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Formatting a Floppy Disk

Floppy disks come in two standard sizes: 5 1/4-inch and 3 1/2-inch. The 5 1/4-inch disks are the veterans of the PC wars. They've been around, in one form or another, since the days of the earliest PCs. They come in two capacities: double-density and high-density. (Actually, the term double-density is relatively meaningless in this day and age. It originates from the old days of computers—way back in the 1980s—when there were such things as single-density disks. You often see double-density disks referred to as low-density or regular-density.) The 5 1/4-inch double-density disks have a storage capacity of 360KB, and the high-density variety can store 1.2MB.

Although 3 1/2-inch disks are relatively new kids on the floppy drive block, they're now the true “standard” (at least until the next one comes along). They come in three capacities: double-density, high-density, and the new (and still rare) extended-density disks. Double-density disks store up to 720KB, high-density disks store 1.44MB, and extended disks can pack a whopping 2.88MB of data. You can't, of course, just stick any old piece of plastic in a disk drive and expect it to read and write information. Even official I-bought-'em-at-the-local-Radio-Shack floppy disks need to be set up first so that information can be properly stored on the disk.


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