How To Install a Floppy Drive Into a PC

Floppy drives are not used often today, but when you need to get data to or from a floppy disk, there is no substitute. Floppy drives are not usually very difficult to install or replace unless you have some odd, proprietary type of case. This article assumes you already know how to remove your case cover(s) so that you can install or reinstall a 3.5" floppy drive. Read the instructions all the way through before beginning.

  1. Power the computer down and remove the power cable before working inside. You probably want to disconnect everything and work on a table or a counter.

  • If you are reinstalling a floppy drive, you must first remove the old one. Save the screws. Make sure you take notes when unplugging the power cable and the ribbon cable. You will need to plug them back in the same way after you mount the new drive.
  • The greatest difficulty you are likely to encounter is finding room to use a screwdriver to fasten the drive in its bay. Remove the case cover. You may need to remove both sides of the case if you have a tower-style case. Examine the drive bays in the front of the case. Computers come with drive bays in two widths: 3.5" and 5.25". Your floppy drive goes in a 3.5: bay where the case has a 3.5" opening in the front. There will very probably be one such bay designed for the installation of a floppy drive. If there is a blank panel in place, remove it by pushing it out from the inside. On some types of cases it is necessary to remove the entire drive bay assembly to fasten drives into place. I hope this is not the type of case you have. It is a lot more work. If you attempt to remove the entire set of drive bays, you will probably have to unplug your CD-ROM and hard drive(s) as well. Make notes so you can get all cables back in the right place with the right polarity.
  • Install the new floppy drive into the bay. You usually may insert it from the front or the rear, but I have seen proprietary front bezels that require you to insert the drive from the rear. Hold the drive in place so the front of the drive is flush with the front opening. Carefully install the screws to hold the drive firmly in place. Don't install it upside down. The LED goes on the left, and the button goes on the bottom right. If you are building a computer, and you have no screws, remove a mounting screw or two from your CD-ROM drive. These screws are usually the same size. Screws that are used to mount hard drives are not compatible with floppy drives. Try to get at least two screws tightened down to hold each drive in place. If you use only two, use a front one on one side and a back one on the other side.
  • You must get the power and ribbon cables oriented correctly or you may damage your drive when you apply power. The ribbon cable for your floppy drive is narrower than your hard drive cables. Newer floppy cables normally have only two connectors, but older ones have three. There will be a connector in one end that plugs into the motherboard and two other connectors, on at the end, and one five or six inches from the end. There is a twist in the wires going into one connector. Use the connector with the twist for your floppy drive. It is normally the connector on the end. One edge of the ribbon cable will be red. The red edge goes to the left as you look at the back of the drive. The red edge of the cable will line up with pin #1 on the motherboard. The power cable has 4 wires, similar to the power connectors for your hard drive(s), but it will be significantly smaller. Its orientation is opposite the orientation of a hard drive power connector. The red wire goes to the right as you look at the back of the drive. You may very well find that it is much easier to attach the cables before screwing the drive firmly in place.
  • Skip this paragraph if it does not apply. In the unlikely event you have to mount a floppy drive in a 5.25" bay, you have a special challenge. You will have to get some metal adapters at a computer store that screw onto the sides of the drive to allow you to put a 3.5" drive in a 5.25" bay. These are intended for hard drives, but can be made to work with floppy drives. As a worst case, you may have to get an adapter through mail order or on eBay. The front opening, however, will present another problem if you are mounting a 3.5" floppy drive into a 5.25" bay. You will have to cut a rectangular hole in exactly the right place in the plastic panel that covers the empty bay. Then you must mount the drive in the bay and use double-stick tape on the front of the drive, slide the drive out with the plastic panel still attached, mark the back of the panel, and then carefully cut the hole with a drill and a coping saw. The results are not likely to be cosmetically pleasing.
  • Time to power up. Everything should work. You should be able to read a floppy disk now. If the drive LED stays on and the drive spins continuously, you have the ribbon cable reversed on either the drive or the motherboard. If it still does not work, you probably have a bad floppy drive.
  • These steps are long when written out, but the whole procedure will actually take only about 15 minutes if you don't have to deal with special problems or adapters.


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