Do USB Floppy Drives Work? Can I do this Myself?

Sure! If you have fairly recent (2010+) floppy disks, with fairly recent (MS Word/Excel) files, you stand a good chance of getting there all by yourself.  There’s two main things to consider:

  1. Your disks need to be fairly recent, and they need to be from a PC.  That means 1.44MB HD disks, not 720K DD, and not from a Mac.
  2. Once you copy your files off of your disks, you need to be sure you can still open them with software you are using today.

If you fit into those two guidelines, you’re probably good to go.  We do get a lot of inquiries like this, though:

I bought a USB floppy drive off of Amazon.  It was able to read a few of my disks, but the rest say, “This disk is unformatted.  Would you like to format it?”  I know they’ve got my files on there, though.  Help!

As you can imagine, we don’t use USB drives for our disk recovery – and we don’t require your disks originally came from a PC, either.  We can read just about any type of disk ever written.  Plus, we specialize in conversion from a wide variety of software programs on a wide variety of hardware types – into formats you can read today, using the computer you have in your lap or your hand now!  Take a look at our conversion offerings ( and use our quote request form ( to get access to your older files today!

How do I package my disks?

Once you’ve sent in a quote request and received your mailing instructions, you are ready to pack and send your disks to us! If you only have one or two disks, it’s as easy as attaching your disks to a single piece of cardboard with a rubber band, placing them in a padded envelope or a plain manila envelope and dropping them in the mail.

If you’ve got “a lot” of disks (more than 5 or 6) you’re better off shipping them in a cardboard box. To keep disks safe, it’s best to keep them from moving around – bundling them inside a wrapper of some sort (a sheet of bubble wrap, Ziploc bag, paper, whatever is handy) will stop them from becoming damaged.

For really big batches of floppy disks, it’s even more important to keep the disks from moving around freely inside their shipping container. Bundling the disks together inside a sturdy cardboard box is required.  Ensure voids inside the box are filled with stiff padding material.

If you’re shipping hard drives, it’s important to bundle them in stiffer padding.  Packing peanuts are terrible – they simply crush under the weight of hard drives and do little to protect your delicate electronics.  Small-bubble bubble wrap, dense foam, and other squishy-yet-firm padding are best at protecting your drive.

How will I receive my results?

After we extract and convert your files, and after you’ve settled your invoice either via PayPal or check (drawn on a US-based bank) payable to RetroFloppy, we will send you a download link for a zip file that contains your results.  If you’ve opted for a USB stick or CD for delivery, that will be shipped to you as well. For most clients, we make results available from our RetroFloppy-owned server.  In the case of results that exceed one gigabyte, we will share a private link from DropBox.  Additional information about data retention and data security can be found in our privacy policy here.

How much does your service cost?

What we do is not only copy the files off of your disks, but where possible we also convert common word processing, spreadsheet, and graphics files to formats you can read today. The full list of conversions we offer is available on our formats page. We don’t charge if a disk turns out to be blank or unreadable, down to a minimum charge of two disks. If we can’t retrieve anything at all and you decide you don’t want your disks back, you will owe nothing. Pricing for all the various types of disks we work on is available on our pricing page.

Where do I send my disks?

We’ll send shipping instructions including mailing address once we have an idea of what you’ve got, and what you’d like to get back.  RetroFloppy focuses on spinning computer media – we don’t have facilities for tape, for example.  So we do want to set expectations correctly based on what what we do vs. what you have before you head to the post office.  Just fill out a quote request on our quote page and we’ll get the ball rolling for you.

Will an old PC program run on my Mac?

In a word – “no”. But that’s not the whole story. Let’s start with an analogy. One of the most common things we do is convert old word processing files to modern Word or RTF format. So we take a file you might have saved using Wordstar which now looks like a garbled mess if you were to open it up as-is, and convert it so it looks just like new using your modern word processor. You’ll notice that we didn’t do anything to, or with, Wordstar itself – that old program stays where it is. We don’t make it so you can run Wordstar. We make it so you can view the files Wordsar created. That’s the key difference. We don’t make it so you can run old software on new computers – that’s not what we mean by “conversion”. We make it so you can use old files those programs had created, but on your new computer. See our Formats page for more details.

What if you can’t read my disks?

Some disks do deteriorate over time.  Some grow mold (really!) and some are simply cursed (i.e. the infamous Iomega Zip disk click-of-death).  If we can’t read anything at all, and we securely dispose of your media here – you will owe nothing.  If you do want your media back, you’ll pay the return shipping charge you were originally quoted. If you didn’t consider non-readability when you asked for your quote, you can plan on approximately $5 over a standard USPS postal rate based on weight and distance.

If you fall somewhere in the middle – that is, if some disks are readable and some are not – then you’ll pay the rate your were quoted (even if it was discounted based on volume) for the disks that were successful, down to a minimum charge of two if there’s at least one viable disk.