Setting up your vintage (classic) 68k Macintosh – Using a 3.5″ HD Floppy Drive

Photo of a 3.5 inch floppy disk

Photo of a 3.5 inch floppy disk

Booting your classic 68k Macintosh from a 3.5 inch floppy disk was the most common and the easiest way to get most classic macs working when your starting with a more modern machine (most, but not all, more on that in a bit).

This post focuses on 3.5″ High Density (HD) disks that can be created using modern USB floppy drives.

I will create separate posts describing how to get started using 400k and 800k floppy disks using either a intermediary Macintosh that supports both these the HD format, or using floppy-emu to emulate these old drives.

There are also several other options, that you should also look in to if you plan to start playing with these 1980s and 1990s systems.

Assumptions

  1. Whoever is reading this knows what a 3.5 inch floppy disk is 🙂
  2. You have a working 3.5″ USB floppy drive and some disks.
  3. Your classic 68k Macintosh turns on, and is prompting you to insert a disk.  If your 68k Macintosh does not turn on, or does not show the insert disk icon, you may need to do some repair work before you proceed.
  4. That the floppy drive in the old Macintosh you’re trying to boot hasn’t failed (common problem is the deterioration of the auto eject gears).
  5. You plan to use an internal or external hard drive (or equivalent), to actually make use of your Classic 68k Mac (all versions except the Macintosh 128k support some form of external or internal hard drive).   If you do not have a hard drive or equivalent, there are other options such as: using a RAMDisk, a CD-ROM, or running applications off another system using Apple Share over Local Talk, or Apple Share over Ethernet.

For this post, I used an external 3.5 inch, USB 1.44MB floppy drive I picked up a few years ago when I retired the last of my “more modern” computers with a built in floppy drive.   As I write this (late 2017), the price of these drives are in the $10 to $20 CDN range, what’s becoming expensive are the disks themselves, they are about $30 per package of 10 (these used to be closer to $3 per package of 10 or less in the 90s).

Photo of the Macintosh SE FDHD label

Photo of the Macintosh SE FDHD label

Step 1: Determine if you can use this method

This method will work for the majority of 68k Macintosh computers except:

  • The 128K, 512K, 512Ke, and Plus do NOT support this method.
  • The SE and II, likely do not, BUT both could be upgraded to support a SuperDrive, so these may support this method.  Note: Starting in August 1989, Apple began equipping the SE with a SuperDrive, those systems will have a label on the front “Macintosh SE FDHD”
Macintosh Model 400k 800k SuperDrive
128K
yes
no
no
512K
yes
no
no
512Ke
yes
yes
no
Plus
yes
yes
no
SE
yes
yes
?
II
yes
yes
?

Step 2: Selecting your boot disk

I’ve made 2 main types of boot disks, both formatted using the Hierarchical File System (HFS):

  1. An OS 6.0.8 Boot disk for older 68k systems that may only have 1MB of memory installed.  The SE/30, Classic, Classic II, Portable, II, IIx, IIcx, IIci, IIsi, LC typically shipped with only 1 MB of memory.  I’ve managed to track down a scan of the Apple Memory Guide from November 2000 (pdf) that shows how to upgrade the memory for these and other 68k systems.
  2. An OS 7.5.0 Boot disk for most of the 68k systems (should work for all except the Powerbook 190 and 2300) that have 2MB or more memory installed.

Each disk contains:

  • The system folders for either System 6.0.8 or System 7.5.5, containing the “minimal” files to boot.
  • A patched version of HD SC Setup 7.3.5 for formatting your SCSI HD or equivalent once you’ve booted your Macintosh (patched to support non-Apple SCSI Drives)
  • An application called DropDisk that allows you to quickly mount and use other disk images

I’ve created 4 different versions of each image, the first .dsk format can be used with emulators and floppy-emu, and is the default version for the methods described in step 3 to write to a physical floppy disk.    The other versions are in Disk Copy 4.2 formatted, and if you know what that is, you already know how to used these.

OS Raw Data (emulators) Disk Copy 4.2 files
Data MacBinary II BinHex
6.0.8 .dsk.zip .img.zip .img.bin .img.hqx
7.5.0 .dsk.zip .img.zip .img.bin .img.hqx

Step 3: Creating your bootable HFS Floppy Disk

I’m going to cover off the 3 main operating systems:

  1. Windows  (should work 95+)
  2. Mac OS 10.6.o or later
  3. Mac OS 10.5.x or earlier
  4. Linux

Option 3.1: Creating using Windows

Windows 10 Floppy Drive Icon

Windows 10 Floppy Drive Icon

Precondition: Test to make sure you have a working USB drive

  1. Attach your USB floppy drive to your computer, if it’s working under “This PC”, you should see a Floppy Disk Drive icon, likely Drive A:
  2. Insert a blank disk or one that you can format in to the floppy drive
    • Optional: right click on the drive icon after inserting the disk to format the disk to make sure it can format, then copy some files to the disk to test it out

Steps for Windows 95 or later (tested with Windows 95, 2000, NT, XP, 7 and 10)

  1. Download and unzip the .dsk image of either OS 6.0.8 or OS 7.5.0 depending on which Classic Macintosh you plan to use
  2. Download and unzip the application HFVExplorer 1.3.1 by Lauri Pesonen (their website is long gone, but luckily the instructions for HFVExplorer are cached by the internet archive)
  3. IF you have a floppy disk in the floppy drive, eject it (should be a button on the front of the floppy drive to do this)
  4. Run (double click) HFVExplorer.exe
  5. Insert a blank disk or one that you can erase in to the floppy drive (this disk will be overwritten with the disk image)
  6. In the menu select: File -> Write Volume to Floppy
  7. Select the “>>” button, and select the .dsk image file you downloaded in step 1
  8. Press OK
  9. You will be prompted with a message “Ready to format…” press ok, and you should hear your computer writing the image to the floppy
  10. Once the disk is done writing, basically the noise stops, use the manual eject of your USB floppy
  11. Go test out your new boot disk on your Classic 68k Macintosh

Option 3.2: Creating using Mac OS 10.6.0 or later

Macintosh OS X 10.6.0 and later can no longer directly format and write to HFS disks or disk images (you’ll have to use an emulator like Sheepshaver or Basilisk II instead).  It is still possible to mount images read only, and to write existing disk images to disk using disk duplicator (dd) in the terminal / command line.

Disclaimers for OS 10.6.0 or later:

  • Please be careful when running the following commands, if you accidentally “write” the disk image to the wrong disk you will overwrite data on that disk.
  • I do not have a Modern Macintosh to test this on, the information is based on what I could piece together from a variety of sources, and my past Unix experience.  If this method does or does not work for you let me know 🙂

Precondition: Test to make sure you have a working USB drive

  1. Connect your USB floppy disk drive to your modern Macintosh
  2. Insert a blank disk or one that you can erase in to the floppy drive
  3. Your Macintosh should either mount the disk (if it can read it), or prompt you to initialize it (if it cannot)
  4. If you are prompted to initialize it, and you know the disk is blank (or don’t care about it’s contents), go ahead and initialize it to test out the disk
    • Optional: Try copying files on to and off of the disk to make sure everything is working as it should
  5. Note the “name” of the disk, you need it later on.

Steps for OS 10.6.0 or later

  1. Download and unzip the “data” diskcopy 4.2 disk image for OS 6.0.8 or OS 7.5.0 to your modern Macintosh System
  2. Open the terminal / command line window
  3. Type diskutil list and press return
  4. You should see a list of all attached drives for your system, with their names, you should see the name you gave to your floppy disk, you want the identifier of the floppy drive eg. /disk2
  5. Type diskutil unmountDisk /dev/{identifier from step 4}, e.g.  diskutil unmountDisk /dev/disk2 and press return
  6. You should see a message: “Unmount of all volumes on {identifier from step 4} was successful”,
  7. The floppy drive icon should disappear from your desktop (if it did not you may not have the correct device name, check to see if any of your other drives have stopped working) (I say should, because I’m unsure of this step, I believe unmounting the drive should cause it’s icon to disappear)
  8. Use dd with the correct input and output options (read points below), “sudo dd if=INPUTFILE of=OUTPUTFILE bs=84 skip=1
    • INPUTFILE = the location and name of the disk image you downloaded in step 1, you can optionally type “dd if=” then drag the disk image file on to the terminal server, this “should” insert the text you need for the input file.
    • OUTPUTFILE =  /dev/{identifier from step 4}, e.g. /dev/disk2
    • e.g. Type “sudo dd if=bootOS608.img of=/dev/disk2 bs=84 skip=1” (bs=84 and skip=1 are needed to strip out some extra information included in the diskcopy 4.2 image that dd can not use.  You may be able to use the raw disk image for OS 6.0.8 or OS 7.5.0 instead, with the command “sudo dd if=bootOS608.img of=/dev/disk2” without the bs and skip options.  I created the raw disk images on windows, so I was not sure if they’d work with this method, but you can try them if the diskcopy 4.2 method doesn’t work)
    • press return
  9. You should hear your Modern Macintosh writing the disk image to your floppy disk
  10. When the drive stops making noise, you should see a message indicating that your Modern Macintosh is done writing the image
  11. Use the manual eject of your USB floppy
  12. Go test out your new boot disk on your Classic 68k Macintosh

Option 3.3: Creating using Mac OS 10.5.x or earlier

Use Disk Utility with one of the diskcopy 4.2 image files

Disk Utility can be found in /Applications/Utilities/Disk Utility.app

Option 3.4: Creating using Linux

Disclaimers:
  • Please be careful when running the following commands, if you accidentally “write” the disk image to the wrong disk you will overwrite data on that disk.
  • I do not have a Linux System to test this on, the information is based on what I could piece together from a variety of sources, and my past Unix experience.  If this method does or does not work for you let me know 🙂
Steps:
  1. Download and unzip the “data” diskcopy 4.2 disk image for OS 6.0.8 or OS 7.5.0 to your modern Linux System
  2. Open the terminal / command line window
  3. Type diskutil list and press return
  4. You should see a list of all attached drives for your system, with their names, you should see the name you gave to your floppy disk, you want the identifier of the floppy drive eg. /disk2
  5. Type diskutil unmountDisk /dev/{identifier from step 4}, e.g.  diskutil unmountDisk /dev/disk2 and press return
  6. You should see a message: “Unmount of all volumes on {identifier from step 4} was successful”,
  7. Use dd with the correct input and output options (read points below), “sudo dd if=INPUTFILE of=OUTPUTFILE bs=84 skip=1
    • INPUTFILE = the location and name of the disk image you downloaded in step 1, you can optionally type “dd if=” then drag the disk image file on to the terminal server, this “should” insert the text you need for the input file.
    • OUTPUTFILE =  /dev/{identifier from step 4}, e.g. /dev/disk2
    • e.g. Type “sudo dd if=bootOS608.img of=/dev/disk2 bs=84 skip=1” (bs=84 and skip=1 are needed to strip out some extra information included in the diskcopy 4.2 image that dd can not use.  You may be able to use the raw disk image for OS 6.0.8 or OS 7.5.0 instead, with the command “sudo dd if=bootOS608.dsk of=/dev/disk2” without the bs and skip options.  I created the raw disk images one windows, so I was not sure if they’d work with this method, but you can try them if the diskcopy 4.2 method doesn’t work)
    • press return
  8. You should hear your Linux System writing the disk image to your floppy disk
  9. When the drive stops making noise, you should see a message indicating that your Linux System is done writing the image
  10. Use the manual eject of your USB floppy
  11. Go test out your new boot disk on your Classic 68k Macintosh

 

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