. For a long time the floppy reigned supreme over all other forms of data storage. It was small, portable, carried upwards of a massive 1.4MB (megabytes) of data and could be used in any other PC with a floppy disk drive.

A History Of The Floppy Disk

The floppy disk was invented at the bottom of a swimming pool. What? Yup the inventor of the floppy disk, Dr Yoshiro Nakamats, did his best thinking sitting at the bottom of a swimming pool. Apparently the sensory deprivation of being immersed in water allows you to think more clearly (obviously don't try this at home please!)

Originally the floppy disk was created for storing audio tracks with greater clarity. As the computer boom began, the floppy disk quickly replaced the punch card. On another note Dr. Nakamats has over 3,200 other inventions to his name - including the autopilot used on most aircraft today.

floppy diskTypes Of Floppy Drives

The first floppy disk was the 8" disk invented by IBM in the 1960s and which was used widely in the early 1970s. Most home computers came fitted with either a 3.5" inch or 5.25" inch drive. The 5.25" was the older type of floppy disk where the disk itself was cased in a cardboard sleeve. The later and more advaned 3.5" disk provided higher capacities and was encased in a tough plastic sleeve.

Types Of Floppy Disks

5.25" - this type of disk can store anywhere from 100 kiloybtes to 1.2 megabytes of data.

3.5" - this disk is capable of storing from 720 kilobytes to 2.8MB of data.

External Floppy Disk Drive

For a brief time floppy disk drives were also available externally. These were connected via a computer parallel port.

Here's a thing. Floppy disks are not floppy. They have a tough plastic (or cardboard in very old 5.25" disks) outer shell. We call them floppy disks because the disk inside is made of a very flexible type of plastic called mylar. Taken out of it's case you'd find the disk to be quite....... floppy. Currently floppy disks are available in capacities of 720KB and 1.44MB. For the purposes of backing up or transporting data floppies are now very outdated.

Using them for backing up data is even worse. The capacity of a typical hard drive on a modern computer is anywhere from 60GB (gigabytes) to 250GB. In the most basic possible terms it would take 60,000 - 150,000 floppy disks to make a total data backup from a hard disk of this capacity. It would be easier building a pyramid out of soft cheese.

So how useful are floppy disks as a form of backup? They should be used only as last resort because of the very limited storage capacity they offer. In the worse case scenarios you could use a few boxes of floppy disks to make backups of your most important documents and files but even then it would be a slow and tedious process.

Computer manufacturers worldwide are no longer providing floppy disk drives on new computers as other forms of storage offer much higher capacity at little or no extra cost.

In particular USB flash drives have become massively popular and are replacing the floppy disk as the entry level form of data storage on all home computers for users of all levels.