What is a Floppy disk? Characteristics, parts, Types & Functions

What is a Floppy disk? Characteristics, parts, Types & Functions

There are several types of support for the storage of data type magnetic, one of them is the floppy disk or floppy disk, also known by its English name “diskette” or “floppy disk”. This kind of device works inside a floppy drive which is the floppy disk drive that works as a storage source and is in charge of writing and reading the floppy disks.

What is a floppy disk?

A floppy disk is an element that makes possible the storage of all digital data which is composed of a magnetic disk that is at the same time protected by a square or rectangular plastic cover .


A floppy disk is composed of many components. A 3.5-inch disk is packaged with two colored plastic squares (the housing), which contain the smaller components. The components include a metal shutter, a magnetic-coated plastic disk, a spring, a hub, paper rings, a write-protect tab, and a plastic flap.

  • Floppy disk characteristics
  • Parties
  • What is it for
  • Story
  • How does it work
  • Types
  • Storage capacity
  • How to format a floppy disk
  • Importance

Floppy disk characteristics

Among the main features that can be found on the floppy we mention the following:

  • It is very vulnerable to dirt and fields type magnetic external so you can stop working with the passage of time.
  • Made with magnetic, thin, and flexible material it was enclosed in a plastic square.
  • They can be read on floppy drives.
  • It is removable.
  • Its size is named depending on the type of storage you have.
  • Its capacity is set in binary kilobytes.
  • Currently, they are considered obsolete.


The parts of a floppy disk are the following:

  • Plastic casing: it is responsible for giving protection to the floppy disk against dust, shocks, or other types of external abrasions.
  • Read/write hole: it is the part of the floppy that makes it possible for the heads of the drive to access the disk.
  • Protective paper: gives protection to the disc against friction and also keeps it clean.
  • Magnetic disk: this part is where you can find all the information.
  • Metal sealing sheet: this part also has the function of providing protection to the disc when it is not in use.
  • Metal center of pull: makes it possible for the magnetic disk to cling to the drive motor of the unit.
  • Spring: it is a piece that works by moving the metal sheet so that it can return to its original position. It is also responsible for protecting the floppy disk.
  • Density indicator: this part can be seen when the floppy disk has a hole that indicates the density.
  • Flexible metal wing: its main function is to push the protective paper against the magnetic disk in order to keep it free of dirt.
  • Writing insurance: it is a type of cover in the hole which is protected against writing.

What is it for

The diskette, despite the fact that it is already a device considered as obsolete, continues to be functional in cases where equipment startup problems arise, mainly when there are serious breakdowns or emergencies that affect the operating system of a computer, in these cases, floppy disks are considered one of the best options as well as reliable and difficult to replace.


The history of floppy disks comes from the hand of Alan Shugart, a worker at IBM laboratories located in California. He was the one leading a team to develop record decks in 1967. This company was the first to use floppy disks to be able to load microcodes into the controllers of Merlin disk packages and at that time, they were known as ” floppy ” due to their flexibility.

In 1971, the company launched the first memory disk, which they called a floppy disk. At that time, the data was written and later read on the magnetic surface that the disk had. At the time, the floppy disk was considered a revolutionary invention thanks mainly to its portability.

In 1973, Shugart began developing and manufacturing different types of floppy disk decks, and the interface he managed to develop later turned out to be the basis for floppy disk decks. Little by little many companies began to build floppy disks and by 1978 there were already more than ten different companies manufacturing them.

Floppy disks were well-known devices and were used mainly during the eighties and nineties. They were widely used in work, at home, and to store information, even large companies such as Apple, Macintosh, Atari, and IBM used them with the aim of distributing software. In 1981, Sony was introduced to the market but added a tougher protective layer and a mechanism that provided protection for reading the data. This is where the innovative new floppy standard was born.

How does it work

The floppy disk was protected by a hard plastic case inside which was the magnetic material capable of storing data. It works much like a cassette tape. After it is inserted into the drive, the circle-shaped magnetic tape spins quickly like a CD. While doing these spins, the head of reading and writing to the disk stops at the empty track that is on the disk.

Then, before any information is sent, check the stability of the system and the free space that is available on the disk. Subsequently, the writing head of the disk is responsible for sending the data thanks to the magnetization of the recording tapes. After the data has been stored on the floppy, an exact copy is also made.


There are three different types of floppy disks which are

  • Floppy disk 8 “
  • Minifloppy 5 ¼
  • 3½ Microfloppy: This floppy is the most popular because it has a more compact and harder cover. They also have a capacity that goes from 400 KB to 2MB and even more.

Storage capacity

The storage capacity of floppy disks will depend on the type of device in question. In the case of the floppy disk, it has a maximum capacity of 1 Mbyte, the Minifloppy 5 ¼ has a capacity of 100 K to 1.2 Mbyte and finally the Microfloppy of 3½ a capacity that goes from 400 KB to 2MB, and even more.

How to format a floppy disk

Before formatting a floppy it is important to know and understand that all the information that is stored will be erased. The first step will be to open Windows Explorer or press the My Computer option, then you must select the drive you need to format using the right mouse button to make the menu display.

Then, you must select the format option which will show several options. You must then choose the floppy capacity option and then the format options. The option that indicates the creation of an MS-DOS startup disk can also be selected. Once these steps have been followed, the option to start is selected and when the process is finished, the option to close must be pressed.


The diskette is an important device that can function as a storage medium for information type digital. It turned out to be very beneficial in cases where files needed to be stored and information passed between two computers.

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