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[ The PC Guide | Troubleshooting and Repair Guide | The Troubleshooting Expert | Troubleshooting Specific Components | Troubleshooting Floppy Disk Drives | Errors ]

I am getting a "Data error reading drive A:/B:" or "Sector not found" while trying to read a floppy disk

Explanation: You are receiving errors trying to read the contents of a floppy disk. The contents of one of the sectors on the disk cannot be read.

Diagnosis: Unfortunately, the most common cause of data error or sector not found messages is media failure; floppy disk media is just not that reliable and will eventually fail if used frequently. There are many different factors that can contribute to the failure of floppy disks, and with proper care, they can be made to last a reasonable amount of time, but they all fail if used any significant amount.

Warning: Do not store original work on floppy disks, or use them as a primary storage area for your active files. The chances of failure are too great, and their performance is very low. Use the hard disk instead, and use floppies only for file transfer and backup (if you don't have better options).

Recommendation:

  • Make sure you use high-quality media of the right type for your floppy disk drive. Using poor quality media can lead to problems.
  • Try ejecting and then reinserting the disk. You'd be surprised how often this fixes the problem.
  • There may be dirt or dust on the surface of the disk. Sometimes tapping the edge of the disk on a hard surface a few times will loosen whatever is causing the problem and let you read the disk. I would recommend emptying its contents to a hard disk subdirectory and then discarding the floppy in favor of a new one.
  • Clean the floppy drive read heads. Dirty heads can cause read errors, especially if this is occurring with more than one disk.
  • Make sure the floppy drive types are properly set up in the system BIOS.
  • Try the problem disk in a different PC, if available. Try other disks in this drive. Sometimes a disk will work fine in one floppy but not in another. If you find that one particular drive always has problems reading disks then continue here.
  • Try using a different brand of media. Some drives don't seem to like some brands of disks but work better with other ones.
  • You can "repair" a damaged disk by using a disk utility such as Microsoft's Scandisk or Norton's Disk Doctor to mark the unreadable sectors as bad and allow the rest of the disk to be used. The data in the bad sector is still lost, but the rest of the file will be recoverable. Such a file should be treated as corrupted--after all, part of it somewhere is missing--and really, using it should only be as a last resort if there is no backup around. Ideally you are using floppies only as secondary storage and can just use the original, clean copy stored on the hard disk. I do not recommend reusing a floppy disk after it starts showing read errors.

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