Sunday 1 November 2020

The Best Way To Format and Test Old 3.5" Floppy Disks

I recently won 240+ 3.5" floppy disks on eBay so I have been looking for a way to reliably mass format and test them.  I did ask on a Facebook Retro Computing group but all they came up with was using the format command and scandisk/chkdsk!  Needless to say this was not what I was after and as floppy disks have been around for decades there must be a utility that does what I'm after...

I posted a message in a forum on the Vintage Computer Federation website.  Needless to say it wasn't long before I got the answer I was looking for!  Let me introduce you to a utility called FormatQM:

FormatQM is a Quick Mass Diskette Formatter.  The version I have been using is 1.72 and was released in 1991.  It's a DOS based utility so has issues running in Windows XP and above (trust me, I've tried) but is happy running in MS-DOS mode on a Windows 95 machine if you don't have an MS-DOS based machine to hand.

To launch the quick formatter you need to add a couple of parameters, namely the drive letter of the floppy disk drive you want to use to format a disk and either an N or a P (there are a few more options than these in the instructions you get with FormatQM but these two will get you started).  The N option is for quick verification of the formatted disk and a P will only pass a disk if it's Perfect with no flaws.

FormatQM A: N
FormatQM A: P

After launching the utility you need to press the Space Bar to start the formatting process:

All you need to do now is follow the on-screen instructions and insert floppy disks that need formatting/testing, discarding any that fail and keeping those that pass.

If you want to see what it looks like working, then take a look at my short YouTube video below:

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