Emulating a floppy drive in 32-bit Windows

For the situations when you might want to have a virtual floppy drive, there's now a device driver that allows you to emulate a floppy drive in 32-bit Windows.

Most administrators have at least a passing familiarity with the idea of virtual drives. A common implementation

of this sort of thing is Daemon Tools, a program that allows you to mount an .ISO image in Windows as if it were a CD-ROM.

CDs and hard drives are easy enough to emulate, but what if you need to emulate a floppy drive? There are situations where this can be useful, like if you're using a virtual machine where no floppy drive can be shared to the guest, or if you want to work with a floppy image on any machine that has no floppy drive.

To fill this void, programmer Ken Kato has created a device driver that mounts a virtual floppy drive in 32-bit Windows. The driver mounts a floppy image file and makes it available as a physical floppy disk to Windows and all programs in it.

Up to two drives (A: and B:, but the drive letterings are up to you) can be mounted, and the images can be mounted in either "file" or memory" mode. File mode writes all changes to the image in realtime; memory mode makes a read-only in-RAM copy of the image and works with it there. All sizes and varieties of floppies are supported, from 160KB 5.25-inch disks to 2.88MB 3.5-inch disks.

There are a few caveats, most of which are documented with the program. The obvious ones are merely cosmetic: When you see the virtual floppies in Windows Explorer, they're registered as removable drives and not as actual floppies per se. Also note that the program does not include a way to create floppy images from existing floppies (or write images to them), but you can do this with some third-party tools. For instance, the free utility RawWriteWin can read floppies and extract an image, or write out floppies from an existing image.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter. Check it out for the latest advice and musings on the world of Windows network administrators. He is also the author of the book Windows Server Undocumented Solutions.

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This was first published in June 2006

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