Drive Knox

One of the things I’d had on my list for a while is to clean up all of my floppy drives. I have a lot of floppy drives. I have a lot of the old style (A2M0003) Disk ][ drives.


Those are pretty straightforward to take apart and clean. They’re actually quite similar inside to the Apple /// drives, though perhaps even a little bit simpler to deal with.

I also have 3-4 of the newer A9M0107 drives. I intended to clean those up today, but instead I cleaned one. They’re really much more of a challenge to work with than the A2M0003s.



(Update: The smarter thing to have done here would have been to watch Tony Diaz’s 2010 KansasFest presentation on disk drive maintenance before having undertaken this. Turns out, for example, that you don’t need to take the bottom [or front] off if you’re only looking to clean the drive head. I was kind of after a total cleanup, but a couple of steps can be skipped for more frequent drive head cleaning. Of course, figuring it out as I went, at least given that I didn’t break anything in the process, was instructive too.)

Unfortunately, I didn’t take a lot of photos as I was doing this, but it’s quite difficult to get at the drive head. The first thing you do is remove the four screws from the underside, visible in the picture above. Then you need to get the top, bottom, and front plastic off. You can kind of angle out the bottom from the front, once you’ve disengaged the power cord, but it requires a little bit more force than one would like to exert. Getting the top casing off requires sliding it horizontally a bit, because it has little tabs that hold it on (it can slide once the screws from the back have been removed, inside the recesses on each side).


Once the plastic casing is off, you are confronted by a metal shield. A serious metal shield. I don’t have a picture of it on, but you can see it in the background a couple of pictures down from here. You have to remove the ground wire screw to free it. The shield is on really tightly, I actually had to get out pliers to pull it off. It is not connected by anything but friction (though note that it has a couple of little hooks on the front end that go into slots, so it has to be slid forward a bit before it can be lifted off). With the shield removed, you can see the analog board.


Two further screws to remove, and then you really need to disconnect all three of the disconnectable wires, because they are strung so tightly that you won’t really be able to get the analog board out without doing that. Once the analog board is out, you are confronted by a little cardboard cover. In the background you can see the metal shield from a couple of steps ago.


The cardboard cover lifts out, after which you need to disconnect the other grounding wire and remove the metal shield that was under the cardboard cover. Almost there. With these removed, you can finally see, and clean, the drive head.


Let’s hope it was dirty, so all of this was worth it. Reassembling is no picnic either, but it’s pretty much all of that in reverse. Just remember all the steps. It took quite a lot of convincing to get the power cord and its associated donut to sit close enough in to allow me to get the bottom plastic case back on, but eventually I managed it. I also somehow managed to yank out the drive light cable once everything was fully assembled. Fortunately, it was possible to squeeze it in the very small space and guide it toward its pins with a screwdriver, so I did get it re-secured, but it was an anxious minute as I contemplated the possibility that I’d have to get it all the way back down to the analog board again.

I’ll clean the rest of these some other day.

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