How Does a Floppy Disk Work?


Quick Answer

A floppy disk is covered with iron oxide, a magnetic material, and the floppy drive records information on the disk by magnetically rearranging the material. The drive reads the data on a floppy disk by sensing the arrangement of the magnetic coating and translating it into computer code.

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How Does a Floppy Disk Work?
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Full Answer

Floppy disks work in a similar manner to cassette tapes and the magnetic strip on a credit card. The floppy disk is constructed of sturdy plastic that is embedded with a thin iron oxide coating on both sides. The head of the floppy disk drive easily manipulates the magnetic coating on the disk to store information. Information is recorded on circular tracks and triangular sections. A special head in the drive erases the area to be written before recording occurs. This head is wider than the head used for recording and reading information to ensure recorded information is not contaminated from previous information recorded nearby.

When reading the disk, the head moves to the appropriate track and sector quickly without touching the disk. According to HowStuffWorks, this is an improvement over older cassette tape storage that required a rewind or fast forward movement to retrieve information. Floppy disks contain a safety slide on the side of the case. If the slide is moved to create an opening, the drive will not record on the disk.

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