Can I use Dosbox to get files off old floppies?

KublaiKhan

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May 24, 2015
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For a couple of weeks, I've been trying to get some files off old floppy diskettes. I bought a USB floppy drive that seems to work fine, but there is a problem.

These 3 1/2" floppies were last written by Windows 95 or 98. They are all missing the media descriptor byte in the BIOS parameter block. Windows XP and beyond cannot access the files.

I could not figure out how to get DiskProbe to change that byte to F0—frankly, I could not seem to access the floppy drive with it at all.

I've looked around town for an old Windows 95 or 98 rig, to no avail. I could buy one through eBay, but I'd use it for a few minutes, and never need it again.

The other day, thanks to the Steam summer sale, I started playing the original Tomb Raider. It runs by way of Dosbox, which had me wondering if I could use Dosbox in some way to copy those old floppies. I played around with Dosbox and saw the files I want listed on one of those floppies—but I need to get them OFF those floppies!

Ideally, I'd like to copy them onto a physical hard drive folder I could access through Windows. Clearly, Dosbox accesses the Tomb Raider 1 files from the Steam folder. But I don't know if this version of Dosbox can copy files around—I already tried the old diskcopy command, and it was not recognized. I do have blank floppies I could format with Windows, if needed.

Maybe I need a different version of Dosbox?

If anyone out there is very familiar with Dosbox, I would very much appreciate the help.
 

little_me

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May 9, 2015
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I will try.
You should create a folder which you will copy things to, like c:\floppy
Lets assume you run dosbox from tombraider (or which game, doesn't really matter, or download it from dosbox.com)
you should get a command prompt.
By default, this is z:
you should type in:
mount c c:\floppy
this makes it look to dosbox that C: is same as c:\floppy, since this is only for copying purposes, fancier folder structure isn't needed.
you should then type in:
mount a a:\ -t floppy
This makes a:\ act and look like floppy drive, make note that the mount a part should match the drive your usb connected floppy drive letter is, if it isn't A drive but G, you should replace the letter to match that.
then you should type in:
a:
copy *.* c:
these two lines will change current path to floppy drive and then copy all files in there to dosbox's C drive (which is actually c:\floppy)

it will NOT copy subfolders though, in case those exist, you can look for them with:
dir (lists folders/files in said directory)
cd <foldername> changes directory to said folder
you would usually at this point, use copy again to copy said files (or *.* for everything in said folder) to c:
you can and should likely copy things off said folder after copying them there, to prevent possibly similar named files from overwriting themselves.
cd .. to return one step back/up

rinse/repeat until disk is dealt with.
change disk
type in:
rescan (to make dosbox read contents of new disk)

repeat copy/dir/other operations again

 

little_me

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May 9, 2015
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dosbox should by itself fully support floppy disks.
https://www.dosbox.com/wiki/MOUNT

also diskcopy was used for copying from disk to disk, in this case where you want them to be on hard disk, it's completely different matter.

assign a folder on hard disk to be a drive in dosbox, copy or xcopy said files there, done.

If it doesn't work with dosbox, your only solution might be to run win95/98/xp in virtual machine (should also support floppy disks)

edit: It is also possible that said old floppy disks are simply "broken" and will not work anymore, no matter what tricks you play.
 

faalin

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Feb 22, 2012
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might be a long shot but you could give this a try https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/virtual_pc_guy/2010/05/27/installing-windows-98-on-windows-virtual-pc/

You could also try FreeDOS, its a little more in depth as you have to install it on its own partition.

I tend o play around with DOSBox but I also run DOS shell on top of it, just point DOS shell at the game you want to play, click and away you go.


What game are you trying to get off floppy? I might have it already have it in HDD form.
 

thx1138v2

Distinguished
Jun 18, 2011
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You may need to enable floppy drives in the BIOS.

Another way would be to download a bootable image of DOS and install it on a USB flash drive, copy the files from floppy to USB, reboot, and copy from USB to HDD.
 

KublaiKhan

Estimable
May 24, 2015
40
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I'm not trying to play any game; I'm trying to get files off of old floppies. I mentioned a game, because it uses Doxbox, which I thought might help get around the missing media descriptor byte.

I'm looking for someone very familiar with Dosbox, because I need a step-by-step walk through, not general advice. I need to be certain that when I access a physical hard drive to copy these files, I am not going to corrupt that hard drive! I assume it can be done, as Doxbox accesses a drive to play Tomb Raider 1.

Can anyone tell me exactly how to get Dosbox to copy files from a floppy drive to a folder on the hard drive?

If that does not work, then perhaps I can look at the DOS image on USB drive method.
 

little_me

Estimable
May 9, 2015
152
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4,910
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I will try.
You should create a folder which you will copy things to, like c:\floppy
Lets assume you run dosbox from tombraider (or which game, doesn't really matter, or download it from dosbox.com)
you should get a command prompt.
By default, this is z:
you should type in:
mount c c:\floppy
this makes it look to dosbox that C: is same as c:\floppy, since this is only for copying purposes, fancier folder structure isn't needed.
you should then type in:
mount a a:\ -t floppy
This makes a:\ act and look like floppy drive, make note that the mount a part should match the drive your usb connected floppy drive letter is, if it isn't A drive but G, you should replace the letter to match that.
then you should type in:
a:
copy *.* c:
these two lines will change current path to floppy drive and then copy all files in there to dosbox's C drive (which is actually c:\floppy)

it will NOT copy subfolders though, in case those exist, you can look for them with:
dir (lists folders/files in said directory)
cd <foldername> changes directory to said folder
you would usually at this point, use copy again to copy said files (or *.* for everything in said folder) to c:
you can and should likely copy things off said folder after copying them there, to prevent possibly similar named files from overwriting themselves.
cd .. to return one step back/up

rinse/repeat until disk is dealt with.
change disk
type in:
rescan (to make dosbox read contents of new disk)

repeat copy/dir/other operations again

 

KublaiKhan

Estimable
May 24, 2015
40
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4,580
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I tried Rufus to create a bootable USB drive with FreeDos and MS-DOS, but neither would boot.

A week ago, I used a blank floppy to create a Windows 98 image and booted to that. It was unable to recover anything from those floppies.

I followed little_me's directions precisely. The best I was able to do was get DIR to list the files on an old floppy, but I could not copy those files off the disk. I kept getting an error that the disk was not formatted properly.

So, either the disks are bad (they are quite old), or everything I've tried continues looking for a media descriptor byte that just isn't there.

Shame on me for not backing this up to optical media when I had the chance.

I do thank you guys for the advice.
 

reble

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Nov 14, 2013
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I have a 98se emulator, it is freeware, that works on Win 7 Home 32bit. Maybe that mite help. I mite still have my complete OS of 98se.
I am in the middle of coping the 5 floppy disks, MS-DOS version, of Police Quest III to the HDD. Then I have to figure how to merge the 5 floppy disks on the HDD into one. TO play it with DOSBox. I haven't tried the emulator to copy the Police Quest III yet.
 
Last edited:

reble

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Nov 14, 2013
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I have setup a number of bat files that starts Dosbox then starts DOS games like "Wolf3D". Like you this is my 1st time coping , in this case a game on 5 floppy disks. I had to buy a USB floppy drive on eBay. Windows Explorer doesn't see the floppy disk let alone the files on the floppy. But the Windows DOS shell sees the files. I to am rusty on my MS-DOS cmd's, I have to look up the cmd to copy from the floppy to the HDD . I am going to try to do the copy via Win DOS shell 1st. I will let you know if it works.

I'm not trying to play any game; I'm trying to get files off of old floppies. I mentioned a game, because it uses Doxbox, which I thought might help get around the missing media descriptor byte.

I'm looking for someone very familiar with Dosbox, because I need a step-by-step walk through, not general advice. I need to be certain that when I access a physical hard drive to copy these files, I am not going to corrupt that hard drive! I assume it can be done, as Doxbox accesses a drive to play Tomb Raider 1.

Can anyone tell me exactly how to get Dosbox to copy files from a floppy drive to a folder on the hard drive?

If that does not work, then perhaps I can look at the DOS image on USB drive method.
 
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